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8 best men's running shorts for summer, according to a competitive distance runner

Best men's athletic shorts from Arc'teryx, Lululemon and more.

bird's eye view of man running in shorts and sneakers with shadow, best running shorts for men in 2023, 8 best pairs of running shorts for your summer outdoor activities (photo via Getty).
8 best pairs of running shorts for your summer outdoor activities (photo via Getty).

Dare we say: Summer is here. The days are lengthening, the flowers have bloomed, and frosty lawns are but a buried memory. The rising temperatures are already summoning swaths of people outside for runs, hikes and rides; and to keep up with the best of them, you will need the right wardrobe.

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Light, breezy athletic shorts are key for any summer activity, and can make or break your daily training routine. I’ve worn and reviewed eight of the top new pairs of activewear shorts on the market below, and separated them into two categories to help you with your purchasing decisions.

The first category comprises athletic shorts that are comfortable and breathable enough to don while training, but whose style and fit also make them pass as casual wear. The second category comprises snug, double-layered shorts with an athletic shell over a spandex layer, which are especially good for exercise in a cooler climate.

Best men's athletic shorts

Arc’teryx Norvan Short 7"

man wearing navy blue t-shirt and grey, NORVAN SHORT 7
The Norvan is as versatile as they come: good for a run, hike, or game of strength session
  • Length: 7 inches

  • Pockets: Yes

  • Most versatile

  • Reflective

I will call the Norvan the most versatile garment on this list. After a few comfortable hikes and walks around town, I tested it out on a hard run on a hot day and it did not disappoint. The crisp polyester shell comes with a FC0 DWR anti-moisture treatment, which keeps the shorts dry and lightweight. They are also reflective, which comes in handy during night runs. All the while, their modest inseam and monochromatic design make them a good pick for social outings and afternoon lounge sessions. Be prepared to pay extra - they retail for $120 — but their abrasion-resistant fabric and reinforced material panels in high-wear areas allow it to be your go-to for multiple years.

Norvan Short 7" Men's in Serene
$120 at Arc'Teryx

Lululemon Pace Breaker 7" Short

man wearing navy blue t-shirt and white biking shorts
The Pace Breaker comes in 17 different colours - many of which will win you style points
  • Length: 7 inches

  • Pockets: Yes

  • Most colour options

  • Best for leisure

The Lululemon Pace Breakers win the style contest solely based on their 17 colourway options, which include everything from solid white to highlight orange to galaxy. They’re more than just stylish: Their Warpstream fabric is lightweight and quick-drying, and the inner waistband is easily adjustable as soft as they come. While they feel a bit baggy for running workouts, I loved them for leisure because their low-bouncing pockets can safely store a phone and keys and prevent them from knocking your knees. For those reasons, nothing beats the Pace Breaker for an afternoon of hoops or Spikeball.

Men's Pace Breaker Linerless Short 7" in bone.
$68 at Lululemon

Hoka Active Short

man wearing navy blue shirt and light green hoka running shorts
The Active short comes in a modest length without restriction range of motion
  • Length: 8 inches

  • Pockets: Yes

  • No need for undergarments

At first glance, The Hoka One One Active Short’s eight-inch seam, multiple pockets, and fabric blend of polyester and elastane give them more the allure of safari shorts than running gear. Moving around in them, however, quickly made me see them in a different light. They are free-flowing, moisture wicking and have a barely-perceptible lining that eliminates the need for extra undergarments on the run. My fear was that their length would make them rub on my lower thighs and knees as I stride, but I was able to run unobstructed. I’d still recommend them for walks and hikes above all; long distance runners might prefer HOKA’s smaller Performance Woven Short.

Men's Active Short in Balsam Green.
$80 at Hoka

Mountain Hardwear Trail Sender

man wearing navy blue t-shirt and light green shorts
The 7-inch sender is good for long hikes
  • Length: 7 inches

  • Pockets: Yes

  • Best for trail runners

  • UPF 50 fabric

The Mountain Hardwear Trail Sender Shorts are my top recommendation for a trail runner. They have all the rough-ins for a hard hike — reflective details, a water-repellent shell, and even UPF 50 fabric to protect easy burners from UV rays — while also being designed for speed. They are feather-light, and their five-inch seam and understated gusseted crotch allow for a completely unrestricted stride. Altogether, they are made to perform long and hard.

Mountain Hardwear
Men's Trail Sender Short in dark caspian.
$90 at Mountain Hardwear

On Lightweight Shorts

man wearing ON Lightweight Shorts in green
The ON Lightweight Shorts combine a flowy fit with a firm waistband
  • Length: 7 inches

  • Pockets: Yes

  • Best ventilation

These shorts from ON, while trending a bit baggier than the Arc’teryx Norvan, are nearly as versatile: Good for a run, walk, or stroll about town. They manage to combine a loose, flowy fit with an elastic waistband and adjustable drawcord that eliminates any slipping or sagging during runs. Their deceptive ventilation - made possible by a high-quality polyester fabric that perforates at the rear — is their best feature, and make them as good a candidate for a long, hard run as for a day at the beach.

Men's Lightweight Shorts in navy/black.
$100 at On

Best men's double-layered shorts

ASICS 2-N-1 5" Shorts

man wearing navy t-shirt and light blue shorts
The 2-N-1 are as breezy as two-layered shorts get
  • Length: 5 inches

  • Pockets: Yes

  • Lightest

  • Best free-flowing feel

The ASICS 2-N-1 5-inch shorts are probably the lightest of the three two-layered garments featured here. Their brief, barely perceptible compression liner wicks away sweat without warming your legs, which makes the shorts a solid option in any climate. I recommend them for the runner who likes the free-flowing feel of classic racing shorts with none of the high-thigh exposure.

Men's Road 2-in-1 5" Shorts in Performance Black.
$50 at Asics

The New Balance Q Speed 5" 2-in-1 Short

man wearing blue t-shirt and grey new balance shorts
The Q Speed is a fan favourite on chilly days and at the gym
  • Length: 5 inches

  • Pockets: Yes

  • Best for cooler workouts

  • Storage pockets

I’ve particularly enjoyed these shorts and their snug compression liner on early morning, five-to-ten-degree runs. Because of their warmer feel, however, I tend to reserve them for cold runs and indoor workout sessions, as opposed to sweaty afternoon track workouts. They are perfect in the gym: Their five-inch seam is out of sight, and their NB DRY moisture-wicking technology keeps them dry throughout the workout. Plus, their tight side and back pockets allow you to store your items without much jiggle.

Q Speed 5 Inch 2 in 1 Short in black.
$65 at New Balance

Adidas D4R Short 2-in-1

man wearing navy t-shirt, light green athletic shorts
The D4R has a paper-thin shell and a snug lining
  • Length: 5 inches

  • Pockets: Yes

  • Lightweight

  • Made of 70 per cent recycled content

The Adidas D4R Short 2-in-1 falls somewhere between the Q Speed and the 2-in-1, in that they are smaller and breezier than the New Balance shorts, but have a slightly longer compression layer than does its ASICS counterpart. Their outer shell is classic Adidas: Three stripes etched on paper-thin, moisture-managing AEROREADY technology, and carry next to no weight. As a bonus: They are made of 70 per cent recycled content, much of which being Parley Ocean Plastic.

Men's Designed 4 Running 2-in-1 Shorts in black.
$80 at Adidas

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