There’s a big difference between the absolute best workout shorts for men and the stained sweatpant cutoffs you’ve been wearing for bi-weekly crunches and leg lifts (plus plenty of lounging) in front of the TV this past year. It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting your local gym five times a week or committing to a weekly vinyasa flow, a solid pair of shorts are the key to crushing your reps versus saltily going through the motions while your sweaty, heavy bottoms cling on for dear life.
Over the past couple years we’ve sweated in a wide array of different gym and running shorts. To single out the ones that are a cut above the rest, we’ve considered price, durability, handfeel, and a slew of other variables. Like, is the stretchy performance fabric actually breathable and moisture-wicking enough to stave off a nasty case of swamp crotch? If there’s a lining, does it actually stay put or does it ride up after the third deep lunge? Where are the pockets and can they actually succeed at holding the things one needs while pounding the pavement or speeding your way through some mountain climbers without impeding your movement? And, of course, do the shorts look good enough that you wouldn’t mind running some errands in them on the way back from the gym?
A whole lot of questions you’ve probably never sat down and considered but have definitely confronted at the most inconvenient times. But that’s what we do and we’ve considered a lot. Below, a curated selection of the best workout shorts for men we’ve found, including some stood-behind Fitness Award winners from the years past. They should help you make some gains and look pretty good doing it.
To see more of the best workout clothes and gear hand-picked by GQ editors, check out the 2022 GQ Fitness Awards.
The Best Workout Shorts, at a Glance
Skip all the chitchat and get straight to it—our top-pick workout shorts, here and now.
- The Best Workout Shorts, Overall: Outdoor Voices High Stride, $58
- The Best Budget Workout Shorts: Uniqlo ultra stretch active shorts, $15
- The Best Workout Shorts for Getting After It at the Gym: Ten Thousand Interval short, $68
- The Best Training Shorts: Rhone Mako workout shorts, $74
- The Best Workout Shorts for Runners: Tracksmith “Van Cortlandt” shorts, $68
- The Best Workout Shorts for Swimmers: True Tribe active swim shorts, $220
- The Best Workout Shorts for Yogis: Lululemon Balancer shorts, $88
- The Best Workout Shorts With Multiple Pockets: Olivers All Over shorts, $68
- The Best Workout Shorts with Compression Liner: District Vision Aaron shorts, $175
The Best Workout Shorts, Overall: Outdoor Voices High Stride
Outdoor Voices has been producing some of our favorite workout shorts for years, and the multi-tasking High Stride shorts might be their best yet. (Hell, it’s so good it earned itself a 2022 GQ Fitness Award.) While they seem mostly marketed towards runners (c’mon, “high stride?”), these shorts are apt for any sweaty endeavor: hiking, lifting, humid summer train commutes, and beyond. They’re also super lightweight and available in lined or unlined versions. While too many shorts lack pockets—whether as a style choice or because they’re just too short to accommodate them—these have two side pockets, deep enough to carry your phone and more, plus a back zippered pocket for those precious valuables. The five-inch inseam makes for some great thigh-bearing fit checks, while a seven-inch inseam is available for a little more modesty. They’re also crazy stretchy if you’re looking to finally hone in on your ability to do splits.
The Best Budget Workout Shorts: Uniqlo Ultra Stretch Shorts
If you’re really trying to get the most mileage out of your gym shorts (that annual membership isn’t cheap, after all), it’s likely you’ll want a pair that can pull double duty and moonlight as your day-to-day shorts. Uniqlo’s ultra stretch active shorts have got the credentials for the job, helping you push yourself at the gym courtesy of a sweat-wicking, quick-drying stretchy fabric, plus an elastic waist and zip pockets that ensure your phone is along for the ride. Meanwhile, the minimal design steers it well clear of obvious activewear territory so nobody will bat an eye when you wear it as your daily driver. Plus, for just $15, you can stock up in multiples to help you stretch your laundry timelines.
The Best Workout Shorts for Getting After It at the Gym: Ten Thousand Interval
The workout legends at Ten Thousand got their start back in 2014 with a simple pair of exercise shorts and a shirt. We dug version 1.0, which we tried back in 2015, but the company has spent the intervening years making small tweaks and adjustments to the design that have tipped the scales even further. The updates to its staple Interval shorts maintain its extremely minimal aesthetic, but add a bunch of little hidden touches like hidden zipper pockets that have spurred its rise in popularity in gyms around the country. The thing you’ll notice the most as you actually train in these GQ Fitness Award-winning shorts, though, is how they move. Thanks to the un-bunchable, pinch-free waistband and extremely flexible shell, the short both somehow molds perfectly to your body and expands easily with your movement. If you’re looking for the best shorts for going absolutely nuts on the battle ropes, look no further.
The Best Training Shorts: Rhone Mako
The Rhone Mako shorts are a little bit “gymmier” than something you might want to be seen in on a regular basis, but that’s all in service of performance. Their stretchy fabric feels smooth against your skin, and yields that satisfying swish-swish rustling noise with each successive stride. They’re versatile and flexible enough to handle a variety of high-intensity cardio programs, including jumping jacks and HIIT workouts, and weightlifting. Plus, their full-zip, standalone phone pocket at the hip is the best-executed and most secure version out of all the shorts we tested. Shorts are available in two inseam lengths (seven inches and nine-inches), which means regardless of your height, you’ve got options if you’re looking to bare some thigh.
The Best Workout Shorts for Runners: Tracksmith Van Cortlandt
Who wears short shorts? Runners wear short shorts. And nobody designs more serious running kits (with shorts of various lengths) than Tracksmith, the Boston label that transplants Chariots of Fire–era aesthetics onto modern marathon-ready gear. Take these thigh-high split shorts—a perennial Fitness Awards winner—inspired by Japan’s Hakone Ekiden—a legendary 218-kilometer relay race—fashioned from plush, antimicrobial mesh. You’re not going to be able to fit your phone into the 2.5-inch inseam, but the shorts manage to make space for two internal pockets that hold your keys or one of those race-day sports goo packets.
The Best Workout Shorts for Swimmers: True Tribe Active
Professional swimmers might favor the streamlined fit of a Speedo, but if you’re not looking to bare it all at the local community pool when you swim laps, swim trunks are always the move. Parisian brand True Tribe’s shiny nylon spin on the genre are more like dress trunks, and nabbed a Fitness Award a few years back for their swagger and sheer versatility: the gleaming reflective surface will jazz up your fits no matter whether you’re wearing them to lift at the gym or party poolside in Miami.
The Best Workout Shorts for Yogis: Lululemon Balancer
For those who’d rather slip into a sturdy Eagle pose over cycling through several bench reps, finding bottoms that are moisture-wicking and extremely flexible (for the myriad of ways you manage to contour your limbs) are imperative. Lululemon’s Balancer shorts are made from their fastest-drying fabric, a breathable and ultra-stretchy blend thanks to the added Lycra. The straight-leg silhouette will keep the shorts from getting in the way of your zen, while zippered pockets will keep all your important stuff securely in place (so you don’t lose your zen after realizing your ID slipped out somewhere between the third and fourth vinyasa).
The Best Workout Shorts With Multiple Pockets: Olivers All Over
Oliver’s “All Over” shorts deliver on the promise of any superlative gym shorts (soft, stretchy, and chafe-resistant fabric, available in a dozen rad colors) but then kick that up a notch with not just two, but a trio of pockets—two on the hips, one hidden inside—that’ll carry all your necessaries at the gym. The water-repellent finish also ensures that you can take your workout routine outdoors and not have to worry about getting absolutely soaked (by inclement weather, at least), which is one of the many reasons why these shorts have been such a fixture in our Fitness Awards.
The Best Workout Shorts with a Compression Liner: District Vision Aaron
Haven’t you heard? Stylish people love District Vision. Helmed by two fashion veterans, the brand is making some of the most stylish and high-performing workout gear. These five-inch shorts feature a super-stretchy compression liner (which helps to improve blood flow and can even boost your post-workout recovery) plus a surprising assortment of pockets for your energy gels, your phone, and other workout essentials. The built-in compression lining even eliminates the need for you to buy an additional pair of compression shorts. Overall, these are a kick-ass pair of shorts, and that peekaboo District Vision logo is a great IFKYK for other stylish athletes.