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Marie Claire
Marie Claire
Lifestyle
Ally Head

21 running shorts that don't ride up, chafe, or sag, sweat tested by a Health Editor who runs most days

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So, you're on the hunt for a pair of running shorts that don't ride up, chafe, or smell like your old school P.E. kit in a matter of weeks?

As a Health Editor, I sweat test the best gym wear for a living and have bought you guides to the best running trainers, best gym leggings, best sports bras, best oversized gym t shirts, and more. Next up? Shorts that'll help you go the long run, specifically designed for women. 

It's fair to say I have something of an affinity with running shorts. I used to be too self-conscious to wear them, but thankfully I'm now firmly over that hurdle and have fully embraced the shorts life. There's something so freeing about whacking on a pair, and no better feeling than finding a design that makes you feel supported, empowered and badass come rain or shine.

Now, onto my recommendations. I'm a nine time marathon runner who runs most days, so know a thing or two about good kit. I've sweat-tested every pair of shorts in this roundup and can personally guarantee that I enjoyed running in them. As a woman with a sizeable bum and thighs, I know how hard it can be to find shorts that both support and flatter, so trust me when I say: the below do just that. (For more on our testing process, read here).

Happy shopping - and don't miss our edit of the best women's cycling shorts, while you're here.

Testing process

As above, I've tested every item in this round-up personally and genuinely recommend them to my friends. What should you look for when searching the web (or store) for a good pair of workout shorts? Good question, which we've covered below.

They may seem minor now, but when you're 10km into a 20km run and realise your card has bounced out of your pocket because you've got no zip, you'll wish you'd trusted us. We tested the following:

  • Did they have in-built pants? Did you know? The pants built into running shorts are normally always made from special moisture-wicking fabric, designed for workouts and to keep you both cool and dry mid-sweat session. Basically, they're kinder to your skin, and = less washing, too.
  • Were they supportive and comfortable? What you find "supportive" will vary from individual to individual. Some will love cycling shorts, some will like more traditional loose-fit shorts, and others will prefer the double whammy of 2-in-1 cycling shorts layered under a more floaty outer. Top tip: Not sure what'll suit your body shape best? Trial and error is the way here. Don't be afraid to spend ages in the changing room, is my advice - and remember to jump around a lot. Your legs will face far more movement mid-run.
  • Did they chafe? This one's important, and the design style you go for, not to mention the material your shorts are made of, will factor here.
  • Did they have a key pocket? Likely not the most important thing that springs to mind when gym kit shopping, but trust me on this one - an absolute essential if you're a regular runner or even someone who heads to the gym a lot but doesn't want to take a bag. Having a pocket on the back of the shorts that zips shut for your keys, phone and card is a game-changer. Take note.

Running shorts that don't ride up: shop our Health Editor's top 21 picks now

Best sweat-wicking running shorts

(Image credit: Girlfriend Collective)

Girlfriend Collective Black High-Rise Run Short

Breathable
Butter short
Sweat wicking
Cycling short design might not be for everyone

What I thought when testing: If you're most comfortable in a high waisted run design, these Girlfriend Collective cycling shorts are for you. They're seriously sweat-wicking and sheer-proof, too, meaning you don't need to think about anything other than your workout while - well, working out. They offer a good amount of compression and an ultra-high rise waistband, to boot. I was impressed with these shorts - they're a good price point for the quality you get, IMO.

Best colourful running shorts

(Image credit: Free People)

Free People Get Your Flirt On shorts

Flattering fit
Affordable
Supportive waistband
Not the most sweat wicking

What I thought when testing: I've been wearing these shorts from Free People on repeat recently. They went viral on TikTok a while back and are a really cute addition to any workout rotation. With built-in pants, a high waistband and a water resistant material, you're bound to feel supported for the longest of runs. To note: they run slightly big and are quite short, so if you'd rather more coverage or a longer length, keep scrolling for my other recommendations. 

(Image credit: HOKA)

HOKA Glide 4" short

Impressively sweat wicking
Lightweight and breathable
Built in pant.
Mid range price point.

What I thought when testing: I've been seriously impressed by these four inch HOKA racing shorts. They're seriously lightweight, breathable and sweat wicking while also being supportive. Buy if you're in the market for a barely-there, light and flowy pair of shorts for your summer runs (plus, zipper pockets and built in brief means you don't need to take anything with you).

Best running shorts for a marathon

(Image credit: Nike)

Nike Tempo Luxe

Double-layered
Sweat-wicking
Wash well.
Outer short can  ride up.

What I thought when testing: When I tried these Nike shorts, I found the 2-in-1 short - complete with supportive cycling shorts underneath - supportive and flattering. Plus, sweat-wicking technology kept me dry, up to the 20-mile distance I tested them over. I also wore them to complete Peterborough Marathon in 2021 and they were breathable and supported well.

(Image credit: Sweaty Betty)

Sweaty Betty Tempo Run Shorts

Lower back pocket for keys and phone.
High waistband
Sweat-wicking.
Can show sweat patches.
Mid-range price point.

What I thought when testing: A newer version of the brand's much-loved racing shorts, I rated these immediately. They're very comfortable, sweat-wicking, and super supportive around the stomach, thanks to the high waistband. While they're short, they're not so short that they feel revealing or cause chafe. Expect small sweat patches, but nothing noticeable.

(Image credit: LNDR)

LNDR Peachy Keen 8" Bike Short

Don't ride up or down
Comfortable
Flattering
Pockets on side of each leg for phone. 
Can show sweat patches
Mid-range price point. 

What I thought when testing: I'm a big fan of these bike shorts and have worn them on repeat since testing. They're exceptionally comfortable, fit well, and don't ride up or down while you're working out. I love that there are pockets on both sides (handy for your phone, keys, or all-important gels come race day). Note: they run true to size, so need to size up or down here. 

(Image credit: Pruzan)

Pruzan Marathon Short

Supportive
High waisted
Longer leg length for extra coverage.
Higher price point. 

What I thought when testing: Aptly named the "marathon short," these running shorts are actually what inspired Pruzan to launch their own athleisurewear range. Founders and avid runners Jessie and Lexy designed them after finding other running shorts offered inadequate support and, spoiler alert: the shorts are a dream to run in, with added support around your waist thanks to the thick waistband and a whole load of discreet but roomy pockets for phone, gels, and more.

Best running shorts with pocket

(Image credit: New Balance)

NB Sleek Pocket High Rise Short 6"

Supportive
Three pockets
Dry quickly.
Higher price point.

What I thought when testing: Offering not one, not two, but three - yes, three! - pockets (one on each leg and one at the lower back), these cycling-style shorts from New Balance are great. I've tried them on many a training run and they always dry quickly. 

(Image credit: Brooks)

Brooks Chaser 5" Short

Lightweight
Sweat-wicking
Anti-chafe.
Mid-range price point
Short, if you'd prefer fuller length coverage.

What I thought when testing: Not too short but not too long, I found the Chaser 5" shorts from Brooks are airy, supportive, and long-standing, too (I've had a mine a few years now). The brand also offers a 90-day test run period, so if you don’t love your shorts after a few months, you can return them for free.

(Image credit: lululemon)

lululemon Hotty Hot High-Rise Lined Short 4"

Lightweight
Flattering
Supportive.
Short, if you'd prefer fuller length coverage.

What I thought when testing: The new online-exclusive Hotty Hot shorts from lululemon are made from lightweight, breezy fabric and have a handy built-in pant liner for the ultimate non-see-through design, plus a drawcord around the waist for a personalised fit. I've run in them a handful of times now and you barely notice you're wearing them, and they get a yes from me for the handy yet discreet zip pocket for smaller items (my phone didn't fit, but my keys and card did). 

Best 2-in-1 running shorts

(Image credit: adidas)

adidas Primeblue Designed To Move 2-in-1 Sport Shorts

Affordable price point
Anti-chafe
Breathable.
Might not offer enough coverage for some.

What I thought when testing: They're one of the brand's best-selling styles for a reason - when testing, I found them soft and breathable. They offer maximum support thanks to the underlayer, too - no chafing or moving around over here. 

Best cycling-style running shorts

(Image credit: Sweaty Betty)

Sweaty Betty Power 9" Cycling Shorts

Supportive
Flattering
Side pockets for phone or keys.
Mid-range price point.

What I thought when testing: With over 1,000 reviews and a 4.8* average, you can see why I was keen to try these SB cycling shorts. I found them perfect for running, gym sessions, Pilates, and more - a real all-rounder with what they call "bum-sculpting technology", too. *Adds to basket*

Best split running shorts

(Image credit: lululemon)

lululemon Fast and Free Reflective High-Rise Classic-Fit Short 3"

Lightweight
Breathable
Adjustable waist drawchord.
Mid-range price point
Might not offer enough coverage for some.

What I thought when testing: Full disclaimer: I'm a big fan of the Fast and Free shorts, and would say they're up there with my favourites. When I tested the Fast and Free shorts, while I didn't find them the most supportive style (don't buy if you like shorts that have a firm hold while you're moving), I did find them light, airy, and a joy to run in if you're a fan of the split-style on the leg. Plus, I found that they had plenty of room for movement.

(Image credit: ON)

ON Race Shorts

Ventilated
Lightweight
Seriously breathable.
High price point.

What I thought when testing: Fun fact: the design team at ON collaborated with elite athletes to design this short, specifically crafted with race day in mind. They're for the speedsters among you - perforated to accelerate airflow and with clever ventilation to boost every step. I liked running in them as they felt light as a feather.

(Image credit: SOAR)

SOAR Marathon Shorts

Designed for racing
Lightweight
Sweat-wicking.
High price point. 

What I thought when testing: A word of warning on these shorts: they aren't for you if you prefer more coverage and support for your runs, however, they are sweat-wicking, high-performance, athlete-style split shorts which I found great for speedwork or races. Plus, I love the colourway and their 80's inspired designs.

(Image credit: Tracksmith)

Tracksmith Session Speed Shorts

Lightweight
Designed for racing
Stylish.
Not as much coverage as other competitors
Can show sweat patches
Not as high waisted as other competitors.

What I thought when testing: I'm a huge fan of Tracksmith - I wore their kit head to toe for the Chicago Marathon shakeout in October. The designs are stylish and flattering, the cuts are unique, and I love how eye-catching yet chic the colourways are. That said, these shorts are definitely designed with racing in mind - if you're after full coverage, you likely won't rate these shorts. I loved them, though, and liked the support from the high waistband and airy side split for hot summer runs.

Best cheap running shorts

(Image credit: Under Armour)

Women's UA Fly-By Elite 3'' Shorts

Affordable price point
Sweat-wicking
Lightweight.
Can go slightly see-through during sweatier sessions
No side split, so less leg movement.

What I thought when testing: I was a little apprehensive these shorts would be see-through but I was wrong. They're the perfect low price point shorts IMO - basic but supportive, comfortable but sweat-wicking. Plus, the design includes super-breathable mesh panels (to stop you from getting too hot) and a built-in brief. What's not to love?

(Image credit: Decathlon)

Decathlon Women's Running Shorts

Affordable price point
Stretchy fabric
Zip pocket for phone and keys.
Might not last as long as other competitors. 

What I thought when testing: With 2,166 reviews and at just £8.49, you can't go far wrong with these Decathlon shorts. I found that, while they didn't last for yonks, they supported me through shorter runs once or twice a week, plus, are made with stretch fabric and a wide waistband for ultimate comfort. Zip pocket included.

Plus size running shorts

(Image credit: Nike)

Nike Sportswear Essential Women's Mid-Rise Bike Shorts (Plus Size)

No restricting seams
Supportive waistband
Breathable.
Mid, not high rise

What one reviewer thought when testing: Light, breathable and with no restricting seams, these cycling shorts can be worn for working out or to coffee, too. Do note: they're mid, not high-rise design, but offer a supportive waistband, too.

Best gym shorts

(Image credit: Adanola)

Adanola Ultimate Crop Shorts

Affordable price point
Flattering
Sweat-wicking.
Material can snag easily.

What I thought when testing: I was sceptical about the quality of Adanola kit, to begin with - surely it couldn't look that aesthetic and also be supportive? But I was wrong - it ticks all of the boxes. These shorts are perfect if you're someone who runs occasionally but gyms regularly. Not only did I find them soft as anything, but flattering, supportive, and comfortable, too, with minimal crotch sweat patches (key).

Keen to shop other shorts for strength training and HIIT sessions? Read our round up of the best gym shorts.

(Image credit: Vuori)

Vuori Studio Pocket Short

Butter soft
Supportive
Sweat-wicking.
Higher price point.

What I thought when testing: A cult-favourite brand in the US rumoured to be one of Harry Styles' fav brands, I liked these Vuori shorts for how soft they feel, how flattering they are, and how functional they were for both short runs and gym sessions.

I don't feel confident enough to wear running shorts?

Know this: you're not alone. While stats on the matter are few and far between, I know from chatting to female friends that the thought of wearing shorts often fills many with dread.

That's largely because the numbers of women being harassed while running seem to be at an all-time high, with one study from St. Mary’s University finding that 84% of female runners have experienced street harassment in London.

Further, many of us don't wear shorts due to fears about a. lack of support and b. showing more skin. I used to be the same, but can't tell you how liberating and freeing running in shorts can be if you embrace self-love. Not sure where to start? Our guide to self-care ideas might just help.

How do I keep my running shorts from riding up?

Trust me on this one, as someone who loves running shorts and has tested a fair few in her time: the two in one options are great for giving you an underlayer to stop chafing and riding up. Similarly, if you're brave enough, the tight cycling style shorts won't ride up anywhere near as much as the split style, simply because the material is held closer to your body and so won't move as much. 

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