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The Search for Squat-Worthy Gym Shorts

The search for the best squatting shorts to train in

That’s right, I’ve been searching high and low for the perfect pair of gym shorts. A pair of shorts to train in that are comfortable, lightweight, flexible, preferably affordable, and short enough to squat in without having to worry about material catching on the knees or sticking to the thighs. Bonus features would include moisture-wicking, breathable, and good looking – or at the very least not stupid looking.

Since around Christmas I’ve been ordering shorts that looked like they would meet the majority of my criteria for great gym shorts, and I’ve ordered a dozen or so different pairs so far. Many have turned out to be decent, a couple are great, and a couple are trash-worthy. The majority of them I don’t regret buying, but I’d still never buy the bulk of them again.

Now before you tell me that I’m making an unnecessary quest out of buying shorts, let me say that I believe that it’s just as important to be comfortable in gym shorts as it is to be comfortable in training shoes, a lifting belt, or any other piece of gear. I mean, you’re free to train in long basketball or board shorts that can catch on the knee or soccer shorts that don’t yield in a squat, but I want shorts that I’m totally unaware of once I start training. By unaware of I mean they aren’t sticking to my thighs, riding up, reducing range of motion, falling down, and so on.

To be honest I kind of enjoy the search anyway. Most of the shorts I’ve purchased aren’t very expensive, and very few of them were a total waste of money. Almost all of them will get used for something, even if it’s not leg day.

Anyway I’ll show you the better shorts out of the whole bunch, and then ramble on about the pros and cons of each pair a little bit. Maybe you’ll see something you like, maybe you won’t. Also, let me apologize to the ladies. These are all men’s shorts. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why that is.

Fusion Yoga Shorts – My Favorite

Fusion Yoga / Gym Shorts by 4-rth

The Fusion Yoga Shorts are my favorite new shorts so far. They are made with a very soft, eco-friendly fabric that feels like cotton, isn’t cotton, but is stronger than cotton. They are form fitting, though not tight like compression shorts. There is no annoying mesh liner brief, the material is moisture-wicking, and the fabric is flexible enough to allow full range of motion.

Aside from just being incredibly comfortable, it’s the flexibility of the fabric and the length of the inseam that make these my current favorite. They are perfect for squats – perfect for pretty much anything that puts you on your haunches. There’s no tugging and no sticking, yet they aren’t so short that it feels like I’m training in boxer briefs. I love ’em.

As a bonus, I think that they look pretty nice too. I’d still wear these shorts even if they were ugly, or just came in one color instead of like ten, but I do appreciate the fact that I don’t hate looking at them. I should also mention that they’ve been through the washer and dryer a couple times now without shrinking, fading, or shedding threads.

4-rth Fusion Yoga / Gym Shorts (back/side)

Fusion shorts sell for $34 a pair, and $36 for the very largest size – not too bad. They ship for free within a day (at least they did both times I ordered), and there are a crap load of positive reviews for them. Matter of fact, all of those reviews make me feel like I’m late to the party.

The Fusion Yoga Shorts are one of the only pairs of shorts I’ve purchased since December that I went back to buy more of. I wish these had been the first shorts I ordered rather than the last!

Eros Sport Core Energy Shorts (Second Favorite)

Eros Sport Core Energy Yoga / Gym Shorts

These were my favorite before I got the Fusion Yoga Shorts. They are still a very, very close second though. I like the slightly shorter inseam (3½”), and I love the fabric, but I don’t care for the nearly $50/pair price tag.

The Eros Sport Core Energy shorts are made of a soft and breathable nylon/spandex microfiber that wicks moisture. The best way to describe the fit is to say that they are loose fitting compression shorts. Actually, they are basically the non-compression version of the Eros Sport Core Vibe shorts – shorts that I also have and will talk about next.

In terms of function they aren’t much different than the Fusions. I love them for leg day because of the short inseam and the flexibility of the fabric. Whether you go just below parallel in a back squat or ATG in a front or overhead squat, the fabric cooperates and stretches at the bottom. I’m not even aware of them, and that’s exactly what I want.

There’s only two colors of these, and that’s kind of boring, but it is what it is. These shorts do have a mesh liner in them, and there is even a “jock” pocket (remember, they’re Yoga shorts), but I’ve always worn underwear with them so I’ve never been bothered by the mesh. I think they’re good looking shorts, and they are made in the USA, but again the price is a bit high. Though to be fair, if it were not for the ~$30 Fusions, I’d still have sprung for more pairs of these. And even these don’t touch the insane prices of Reebok’s training shorts.

Eros Sport Core Vibe

Eros Sport Core Vibe Yoga / Squat Shorts

The Eros Sport Core Vibes were one of the first pairs of shorts I ordered, and one of the most expensive. I preferred them over anything else that I ordered in the first month (about six different shorts) so I didn’t mind the high price so much. I’ve since decided that the Core Energy and the Fusions are a better fit for me, but I still like these and I still wear them.

The Core Vibe are compression Yoga shorts, but they don’t feel as tight as they look. They are made of the same material and have the same inner mesh liner as the Core Energy shorts. With underwear I find them to be plenty comfortable, but because of the more form-fitting nature of them, I do have to make adjustments from time to time. That, and how revealing they are the only reasons that I prefer the Core Energy. I can’t imagine ever wearing these out and about; they just look too much like biking shorts or boxer briefs.

If you don’t give a damn about running around in all black briefs, I highly recommend these shorts. They are great for strength training, rowing, WODs, and of course Yoga. Again, they are a little pricey, but they are high quality and they are made in the USA; something very few clothing manufacturers can claim these days.

Powerhouse Gym Shorts

Powerhouse 100% cotton Gym Shorts

Now these are the definition of gym shorts – 100% cotton, stretch-to-fit elastic waistband, and a short inseam. For those of you old enough to have taken P.E. every year of high school, the Powerhouse Gym Shorts ought to bring you back a little.

These are pretty solid as training shorts go. They’re great for squats, deadlifts, running, whatever! There’s no excess material to restrict range of motion, the cotton has a nice flex to it, and they breathe relatively well. The leg openings feel a bit bigger than they need to be in these particular shorts, but it’s not that big of a deal.

I like ’em. They’re basic and functional… classic even. If they were closer to $10 a pair, or even if the seller wasn’t demanding a ridiculous amount of money for parcel post shipping, I’d probably have bought more of them. But at $30 a pair after shipping, I opted to go with more Fusions instead of buying more of these. I like the classic gym short look, but the Fusions feel better and look better for about the same price.

Still it’s tough to find classic cotton gym shorts, and if that’s what you are in the market for, these are them.

Sizing Notes: Sizing was accurate, but the seller warns that these shorts will not work well for overweight people, and I would have to agree. However, the warning about not buying these if you are over 200-pounds can be ignored if your weight is muscle mass as opposed to fat. I’m 230-pounds and I had no problem fitting these shorts (at 6’4″, 34″ waist, I ordered Large.)

Via Privé Cargo Shorts

VIA PRIVÉ CARGO EDITION SHORTS - Rogue Fitness

The Via Privé Cargo Edition Shorts are pretty standard CrossFit shorts. They’re cut like board shorts, but they are made of a four-way stretchable polyester/spandex material. The fabric is lightweight, thin, and moisture wicking, so they stay cool and dry. They lace up in the front so they can be tightened as much or as little as you want, which ensures a comfortable fit. Overall they are great shorts, and they’ve survived many trips through the washer and dryer.

I have only two issues with them. First of all they are very expensive at $60 a pair. Second, they are too long. At just right above the knee, there is just too much unnecessary material. When sweating, the material will stick and drag down the thighs. Now the fabric is flexible and deep squats are still completely doable, I just don’t like that feeling.

If you don’t mind spending $60 on shorts, these are nice, and they look good too. I wear mine when I do cardio, go to the park, or on upper body days. I prefer not to wear them for any lower body days though.

Ranger Panties / Silkies

Rogue Ranger Panties

 

Ranger Panties are really just running shorts, but they’ve become quite popular among CrossFitters because they are comfortable, allow full range of motion, and have a liner brief for keeping all the goods nicely supported while bouncing about. Personally I don’t do much bouncing around, but I picked up a couple pair of these anyway to see whether or not I would enjoy training in them, and well… I have mixed feelings.

What I like about them is the material. The nylon tricot fabric is comfortable, lightweight, and flexible, and it seems like this material stays cooler than cotton. Also the length is perfect for leg work; there is no excess fabric to get in the way of even the deepest of squats.

What I don’t like is the mesh liner brief. The elastic bands around the thighs start to feel uncomfortable to me after about 30 minutes. It’s not a huge deal, and I don’t mind liners normally, but I prefer to be less aware of them. I also find the 2″ inseam to be a tad too short. I’m pretty damn tall, so a 2″ inseam isn’t covering very much leg on me.

Still, Ranger panties are soft, affordable, and they stay pretty damn cool. They’re definitely a good choice for bouncy WODs and cardio – assuming you don’t mind being scandalous. I tend to only wear mine on leg days, and only when my favorites are all dirty.

Rogue Fitness sells a lot of different Ranger Panties. You can also get no-names on Amazon, and they appear to be the exact same product from what I can tell. Sizing for Ranger panties is pretty straight-forward.

Desmiit Men’s Mesh Shorts

Desmiit Mesh Pocket Shorts

The Desmiit Mesh Pocket Shorts look more like flashy swimming trunks than they do training shorts, and when I first came across them I decided to pass. Eventually I found my way back to ’em though – I saw how cheap they were and how many good reviews they had so I changed my mind and bought a pair.

They’re pretty comfy. They’re made out of a soft, silky polyester. There is an inner liner but it’s not annoying or uncomfortable, and all of that mesh breathes exceptionally well. The polyester outer isn’t the most pliable material out there but there is still enough flex to it. It almost doesn’t matter; the shorts are too minimal to restrict range of motion.

The pockets are very shallow and are practically useless, but you can get small stuff like a locker key or iPod Shuffle in there if you wanted. Honestly my biggest problem with these shorts is just the way they are cut; they look awful from behind. I also think that the look is a little too gaudy for training. Meh, it was worth a shot for less than $20, and they’ll get used, but I wouldn’t buy them again – not for training anyway.

Sizing Notes: Sizes are Asian, but US sizes are given alongside the Asian sizes. It’s not complicated to find your size, but I just wanted you to be aware of it.

SEOBEAN Workout & Running Shorts

SEOBEAN Running & "Workout" Lounge Shorts

I bought a pair of the SEOBEAN Workout Shorts and I gotta tell you, I don’t like them at all. The day I got them and tried them on I immediately knew that I would never wear them again. The fabric itself was coarse and cheap feeling, the mesh liner is like sandpaper, and the waistband has very little elasticity to it. On top of all that, they aren’t even remotely good looking – not at all flattering like in the pictures.

For running, I’m sure they are fine and dandy so long as you wear underwear to protect yourself from that harsh mesh. But workout shorts? The only way these could ever be “workout” shorts is if you wore them on chest day. I just don’t see these surviving many squats or WODs. I’d rather train in my underwear.

Suggestions?

I’d like to continue to add to this list. I’m rather enjoying this gym shorts search. It’s like buying all the different lifting shoes, only a lot cheaper! So if you have any suggestions, please share them in the comment. And as always, I appreciate those shares.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • M March 12, 2016, 8:00 pm

    Most of the time I’ve worn spandex, even when I was going to a gym — I’d wear a loose shirt over it to give a slight impression of being less revealing – and black shorts were better than blue in that regard. I decided to live with the exposure and all since they were a lot more functional when stretching than other shorts that were easy to find and I didn’t want to try a lot like you have.

    Most have been bike shorts (no pad) because having good gripper rubber at the bottom of the leg keeps them in place better, as does being mid-length (neither right above knee nor where the thigh begins to narrow high; either of those lengths tend to have the hem moving around more.

    • jburgeson March 12, 2016, 8:29 pm

      I agree. The best shorts here are the ones with flexible fabrics that sit mid to upper thigh at the meat of the leg. I can’t do long compression shorts; too damn hot for me. Maybe in a 72-degree climate controlled global gym, but not in the garage.

      I’m pretty amazed at the amount of “WOD” shorts that exist that are basically board shorts. Squats, cleans, and snatches in board shorts just… it’s just not great. That Reebok marketing.

  • Greg S March 13, 2016, 10:35 am

    Great article! I think the squat short conundrum is a lot more common than people realize. I’ve been on a similar search myself and look forward to trying out a few of your recommendations. So far my favorite has been the Soffe PT short (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00933XURA?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00). Not much in terms of color choice, but it does have the benefits of the ranger panty with a little more coverage and some moisture wicking. Thanks as always for the content!

    • jburgeson March 13, 2016, 10:40 am

      Those don’t look bad. That company makes the ranger panties btw.

  • Gaylen March 13, 2016, 9:36 pm

    I use the $10 and1 shorts at walmart. ~$10. Seems to work well. Now like basketball shorts.

    • jburgeson March 13, 2016, 10:15 pm

      Yikes those are long. You like that?

      • Gaylen March 14, 2016, 12:42 pm

        That is all I’ve ever used. Perhaps, I should take a look at the Fusion Yoga Shorts. I’ll take a look.

  • Tony March 15, 2016, 9:40 pm

    Thanks for this article. I’m enjoying the variety. As far as shorts, I looked around for a little while and decided to give some of Rogue’s shorts a try. I got a pair of the fight shorts and the board shorts. The fight shorts are longer and slightly thicker material while the board shorts are shorter and lighter weight. Both perform well for deep squats. The fight shorts seem like they might be too long (just above the knee) but they have a big slit in the sides that keeps the shorts of interfering at all with your movement. The board shorts drag slightly, but are light and slightly higher so it’s barely noticeable. In fact, I keep meaning to really focus on how these shorts perform, but when the weight goes up I never even think about them, and that’s a good thing. Both are an improvement on the basketball shorts I used to use. Anyways, I still plan on trying some other shorts out to see if I find something truly better than these, but for now I am satisfied and if it weren’t for curiosity I would purchase both again.

    • jburgeson March 15, 2016, 11:37 pm

      Board shorts are my least favorite, but I’m glad to know they work well for others. I must sweat too much or something because long shorts bother me. I don’t like that feeling of drag, even a little bit.

      I’m actually really glad about how this has worked out so far for me. My favorite shorts cost half of what the average pair of Rogue or Reebok shorts cost, and those are supposed to be made exactly for the purpose of squatting, cleaning, snatching, etc. I guess that’s all about branding though. I don’t think it even says anywhere on those Fusions what they are or who makes them. It must be somewhere, but not where it can be seen by others.

  • T March 18, 2016, 7:33 pm

    I too have tried a ton of workout shorts, and we share a dislike or board and basketball shorts. However, I just don’t feel right in anything with less than a 4″ inseam. Reebok shorts are probably my least favorite of all.

    My current lineup:
    1) Lululemon linerless Pace Breakers are my go to short for anything outside of Olympic lifting only because they’re too expensive to let them get torn up by a barbell. I like the linerless version because I prefer to wear compression shorts whenever I workout.

    2) 2Pood Pendleton 1s. These things are incredible and can really do anything. Shorter inseam and more contoured fit than standard board or fight shorts. Much better than 2Pood’s other offerings.

    3) Canterbury of New Zealand rugby shorts. Perfect for Oly and as short as I go. Bulletproof and definitely a more modest option than Ranger panties.

    4) Believe it or not, Under Armour’s running shorts are crazy underrated. I pick them up for $20 or less when I’m near the outlet mall. They’re light, comfortable, attractive enough, and I’ve found them to be very durable. They come in 4 & 7 inch inseam versions.

    Looks like you’ve got the short shorts covered. Figured I’d throw in a few options for the mid-thigh crowd.

    • jburgeson March 21, 2016, 1:28 pm

      I checked all these out. The Pendletons look good, but $60 is a lot. I may try a pair at some point just to see if I can change my mind about WOD shorts. I like the rugby shorts; good length and price. Lulu is always expensive lol.

      • T March 21, 2016, 2:46 pm

        Full disclosure is that I received the Pendletons to try out at a competition before they were released a few years ago. I loved them and they became my go to. I tried a few other styles of 2Pood shorts after that and wasn’t as happy with them mainly due to the length and the loose fit through the leg. Even then, I picked them up on sale on Black Friday I think. I’ve never spent $60 on a pair of shorts. They’ve recently added a 4.0 version that’s supposed to mimic the fit of the Pendletons, but I haven’t tried them. Other than the Pendletons, I hate WOD/fight shorts.

        Same goes for the Lulus. I love them but can’t bring myself to pay full price. I typically scan the sale rack when I’m in there with my wife or I check the “We Made Too Much” section on their website.

        The rugby shorts are cheap and awesome, but one thing you might take issue with is that some brands include a rubber lining on the inside of the leg to keep the shorts from riding up. Doesn’t bother me as the fit of the short is such that they really don’t need to slide up or down the leg too much while squatting but could be a deal breaker for you.

        • Peter J January 7, 2017, 6:11 pm

          I just bought a new pair of LuLu’s “T.H.E. SHORT 11″ LINERLESS” for $39 Canadian in the “We Made Too Much” section. Love them, and the old Lulu Core Shorts. Only shorts I wear …

          • jburgeson January 7, 2017, 9:25 pm

            I actually went to their store here when I wrote this and their selection sucked, and what they did have was way, way too expensive. I’m glad you’ve found something on their site that is comfortable and was at a good price because I know they do offer quality stuff.

  • Mark March 22, 2016, 3:00 pm

    Check out the Myles Everday Short. They are expensive at $58 a pop, but well worth it. They come in two lengths, 8″ and 11″. You can literally workout in them, swim in them, or where them out with a button down. They are the most versatile shorts I have ever owned. I did the long search for the perfect shorts and finally stumbled on them. They’re made of a 4-way stretch fabric that is extremely durable and water resistant. Give them a try and I’m sure they’ll make it to the top of your list.

    • T March 22, 2016, 4:46 pm

      I was really excited about those when they came out. Purchased three pairs on pre-sale before they were released. However, they just didn’t work for me. I’ve got some pretty big haunches, and these were really snug in the seat but big and blousy through the leg. The pockets stuck out to the side. Just an overall weird look. Had to return them. The theory of them is great though and obviously they work well for some people.

  • Jim L March 25, 2016, 4:52 am

    I used to lift/CrossFit in board shorts but they never felt right. On a whim I bought some leggings (from meggings man) and I’ve been working out in them ever since. I’ve since added other brands but I’m surprised how comfortable they are to workout in. I really like the capris (yes, they are marketed for women) from Rogue American Apparel.

    Also, based on your input, I’ve added the Soffe Ranger Panties to the mix. For $10, you can’t go wrong trying them! I like them a lot and will definitely be using them in the gym.

    Unless I’m running an errand right after the world, I don’t wear the leggings outside of the gym and I probably wouldn’t wear the ranger panties outside of the gym either.

    • jburgeson March 25, 2016, 10:54 am

      I think that I’d have to take my mirror down to wear those leggings! But ya, ranger panties are private shorts lol. Even body builder shorts aren’t that short.

  • Josh March 25, 2016, 6:04 am

    Adidas response 2 in 1 shorts for me.

    All the depth and knees out you could wish for!

    • jburgeson March 25, 2016, 10:58 am

      I have an older pair of those – 100% polyester Adidas shorts. They aren’t bad at all. Can pull them apart in any direction; plenty of flex. After trying so many, I still prefer the material not even be there if it doesn’t need to be, but I’d wear those.

  • K4rtturi April 3, 2016, 1:09 pm

    As an additional idea, I find that rugby shorts are pretty great for the gym. The leg is about the same as in ranger panties so it doesn’t interfere with deadlifts, but on the bonus side they are usually very durable and cut for good mobility for obvious reasons. Especially the current Adidas team shorts have neat additional features such as stretch panels in critical places for additional mobility.

  • Sky August 23, 2016, 4:20 pm

    I’ve had some good luck with a pair of shorts from 5.11, for all of you looking for something that comes closer to the knee. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CYFH4YY
    I hate board shorts for CrossFit or lifting. These shorts have good stretch with the built-in spandex and good durability with the built-in ripstop. Great for squats and all-around workouts too.

  • Brian January 25, 2017, 2:06 pm

    Another vote for rugby shorts. I also picked up some cheap pairs Adidas mesh soccer shorts that have become favorites.

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