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, ideally affordable, and short enough to squat in without having to worry about fabric catching on my knees or sticking to my thighs. Bonus features would include moisture-wicking, breathable, and good looking; or at the very least not stupid looking.
Since 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 have been great, and two or three 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 is just as important to be comfortable in your gym shorts as it is to be comfortable in your training shoes, a power belt, or any other piece of gear. 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, or falling down.
To be honest I kind of enjoy the search anyway. Most of the shorts I have 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 bunch, and then ramble on about the pros and cons of each pair a little bit. Maybe you’ll see something you like and maybe you won’t. Also please let me apologize to the ladies. These are all men’s shorts. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why that is.
Update January 2018; I’ve added two new pair of shorts; the 4-rth Transition Yoga Shorts, and the Eros Featherweight Running Shorts. All other entries were ordered late 2015 and the first draft of this guide was published March 2016. Also added an Honorable Mention.
Fusion Yoga Shorts – My [Previous] Favorite
The Fusion Yoga Shorts were my longtime favorite until I found the Transition Shorts (next entry). The Fusions 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. Also 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 and perfect for pretty much any movement that puts you on your haunches. There’s no tugging or 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 they aren’t the ugliest shorts around. I also need to mention that they’ve been through the washer and dryer Lord knows how many times in the last two years without shrinking, fading, or fraying.
Fusion shorts sell for $36 a pair, and $38 for the very largest size – not bad at all when you consider their comfort and durability. They ship for free within a day (at least they did every time I ordered them), 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 2015 that I went back to buy more of. I wish these had been the first shorts I ordered rather than the last!
Transition Yoga Shorts – My [New] Favorite
I really love the fit and feel of the above Fusion Yoga Shorts. They truly are comfortable and very minimal. There is a reason I own about half a dozen pair. What I don’t like about them is the shit my friends give me for wearing them. Apparently they look ridiculous on my giant squatters bum. Now 9 times out of 10 I’m alone in my gym so I’ll wear whatever I want, but I decided to try a different style of shorts from the same company to see if they felt the same while looking… better.
Enter the Transition Yoga Shorts – the more stylish and more expensive big brother to the Fusions. The Transitions are still an eco-friendly, lightweight, Birch fabric short. They have about the same inseam length, but they have a ever-so-slightly thicker feel to them, some design elements that break up the plain look of the Fusions, a drawstring that works, and a pair of shallow pockets.
The Transitions have the same positive review rating from customers, there are currently about a dozen color choices, and they are only $8 more than the Fusions. I find that these fit and look more like bodybuilding shorts, only they are not polyester or rayon, and I think exceptionally thick dudes will probably not care for the fit (as is usually the case with Yoga shorts.)
I dig these a lot – I wish they were less expensive but I’ve purchased enough pairs of shorts to know cheap is rarely (if ever) better, so I deal with it. I find these to be just as comfortable as the Fusions but I feel infinitely more stylish and attractive in the Transitions (and I’d even wear these outside of the house.)
Eros Sport Core Energy Shorts
Before I discovered the Fusions I used to wear these. I still like them and still wear ’em from time to time – they have a short inseam that I dig for squats (3½”) and I really like the fabric, but the Fusions (and now the Transitions) are also great shorts and slightly less expensive.
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 of these shorts 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 these are not a whole lot 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 fully cooperates and stretches at the bottom. I’m not even aware of them, and that’s exactly what I want.
There is 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 (they are Yoga shorts), but I’ve always worn underwear like an adult 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 these don’t touch the insane prices of Reebok’s training shorts.
Eros Sport Core Vibe
The Eros Sport Core Vibes were one of the first pairs of shorts that 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 shorts from above. 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’. That and how revealing they are the only reasons that I prefer the Core Energy. I can’t imagine ever wearing these outside of the house though; 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 US of A; something that few clothing manufacturers can claim these days.
(All four of the above shorts are USA-made btw.)
Powerhouse 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. yearly in 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, or 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. They are $23 with an Amazon Prime Membership which isn’t amazing considering how simple these cotton shorts are, but it’s so much better than the $30 they used to be. Still it’s tough to find classic cotton gym shorts so if that’s what you are in the market for, these are them.
Sizing Notes: My 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-lbs 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.)
Rogue Board Shorts
Rogue’s Board 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 light, 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’ll survive many trips through the washer and dryer.
These used to sell for more than the $40 they sell for now so I no longer take issue with the price, but I still find them to be a bit 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, and frankly I don’t know how this design is so popular among the CrossFit crowd.
Now for upper body days or running around the park (or the town) I think these are perfect.
Eros Sport Featherweight Running/Gym Shorts
I picked up the Featherweight Shorts about the same time I purchased the new Transition Shorts, and simply because I like Eros they were on sale. These are longer than I normally wear – closer to a board short. The material is indeed very lightweight and the shorts are stretchy and comfortable, but I don’t like to squat in these. It can be done comfortably, but the sensation of fabric sticking to my leg is present even if they aren’t actually sticking.
Now I’ll gladly wear these on a non-leg day, and I’ll even just wear them around the house. At $29 for a normally $45 pair of shorts, I have no regrets. I even bought two pairs. Made in the USA!
Ranger Panties / Silkies
Ranger Panties are basically 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 about, but I picked up a couple pair of these anyway to see whether I would enjoy training in them, and well… I have mixed feelings.
What I do like about them is the material. The nylon tricot fabric is comfortable, flexible, and lightweight, and this fabric definitely stays cooler than cotton. Also the inseam 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 inner lining 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 bit 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 styles and colors. You can also get unbranded versions 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
The Desmiit Mesh Pocket Shorts look more like flashy swim trunks than training shorts, and when I first came across them I decided to pass. Eventually I found my way back to them – 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 poly 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.
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
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. Don’t buy these.
Honorable Mention – Pug’s Gym Sweat Shorts
Full disclaimer – I didn’t actually buy these so I’m just kind of showing them off because I’ll be damned if this isn’t the cutest, most ridiculous website ever. I have no idea how durable or comfortable these shorts are, but I’d like to think that for $30+ bucks they’d be both.
The Pug’s Gym Cotton Jersey Sweat Shorts look to me like sweat pants with no legs – the same material and feel probably. They don’t come in many sizes, and again they are kind of expensive, but what makes them unique is the pug logo that can be found across the front of the shorts (all of this companies apparel.) I’m not even a pug fan and I think this is pretty cute. Anyway, check it out if you’re an animal person. I’d wear them – if they go on sale!
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.