16 running shorts for women that won’t chafe, ride up or smell

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  • Sound the klaxon – spring is here.

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

    As a health editor, I sweat test workout gear for a living and have bought you guides to the best gym leggings, best sports bras, best running trainers for women, and more. Next up? Shorts that’ll help you go the long run, specifically designed with the female form in mind.

    I’ve sweat-tested every pair of shorts in this roundup and can personally guarantee that I enjoy 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.

    Need more persuading to lace up and get outside? Our round-up of the many benefits of running might help. In the meantime – happy shopping.

    Running shorts for women: Shop our health editor’s top 16 picks now

    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. Thank us later…

    Best running shorts for a marathon

    Fast and Free Short 6″ – £58 | Lululemon
    A higher price point but worth every penny, these shorts from Lululemon are sweat-wicking, supportive, and have three separate pockets for your phone, gels, and other essentials. I wore them to run the London Marathon 2021 and they didn’t disappoint.

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    Flex Essential 2-in-1 Training Shorts – £32.95 | Nike
    This 2-in-1 short has a supportive cycling short underneath and a loose outer layer, offering both full support and a flattering fit. Plus, sweat-wicking technology will keep you dry, whatever the distance.

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    Best running shorts with pocket

    Impact Run Fitted Short – now £28.80, was £38 | New Balance
    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. They’re more affordable than other options but dry quickly. Do note, though – they’re mid-rise, offering less stomach support than high-rise options.

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    Chaser 5″ Short – £50 | Brooks
    Not too short but not too long, 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.

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    Best 2-in-1 running shorts

    Fast Primeblue two-in-one shorts – now £22.80, was £38 | Adidas
    They’re one of the brand’s best-selling styles for a reason -they’re soft, breathable, and offer maximum support thanks to the underlayer. No chafing or moving around over here.

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    GOODMOVE Woven Layered Gym Shorts – £22.50 | M&S
    A great bargain option are shorts from the M&S GOODMOVE range. These 2-in-1 shorts are particularly noteworthy thanks to their mid-rise drawstring waist and zip-up pocket.

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    Best cycling-style running shorts

    Power 9″ Cycling Shorts – £60.00 | Sweaty Betty
    With over 1,000 reviews and a 4.8* average, you can see why these SB cycling shorts are a fan favourite. Perfect for running, gym sessions, Pilates, and more, they’re a real all-rounder with what they call “bum-sculpting technology”, too. *Adds to basket*

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    Epic Luxe Women’s Trail Running shorts – now £26.95, was £44.95 | Nike 
    Trail runners, listen up – you’ll be hard-pressed to find shorts with more pockets than the Epic Luxe. They have seven (yes, seven!) spaces for gels, keys, cards, and phones, and are a flattering fit, too.

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    Best split running shorts

    Find Your Pace High-Rise Short 3″ – £58 | Lululemon
    Not the most supportive style, if you like shorts that’ll have a firm hold while you’re moving, but these are light, airy, and a joy to run in if you’re a fan of the split-style on the leg. Plus, there’s plenty of room for movement.

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    Race Shorts – £70 | ON 
    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.

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    Best cheap running shorts

    Women’s Fly-By 2.0 Shorts, £22 | Under Armour
    These are the perfect low price point shorts – 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?

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    Women’s Running Shorts – £7.99 | Decathlon
    With 1,356 reviews and at just £7.99, you can’t go far wrong with these Decathlon shorts. They won’t last for yonks, but will support you through shorter runs once or twice a week, plus, are made with stretch fabric and wide waistband for ultimate comfort. Zip pocket included.

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    Plus size running shorts

    Flex Essential Women’s 2-in-1 Training Shorts (Plus size) – now £23.47, was £32.95 | Nike 
    Yep – so good we featured them twice, but the 2-in-1 design means you’ll have both support and room for flexibility throughout your sweat session.

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    Sportswear Essential Women’s Mid-Rise Bike Shorts (Plus Size) – £27.95 | Nike
    Light, breathable and, according to one reviewer, 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.

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    Best gym shorts 

    Ultimate Crop Shorts in Midnight Blue – £32.99 | Adanola
    If you’re someone who runs occasionally but gyms regularly, I *love*  the Adanola kit. Not only is it soft as anything, its flattering, supportive, and doesn’t ride up or down, too. Go, go, go.

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    Timeless 5 inch shorts in Tourmaline – £38 | SEFI
    From personal trainer Stef Williams comes SEFI, a stripped-back gym wear brand that offers seriously supportive yet stylish kit. These shorts aren’t best suited for long runs but are great for deadlifts or days popping to the coffee shop.

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    Running shorts for women: what to look out for 

    1. In-built pant

    Fun fact: 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.

    2. Supportive style

    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.

    3. 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.

    I’m not sure I’m confident enough to wear running shorts – help! 

    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:
    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.

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