Best workout shorts 2020: the best gym shorts for men

A 'short' guide to the best workout shorts for all types of exercise, from running and HIIT to weightlifting and yoga

Best workout shorts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Now that gyms are reopening, it’s time to don your best workout shorts and get back on the squat rack like nothing ever happened. In need of a fresh pair? You’ve come to the right place. 

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. 

Our top pick are Lululemon's Pace Breaker Shorts, which are the best option for most people. That said, there’s a pair of workout shorts for everyone, whether you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful, or you’re looking for 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. 

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.

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. 

One more thing when shopping: don’t fall for the marketing spiel in product listings. It’s all too common for brands to big up their gym short offerings with fancy descriptions to justify a hefty price tag. Do your research to be sure you’re getting true value for money.

The best workout shorts you can buy right now

Best workout shorts

(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 £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.

Best workout shorts

(Image credit: Decathlon)

2. Decathlon Nyamba

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.

Best workout shorts

(Image credit: On Running)

3. On Running 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

(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

(Image credit: UnderArmour)

5. Under Armour Vanish

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.