Best workout shorts: Men's gym-bag must-haves for HIIT, running and more

A 'short' guide to the best workout shorts for men, including activewear for all types of exercise

Included in this guide:

Man wearing a pair of the best workout shorts doing kettlebell swings
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Summer may be on the wane, but a pair of the best workout shorts are essential for men all year round. Whether you're a keen runner, a new yogi or you just love your local gym's circuit training classes, chances are there's a pair of workout shorts to suit your needs. 

Less restrictive than compression leggings and more breathable than jogging bottoms or long trousers, workout shorts are ideal for any exercise: they're simple, effective garments that nonetheless need as much consideration as any other wardrobe staple. Sure, you could opt for a pair of cheap basketball shorts you've had for years, but why would you, when there are so many amazing shorts out there?

Pockets or no pockets? Sweat wicking? In-built compression? Drawstring waistband? All these are factors that require consideration. Below is a roundup of the best workout shorts for any budget, no matter what exercise you plan to do in them: be it running, cycling, HIIT, weight lifting, cardio, yoga, Pilates or otherwise. 

And if your entre workout wardrobe is in need of a lift, we've also picked the best workout clothes for men. Not a man? No problem! Ladies should head over to our edit of the best workout clothes for women and our guide to the best workout leggings.

Back to the best workout shorts, and our top pick are Lululemon's Pace Breaker Shorts, which are comfortable, supportive and come with lots of handy pockets. That said, there’s a pair of workout shorts for everyone, whether you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful or something more upmarket. Let’s dive in.

How to choose the best workout shorts for you

If you’re on the hunt for a new pair of gym shorts, there are a few things I’d recommend keeping in mind. 

The first is how you’ll be using them. Any exercise that makes you extra sweaty - such as a run or a hot yoga class - should be accompanied by a pair of shorts made from a lighter fabric, such as Lululemon's Swift four-way stretch. If you're planning on running in all weathers, you don't want a fabric that will get heavy when waterlogged, so a light, wicking short is a good idea for rainy runs and rides too. 

Doing lots of dynamic movements? Built-in compression will not only help give some added support but can also promote blood flow and improve oxygenation of muscle tissue, which can enhance athletic performance during short bouts of exercise. If you’re planning to do more stationary exercises, however – such as weight lifting – I’d recommend a slightly thicker jersey material with a looser fit for added comfort.

Some of these offerings have a drawstring waistband, which allows you to fasten or loosen the elastic as you see fit, while others don't. This is largely down to personal preference. Some of these shorts, while technically amazing for exercise, are lacking pockets – whether this is an issue for you depends on how you workout. It's not ideal to have a smartphone bouncing around in a deep pocket during a run, and you might opt for a workout vest or armband instead. However, a small zip pocket is useful for keeping keys, a note or credit card. 

When it comes to price, workout shorts can range greatly. You might find yourself looking at a budget pair and a luxe option with not much discernible difference between them. The main thing, though, will be the material. Pricier offerings are generally made from a super light, sweat-wicking fabric so you don’t feel too bogged down by them when you’re moving around. These are ideal for running, for instance. 

The best workout shorts you can buy right now

Best workout shorts: Lululemon Pace Breaker

(Image credit: Lululemon)

1. Lululemon Pace Breaker 7-inch Shorts

Best overall workout shorts and a great all-rounder

Specifications
Fabric: Sweat-wicking and four-way stretch
Pockets: 3
Built-in compression: No
Reasons to buy
+Lots of pockets +Comfortable but supportive 
Reasons to avoid
-The Lululemon premium

If you’re looking for a decent, all-round pair of gym shorts that will do what they’re supposed to no matter what you throw at them, then look no further than Lululemon’s Pace Breaker Short. It's the gold standard when it comes to great, versatile gym shorts. At $68/£48, they’re quite gold priced too, but I say they’re worth it.

Made from a fabric called Swift, which is a sweat-wicking and lightweight material with a four-way stretch, the Pace Breakers can be donned for a multitude of exercises – whether that’s an intense Barry’s Bootcamp class or a gentle jog – and adapted to any workout.

With a 7-inch inseam and a straight fit through the glutes and thighs, they’re not too long, not too short; they’re what Goldilocks would call “just right”. And best of all, these shorts have plenty of pockets! There's two zip pockets for your smaller necessities and a no-zip phone pocket so you’ve got somewhere to hide your handset while running, jumping or lifting.

They're available direct from Lululemon, as well as a range of retailers.

Best workout shorts: Decathlon Nyamba

(Image credit: Decathlon)

2. Decathlon Nyamba shorts

Best cheap workout shorts

Specifications
Fabric: 40% Polyester, 60% Cotton
Pockets: 2
Built-in compression: No
Reasons to buy
+Decent stretch+Great value
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing at this price

Cheap as chips but satisfyingly loose and comfy, these are an absolute bargain. The RRP means you could literally buy 17 and a half pairs of these budget Decathlon shorts for the same price as the most expensive pair in the roundup. 

That aside, these shorts aren’t going to cleverly wick away sweat like you’d expect more premium offers to, but they will be a great cheap alternative if you’re on a tight budget and would rather get bang for your buck. And you know what? They’re actually much better than you’d expect for something that costs the same as a cup of coffee these days.

First off, they have a decent stretch to them thanks to their cotton and polyester mix. Secondly, they are a lovely, freeing loose fit that is comfortable enough for weight lifting without earning you a caution for indecent exposure. Win-win, if you ask me.

Man wearing On Lightweight Shorts

(Image credit: On Running)

3. On Lightweight Shorts

Best premium shorts, for running and intense workouts

Specifications
Fabric: Swift four-way stretch
Pockets: 1
Built-in compression: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Super light and airy +Fast-drying
Reasons to avoid
-Only one, small pocket

Ideal for running, particularly over long distances, there’s a lot of tech that’s gone into these ultralight, versatile shorts, and it really helps to justify their quite high price. On’s Lightweight Shorts are incredibly fast-drying, made from a sweat-wicking Swift fabric alongside a perforated back that helps cool you down while you put the miles in. They're soft to touch, making them comfortable, but they’re also strong with lots of support in the right places thanks to some built in compression briefs.

These shorts are an ideal pick for those doing regular long distance jaunts, high-intensity workouts or perhaps even hot yoga; basically anything that’s going to drown you in sweat. A firm favourite.

Best workout shorts: Alo Yoga Unity 2-in-1 Short

(Image credit: Alo)

4. Alo Yoga Unity 2-in-1 Short

Best yoga shorts

Specifications
Fabric: Lightweight woven outer and poly spandex jersey brief
Pockets: 3
Built-in compression: Yes
Reasons to avoid
-The Lululemon premium

Yoga brand Alo is not that well known in the UK just yet, but they should be. Not only does this outfit do clothing aimed predominantly at yogis, but it’s got its own on-demand yoga class streaming platform, which, I might add, is actually brilliant. 

But back to the task in hand: Alo’s Unity 2-in-1 Short is an exceptional pair of workout shorts. And because they’re made for yoga doesn’t mean they can’t be used in other workouts. In fact, I’ve worn them for all sorts and they’ve always performed really well.

Featuring a sewn-in brief interior for extra support when you’re moving around like a mad man, there’s an comfortable, super soft waistband alongside invisible zip pockets in the front and back - all of which is made from a moisture-wicking antimicrobial technology. These babies have it all. The only downside is that Alo doesn’t have a UK distribution centre just yet, so all orders get shipped from the States and this could mean a bit of a wait.  Unless you live in the States, obviously.

Best workout shorts: Under Armour Vanish

(Image credit: UnderArmour)

5. Under Armour Vanish Shorts

Best workout shorts for weight training

Specifications
Fabric: 100% Polyester
Pockets: 2
Built-in compression: No
Reasons to buy
+Light yet durable woven fabric +Great structured fit
Reasons to avoid
-Leg might be a little long for some-Waistband not great over long periods

Looking for something that’s going to save you from getting drenched in a downpour when training outdoors? Under Armour has the answer with its Vanish woven shorts, which are made from a thin, lightweight and stretchy fabric which isn’t just strong enough for the most intense workouts, but is strangely waterproof, meaning rainwater just rolls right off – hence the name.

Featuring a chunky, flat waistband, these shorts are best suited to functional HIIT classes where you can expect a lot of full-body movements. However, I did find this gets a little irritating if worn for long periods – definitely don’t sleep in them like I did. A great, well designed pair of shorts, though, especially for weightlifting and cross training, for which you will also need the best cross training shoes.

Lee Bell
Lee Bell

Lee Bell is a London-based journalist, copywriter, specializing in all things tech and lifestyle. He is also a qualified personal trainer. He started his journalism career a decade ago as a reporter covering the latest gadgets and innovations at tech tabloid The Inquirer. Lee went freelance in 2016 to broaden his expertise, moving into news, reviews and feature writing for a host of national print and online lifestyle titles such as GQ, Forbes, Esquire, Men’s Health, Wired, The Metro, and The Mirror. He has an insatiable appetite for travel, Dharma yoga, and the odd outdoor challenge.