Why Do Runners Wear Short Shorts?

You may have noticed that more experienced runners often run in short shorts, otherwise known as split shorts. Short shorts are not simply a fashion statement but are worn due to functionality. Shorts of this type can also be seen as part of the runner’s uniform

Why do runners wear short shorts?

Runners wear short shorts to stay cool, have no movement restriction on their legs, and to run comfortably. Short shorts also prevent chafing and allow runners to evaluate their legs during running. Runners need shorts that are light, minimalistic, and functional. 

Split shorts also make up part of the philosophy of running. The sport has a ‘less is more’ approach, where the body is the primary mechanism. Anything that interferes with movement or weighs a runner down can be a disadvantage. 

Why Do Runners Wear Short Shorts?

Why do runners wear short shorts?

Runners like to wear short shorts for several different reasons. These shorts are also called split shorts, as they often have a split on the side of the legs. The length can vary, but they never go past the mid-thigh point.

They also have an inseam of about 2 to 3 inches. 

Short Shorts Are Light And Comfortable

Firstly, these shorts are light compared to longer shorts or even leggings. Runners sweat a lot due to the nature of the activity and like to have something light that leaves their legs bare. Short shorts are more comfortable as they are not restrictive, have a cooling effect, and help with sweat control. 

For more experienced runners, short shorts are essential. The fast you run, the more you sweat, and the hotter you become. You need as much cold air on your body as possible to control the temperature. 

Runners want to have as little extra weight as possible—the lighter the clothing, the better. Of course, split shorts would be lighter than longer shorts made of slightly heavier material. The difference may not be significant, but any difference can help in this intensive sport. 

It can get really hot while running, especially in the summer months. Wearing clothing, like short shorts, helps to control temperature and make the running more bearable. Secondly, there is a functionality mindset behind wearing split shorts. 

Functionality Of Short Shorts

Split shorts do not restrict any movement.

With running, it is crucial that your legs, which are doing all the work, are free for all ranges of motion. Also, runners want to see what their legs are doing. They may want to see what shape their legs are making and look at their stride and overall movement patterns when they have more energy compared to the end of the run. 

Longer shorts can limit the movement of the legs and rub up and down with the running motion, which can be pretty uncomfortable. Longer shorts would also make it difficult to judge how your legs are doing or assess how they may improve regarding muscle and movement. 

Chafing can also happen with long shorts and end up being uncomfortable. More fabric essentially means more friction that can cause chafing. Chafing can worsen with a longer running time or when it’s hotter outside. 

Runners’ shorts tend to be loose and, while short, still cover everything they should. An alternative to short shorts, or split shorts, would be stretchy compression shorts, which would also be comfortable and not impede movement.

However, these shorts are tight and may not be everyone’s style.

There is no advantage to having extra pieces of material on your clothing during running. Some runners like to show off their legs, as most have well-shaped and muscular legs. Of course, this is not the main reason runners wear split shorts, but you could see it as an added benefit. 

Ultimately, you don’t want anything interfering with the natural movement of the legs. 

Running Philosophy And Short Shorts

Running has a ‘less is more’ type of philosophy. Although it is considered a sport, you can also see running as a form of meditation and artistic expression. Running doesn’t require any external gear (although a good pair of running shoes are essential) and, in this way, is quite minimalist.

You may have heard of the ‘runners high,’ which is a state of calm and euphoria when endorphins kick in after a few miles of consistent running. During all this, the mindset is also to wear minimalist clothing and gear, so short shorts fit right into this philosophy. 

That’s not to say you can’t still express your fashion tastes – as companies like Boa have illustrated with their wild and wacky split shorts.

Short Shorts Are The Uniform Of Running

Many different sports, especially team sports, are known for their uniform. For instance, tennis players wear white, and basketball players wear tank tops. Although running is an individual sport, it also has an unofficial uniform. 

Runners can actually wear all kinds of shorts or leggings. However, many runners also want to fit into the uniform that goes specifically with the sport of running.

The short shorts make up part of this uniform, and while clearly an item for its functionality, it is now also identified as shorts specially designed for runners. 

Are Short Shorts Better For Running? 

Ultimately it may come done to personal preference, but the short length also matters regarding your running goals.

In running, the informal rule is the shorter, the better.

Shorter shorts will help runners cool down, won’t restrict movement, and will help prevent chafing. 

These are all aspects that will make you more comfortable when running and may help your running improve. The recommendation is to have runners’ shorts about 4 inches or shorter. 

Why We Love Split Shorts

Runners wear short shorts for comfort and to have no restriction on their leg movements. Short shorts are light and help with temperature control. Longer or tighter shorts can cause chafing and are no advantage to running itself. 

Author Profile

Alex Randall

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Alex is the editor at Revel Sports. It was his idea to take our post-club-run chats and build a website out of them. He is responsible for dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when any of us have something to post. (Basically: it’s all his fault). A ferocious 5K powerhouse on his day, Alex is known for not understanding the meaning of the term ‘negative split‘.
Alex Randall

Revel SPorts Contributor

1 thought on “Why Do Runners Wear Short Shorts?”

  1. Ok this is my opinion,
    I have been only running for seven years or so, I began running in the middle of winter, so i bought a six inch short that was actually eight inches just because i saw all other males running in this type of short. These shorts always felt quite cumbersome. Doing some research I ran across the two inch, half split running shorts. I never went back! These did not nessearily make me faster but they were sooooo comfortable, they made it that much easier for the run. I do not understand the DOUBLE standard for how short shorts may be for males and females.


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