When it comes to shopping for athletic shorts, you might be searching for the quickest, most efficient way to get what you need and get to the gym real fast, no questions asked.
In your haste, you’re most likely not weighing the benefits of lined vs. unlined or 7-inch vs. 11-inch inseams while you’re shopping.
It used to be that “many brands only offered one length, which was usually a 7-inch [inseam],” Cassandra Campa, CEO and Founder of Next Level Wardrobe in New York City, says. “Fast forward and just about all men’s brands are now carrying a variety of lengths.”
Why? It turns out that length actually matters in terms of where you’ll be wearing your shorts and what type of activity you intend to use them for.
This is exactly what to keep in mind while short shopping so you don’t need to worry about showing up on the golf course in a pair of shorts you’d wear on a basketball court.
In general, the number one thing to consider is the type of workout you’re doing, and the shorter the short, the more fast-paced your activity should be, Campa explains.
So, for running, you want to avoid shorts that are really long because you will have a lot of extra fabric getting in the way of your distance.
“I recommend a 4-inch short for runners because they have less fabric that will get in the way of your workout and will keep you cool,” she says.
That said, don’t use these for all workouts.
“You definitely don’t want to be doing squats or CrossFit in these since they are shorter and you would risk a tear in the back or showing off more than what you would like,” Campa advises.
A 3-4-inch short for running has its perks: it’s great for reducing chafing and, with pockets, the lightweight fabric helps to stash any belongings, like keys and a phone.
“Brands like Nike and Lululemon carry these shorts and you can search for them by looking for 4-inch shorts in an online filter or asking in store,” she says.
Her top picks include Nike AeroSwift 2-in-1 and Adidas Supernova Shorts, both of which have liners.
Liner can be great for exercise, as it keeps your goods in place. A liner resembles a boxer brief compression short, so if your shorts ride up during your workout, you will see those shorts instead of your underwear, which is preferable.
Strength Training, Golf, and Casual Swimming
The 9-inch short used to be a very popular length, but as men got more comfortable wearing shorter lengths, the appeal started to die down, she explains.
“I recommend the 9-inch short for guys doing activities such as strength training and golf,” Campa says. “Because you have a healthy amount of fabric on these shorts and they will hit right above the knee, you will have the most coverage with this length.”
These shorts generally have the same perks of other shorts as well. They’re comfortable with lightweight fabric, sweat-wicking properties, and plenty of pockets for storage.
She likes the Lululemon T.H.E Short with a liner and the Vuori Banks Short, which comes without a liner and works especially well for swimming.
Basketball and Lounging
You probably wear these shorts while on the basketball court or during Netflix binge-watching at home.
“The 11-inch short is more of a basketball short length,” Campa says. “These are definitely the roomiest and most comfortable short of them all, so it is important for them to fit you properly at the waist to avoid a sloppy look.”
Unfortunately, there is a downside. They aren’t really made of true performance material, which means the fabric may not wick sweat, stretch effectively, or have the proper ventilation you’d need during a workout (so yes, it might get a bit steamy down there).
“Nike does the best version of these longer inseam shorts with plenty of colors to choose from and these usually come with no liner (since they are longer),” Campa says.
If you need a closet staple or a “go anywhere” type of short, you’ll want to choose a 7-inch pair. “This length is the best selling length for many men’s performance brands,” Campa says.
Why? It’s that perfect in-between length for most heights, so it’s not too long and not too short. You can avoid excess fabric and the risk of showing too much leg. The 7-inch short usually hits above the knee.
“A 7-inch length is also the one short length that you will get the most wear out of, no matter what activity, so it is the highest ROI length. You can wear them for running errands, strength training, cardio, or even yoga,” she says.
Almost all brands carry this length so they’re really easy to find. “[Many brands] also feature comfortable and lightweight fabric, and it will wick your sweat at the same time,” she adds.
She loves both the lined and unlined versions of the Lululemon Pace Breaker Short as well as the Ten Thousand Foundation Short, which comes with a liner.
It’s up to you. Choose accordingly. That’s the long and short of it.
By Isadora Baum