ask a cool person

What Are the Best Bike Shorts?

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy of the retailer.

Bike shorts are a leisurewear — and athletic — staple. There’s a reason they’re so popular: Compression-style shorts in soft, blended materials are comfortable, flattering, and an easy swap-out when it’s too warm for yoga pants. Non-padded, bike-style shorts are excellent for running, hiking, and yoga — the compressive, wicking material helps reduce thigh chafing, and this style is less likely to ride up or bunch compared to loose shorts. Options for longer inseams also help reduce the chance of a wardrobe malfunction, and they can be worn under skirts, dresses, and running shorts to reduce skin-on-skin contact in town or during workouts and runs.

On the fashion front, bike shorts look equally chic paired with an oversize shirt as they do with a crop top, and they are ideal for everything from lazy mornings on the couch to running errands. Stylist Alison Deyette considers them a wardrobe basic and a way to show off some curves when strategically paired with other stylish pieces, opting to pair them “with a button-down top and an oversize blazer.”

We asked athletes, stylists, and fashion editors about their picks for the best bike shorts. Their favorites are comfortable, flattering, and wicking — with waistbands (and legs) that will stay in place.

Best budget-friendly bike shorts

Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo is a huge fan of these $22 Danskin shorts and wears them “too much,” she says. “The fabric is really soft without losing its shape, even after throwing them in the washing machine over and over again.” The shorts also don’t aggressively squeeze her thighs or waist the way other leggings and bike shorts can. Corsillo chose the five-inch shorts, but they also come in a seven-inch inseam for anyone who wants more coverage.

Best for running

Janji Pace 7” Shorts

These shorts stay in place better than almost any other compression-style running shorts I’ve tested, and they continually make it into my rotation regardless of how many other pairs of shorts I have in my drawer. They’re made with 32 percent spandex, which is enough compression for light stability without cutting off circulation, and the wide waistband is secure without feeling too tight. The silicone grippers along the bottom keep the legs from rolling up. The generous side pockets, however, might be the best part. I can run with a headphone case in one pocket and a smartphone in the other, and never worry about either bouncing out.

Most crowd-pleasing bike shorts

Three women called out Girlfriend Collective’s high-rise shorts. “Girlfriend Collective can do no wrong in my eyes: sustainable, ethically made, and size-inclusive,” says blogger and designer Amarachi N. Ukachu. She calls its bike shorts a “must-have” because of “the high waistline and the color options.” Social-media and community manager Kara Smith adds, “You can feel good knowing your shorts are made from 17 water bottles and save over two gallons of water in production.” They come in vibrant limited colors like bright yellow and beachy blue, plus jewel tones like dark green and deep purple — no one will fault you for getting more than one color.

Best for yoga, CrossFit, and everything in between

These comfortable, high-quality shorts are the ones nationally ranked CrossFitter and apparel tester Gabrielle Kassel turns to for everything from three-hour workouts to running errands. “These shorts don’t ride up, and I’m confident doing a range of exercises without worrying about exposure,” she says. The four-way stretch fabric makes them thick and durable enough for long wear, and they’re excellent for wicking sweat during high-intensity workouts, but they dry quickly if you need to run errands straight from the gym.

Most flattering bike shorts

“If I wear bike shorts, I prefer longer lengths” like this eight-inch pair, says Deyette, adding that they have a higher waist that smoothes the midsection and a moisture-wicking crotch section and waterproof liner so “on hot, sweaty days, your private parts will stay dryer.” These shorts are affordable and flattering, with just enough waistline compression to stay smooth under tighter tops.

Best color selection

Deyette also recommends Nike’s mid-rise shorts, with a longer ten-inch inseam and a wild array of colors. “There are three reasons I love these Nike bike shorts,” she says. “The longer length, the body-hugging construction that smoothes all over without being constricting, and 12 colors to choose from.” Deyette likes the earthy-green color as a black alternative.

Best everyday bike shorts

“These are the bike shorts I wear most often — not for working out — and recommend to all my friends,” says Nicole Akhtarzad Eshaghpour, editor-at-large for Who What Wear and curator of the Instagram account Trust Me Buy This. She notes that the slightly thick material has a “smoothing effect and makes you feel very hugged.” And, because of the high waist, “they’re perfect for wearing with longer tops and sweaters as well as shorter styles.” The style comes in a variety of colorways — we’re particular fans of the deep red and forest green — and is also available in a three-inch and five-inch inseam.

Best size range

From extra small to 3X, REI’s Swiftland Training Shorts are flattering for a variety of body types, comfortable for everything from errands to gym workouts to hitting the trail, and inclusive in their sizing. Kassel has no problem wearing these shorts to a training session and then heading straight to town after. “I appreciate the not-constricting fit, and the fact that they’re super wicking and feel dry enough to keep wearing after workouts,” she said. Kassel also mentioned the no-stress nine-inch inseam and fun colors (she’s a particular fan of the faded red). These shorts have a higher percentage of spandex than others on this list, making them prime for running, light biking, and other athletic activities where support and comfort are equally important.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What Are the Best Bike Shorts?