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How Do I Choose the Best Compression Running Shorts?

By Emily Daw
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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Supportive and comfortable, a good pair of compression running shorts can improve the way you feel during and after a run, but the wrong pair may leave you feeling chafed and numb. The major purposes of compression shorts are to provide support in the thighs or groin, decrease chafing, and wick away sweat. The added muscular support may decrease muscle pain while running as well as decrease post-run recovery time. To find a pair of compression running shorts that offers all these benefits, you will need to choose shorts that provide the right amount of wicking and compression without cutting off circulation.

The fit is by far the most important factor when choosing compression running shorts. Shorts that are uncomfortably tight will reduce circulation to the legs, decreasing performance. A pair that is too loose, however, will not provide support or function any differently from other shorts.

You should also look for a pair that fits your body shape. While most compression running shorts are designed for men to provide extra support in the groin area, unisex and women's models are also available. Many women find that unisex shorts are still contoured too much for a man's body to fit comfortably on them, so they prefer a pair designed specifically with women in mind. Since compression shorts are designed to fit so close to the body, you should also pay attention to the location of seams as you try on a pair. Any seams that rub slightly in the dressing room are likely to chafe even on short runs, and may affect your stride on long runs as well.

The type of material used in compression running shorts will affect their performance. Any good compression clothing will be primarily synthetic to aid in wicking, but various materials may provide additional benefits. For example, certain varieties of polyester have been demonstrated to produce better wicking, and materials such as silver may be added to reduce odor and bacterial growth.

Compression running shorts are available through the Internet and in many sporting goods stores or running stores. Since they are considered specialty items, however, these shorts are not likely to be found in a general clothing store. Due to the importance of a good fit, some runners may prefer to purchase their gear in a person — where they can try it on — rather than online.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By bluedolphin — On Sep 01, 2014

Compression shorts should not be too short. They should cover the thigh area in order to prevent chafing. Compression running shorts that are too short do not provide enough protection in my experience.

By turquoise — On Aug 31, 2014

@discographer-- I think that has to do with the material your compression shorts are made of. Mine are stretchy so I don't have trouble wearing them if I'm a little bloated or gained a pound or two over a holiday.

When you go shopping for another pair, get one with spandex. It doesn't have to be 100% spandex. In fact, it should be a combination of several different materials because pure spandex isn't good for ventilation and wicking moisture away from the body. But some spandex will make the material stretchy, so you can wear them even when your weight changes a little.

By discographer — On Aug 31, 2014

Compression shorts are meant to fit well. They shouldn't be too tight, but they shouldn't be loose either. If they don't fit well, they don't really serve their purpose.

I have a pair of compression shorts from last year that I had been using for jogging and exercise. But I gained a little bit of weight and can't fit into it anymore. I had paid a lot for them too, so it's a bit of a problem. I'm going to have to get a new pair. This is the downside with compression pants and shorts. One cannot gain weight in order to continue wearing them.

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