After 16 months of R&D, I had some time to test out some of the best men's workout shorts on the market. My intention was part market research, and part product development. I wanted to see what the top-dogs were doing right and take bits & pieces to Frankenstein together shorts of our own.
I was looking to get an idea of how the products fit, how the fabric felt, and how they performed during a variety of workouts.
I put them through long runs, bike rides, CrossFit workouts, yoga, kettlebell flows, sat with them in meditation, a jump in the ocean, and wore them each for a week straight without washing (hold your judgments).
I tried a total of 15 different brands (21 shorts in total) over the course of those 16 months and these were the best I tried:
Best Shorts for Lounging: Vuori - The Kore Short
The first thing that stood out was the fabric. They have unbelievable fabric that was the first brand to rival Lulu. These guys really nail their fabric quality and, what’s referred to as, hand-feel across the board.
The Kore shorts have super soft woven recycled poly blend fabric, elastic waistband with a drawcord, and velcro back pocket. The liners were interesting and unlike anything I had tried - they were much more like a soft, free-flowing cotton boxer brief vs a high-compressive liner you'll see in some athletic-focused shorts.
These shorts were awesome for everyday wear, some yoga work, and a bit of light exercise - dubbed as 'one short for every sport'. While I didn't love running in them because of the liner material and lack of a snug phone pocket, I'd wear them for just about everything else.
My only knock was the sizing of the two large Kore shorts I tried was off. One fit snug around my glutes and the other had tons of room to play. With the fabric being so soft to the touch and the fit being nearly perfect, for me, these were my go-to whenever I was lounging.
Vuori has exploded in the last 24 months and just announced a round of $400M in funding from SoFi Bank, so I'm sure more designs and innovative fabrics are to come.
Best Shorts for Everyday Life: Myles - Everyday Short
I tried out the Everyday Shorts from the San Francisco-based company. These sat just above the knee (8" inseam) and were described to me by the CEO as casual shorts that you can work out in.
They have an interesting double weave nylon fabric, that is almost soft/felt-like on the underside and more rugged on top. They have an elastic waistband with a drawcord, a buttoned back pocket, and no-bounce leg pockets. The pocket material was pretty unique, being more of a rugged fish-net feeling compared to a stretchy fine mesh commonly found in workout shorts.
They were perfectly sized pockets that held their shape and didn't give to the bouncing of my phone or wallet when I was on the move.
These are also water repellant, so my first 45 min ride on the Peloton had sweat beading off my shorts to the floor - it was weird, but also pretty cool. Comes in handy if you tend to spill adult beverages on yourself during happy hour with friends (of course that doesn't happy to you, though).
I stopped wearing them to work out in since they held their form a bit more than the others on this list (not the free-flowing style I want out of workout shorts), but these became a staple in my everyday wear. They look more like chinos than workout shorts, but are super light, have a buttoned back pocket for keeping your wallet in place, and can be dressed up or down.
Backed by their 5-Year Quality Guarantee, the Everyday Shorts are my choice for everyday wear (guess they nailed that name).
Best Shorts for Cross-Training: TenThousand - The Foundation Short
I tried the Interval and the Foundation Shorts from TenThousand. Designed with Spec Ops, CrossFit, and other athletes to handle the toughest of workouts, these were definitely unique shorts. The shorts are about a 7" inseam, the waistband has a drawcord design like that of board shorts (ties in the front with shoelace-like holes) while also having elastic in the back-half of the shorts.
The liner is compressive nylon (similar to the sliders/compression shorts you likely would’ve worn if you played football, baseball, or cycled), so they keep the goods in place and provide a nice tight feeling on your upper legs. I still preferred to wear briefs underneath the liner just so my goods wouldn't get totally smooshed.
The zipper pocket on the right leg (it sits underneath the main leg pocket) is perfectly designed to keep your phone in place. I hadn't seen a pocket constructed as well as these in any of the other shorts I tried. The phone pocket material was a slightly stretchy mesh, so it held all phone sizes (usually without a case) perfectly in place.
This was the best pocket design that I found for runs & cycling as I would barely notice my phone moving.
They seemed to hold up well to any of the thrashings I put them through and if I was going from a run to a bike ride, to do some barbell work, these made the most sense.
Best Shorts for Overall Comfort: Lululemon - THE Short
Ah yes, alas... Lulu. Hard to say anything bad about these shorts and hard to have a list of best shorts without Lulu making an appearance. The material was super soft (and made from recycled polyester), the length was great (7" inseam), and the waistband didn't pinch, bunch, or leave indentations on my hips.
They've updated their liners from the awful fishnet material to a softer boxer brief design (I still opt for these without a liner though) - you can find some of the brutal reviews on their site about the old liners.
They had a mini pocket for keys/small goodies within the main leg pocket which comes in handy to feel confident your keys aren't going anywhere. The hip pocket was a little too loose to hold the phone in place, but I think they've updated that on newer versions.
I'm pretty maniacal when it comes to the fabric I put on my body and have become particular with fit over the past couple of decades. Of all the gear I tried, these 4 shorts displayed the best feeling fabric, well-designed fit, and performed the task at hand exceptionally.
Let me know what you think I should try next or what should be on the list!
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