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Best Athletic Shorts for Men

Whether you're working out at home, at the gym, or outside, having the right clothes that allow for movement is paramount. It's not just about wearing whatever shorts and t-shirt you can find. It's important to take into account how much you sweat, the range of motion required, flexibility and materials. Here are the best athletic shorts for men.

When you're playing a sport or getting in some exercise, the right choice of clothes is paramount. Obviously, you wouldn't wear jeans and a button-up to the gym, but wearing the right kind of work-out clothes is about more than picking out a comfortable T-shirt and some shorts. 

Athletic shorts are made specifically for handling the wide range of motions and friction that typically would wear out a normal pair of shorts. Specific types of athletic shorts are made for specific sports and exercise routines, like running or playing basketball. 

Athletic shorts are made specifically for handling the wide range of motions and friction that typically would wear out a normal pair of shorts.

Finding the pair that works for your level and type of activity is important, and we know how difficult it can be to sift through the numerous brands, terminology, and technology to find what holds up and what doesn't. 

It can be that you don't know if you're paying too much or if you're paying too little, and in the end you may wind up with a pair that's either way overpriced or cheaply made. That's why we've made this list of the top five athletic shorts and their associated considerations, bringing all the research and five of the best products on the market together for your convenience. 

What should be considered before buying a pair of athletic shorts?

  • Pockets To have pockets, or to not have pockets, that is the question. Whether you want pockets on your choice of athletic shorts is up to you. Some who participate in competitive sports will find them unnecessary, while those who are buying a pair or two for gym workouts will find them useful.
  • Material In order to maximize breathability, comfort, and range of motion, most athletic shorts are made from nylon, cotton, polyester, bamboo, polypropylene, spandex, tencel, wool, and several specialty materials for specific needs. Each has something to offer, and each has its drawbacks. For each item on this list, the specific material used to manufacture it will have its pros and cons explored.
  • Length. Mid-thigh length has been popular since the inception of athletic shorts and offers premium range of motion, but they may be considered a bit revealing by some, and are not appropriate in all settings. At or just above the knee is a very popular length for general use including everyday wear, although for competitive sports they are less useful. Calf-length athletic shorts are useful in practically every setting that knee-length shorts are, and are mostly worn for a blend of fashion and function.
  • Fit Your exercise routine will determine the type of athletic shorts you get, including their fit. During yoga, you will want something extremely flexible and breathable that hugs your skin, and that doesn't inhibit your movements or trap excess heat and sweat. For running, competitive sports, and anything that needs a good balance of range of motion and tightness of fit, you will want something that hugs and doesn't restrict with a limited amount of total material. For basketball, gym exercising, and similar settings, knee length baggy shorts that give you a decent range of motion and a loose fit are preferred.

1) Under Armour Raid 10" available for $29 on Amazon

Key features
  • 10 in. length
  • 100% polyester
  • Loose fit
  • Pockets

First on our list is the Under Armour Raid. Under Armour is the household fitness apparel brand, transcending the industry by producing apparel for markets across the board. The Raid is a very popular pair by Under Armour, combining a lot of their advanced fitness apparel technology into an affordable basketball-type pair of shorts.

The Raid is the most expensive item on this list, which is partly for the high-quality technology and construction delivered by Under Armour, and partly for the brand name.

Image Source: Amazon

What makes these shorts good for athletes?

The Raid is marketed as a general athletic short, useful in a variety of settings and also as stylish everyday-use clothes. For athletic activity, they are built with a number of useful features. 

This pair is an above-knee, loose-fitting, basketball-style of athletic shorts. They are made of 100% polyester and have mesh hand pockets.

The UV protection of the Raid is UPF 30. Under Armor is well aware of the odor that polyester can accumulate, and advertises an 'anti-odor' technology built into the pants. In many cases, these types of technologies may work, but only for a while.

These shorts are fairly traditional basketball shorts, making them appropriate for any athletic activity that doesn't require a huge range of motion, but instead needs a balance of range, comfort, and breathability. 

The Raid also has pockets, improving their general practicality in the gym and in everyday use. The loose fit, lightweight nature and length of the shorts also make them a good everyday use pair.

What's not so good about this [[product type]]?

Most pants that are similar to the Raid in features and style are $10 to $15 cheaper. Under Armour is well known for their quality, but this inflated price is likely related to the brand name more than anything.

There are two major complaints from customers. The primary complaint is that the shorts are almost see-through, which is an issue related to the type and amount of material used, and is not an issue which can really be resolved. The second is that the shorts are somewhat delicate, which is also related to the thinness and lightness of the polyester.

  • Great for gym/basketball use
  • Practical for everyday use
  • Polyester benefits
  • More expensive than comparable pairs
  • Somewhat see-through
  • Somewhat delicate

2) Champion Long Mesh with Pockets available for $10 on Amazon

Key features
  • 9.5 in. length
  • 100% polyester
  • Loose fit
  • Pockets

Champion is one of the most popular subsidiary apparel brands under the Hanes Brands parent company. Their Long Mesh Shorts are a popular pair of Champion shorts that offer a good generalist option for those who don't want to break the bank on several pairs. 

These are the second least expensive pair on this list, suggesting they have a decent level of quality and are still made to be affordable.

Image Source: Amazon

What makes these shorts good for athletes?

This pair is comparable in features and form to the Under Armour Raid. The Long Mesh Short is about a half inch shorter, not changing its feature significantly, and both are loose-fitting and 100% polyester. 

Both also have pockets, but the Long Mesh Shorts are slightly more durable, not see-through, and are cheaper, making them more practical as daily wear apparel.

The big difference is related to price, with the Long Mesh Shorts being less than half the price of the Raid, making them far more practical if you want to buy multiple pairs. The Long Mesh Shorts also come in a wider variety of colors but do not offer as many sizes as the Raid. 

The Long Mesh Shorts also have a polyester lining, while the Raid has no lining. This is significant because it solves the see-through problem in the Raid, and it slightly increases durability at the cost of weight and heat-trapping. It also decreases breathability and range of motion slightly.

What's not so good about this [[product type]]?

The two major customer complaints are related to the seams. The first is that the seams have a tendency to split after prolonged use. The second is that the elastic is poor quality and that there isn't enough of it, making the pants a tighter fit and more likely to break down in the future.

  • Good price
  • Practical features for everyday use
  • Comes in many colors
  • Has a lining
  • Complaints of poor seams
  • Complaints of poor elastic

3) Russell Athletic Mesh with Pockets available for $14 on Amazon

Key features
  • 9 in. length
  • 100% Cationic Polyester
  • Loose fit
  • Pockets

Russell Athletic is dedicated to sustainable practice and ethical, community-based manufacturing, which is reflected in their company-owned and operated facilities in El Salvador and Honduras. Their Men's Mesh Shorts are a good balance of affordability and quality.

The Men's Mesh Shorts are just under $20, putting them closer in price to the Raid over the Long Mesh Shorts, while still remaining fairly affordable for multiple pairs.

Image Source: Amazon

What makes these shorts good for athletes?

These shorts are very similar in design and style to the last two entries. The previous two have all the same features, but in the case of the Raid you will pay $12 more per pair, and in the case of the Long Mesh Shorts, you will pay $6 less.

There are essentially three main reasons why these shorts are more expensive than the other two brands. They are, in no particular order, quality, marketing, and brand. 

When you spend more money, generally you can expect to get better quality. The price increases as quality increases because improving quality generally means using more expensive materials, using more advanced manufacturing processes, and spending more time designing the product.

As for marketing, you may find that two items that are effectively identical may differ in price because one is marketed for professional use, and the other is marketed for everyday use.

Finally, brand name plays an important role. Well recognized brands with celebrity endorsements, lots of money, and lots of exposure will charge more because their social impact extends to the individuals who buy their products.

With all these factors in mind, we can begin to build a picture of these Russell shorts. We can assume that they are slightly better in quality than the Long Mesh Shorts, and slightly lower than the Raid. The Russell shorts are marketed as generic workout shorts for gym exercises, while the Long Mesh Shorts are marketed as generic, everyday athletic shorts, and the Raid is marketed as high-end exercise and sports athletic shorts that can also be used in everyday settings.

What's not so good about this [[product type]]?

Customer complaints have been about size, quality, and the fact that they are see-through.

Sizing is difficult online because you can't try the pair on. Based on customer feedback, these shorts seem to run a bit small.

Some customers have complained about the general quality of the shorts. Specifically, the elastic in the waistband comes out easily and is short overall.

Finally, just like the Raid customers, customers who bought the Russel shorts have had an issue with the mesh being see-through. Without a lining, polyester shorts tend to have this problem. The lack of lining provides better breathability and improves the range of motion a little bit, but the cost is a partially see-through pair of shorts.

  • Decent quality for the price
  • Good for gym exercises
  • Comfortable
  • Run small
  • Quality concerns with elastic waistband
  • Partially see-through

4) Baleaf 7" Quick Dry Workout available for $17 on Amazon

Key features
  • 7 in. length
  • 95% polyester, 5% Spandex
  • Loose fit
  • Zip pockets

Baleaf dedicates themselves to technological innovation and fair pricing for sports-oriented apparel. Their Men's Athletic Quick-Dry Running Shorts echo that dedication in their advanced, running-focused design. 

The Baleaf Running Shorts are practically the same price as the Russell shorts. However, they are marketed specifically as running shorts.

Image Source: Amazon

What makes these shorts good for athletes?

While these shorts are about the same price as the Russell shorts, they are slightly different. The Baleaf can be expected to be about the same quality as the Russell and uses similar quick drying technology. 

As comparable products at about the same price, the social power comparison between Russell and Baleaf can be assumed to be about the same. 

While the Russell is marketed as generic, gym-focused athletic shorts, the Baleaf is marketed as a generic running pair. The difference in how they have marketed slightly changes how they are designed. 

The Baleaf uses 5% spandex in its construction, which gives it a slightly closer fit but affords it more flexibility. This is better for running because it gives you more range of motion. It is about two inches shorter, which further helps the range of motion. It also has zip-up pockets, so while you are running your small pocket items can stay safe. 

What's not so good about this [[product type]]?

Customers have complained that these shorts are not well made for running, despite their design and marketing. Customers have said that the seam is longer than advertised, and that these shorts run small. Overall, they were criticized as being closer to basketball shorts than running shorts.

Another big customer complaint concerns the design of the shorts in the context of men's apparel. Apparently, the crotch area is too tight, which obviously makes them far less useful as athletic shorts.

  • Running focused 
  • Good range of motion
  • Zip-pockets
  • Complaints that design is closer to basketball shorts
  • Tight overall fit
  • Tight in the crotch

5) Tesla Quick Dry Active available for $9 on Amazon

Key features
  • 8.5 in. length
  • 90% polyester, 10% polyurethane 
  • Loose fit
  • Pockets

Tesla, also know as Tesla Gear, is a sports-focused apparel brand that makes and markets all of their products for high-performance sporting activities.

Their Quick Dry Active Shorts are from one of their more affordable lines, meant to offer some of the same quality as their higher-end products but at a better price.

The Tesla Quick Dry is the cheapest item on this list, three dollars less per pair than the Long Mesh Shorts.

Image Source: Amazon

What makes these shorts good for athletes?

While Tesla Gear advertises their products as high-end sports attire, they still have a huge market of everyday customers to attend to, and that seems to be what their Quick Dry Active shorts are for. In design and overall appearance, it resembles the Russell Shorts and the Long Mesh Shorts.

Quality-wise, it's safe to assume that you will get what you pay for. There are certainly cases where lower prices don't necessarily come at a cost to quality, but it is still a good rule to be cautious. Based on customer reviews, there doesn't seem to be a big issue with seam quality or elastic quality, so you may be in luck with these.

These shorts are marketed as 'sports-performance' active shorts, which is not dissimilar to products marketed as 'commercial-grade' consumer products. You are getting a product that is meant for the general consumer, but you can expect quality closer to high-end performance pairs. 

What's not so good about this [[product type]]?

Similar to other shorts on this list, these Tesla shorts have an issue with sizing. You probably want to buy a size larger than your regular size if you go for these.

Some customers have had an issue with the stitching, although it doesn't seem to be a widespread problem. 

Like the Raid, this pair is see-through. Also, because of the 10% polyurethane, some have complained that these are not as breathable as comparable pairs.

  • Good price per pair
  • 'Sports-performance' consumer product
  • Decent quality
  • Sizing issue
  • See-through
  • Poorer breathability than competitors

In conclusion...

Hopefully, after reading this article, you have come to better understand the necessary consideration when looking for athletic shorts. The athletic setting you expect to use them in, the amount you're willing to spend, and whether or not you intend to use them for everyday use are all important things to consider when you're looking for the right pair of athletic shorts. With this knowledge, and five good pairs to point you in the right direction, we hope you will be able to find exactly what you need at the price you're willing to pay.