14 Best Workout Shorts for Women, According to Experts
Kick your summer fitness goals into gear with the perfect pair of workout shorts for women. Fitness experts share their favorite shorts and shopping guidelines.
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rd.com, via walmart.com, via lululemon.com
Choosing the right gear pays off every time
You probably already have a solid collection of butt-lifting leggings and matching loungewear sets, but if you take your fitness routine seriously, choosing the right workout shorts for women is a move you won’t regret. We asked fitness experts how to shop for workout shorts for women, and found the best pairs by categories, from affordable to plus size and everything in between.
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How to shop for workout shorts
When it comes to choosing the right women’s workout shorts, the last thing you want is to be distracted by your clothes during your workout. “Bunching, sliding up or down, or not feeling supported isn’t okay,” says Marcia Meade, an experienced Pilates instructor and ballet dancer. “There are enough options that will leave you feeling worry-free and focused on the fitness task at hand, and you don’t have to compromise style to get the right fit.”
Finding the right shorts for your body type and fitness style doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Sheryl Wilson, the founder of Fitnotic, a women’s core strength trainer focused on helping women regain their pelvic floor and abdominal wall health after giving birth, says women should consider two things above all else: The purpose of the shorts, and what will make them feel most confident. “The ideal shorts for a brisk walk or jog may be very different from the best shorts to wear to a group fitness class,” Wilson explains. “Be realistic about where you’re going to end up wearing the shorts and think about what would make you feel most comfortable.” She suggests looking for high-quality materials, avoiding thin fabrics, and opting for either adjustable waistbands or high-waisted shorts to avoid dreaded muffin-top looks.
These are the best workout shorts for women in the top categories.
Best with pockets: Soothfeel 2-in-1 Running Shorts
Amazon shoppers say these are the best workout shorts for women who love to run, do yoga, Pilates, or other fitness activities that work up a sweat and require flexible movement. “If you’re stretching in activities like yoga, barre, or Pilates it’s nice to have clothes that will go with your flow,” explains Meade, suggesting that shoppers. “Stay away from fabrics that are see-through as well as fabrics that aren’t stretchy.”
These Soothfeel shorts offer a double layer with a stretchy bike short-feel bottom layer topped with a running short that has a wide elastic waistband. They come in a variety of fan-favorite colors to suit every mood, are affordable, moisture-wicking, and come in sizes XS through XL. The most-loved feature from the over 2,400 glowing Amazon reviews is by far the included pockets. “I am obsessed with these shorts and have them in several colors,” writes one Amazon shopper. “I wear them for power walking with my walking shoes, ear buds, and a tank top almost every morning. I can keep my iPhone in the pocket without it slipping out, and the lower layer keeps my thighs from rubbing together.”
Best on Amazon: Yolix Biker Shorts
If you’re looking to stay within a strict budget, this three-pack of Yolix biker shorts for women is just the versatile, affordable package you’ve been searching for. “Not only is there something for all body types, but there are also brands at all price points, which is amazing,” says Meade. “It’s now super easy to find great, fashionable styles without sacrificing fit or function.”
This bestseller is also one of the most popular gifts on Amazon thanks to inclusive sizing that runs from size S through XL, a variety of flattering color options, and pricing that rivals your favorite protein drink. Versatility and comfort has made them a popular go-to for women of all ages and shapes. “They are long enough in the thighs, they are not compressing, and they are high enough in the waist,” writes one five-star Amazon reviewer. “I also second that they feel like butter! Very soft!”
Best affordable workout shorts: Athletic Works Women’s Active Running Shorts
You don’t need to spend much to have a great workout ensemble, and this trusty pair of Athletic Works running shorts is the under-the-radar Walmart hidden gem you never saw coming. They come in over a dozen colors and patterns that range from neutral to bold style statements, are available in sizes XS through 3X. One pair is less expensive than your favorite venti iced specialty coffee drink.
The high waist is by far the most popular facet of their design, with reviewers claiming they don’t ride up or bunch. “These are great! I am 135 pounds with a 29-inch waist, 39-inch hips, and the small fit me perfectly,” writes one happy Walmart reviewer. “They are super high waisted, which is awesome! Super flattering and comfortable. I can walk or do squats in them without having them ride up. They’re definitely not as baggy as shown on the model, especially if you have a big butt and thighs like myself, but I think this is a good thing.”
Best for shaping: Yummie Mel Shaping Biker Shorts
If you’re looking to cinch your waist, flatten your tummy, and smooth your assets, these Yummie Mel biker shorts offer just the right amount of shaping and support, the same way your favorite shapewear does. The design slims hips, thighs, and tummies with 360 degrees of shaping and gentle compression, while deep eight-inch side pockets keep your essentials secured. The eight-inch inseam is also appealing to those who want a standard short with a slightly modest cut. The best part, by far, is how the back of the waistband curves up to lift your rear while the front of the waistband curves up to hold down your tummy.
“Most women have areas they would like to accentuate and areas they would rather disguise,” says Wilson. “If some lower abdominal support feels good, go for it.”
Best at Nordstrom: BP. Women’s Sports Shorts
These drawstring cotton must-haves are an essential part of any girl’s wardrobe thanks to easy-to-maneuver waistband adjustability and breathable cotton material. Yes, they’re on trend, but they’re also functional, so you get the best of both worlds. “Don’t choose the women’s workout shorts that are trending right now if they’re not going to make you feel good wearing them today,” says Wilson, urging women to opt for breathable materials and comfortable construction.
BP. is a Nordstrom-exclusive brand known for affordability and quality construction, which makes scooping up a pair a prudent decision. They’re great for walking, stretching, running, and even weight lifting— and don’t worry, they’re easy to throw in the washing machine.
Best skort: Athleta Ace Tennis Skort
This Athleta Ace tennis skort is obviously great for its namesake sport of tennis. But it also offers a slightly more modest take on the best workout shorts for women thanks to hidden bike shorts beneath the 13.5-inch length tennis skirt. Guess what else is hidden in this fun, whimsical design? A deep phone pocket you probably never expected but will truly cherish so you’re never out of Bluetooth music or phone range. The skort comes in three fun prints and offers an extended size range of XXS through 3X so there is something for everyone.
“The length is perfect as it isn’t too short,” writes Carol, an Athleta customer who owns multiple skorts from this popular brand. “The skirt is so lightweight and non-constricting, so it is extremely comfortable for all types of exercise.”
Best plus size: Stretch is Comfort Cotton Plus Size Bike Shorts
You’re going to want a pair of these Stretch is Comfort cotton bike shorts in every color. These are budget-friendly, versatile, comfortable, and downright popular with a size range that reaches 7X. Did we mention they come in dozens of neutrals, fun prints, and bold eye-catching colors? They do—and it’s something that Amazon shoppers just can’t get enough of.
“Great material and perfect fit,” writes one of the nearly 4,000 happy Amazon reviewers. “I was a little unsure as I’m short (5’3″) and I’m usually between an extra large and a 2X. I got the 2X and they fit perfectly! High on the stomach area and plenty of room and stretch— no tight squeezing on the bottom of the shorts either!”
Lululemon Wunder Train High Rise Short
Did you know these high rise bike shorts are one of Lululemon’s bestsellers? Shoppers love the high-rise design that gently tucks, flattens, and smooths without feeling constricted or tight. They’re available in nearly 20 colors and prints and in sizes 0 through 20. Other fan-favorite features include the brand’s fastest-drying Everlux fabric, a higher waistband, and mid-length inseam. If you prefer short-shorts, that’s okay too— you can order this high rise style in four and six-inch inseam lengths as well.
Best for running: Nike Women’s Dri-Fit Tempo Running Shorts
While most moisture-wicking and lightweight workout shorts for women will function for running, some are better designed with the sport in mind. These Nike women’s Dri-Fit Tempo shorts fit the bill thanks to lightweight material that wicks sweat and moisture away, mesh panels that add just the right amount of ventilation whether you’re sprinting or cross-country training, and a short inseam to keep you moving weightlessly. The affordable price point, extended color and size range (up to 2X), and easy maintenance have made them one of Nike’s most popular shorts.
Best eco-friendly workout shorts: Cozy Earth Bamboo Jogger Shorts
If you’re looking to make your fitness routine a little bit greener, these Cozy Earth bamboo-based jogger shorts are the comfortable, ultra-soft eco-friendly fashion solution you definitely need in your wardrobe. They’re made of an ultra-soft brushed viscose woven from renewable bamboo. The cut flatters most body shapes, and the fabric offers excellent breathability and ventilation that makes hard workouts just a little easier. They’re comfortable enough to replace your best pajamas, and the practical pockets make them a great choice for wearing just about anywhere. They also come in two neutral colors, gray and black, and are offered in sizes XS through XL.
“These are the best and softest shorts ever,” writes Torey N., a Cozy Earth reviewer. “The hype is real; you need them.”
Best throwback style: Reebok Workout Ready High-Rise Shorts
These Reebok high-rise women’s workout shorts offer vintage charm with modern design and fabric technology. You don’t have to go back to phys ed, but you can revisit the old-school look while you hit spin class or go for a neighborhood jog. Front venting keeps you cool on even the hottest days. They’re available in women’s sizes 2XS through 2XL—because nostalgia comes in all shapes and sizes. Plus, they’re affordable and machine washable.
Best patterned: Onzie High Rise Biker Short
If you’re fun, exciting, and bold, your workout attire should match. The best workout shorts for women offer both function and flair, and these Onzie high-rise biker shorts are the perfect way to let your cardio class know you’ve got personality. The shorts come in a range of eye-catching prints from gutsy leopard to feminine florals. You’ll feel good about the American-made construction.
Compression features help you recover from hard workouts and smooth the skin’s surface, and the high-waisted mid-length thigh makes them a slightly more modest piece that women of most sizes and ages will love wearing. They’re ideal for spin class, yoga, Pilates, barre, and just about anywhere you’d want to focus on flexible movement.
Best for UPF 50+ sun protection: Baleaf Athletic Shorts
If protecting your skin from the sun during an outdoor workout is a top priority for you, these Baleaf athletic shorts are definitely going to call your name. They’re lightweight, fast-drying, and ideal for outdoor fitness activities like hiking, power walking, and group fitness classes in the park. They come in eight sensible colors to pair with your favorite sunglasses with UV protection. Bonus? Stain-resistant material keeps dirt and grime off your best workout look.
Hundreds of Amazon reviewers are raving about the zipper pocket, an especially useful feature for those who love hiking. “Love these shorts,” writes one woman, who notes the length is mid-thigh. “The pockets are great. I walk and have my phone in one pocket and can fit a 16.9-ounce water bottle in the other pocket.”
Best splurge: Spanx Booty Boost Double Layer Shorts
This double-layer shorts pair from Spanx is worth the splurge, and not just because they look cute. They do everything. They’re ideal for tennis, workouts, or outdoor exploring of all types, and they’ll keep you on the move worry-free in a sweat-wicking, quick drying fabric. They also boast a four-way-stretch layer with gentle compression and smoothing, while mesh side insets add ventilating comfort. A supportive liner smooths over lumps and bumps and prevents chafing.
We weren’t kidding about these shorts doing it it all, because they also have a secure back zipper pocket to hold cash or keys, a side drop-in pocket to store your phone, stay-put silicone to keep the entire look in place, and UPF 50+ sun protection. And yes—you can machine wash them so they’re always ready when you are.
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- Marcia Meade, Pilates instructor and ballet dancer
- Sheryl Wilson, core strength specialist and founder of Fitnotic