Take these thigh-high split shorts—a perennial Fitness Awards winner—inspired by Japan’s Hakone Ekiden, a legendary 218-kilometer relay race. They’re 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 those race-day sports goo packets.
The Best Workout Shorts for Swimmers: True Tribe Active
Lap-timing swimmers might favor the streamlined fit of a Speedo, but if you’re not looking to bare it all at the local gym, the right swim trunks are key. Parisian brand True Tribe’s shiny nylon spin on the genre nabbed a Fitness Award a few years back for the swagger: the gleaming reflective fabric looks luxe whether you’re poolside at the Y or The Standard in Miami. It’s functional, too, drying quickly. Wisely-placed grommets let water drain instead of ballooning the shorts, and True Tribe’s stash pouch means you can toss them back in your bag when it’s time to head home.
The Best Workout Shorts for Yogis: Lululemon Balancer
For those who’d rather hit downward dog instead of the dumbbell rack, finding bottoms that are moisture-wicking and flexible without impeding your flow is the goal. Lululemon’s Balancer shorts are made from the brand’s fastest-drying fabric, a breathable and ultra-stretchy blend thanks to the added Lycra. The straight-leg silhouette will keep the shorts from getting in the way of your Zen, as will the elastic-free waistband, designed so there’s no bunching or pulling. Which makes them a great pair for our other favorite pose, Lounging on Couch.
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 the trio of zipped pockets—two on the hips, one hidden inside—are the stars of the show here. 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 Workout Shorts with a Compression Liner: District Vision Aaron
Haven’t you heard? Swagged-out people love District Vision. Helmed by two fashion veterans, the brand is making some of the most stylish high-performance workout gear. These five-inch shorts feature a super-stretchy compression liner for keeping all your parts in place, sparing you from buying an additional pair of compression shorts. Meanwhile, a surprising assortment of pockets keeps everything else in place. Overall, these are a kick-ass pair of shorts, and that peekaboo District Vision logo is a little IFKYK bat-signal for other stylish athletes.
The Best Compression Shorts: Under Armour Heatgear
We’re big on compression shorts here, because they help boost blood flow to muscles and prevent that swamp situation we hate during a workout. Under Armour’s Heatgear is our favorite pair, clocking in at a budget-friendly $30. The super-thick waistband feels secure, and while they’re snug (these are compression shorts), they also feature ventilated mesh to air things out down there. These even have a built-in thigh pocket to lock down your phone during high knees and hard sprints.
The Best Workout Shorts for Tennis Players: Palmes Middle
While everyone’s on the pickleball bandwagon, you keep it real with some OG tennis. Tennis style is trendy, and while we’ll always love the classic ’80s-style tennis shorts trend, next-gen brand Palmes is doling out some of the best apparel for your next match on the court. The Middles have a modest six-inch inseam, mesh lined, and can store a whole can’s worth of tennis balls. Hell, we love these shorts so much we awarded them a GQ Fitness Award for 2023.
Plus 6 More Workout Shorts We Love
Surf-born brand Outerknown isn’t just staying put at the beach. With smart details—like a quick-drying four-way stretch fabric, secure zip pockets, and a comfy elastic waistband with a loop in back for tucking a drenched tee or hand towel—the Outbound Stretch Volley Short will happily help you break a sweat anywhere.
If you’re a runner who loves their energy gels, Janji says you can fit up to 50 of them. We haven’t verified that claim (mainly because we don’t love energy gels), but there really are a crap-ton of pockets—hidden and discreet—all over these shorts. The stretchy nylon can handle your deepest squat, and if you happen to have the stride of a giraffe, these shorts will move with you and not hold you back.
Man, we love Baggies, and the fact that they’re great simple workout shorts (among many other things) is why we’ll always have a pair stashed inside our dresser. The nylon is durable, the lining is appreciated, and they come in more colors than a pack of Skittles.
Runners love their short shorts, and they love their pockets. Sadly not enough running brands give athletes the latter. But these GQ Fitness Award-winning running shorts feature a trio of pockets, as well as one that keeps your phone dry from your sweaty butt.
At quick glance, these don’t look like anything more than a normal pair of shorts. But thanks to four-way stretch fabric, these can handle your lifts, yoga classes, and runs. They’re quick drying so you don’t end up a sweaty mess at your post-workout hang, and they’re available in almost two dozen colorways.
Goodfight’s Grocery Getters are what happens when you give Adam Sandler’s favorite mesh basketball shorts the GQ treatment. That’s also why they’re a favorite of GQ’s style editor, Yang-Yi Goh, who crowned this pair with a 2023 GQ Fitness Award. We think the pocket placement on these shorts—external, like a camp short—is ingenious, as is the hidden interior pocket that locks down your phone so it doesn’t pants you on the StairMaster.