While finding a good pair of gym shorts should be simple enough, there are a lot of variables to consider. Some guys prefer a more form-fitting pair with a built-in liner, while others love the comfort of a simple pair of basketball shorts. There’s no one universal gym short for everyone, of course; gym shorts come in a wide range of lengths and styles, so the main things to look for in a good pair are a comfortable fit and a high-tech moisture-wicking material. And bonus points for pairs that look as good when you’re on the treadmill as they do when you’re picking up your post-gym protein shake. Besides those details, though, it really comes down to personal preference. To help narrow down the field, we spoke with a bunch of stylish guys — from personal trainers to casual gymgoers — about their favorite gym shorts. The majority tended to favor pairs with built-in liners, which they say provide more support and comfort during a workout, so most of the gym shorts on our list reflect that preference. Still, a lot of the featured pairs also come in versions without liners, so we noted that wherever relevant.
Best 5-inch gym shorts
While a 7-inch inseam length was the general crowd favorite, some guys like a shorter short for working out. Chris Keyloun, a coach at New York City rowing studio Rowgatta, is a fan of these 5-inch Nike gym shorts, which have built-in compression shorts beneath their looser outer layer. “They’re technically [made] for running,” Keyloun says, but he likes them for cardio rowing workouts too. “The built-in compression ensures comfort, while the 5-inch length keeps you free from snags on the slide of the boat or rower.” These are also available linerless.
Copywriter Jon Roth is a fan of Outdoor Voices’s 5-inch gym shorts. “Since I mostly hate exercise, finding cool workout clothes has been a good motivator,” he told us. “These are cut high enough to show some thigh, but also lined so nothing else shows.” The stock is low on this specific pair at the moment, but the brand told us that its 5-inch lined Rec Shorts are very similar, with availability in all sizes and multiple color options.
Best 7-inch gym shorts
Lululemon was the most popular brand of gym shorts among the guys we talked to, with three of the men we spoke with recommending it by name. These 7-inch lined Lululemon shorts are another favorite of Keyloun, who says they’re a great all-around short. He likes that the “comfortable liner allows you to move in all directions,” and is also a fan of the well-placed pockets, including a “zipper pocket” made to hold smartphones. “It will hold your phone securely in place whether you’re rowing a 6k or sprinting a 2k,” Keyloun says. Lululemon makes a linerless version too, if that’s your preference.
Another 7-inch lined short comes recommended by our former deputy editor, Jason Chen, who says, “I’m not a liner guy, but this lining feels incredible.” These are marketed as running shorts, but would work well for any type of workout. They also have “perforated venting” along the sides, in addition to zipper pockets for keeping your belongings in place. Chen says the shorts “made running eight miles in Prospect Park a breeze.”
Certified personal trainer Ariel Brill thinks Ten Thousand makes some of the best gym shorts around, and he loves the “lightweight stretch fabric” on the brand’s Interval Short, a pair he says would be great for any sort of “heavy lifting at the gym.” The waistband is designed not to bunch up, and these also have a zipper pocket should you need it. The shorts come with a built-in liner, but they’re also available without it.
Grub Street editor Alan Sytsma says these 7-inch lined Nike running shorts are “just short enough to avoid being baggy without being so short and extreme that I look like a marathon wannabe.” He adds that, in addition to the “ever-crucial side pockets,” these also have “an even-more-crucial, but rarely seen, interior back pocket” that’s great for storing your keys during a run.
For affordable gym shorts, master personal trainer Joey Levy of Corefit 101 swears by this two-pack of unlined 7-inch gym shorts from TBMPOY. He says they’re a great all-around option for any type of workout, and loves that the pockets have zippers. If you’re deciding between lined or unlined gym shorts, Levy notes that one benefit of linerless options like these is that you don’t need to worry about washing them every time you wear them.
Best 8-inch gym shorts
“Vuori makes some of the most comfortable and durable gym shorts,” according to Brill, who likes the versatility of this pair (which is lined) and says it would be great for any “sport or outdoor activity.” Tim Sensi of the popular YouTube channel Yoga With Tim is also a fan of Vuori and told us its shorts are among his favorites for yoga. “I love anything that fits comfortably and is not too loud of flashy,” says Sensi.
Brill also loves these “2-in-1” shorts from Alo Yoga, which he says “provide the flexibility to help you hold any yoga pose.” These come with a built-in boxer-brief-style lining, but Brill told us that Alo Yoga also makes a great unlined yoga short for those who prefer that style.
Best 9-inch gym shorts
Matt Jared, co-founder of yoga and meditation nonprofit United We Om, is another Lululemon Pace Breaker fan, but he prefers the slightly longer 9-inch version. “I wear these shorts when I teach yoga because the fit is loose and relaxed, but they stay in place and don’t pinch, no matter what shape I find myself in during class,” he says, adding that he “especially likes the liner, which has serious moisture-wicking capabilities and keeps everything in place.” Like their 7-inch cousins, these are also available without the liner.
“These are my go-to training short whether I’m working out at the gym or at home,” says Sean Sewell, a personal trainer who runs the gear-review site Engearment and the online-fitness program Mountain Fitness School. Sewell owns “three or four pairs” of these Kinetic Train shorts from Saxx. “They’re more expensive, but you’re getting a semi-compression short and a high-quality Lululemon-type gym short,” he explains. Sewell’s favorite part of these shorts is the signature “Ballpark Pouch” liner that he says “keeps everything in place and provides support.” He adds that they also make a 7-inch version, which some might prefer, but he thinks the 9-inch length “is really comfortable for most men, especially taller men.”
Best 10-inch gym shorts
While form-fitting gym shorts with built-in liners were generally the most popular style, some of the guys we spoke with preferred the comfort of an unlined and slightly looser short. For that, Levy likes these simple and affordable 10-inch shorts from Under Armour.
For something a little more casual that can work at the gym or on a hike (or on a hike around town), Sewell loves the 10-inch unlined “Renegade” shorts from Kuhl, which he says are “very comfortable.” Sewell, who lives in Denver, told us that “here in Colorado, everyone wears these because you never know when a hike’s going to break out.” Since they have “a little more material” than other gym shorts, he wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for high-intensity workouts, but he says they’re great for everything else.
Best compression gym shorts
For “really strenuous training sessions,” however, Sewell likes to wear compression shorts, and he says 2xU makes a great pair. “Some people probably have the confidence to rock these on their own,” he adds, but Sewell prefers to wear them underneath a pair of unlined gym shorts. As far as the benefits of compression shorts, he says, “I feel they just give a little extra support. If you’re doing a really deep squat you want a lot of support.”
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 women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.