Why Are Running Shorts So Short? 3 Types of Running Shorts

Have you ever asked yourself why are running shorts so short? Short shorts for running may look peculiar, but they are designed to offer peak performance for runners. Whether you’re trying to push for a new record or just looking to maximize your comfort while doing your daily jog, this article will explain why your shorts are probably pretty short!

From the benefits of wearing shorter shorts to simple tips to help you decide which type of running short best suits your needs, we’ve got everything covered. Let’s dive in and explore the science behind running shorts’ length!

Why short shorts are good for running?

Short shorts for runners are designed to provide maximum comfort while running. They can usually be about 3-7 inches long, made of special fabrics allowing runners for free leg movement, better mobility and higher ventilation. The wide range of running shorts types and different lengths allow everyone to choose the best option for themselves. 

Why Do Runners Wear Short Shorts?

When it comes to running gear, short shorts are an essential for many people. They help prevent chafing and discomfort because they reduce friction. Longer shorts, on the other hand, are more likely to cause skin irritation.

Short shorts also provide enhanced range of motion while running. They are less restrictive and allow for greater flexibility during movement.

Why Are Men’s Running Shorts So Short?

Men frequently choose short shorts for running due to the range of motion and breathability that they provide. Compared to longer shorts, short shorts are less restrictive and allow men to move more freely while running.

They also help men stay cooler during their runs, as there is less material to trap body heat. The shorter length helps with air circulation around the legs, which keeps these areas cool.

Why Are Women’s Running Shorts So Short?

You may be wondering why are female shorts so short? Like men, women choose short shorts for running due to the comfort and mobility they provide during workouts. Shorter running shorts allow for a better fit that provides greater freedom of movement without feeling restricted.

Additionally, chafing is prevented by reducing friction on the skin, as there is less fabric rubbing against it while running.

Woman running in shorts so short

The Main Advantages of Running Shorts

Here are the main benefits that make running shorts ideal for athletes seeking top performance:

1. Lightweight, Breathable, and Moisture-Wicking Materials

When it comes to running shorts, lightweight and breathable materials are key for comfort, agility, and performance. While you’re running, these fabrics help regulate body temperature by allowing air to circulate freely and wicking away sweat.

They reduce friction and chafing, which not only keeps your skin safe from irritation, but also helps you move with ease. Moisture-wicking fabrics also help regulate body temperature, and even protect against overheating by keeping your skin cool in hot weather.

2. Built-in Liners or Compression Layers

The lightweight lining in many running shorts offers enhanced breathability and allows air to circulate freely, keeping the runner cool during intense workouts. Similarly, high-performance compression fabrics provide support for the muscles by delivering a snug fit, as well as increased range of motion even on extra long runs. In addition, these liners are designed with materials that wick away sweat quickly.

3. Adjustable Waist Bands

Many running shorts feature elastic waist bands or adjustable drawstrings that provide both an effective fit and long-lasting comfort. A secure waist band is important to avoid any uncomfortable pressure during your runs.

Adjustable waists provide runners with peace of mind when it comes to finding their perfect fit, and allow them to customize their own desired level of tightness.

What Types of Running Shorts Are There?

There are numerous styles of running shorts available for both men and women, but here are 5 main types that runners prefer:

1. Basic Running Shorts

These shorts typically come with lightweight and durable materials, which are perfect if you’re planning on going the extra mile or running frequently.

Added features such as liners help keep sweat away from the skin, allowing for less irritation in humid climates.

Basic short with lightweight materials
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

2. Split Shorts

Split or full-split running shorts are designed with performance in mind. They feature a split or v-notch on the exterior, making them appear shorter than other styles of running shorts. These shorts provide more flexibility for runners as they move during their workout session.

Woman running in split shorts
Photo by wayhomestudio from Freepik

3. Compression Shorts

These shorts are an ideal choice for running due to their tight-fitting design and performance-enhancing benefits. Compression shorts apply pressure to the muscles, increasing blood flow and reducing muscle vibration, which can improve overall performance while running.

The snug fit also keeps the muscles warm during exercise, allowing them to move freely without causing discomfort or fatigue.

Runners in compression shorts
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels

4. 2-in-1 Shorts

This option offers runners all of the benefits of a regular pair of running shorts. They have lightweight and breathable materials, moisture-wicking properties, adjustable waist bands, and built-in liners or compression layers.

The unique design has an additional split feature on either side, meaning that there are two distinct layers within the one garment. This added layer reduces friction between fabric and skin and provides more airflow than traditional shorts.

Shorts for running 2 in 1
Photo by Safari Consoler from Pexels

5. Trail Running Shorts

Trail running shorts are the best option for runners tackling more rugged terrain, as they are designed to withstand harsh conditions that could damage regular running shorts. They provide excellent protection against scratches, scrapes, and abrasions from weeds, brambles, and branches.

They also provide ventilation through their lightweight materials, which helps reduce heat buildup when you’re out on longer runs. Furthermore, trail-specific features like pockets and zippered openings offer ample storage options that help minimize the need for external carriers.

Trail running shorts are the best option for runners tackling

How Long Should Running Shorts Be?

The length of running shorts is determined by each runner’s individual preference, as well as a variety of factors. Here are the main 3 categories of running shorts length:

1. Short Running Shorts (3 Inches or less)

Short running shorts that are 3 inches in length or less offer several main advantages. To start, the lack of excess fabric eliminates chafing, which can occur during long-distance runs.

Woman training in short shorts

The increased flexibility allows for greater ease of movement and improved overall performance when running. Additionally, these shorts typically feature lightweight and breathable materials, which means they are well suited to a range of different weather conditions.

Finally, shorter running shorts are especially suitable for those who have body types that make it uncomfortable to wear longer styles, such as athletes with larger thighs or wider hips.

2. Medium Running Shorts (4-6 Inches)

If you are looking for a blend of modesty and performance, medium length shorts may be the best option. Medium length running shorts, or track shorts, typically measure 4-6 inches and are an optimal choice for many runners.

Compared to shorter lengths, medium running shorts offer greater coverage without sacrificing necessary movement or ventilation. The roomier fit provides more space for leg muscles to stretch with each stride, which is ideal for those covering long distances on a regular basis.

Man running in medium shorts

3. Long Running Shorts (7 Inches and longer)

Longer running shorts also have their own set of advantages, which extend far beyond simple coverage and protection. Many longer-style short designs provide an additional layer of fabric at key areas, like the backside or outer thigh, helping reduce friction and chafing.

Constructed from lightweight materials such as lycra or nylon (along with quick-drying technology), many long running shorts are designed to keep athletes dry and comfortable during workouts.

Man running in long running shorts

The Comparison of Shorts Length

LengthAdvantagesBest for
3 Inches or lessBest freedom of movemen, heat regulation, and aerodynamicsSprinters, warm weather runners, speed workouts
4-6 InchesModerate coverage with excellent ventilation, reduced chafingRunners, speed workouts
4-6 Inches
Moderate coverage with excellent ventilation, reduced chafing
Casual runners, trail runners, long-distance runners
7 Inches and moreIncreased coverage and protection, more space for storage (bigger pockets), chafing preventionCooler weather runners, cross-training, people prone to chafing

5-Inch vs 7-Inch Running Shorts

When it comes to running shorts, the two popular options are 5-inch and 7-inch lengths. Generally speaking, shorter shorts provide more freedom of movement, while longer shorts offer more coverage.

5-inch running shorts tend to fit closer than 7-inch ones. They move with the body during intense sessions, like sprints or hill repeats, as well as on long runs that require you to stretch out your stride.

It is important to note that 5-inch shorts will not give you complete protection against damaging UV rays. This is an important consideration, since runners can spend several hours outside.

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How to Choose the Best Length of Running Shorts: 4 Main Criteria

It’s important to select the proper length of running shorts for maximum performance, comfort, and style. To help you choose the best shorts for your needs, consider these parameters:

1. Consider Your Body Type and Height

Shorts that are too long may cause tripping or excess fabric bunched up in unwanted places. At the same time, shorts that are too short can also be uncomfortable and awkward-looking.

icon run

Pro Tip:

As a general rule, men between 5’10” to a few inches over 6 feet generally look best wearing 5- to 7-inch inseam shorts. Women from around 4’11” to well above 5 feet usually benefit most from 3- or 4-inch models.

icon run

Pro Tip:

As a general rule, men between 5’10” to a few inches over 6 feet generally look best wearing 5- to 7-inch inseam shorts. Women from around 4’11” to well above 5 feet usually benefit most from 3- or 4-inch models.

2. Determine Your Running Type

Different running disciplines (such as jogging, sprinting, long-distance runs, hill climbing, etc.) may require different lengths of shorts. To help determine what length would suit you best for each type, try thinking about how much leg movement is required for the chosen activity.

For example, long-distance runners need to move their legs at a certain speed in order to maintain their pace over time, which typically requires longer strides. Thus, more freedom will be gained from opting towards shorter options (5” or less).

If you tend to prefer hill running, then shorter-length shorts might better provide ease of motion and reduced friction.

3. Consider Comfort Level

When choosing the best running shorts, it is important to think about both comfort level and whether you plan on wearing underwear with them. Most running shorts come with built-in liners that provide extra support and comfort while running.

However, if you are more comfortable with individual pieces of clothing separating your skin from the fabric of your shorts, then an unlined pair may be a better option.

icon run

Pro Tip:

Whichever way you choose, it’s important to make sure that whatever type of underwear or liner you wear is moisture-wicking, breathable, lightweight, and supportive.

icon run

Pro Tip:

Whichever way you choose, it’s important to make sure that whatever type of underwear or liner you wear is moisture-wicking, breathable, lightweight, and supportive.

4. Opt for Shorts with Adjustable Features

To get the best fit for your individual needs, it’s essential to opt for shorts with adjustable features.

Drawstrings and elastic waist bands are common adjustable features available on many types of running shorts that provide a customizable fit. This not only improves comfort while running, but also ensures your clothing stays where it should be.

Other benefits of adjustable features include allowance for various body shapes and improved range of motion so nothing limits your flow while you run.

5 Best Running Shorts and Their Lengths

Here are our 5 top picks of running shorts:

  1. Running shorts by New Balance for men with length 3 inch can use for competitive running.

Split Short

New Balance Men's Accelerate 3 Inch

New Balance Men’s Accelerate Running Shorts 3 Inch

The lightweight, recycled woven material makes these shorts breezy but durable, while the running shorts inseam of 3 inches and 1-inch side split provide you with unrestricted movement.


Lightweight and moisture-wicking fabric


Inner briefs for added comfort and support

Special Features:

Reflective details, elastic drawstring wais


Suitable for all seasons




Performance running shorts

New Balance Men's Accelerate 3 Inch

2. The Asics Men’s Break Through Short has a 5 inch inseam. Often chosen by runners due to the fact that they have the function of a cold technology zone, for better comfort during running.

Break Through Performance

ASICS Men's Break Through Short

Asics Men’s Break Through Short

Featuring longer side slits and a premium stretch fabric, these 5-inch shorts provide an increased range of motion.


Lightweight and breathable fabric


Elastic waistband for comfort and flexibility


Suitable for all seasons

Special Features:

Moisture-wicking for sweat control




Athletic performance shorts

ASICS Men's Break Through Short

3. Running shorts Adidas RUN IT SHORTS have built-in briefs with mesh. 60% made from recycled materials. They have a comfortable fit and sweat wicking technology, which is quite relevant when running in the heat.

Provide Comfort

Adidas Men's Run It Shorts

Adidas Men’s Run It Shorts

With a snug fit throughout the entire foot from heel to toe, you can count on Balega running socks providing all-day support for marathon-length days on the track or trail.


Lightweight and moisture-wicking fabric


Elastic drawstring waist for secure, comfortable fit


Suitable for all seasons

Special Features:

Mesh lining, side pockets for breathability




Athletic running shorts

Adidas Men's Run It Shorts

4. Ultralight, stretchy men’s Under Armor Launch Run 5″ Shorts are specially designed for runners. Made of breathable materials, the running shorts have built-in pockets.

Best For Intense Runs

Under Armour Men’s Launch Stretch Woven 5-Inch Shorts

Under Armour Men’s Launch Stretch Woven 5-Inch Shorts

Made from ultra-light and stretch-woven fabric with an internal mesh liner, these 5-inch shorts offer moisture escape and breathability to reduce sweat buildup during intense runs.


Lightweight and stretchy fabric


Elastic waistband, built-in briefs for comfort, support


Suitable for all seasons

Special Features:

Moisture-wicking, reflective details




Athletic running shorts

Under Armour Men’s Launch Stretch Woven 5-Inch Shorts

5. Experience unparalleled comfort and support with Nike Men’s 5″ 2-In-1 Running Shorts Flex Stride. Crafted from a lightweight woven fabric, these shorts are designed to keep you comfortable during your runs. The enhanced breathability in high-sweat areas ensures you stay cool and dry, while the soft brief liner offers secure support where it matters most.


Nike Flex Stride Running Short

Nike Men’s 5″ 2-In-1 Running Shorts Flex Stride

These 5-inch shorts have light and breathable woven fabric that helps keep you cool while you move, while their soft liner provides secure support every step of the way.


Lightweight and moisture-wicking fabric


Briefs, elastic waistband for comfort and support


Suitable for all seasons

Special Features:

Multiple pockets, Dri-FIT for sweat control




Athletic 2-in-1 running shorts

Nike Flex Stride Running Short

Are Short Shorts Better for Running?

Short shorts are a popular choice among runners because of the comfort and freedom they provide. Runners who prefer not to wear tight-fitting clothing while working out often opt for short running shorts over full-length pants or leggings.

For runners who run outdoors on colder days, however, full-length bottoms may be a better option than wearing shorts alone. Pants or leggings typically trap warm air near the body, which provides supplemental insulation and prevents heat loss in cold temperatures. Women’s crops and capris are also good choices, since they allow the legs to stay cool on hot days.

Frequently Asked Questions About Running Shorts Length

Do Shorter Shorts Make You Run Faster?

Due to their reduced inseam, shorter-length shorts provide more freedom of movement for leg muscles during activities like running, which helps enhance performance.

How Many Pairs of Running Shorts Should I Own?

When it comes to running shorts, the amount you should own really depends on your personal preference and how often you’ll be running. Having at least 2 or 3 pairs of running shorts is recommended. This way, you’ll always have a backup option!

Why Do Runners Wear Split Shorts?

Many runners prefer split shorts because they provide increased range of motion. Split shorts also prevent irritation and chafing and have maximum breathability.

Final Thoughts on Running in Short Shorts

Running shorts are an important part of any athlete’s wardrobe. Not only do they provide comfort and freedom while running, but they also have several other benefits that allow runners to perform at their best.

The most common length for running shorts is 4-5 inches, as this provides good range of motion and breathability, prevents chafing, and still provides some coverage. In addition, short running shorts help keep athletes cooler during runs and wick away sweat effectively.

What type of running shorts do you prefer? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Also Read:


  1. Lovell DI, et al. Do compression garments enhance the active recovery process after high-intensity running? J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):3264-8. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2011/12000/do_compression_garments_enhance_the_active.5.aspx
  2. Tight Clothes: Fashion-Friendly, but Not Always Health-Friendly https://www.healthline.com/health/tight-clothes
  3. Chafing https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23517-chafing
  4. Don’t Sweat It: How Moisture-Wicking Fabrics Keep You Cool and Dry https://inchemistry.acs.org/atomic-news/dont-sweat-it.html
  5. Salerno-Kochan, Renata. (2008). The Comparison of Utility Comfort of Sports Underwear Clothing Made of Modern Chemical Fibres. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288663486_The_Comparison_of_Utility_Comfort_of_Sports_Underwear_Clothing_Made_of_Modern_Chemical_Fibres

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