Although there may be some overlap between styles, there are some pretty distinct divisions in the world of men’s running shorts, from the long, below-the-knee basketball shorts, to single-inch inseam split shorts. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you figure out where you fall and what the next step could me.
Board shorts and basketball shorts
Board shorts are the training wheels of the sport. They can be seen on sidewalks and circling tracks each spring, sported by bros getting ready for the upcoming beach season.
We love the enthusiasm and interest in running, but be warned that there are some obvious downsides to these. The long, below-the-knee styles were never meant for running. They are designed for outdoor activity and recreation, but not pounding off Sunday long runs. The material won’t breathe as well as other options and are subject to some serious chaffing. They are probably better designed for short sprints, such as running to catch a Frisbee or racing friends to the shoreline.
Above the knee
You’ve got some mileage under your belt and are pretty set on sticking this running thing out, so you’ve had to buy some new gear. Shorts with inseams that fall above the knee are great for most athletics activities, including running. They’re the shorts of the people.
Compared to their longer brothers, they provide more mobility and style options. There are few shorts with inseams that fall below the knees which offer liners or spandex on the inside, but it’s not uncommon to find these features in shorter styles of leg wear. Many also sport pockets of all shapes and sizes, from small key pockets in the waist to larger side pockets for heavier cargo. They’re also generally made from more breathable material than other athletic shorts. They will be light and not carry too many extra features.
These are the shorts that are worn by all runners, from those running around the block on a weekend right up to the best runners in the world when they go for an easy run.
Plus, LeBron James wears them.
The shorter of the shorts, these will usually have inseams of four inches or less, but still offer a few features which make them practical for training runs, such as small pockets in the waist and a length that allows you to run in public without feeling overly ridiculed by the masses. They may take some getting used to, as this is inching into a world of leg wear that may not be acceptable for all summer activities.
They will usually come with some sort of liner. A good idea would be to stick with those options. They’re a great choice for warm summer runs, as there just simply isn’t a lot to them.
An argument could be made that these fall under the same umbrella as short shorts, but the defining feature of split shorts is the slit in the fabric on the outside leg, providing maximum leg mobility and minimum fabric. Even the slightest breeze can make a man look indecent in public. If it weren’t for the built-in underwear, these bad boys would be illegal.
These are generally reserved for racing but on rare occasions during the dog days of summer a thoroughbred may be sighted rolling down well-worn running paths wearing little more than single-inch inseam split shorts and pair of sneakers.
These rarely bother with niceties like pockets or zippers. They’re all about minimalism and are rarely acceptable anywhere that running isn’t the main objective. If you have to stop in at the grocery store on your way home, prepare to get stared at.
The ballsiest of man shorts. High risk, high reward.
Little is left to the imagination with the half-tights, which, if done correctly, sit just above the knee. Particularly prevalent in colder weather, half-tights can be worn in sub-zero temperatures, or, regrettably in hindsight, in scorching hot conditions. Just remember, don’t wear them inside out or you’re in for a bad time.
This story was originally published on May 7, 2014 and was updated.