Running shorts come in all styles and sizes, but only a dedicated pair can enhance your trail running experience. The best trail running shorts blend some of the best technologies in running gear with features that make running up the trails more fun.
They’re perfect to wear in warmer climates, wick moisture quickly, and work together with your active body to deliver the ultimate trail running experience. Wondering which pair to buy? Check out our recommended top trail running shorts below…
Our Top Choices For Trail Running Shorts
Everything about the La Sportiva Rapid shorts screams long distance running. They’re a two in one style with an inner brief so you don’t have to wear underwear with them (which would cause chaffing after several miles).
The outer shorts have an 6-inch inseam and the inners are 8-inches long. The brightly colored inner brief sticks out a couple inches below the hem of the outer short, leaving no question that this pair is not designed for looks, but for performance.
La Sportiva trail running shorts are are sewn from an 88% polyamide 12% spandex blend, which is a lot more durable than some of the polyester ones you find in the bargain bin at sporting goods stores. That durability comes at the cost of weight though, so expect a heavier feel from them.
Like any synthetic fabric, polyamide is prone to bacterial growth and stench. Fortunately, La Sportiva has added Polygiene anti-bacterial treatment to ward it off – though you should still wash them as soon as possible after sweaty runs.
For storage, there’s a single zippered pocket in the rear that’s large enough to fit a phone or some money/credit cards. Like most trail running shorts, if you stick something too large in there, it’ll feel pretty uncomfortable.
The Rapid shorts are a great option for long distance runners because they’re durable, comfortable, and have an excellent liner. They don’t come cheap though and look too technical for casual wear.
Running shorts can’t get more basic that a pair of Champions, but for many trail runners, they are all you need. They’re breathable, relatively lightweight, and most importantly, inexpensive.
If you tend to wear athletic shorts casually, you’ll probably like these ones. They have a 9-inch inseam, providing plenty of coverage for daily activities. While that’s a couple inches longer than most running shorts, the mesh fabric is light enough that you won’t feel weighed down or too hot in them.
The leg openings are 12 inches wide though, so they might flap a little in the wind – especially if you have skinnier legs. If you’re a highly competitive trail runner, you won’t be happy with that extra air resistance come race day.
Carrying a phone or any other kind of gear in your pockets will be more difficult with these shorts. There’s just two thigh pockets, and they’re pretty big. How is that a bad thing? In a word: slop. Your phone will bang against your leg throughout the run, so it’s best to only use these pockets when you’re not running.
If you’re just starting out with trail running or have enough experience to know you don’t need fancy shorts, these Champions are a real bargain.
The newest trail running shorts from Altra are a fantastic option for trail runners who want to forgo underwear and reduce chafing.
The inner liner on these shorts negates the need for underwear, as the boxer-brief liner keeps a tight fit against your skin and nearly eliminates rubbing. Some runners have complained that the fit isn’t as tight as a bikini brief liner, but for those just beginning to run sans-underwear, these will be a more comfortable option.
With a five inch inseam, they run a little shorter than some of the other pairs on this list. The higher cut allows for more range of motion and keeps you cooler, but it’s something to take note of if you like to hit up a cafe or brewery post-run and are worried about looking too technical.
The Altra’s wide waistband also ensures that these shorts never chafe, and the drawstring cinch holds them up, even as the elastic gets older and less flexible.
For the gear-heavy runner, the Altras are a windfall; five pockets grace these shorts with two mesh ones in the front and back and there’s a smaller one built into the waistband. That last one has a zipper and is ideal for carrying your phone, where it won’t bounce around or throw your stride off balance.
The Altra’s are a little more expensive than a basic pair of running shorts, but their handy pocket setup and no-chafe liner will please more experienced trail runners ready to upgrade.
Souke Sports running shorts are an excellent example of how a company can make a great product without getting too fancy with it. At first glance, they look like any other pair of shorts – polyester/spandex blend with simple stylings and muted colors.
But it’s what you don’t notice at first that makes this such a great pair of shorts. They come with two thigh pockets, both of which zip, to keep your phone or keys secure. While thigh pockets aren’t ideal for runners, as the things inside them can slap against your leg, the shorts are cut slim enough that there’s not a lot of room for the contents to shift.
Beneath the shorts is a polyester liner that negates the need for wearing underwear with the Souke Sports.
The liner has an excellent fit and does wonders for chafing. Additionally, there’s some perforated panels along the thighs to give them slightly better breathability compared to your average trail running shorts.
With this in mind, it’s safe to say these are a great pair of trail runners, especially for more budget-minded individuals.
The Brooks Sherpa are fantastic if you need a quick-dry pair of mid-calf running shorts. Instead of the usual fabric liner, the Sherpas go with a mesh to keep everything in place and provide maximum breathability. The feel is not exactly soft or supportive, but if you’re running in the heat, these can’t be beaten.
The fabric is 100% polyester for a silky smooth and ultra lightweight feel. There’s also a couple of reflective markings sewn into the sides to enhance visibility at night – a great addition for those running roads where vehicular and cycling traffic could be an issue.
For storage, there’s a single waistband pocket in the rear to hold your phone and valuables, but it is pretty small. It’s not an ideal setup, but Brooks seems to be going for a more aerodynamic and lightweight pair of shorts that would have felt bulkier with more pockets.
The Sherpas also come in a variety of colors and patterns so you can pick one that matches your personal style. They’re priced pretty well for what they are, so even occasional runners can pick up a pair without feeling like their wallet is being raided.
If you’re searching for a pair of mid-calf, lined trail running shorts and want something that’s going to dry quickly, these are a very safe bet. Made from a lightweight polyester/spandex blend, they are one of the fastest drying shorts on the market.
One way they accomplish this feat is with a mesh liner rather than the typical fabric briefs. Some runners will find the mesh uncomfortable in that they feel more like a pair of swim trunks than running shorts.
That being said, the material is incredibly breathable, so they’re great for runs in the sweltering heat. There’s also a couple of perforated side panels along the thigh for some extra ventilation.
The Baleaf has some pretty solid storage features too, with two large front pockets and a zippered pocket on the backside. Those front packets come in handy when you’re off the trail and need a place to put things. Combine that with the longer inseam and you’ve got an excellent pair of shorts for both trail running and casual wear.
They don’t cost a lot and do what they’re supposed to – keep you dry and comfortable. The mesh briefs aren’t for everyone, but they’re worth trying out if you live somewhere hot or are doing side activities like canyoneering where you’ll get soaked.
Dubbed the best trail running shorts by those who love simplicity, the ASICS Silvers are about as basic as they come, looking no different than the gym shorts you probably wore in high school. They’ve got a 7-inch inseam for midcalf coverage and are made from 100% polyester.
Unlike many of the other shorts on this list, the Silver lack a liner, so they need to be paired with underwear.
A common complaint with these shorts is that they’re lacking pockets. There are no front pockets where you can put a phone or set of keys. While having something heavy in a front pocket is never comfortable while running, they are nice to use at other times. There is an interior pocket, though, where can store small essentials like credit card or keys, which doesn’t get in the way or slap against you on each stride.
One good thing that can be said about these shorts is that they’re comfortable; the fabric is very breathable and it slides easily over your skin. The seams are flat to prevent chafing and hold up well, even for daily trail runners.
It’s disappointing that a big name like ASICS didn’t do anything innovative with their trail running shorts, but they’re priced fairly low and are made well. What else could a beginner wish for?
These nearly knee-length shorts from FLYFIREFLY might be one of the best pairs for runners wanting a more athletic fit. They provide plenty of coverage, due to the inner liner and the outer shorts that stay close to the leg for an aerodynamic feel and look.
They have a fairly low price point, especially considering the quality of the fabric and the fact that they’re made from a 95% polyamide 5% spandex. The blend gives them excellent durability and while they feel a little thick, they’re not heavy by any means.
Polyamide dries quickly too, so these are perfect for running in hot or humid climate where there will be a lot of sweating.
It’s coolest feature though? The pocket is in the liner, rather than the outer shorts. Such a design prevents the dreaded floppy phone or keys banging against your leg while running. There’s also a pair of outer pockets that are more convenient to use when you’re not running.
FLYFIREFLY has created a rock solid pair of low-cost running shorts and their innovative liner pocket is sure to please people who like to carry a phone but hate how much it moves around while they’re running.
Nike is one of the biggest names in the running world, that why it may come as a surprise how bland these trail running shorts are.
There’s nothing particularly special about the Flex Strides; they’re made from 100% polyester – no spandex, so they’re going to feel looser than most of the other shorts on this list – but that’s exactly what makes them special, as not everyone likes spandex.
A polyester liner removes the need for underwear while wicking away sweat. However, one of the most common complaints with the Flex Stride is that the liner is too snug. If you have the chance, try on a pair before purchasing.
The pockets also run a bit small, so if you’re got a larger phone, know that it probably won’t be coming on your runs.
That being said, these can be quite comfortable, primarily due to the softer fabric and Nike’s great anti-chafe seam construction. Nike didn’t really do much with the Flex Strides though, and yet they still cost a little more than their competitors. However, if you like the brand and hate spandex, these are undoubtedly the best trail running shorts you can get your hands on.
The Rush is one of La Sportiva’s best long distance running shorts. They’re designed to be layered over compression shorts or leggings, and the smooth polyamide fabric glides over them with ease. You can run in just them, but the 4-inch length might feel a little short for those unaccustomed to the length.
Like many of La Sportiva’s shorts, these are made from a polyamide blend and have the Polygiene antibacterial technology to prevent them from stinking too badly. A couple of reflective details along the thighs make you more visible at night, enhancing safety.
On the storage side of things, the Rush comes with just one rear waistband pocket. It’s sufficiently large for a phone, but a set of front pockets would have been nice, even if they’re not that functional during a run.
The only downside is that they are rather pricey, and buying them might be hard to justify if you’re a casual runner. They bring excellent features and rock solid construction to the avid trail runner, though, so if you hit the trail daily, this is definitely a pair to consider.