FitNess: The Best Athletic Running Shorts

As I mentioned, I’m currently training I was training for the Chicago marathon. I still remember refreshing my inbox over and over in December waiting for the email securing my spot, which I had been applying to for the last couple of years. And, then it happened. Finally.

So now that it’s canceled, what’s next? Well, that’s a good question. I have asked myself if I was ready for a marathon for years. And now that I made the commitment to myself, I am going to stay true to my word. And that means I’ve still been following my training plan. And yes, even in the hot, humid 90-degree heat. So despite hating shorts, I have had to become fast friends and invest in them quickly.

The items I’ve tried, by price:

Now, my perfect shorts have a tall order to fill:

  • Ideally, they will be breathable and durable. It’s been extremely humid, so they need to be lightweight and comfy.
  • Most importantly, they should not cause chafing or bunching.
  • Comfort, for me, also means feeling covered and secure. This pretty much eliminates any 2″ inseams.

Looks and comfort aside, they also need to work for me. That means they’ll also have a pocket that can hold personal items securely. Not every item on this list checks off every item. And you’ll see one or two major brands excluded from the list for exactly that reason. (Tell me… How does Nike not put pockets in a majority of their shorts?)

Before we get started, you should know that every brand, every short, was purchased in a size medium. This makes it pretty consistent to review. I am also looking at a similar style, and am not interested in bike shorts.

The Best Athletic Shorts

Let’s just get right to it. The winner, for me, is very evident. There is only one item that checks off every part of that list and looks cute. The Athleta Mesh Racer Run Short is so ideal, I bought it in three colors. And, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy more. They are very soft and hug every part of my body perfectly. The waist sits at a perfect height and isn’t too restrictive or tight. The length makes it so that you never feel too exposed, and dare I say, somewhat flattering even from the back? But what’s more: The pocket has a zipper, so your things are secure. And, honestly, that’s that. Nothing else comes close.

Middle Ground

Now, Athleta mesh shorts are by far my favorite shorts. So I’m disappointed to say that the onesie, which is also a medium, is not really feasible. You would think the fit would be comparable. My problem is not the size, as much as the cut. The slit completely exposes the side of my thighs. And, there are no pockets. But the color and material are extremely nice. And, with the exception of the slit, it’s actually very cute on. As much as I wanted to love this, it would have been hard to justify the cost. It’s wearable, but not so much that it would be a staple in my running wardrobe.

Next, the Fabletics Hali Run Short 3.5″ is super cute, and extremely soft to the touch. It’s probably one of the cutest colors, too. They are well made, with both a liner and pockets. Zippered pockets! But the fit is just okay. I can’t help but feel like they will bunch up easily when I’m running. So, although they are not quite as flattering, these definitely earn the title of softest to the touch!

The Lululemon Tracker Shorts are reminiscent of the Athleta Mesh Runner shorts. They are obviously well made, and fit similarly. Unfortunately, though, they are not really true to size. Most reviews suggest sizing up, but even one size above was not really flattering. That said, if they would have fit better, they easily would have been a welcome addition.

Finally, the Under Armour Play Up Stripes. There were other, cuter shorts available from this reputable brand. Unfortunately, they too did not have pockets. (Seriously, you guys. A tiny pouch does not count.) These are okay. Just okay. They have pockets, but there is no closure. There is no inner lining, so the back isn’t as flattering as the Athleta brand. All in all, they are cute… enough. The length is perfect. And, as one of the cheapest on the list, they are more flattering and comfortable than the Target brand. But I just feel too exposed without the liner, and I wish there were closures on the pockets to keep my things more secure. That said, these are probably the best for a lower-price item.

What Doesn’t Make the Cut

Let’s start with the absolute worst offender. The Hylete Iris shorts popped up on my feed, raving about the thousands of positive reviews. I clicked on it, disappointed to find that I was fed an ad for a product that was virtually out in every size, and of every color available. But, after reading the reviews, I wanted to see what the fuss what all about and purchased the mint green color. And by the fuss, I do mean hundreds of raving reviews. So take my feedback with a grain of salt. They do look like a nice quality item, including a liner and multiple pockets. Maybe it’s the color. Maybe it’s just the fit on my body. But they bunch up and look extremely unflattering on me from the front. It’s really too bad because they otherwise are comfortable and look good from the other angles.

I will say, the gap between this pair and the others is somewhat significant. The remaining shorts aren’t the best. But they’re not so appalling that I can’t wear them at all.

The next is actually Target’s All in Motion brand shorts. Not only are these shorter than the others to begin with, but the slit is cut in a way that draws more attention to your thighs. The waist is pretty tight for a medium, considering every other pair felt very comfortable. And finally, there are no sizable pockets. There’s a small slot running along the waist that could maybe hold one small item. But this makes it virtually useless for running. But, I kept them for everyday use around the house.