WANT to get off the streets and enjoy a scenic view when you’re running? We’ve tested the best trail running shorts to help you go the distance.
Whether you’re sick of pounding the streets when you go out for a jog, or maybe you’ve always preferred a more rugged terrain, having a good pair of trainers isn’t the only thing you need to think about when you go trail running; what you wear on your body is also key.
Getting the right trail running shorts can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying your run and improving your time (if that’s your goal).
As a personal trainer and endurance runner, the most important thing for me when picking the perfect trail running shorts is a lightweight, quick-dry fabric that keeps the sweat off you as much as possible, but also dries quickly if you get caught in a shower.
The material and fit of the shorts need to allow increased range and movement as you’ll be running up and down hills, dodging stones and fallen branches and tackling uneven terrain.
If, like me, you are a distance runner, then having a pocket or two to carry gels and your phone is essential. Not sure which ones are right for you? Worry not, my running buddies and I tried and tested a number of trail running shorts and the ones below came out top…
- Gymshark Men’s Sports Shorts, £30 from Gymshark – buy here
Pros: Good value for money, double up as gym and lifestyle shorts
Cons: No fitted pockets
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These shorts seem quite no frills on the surface but were one of the best pairs of trail running shorts we tried out.
Although they are for men, they were tested by both male and female runners and got high praise from both despite feeling a little less technical than some of the other pairs that were tested.
Gymshark doesn't advertise them for trail running, but rather as multi-purpose shorts that are as at home in the gym as they are in the great outdoors.
They are slightly longer than other trail shorts and sit mid-thigh (depending on height) which is useful to avoid any chafing higher up on long runs. They also provide a looser fit than other shorts and are made with breathable material with built-in sweat-wicking tech. The more relaxed feel continues with a drawstring waist rather than just elastic.
There are no technical pockets that fit phones etc perfectly but big pockets on both sides come with zips, so phones and bank cards didn’t fall out while running and didn’t actually feel too annoying as they moved around because you knew they were safe.
The best thing about trail running in these shorts was the flexibility of movement they provided when running up hills and passing over rocks; they allow for easy stretching of the legs.
- CEP Run Loose Fit Shorts for Women, £41.35 from Amazon – buy here
Pros: Lightweight material really makes you feel free on the trails
Cons: No real cons other than some people may find them too lightweight or require more/bigger pockets
These were some of the most lightweight trail running shorts we tried out. The material glides on and sits comfortably on the skin almost as if it isn't there.
Along the top of the shorts is a soft, thick waistband with a zippable pocket that sits centre back and is big enough for keys and cards and is a good, snug fit for a fairly large phone.
The waistband is adjustable via a drawstring mechanism and the whole thing (even with the phone in the pocket) sits nicely in place when running over uneven terrain and also when the shorts were tried during more rigorous interval runs.
The trail running shorts tick all the boxes when it comes to comfort and the smart stretch technology CEP has used also allows for good range when jumping over streams and over rocks.
The lightweight material makes these shorts perfect for warmer climates and summer trails, but they are a loose enough fit to wear over leggings in the winter months. The shorts also have reflective panels so you can train in the dark.
- On Running Ultra Shorts, £100 from On Running – buy here
Pros: Ultra light and specifically designed for trails, more than enough pockets for all your stuff
Of all the shorts we tested, these seemed the most thought-through when it came to giving the trail runner exactly what they need.
One of the most impressive things is that the trail shorts come with six(!) pockets, the largest of which is at the back of the waistband with a zip and is big enough to fit a very large phone, keys, cards and gels as needed.
The pocket itself sits off the waistband rather than being part of it, as is the case with almost the other shorts we tested, and this did a good job of reducing any rubbing on the back and also left space for breathability between the phone and back.
If you don’t fancy keeping your phone there, then there is another phone-shaped pocket on the right leg of the shorts, this time without a zip, but the phone still remained secure on all terrains.
The main body of the shorts is made from 85% recycled polyamide,, so you’ll be doing your bit for the environment. The panels on the back of the shorts are made from a sturdier material than the front panels, which are super lightweight and allow flexibility for the forward motion of the legs. The running shorts also come with a soft integrated brief, which keeps the main shorts off the skin in that area, allowing for further breathability and added support.
During runs, they were very comfortable and dried quickly.
- Men’s Under Armour Running Launch 7” short, £34.50 from Very.co.uk – buy here
Pros: Good price, very comfortable
Cons: Phone bounced around a little during the run
These soft and comfy trail running shorts felt lightweight on the run and are made from a super-stretchy material that allows for movement in every direction, whether you're warming up or tackling more extreme terrain on the run.
Although they don’t feel as technically made as some of the others we've tested when it comes to the material, they were easy to run in and sat very well on the waist and allowed for a comfortable running motion.
The mesh inner brief and mesh pockets help with breathability and the pocket on the right has an extra fitted pocket inside to hold your phone securely.
The material is great at sweat-wicking and is quick-drying, which was great when running during a rain shower as the shorts were dry again in no time.
The extra length on these shorts makes them extra-flattering and they can double up as lifestyle shorts around runs. The elastic waistband comes with an internal drawcord to adjust as needed.
If you like a looser fit then go one size larger than you normally would. Our female testers found them a little tight on the glutes, but going up a size sorted that out.
- Adidas women’s Dailyrun 3-Stripes Five-Inch Short, £45 from adidas – buy here
Pros: The close fit makes the running movement very smooth, excellent pocket
Cons: They did ride up a little on some very uphill running sections, might take a bit of getting used to for those who prefer loose fitting shorts
Unlike the other trail running shorts that we tested, these adidas shorts were fitted like leggings. Although you would expect to feel a bit hotter and maybe sweatier in these, the material is very breathable and the adidas AEROREADY tech is great at keeping moisture at bay and the shorts still felt lightweight.
Another good thing about having the fitted shorts was that there was no fear of getting them caught on twigs and brambles on terrain that involved running through woody areas.
They also have 360 reflectivity through the stripes on each side which is ideal for late-night street running.
The shorts in general have a minimalistic design, and the innovative, zipless pocket on the back of the waistband fits this aesthetic: big enough to hold a phone, it holds your possessions in place through a large fold of material that fits over the pocket.
The tight fit of the shorts and high waist means the phone does sit well on the back with little bounce and the lack of zip makes access very easy.
The trail running shorts are made from a series of recycled materials so they get extra marks for sustainability too.
- Evadict Men’s Trail Running Baggy Shorts, £24.99 from Decathlon – buy here
Pros: Great value for money
Cons: Waistband can get quite bulky when all the pockets are full
You get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to these trail running shorts. The design is very considered and every element from pockets to materials has the trail runner in mind.
The main body of the shorts is lightweight and quick-dry with reflective panels and has a fitted inside brief for extra support. The top of the shorts is made up of a sturdy elastic waistband that can be adjusted using the drawstring element.
The waistband is also home to five different pockets: a big zipped pocket on the back can hold a large phone and more, another smaller zipped pocket on the front which is more suited to cash, keys or gels.
Then there are a further three mesh pockets around the front; the main one is even large enough to hold a water bottle. These were great for long runs as there was no shortage of space for a phone, cash, keys, gels and even electrolytes.
The best thing was each item could have its own pocket so there was no time wasted rummaging around in the same pocket for all your bits. This can make the waistband quite heavy and bulky, but if you’re used to wearing a gels or water belt already, this will be no issue.
The only downside was that the waistband can look a little ugly when the front pocket is empty as it hangs over the main part of the shorts, but for this price, it’s probably something worth ignoring.
In general, they were very easy to run in but if you do like a looser fit on the leg, then do go up a size.
- Ronhill Women’s Tech Revive short, £34 from Very.co.uk – buy here
Pros: Lightweight and good value
Cons: They are very short so could take getting used to if you like longer shorts
These trail running shorts are designed to make you run that little bit faster. The racer-style body, shorter length and few added extras is all about there being as little as possible to get in your way.
The shorts get extra brownie points for being made from recycled yarn and the back of the main body has splits running along the top (just below the waistband) to allow for added ventilation and flexibility of movement. The material itself is made using Ronhill Tech fabrics which is great at sweat-wicking.
There’s a pocket big enough for a phone on the backside of the waistband; rather than centred it sits slightly to the right, which makes it easier to access but can make the shorts seem a little lop-sided at the start of a run.
There’s a fitted brief inside the shorts which helps keep the shorts from bunching up, which can happen as they are pretty short. These trail running shorts performed really well on short and medium runs but one tester who is used to racing in leggings did experience chafing on the inside of her legs on a long run, so that could be something to be aware of if you do struggle with chafing on runs.
- Adidas men’s Own The Run Shorts, £35 from adidas – buy here
Pros: Good value for money, can be used for general lifestyle wear too
Cons: Some bounce from items in pockets, less technical than some specific trail running shorts
Although not specifically designed for trail running, these shorts did really well in testing for a number of reasons including the lightweight feel and breathability of the fabric which made the shorts very comfortable to move in.
The outer shell of the shorts is made from 100% recycled materials and comes with two main front pockets and also has a zipped, sweat-guard back pocket that can fit a phone. It’s a fairly snug fit which helps reduce some of the bouncings when running but you can feel items that are stored in the front pockets and there is a fear of them falling out.
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The shorts were very quick to dry when they got wet on the run down to the moisture-absorbing AEROREADY tech, which also helps keep sweat off the body.
The shorts are fitted with an inside brief for added support and also have a reflective logo for nighttime running. The main highlight of these shorts was the ease with which you can move in them: they were used for a hills session and there was no restriction at all and the slightly longer length helped with general coverage when they rose up.
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