There’s probably a big difference between the best workout shorts for men and the stained sweatpant cutoffs you’ve been wearing for bi-weekly crunches and leg lifts in front of the TV this past year. And if you’ve paused your gym membership (and still haven’t been able to find any adjustable dumbbells in stock) the best use of your monthly stay-somewhat-in-shape budget right now might just be a fresh pair of performance shorts that will get you excited about the idea of moving your body vigorously outdoors on a regular basis.
Over the past several years we’ve sweated in a wide array of different gym and running shorts. To determine the best we’ve considered, price, durability, hand feel, and a host of other variables. Is the stretchy performance fabric actually breathable? 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 doing different kinds of work outs? And, of course, do the shorts look good enough that you wouldn’t mind running some errands in them on the way to the run? Below, here are the 15 best workout shorts for men we’ve found. 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 GQ Fitness Awards.
The Most Versatile Workout Shorts
Outdoor Voices has been making some of our favorite workout shorts for years and the Rectrek shorts might be their best yet. They’re wind- and water-resistant and have an almighty four-way stretch. Zippered pockets keep your valuables secure while the dedicated headphone exit makes sure you’re connected to your tunes without the danger of getting them caught in any gym equipment. They’re perfectly roomy and don’t scream “Hey, I’m about to work out!” which is a great thing because they look good enough to wear every else, too.
The Best Cheap Workout Shorts
When you’re really trying to get the most out of your gym shorts (that gym membership costs money, after all), you need them to pull double duty and moonlight as your day-to-day shorts. Uniqlo’s ultra stretch active shorts have got the credentials to help you push yourself at the gym like a sweat-wicking, quick-drying stretchy fabric, an elastic waist, and zip pockets. But 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, at just $25, you’d be squeezing out every last penny.
The Best Workout Shorts for Getting After It at the Gym
Ten Thousand makes a lot of workout gear, but it got its start back in 2014 with a simple pair of 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 adjustment to the design that have made it even better. The updates retain the shorts extremely minimalist aesthetic, but add a bunch of little hidden touches, including hidden zipper pockets. The thing you’ll notice the most as you actually use the 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 Workout Shorts for Runners
Serious runners require serious running shorts. And nobody designs more serious running kits than Tracksmith, the Boston label that transplants Chariots of Fire–era aesthetics onto modern marathon-ready gear. Its latest concoction is these thigh-high split shorts 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 manages to make space for two internal pockets that hold your keys or one of those race-day sports goo packets.
The Best All-Around Workout Shorts
The Rhone Mako short is a little bit gymmier than you might want to wear on a day to day basis, but it’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. Its full-zip, standalone smartphone hip pocket is the best-executed and most secure version out of all the shorts we tested. They’re available in both 7-inch and 9-inch inseams, so are a good option for shorter guys and/or taller guys who want to show some thigh.