There’s a big difference between the absolute best workout shorts for men and the stained sweatpant cutoffs you’ve been wearing for bi-weekly crunches and leg lifts (plus plenty of lounging) in front of the TV this past year. And whether you’re back in the gym regularly or still completing most of your workouts from your living room floor, it’s never a bad idea to dip into your monthly stay-somewhat-in-shape budget to invest in a fresh pair of performance shorts, or several, that will get you excited about the idea of moving your body vigorously on a regular basis.
Over the past couple years we’ve sweated in a wide array of different gym and running shorts. To single out the ones that are a cut above the rest, we’ve considered price, durability, handfeel, and a slew of other variables. Like, is the stretchy performance fabric actually breathable and moisture-wicking enough to stave off a nasty case of swamp crotch? If there’s a lining, does it actually stay put or does it ride up after the third deep lunge? Where are the pockets and can they actually succeed at holding the things one needs while pounding the pavement or speeding your way through some mountain climbers without impeding your movement? And, of course, do the shorts look good enough that you wouldn’t mind running some errands in them on the way back from the gym? Below, a curated selection of the best workout shorts for men we’ve found, including some stood-behind Fitness Award winners from the years past. They should help you make some gains and look pretty good doing it.
To see more of the best workout clothes and gear hand-picked by GQ editors, check out the 2022 GQ Fitness Awards.
The Most Versatile Workout Shorts: Outdoor Voices “RecTrek”
Outdoor Voices has been producing some of our favorite workout shorts for years, and the multi-tasking Rectrek shorts might be their best yet. They’re wind- and water-resistant against the elements and have an almighty four-way stretch to ensure that you can hike, climb, run, and spread out without ripping your shorts in two. Zippered side pockets keep your valuables secure while the dedicated headphone exit makes sure you’re connected to your tunes without the danger of getting them caught in any gym equipment. They’re perfectly roomy and don’t scream “Hey, I’m about to work out!”
The Best Budget Workout Shorts: Uniqlo Ultra Stretch
If you’re really trying to get the most mileage out of your gym shorts (that annual membership isn’t cheap, after all), it’s likely you’ll want a pair that can pull double duty and moonlight as your day-to-day shorts. Uniqlo’s ultra stretch active shorts have got the credentials for the job, helping you push yourself at the gym courtesy of a sweat-wicking, quick-drying stretchy fabric, plus an elastic waist and zip pockets that ensure your phone is along for the ride. Meanwhile, the minimal design steers it well clear of obvious activewear territory so nobody will bat an eye when you wear it as your daily driver. Plus, for just $25, you can stock up in multiples to help you stretch your laundry timelines.
The Best Workout Shorts for Getting After It at the Gym: Ten Thousand “Interval”
The workout legends at Ten Thousand got their start back in 2014 with a simple pair of exercise shorts and a shirt. We dug version 1.0, which we tried back in 2015, but the company has spent the intervening years making small tweaks and adjustments to the design that have tipped the scales even further. The updates to its staple Interval shorts maintain its extremely minimal aesthetic, but add a bunch of little hidden touches like hidden zipper pockets that have spurred its rise in popularity in gyms around the country. The thing you’ll notice the most as you actually train in these GQ Fitness Award-winning shorts, though, is how they move. Thanks to the un-bunchable, pinch-free waistband and extremely flexible shell, the short both somehow molds perfectly to your body and expands easily with your movement. If you’re looking for the best shorts for going absolutely nuts on the battle ropes, look no further.
The Best Workout Shorts for Runners: Tracksmith Van Cortlandt
Serious runners require serious running shorts. And nobody designs more serious running kits than Tracksmith, the Boston label that transplants Chariots of Fire–era aesthetics onto modern marathon-ready gear. Take these thigh-high split shorts inspired by Japan’s Hakone Ekiden—a legendary 218-kilometer relay race—fashioned from plush, antimicrobial mesh. You’re not going to be able to fit your phone into the 2.5-inch inseam, but the shorts manage to make space for two internal pockets that hold your keys or one of those race-day sports goo packets.
The Best Workout Shorts for Swimmers: True Tribe Active
Professional swimmers might favor the steamlined fit of a Speedo, but if you’re not looking to bare it all at the local community pool when you swim laps, swim trunks are always the move. Parisian brand True Tribe’s shiny nylon spin on the genre are more like dress trunks, and nabbed a Fitness Award a few years back for their swagger and sheer versatility: the gleaming reflective surface will jazz up your fits no matter whether you’re wearing them to lift at the gym or party poolside in Miami.
The Best Workout Shorts for Yogis: Nike Dri-FIT Yoga Shorts
Yoga leggings aren’t the most forgiving unless you’re fine with rocking up at the studio dressed like a Shakespearean extra. And yet, regular workout shorts have their dangers, too: You may be one Happy Baby away from a public indecency charge if you’re wearing something linerless. Nike has one streamlined solution in the form of these moisture-wicking Dri-FIT yoga shorts which add in contrasting compression shorts underneath to help you modestly transition between asanas. Beyond the mat, these triple as stylish bottoms for chasing a PR on the pavement or on the bike.
The Best Workout Shorts With Multiple Pockets: Olivers “All Over”
Oliver’s “All Over” shorts deliver on the promise of any superlative gym shorts (soft, stretchy, and chafe-resistant fabric, available in a dozen rad colors) but then kick that up a notch with not just two, but a trio of pockets—two on the hips, one hidden inside—that’ll carry all your necessaries at the gym. The water-repellent finish also ensures that you can take your workout routine outdoors and not have to worry about getting absolutely soaked (by inclement weather, at least), which is one of the many reasons why these shorts have been such a fixture in our Fitness Awards.
The Best Training Shorts: Rhone “Mako”
The Rhone Mako shorts are a little bit “gymmier” than something you might want to be seen in on a regular basis, but that’s all in service of performance. Their stretchy fabric feels smooth against your skin, and yields that satisfying swish-swish rustling noise with each successive stride. They’re versatile and flexible enough to handle a variety of high-intensity cardio programs, including jumping jacks and HIIT workouts, and weightlifting. Plus, their full-zip, standalone phone pocket at the hip is the best-executed and most secure version out of all the shorts we tested. Shorts are available in two inseam lengths (7-inches and 9-inches), which means regardless of your height, you’ve got options if you’re looking to bare some thigh.