Let’s be real here:
Fitness fashion is a thing and it’s here to stay.
Within the last couple years, I’ve seen training clothing go from an obscure kind of niche market to being front in center at almost all popular clothing stores. Before, you’d really only find the good stuff online but now almost since almost every brand is making a fitness line, there’s a ton of good stuff available and everyone is stepping up their game. But as always, with the good, also comes the bad; there’s also a bunch of junk out there too.
My guide to shorts last year ended up being one of my most popular ones (so much so that someone plagiarized it, lol), so this year I figure I’d update it with some of my top picks when it comes to training shorts (and maybe a few things on some tops). You’ll see some returning brands, but a lot of new faces as well. We’ll talk about functionality, style and comfort with the “CrossFit” athlete in mind. Trust me, whether you’re a globo gym person, weightlifter, or powerlifter, you’ll benefit from the same type of wear.
Keep in mind that this guide is in no particular order, these are all the popular picks when it comes to shorts, all things considered. The best way to use this guide is to narrow down what fits your style and budget. Everything here is going to be a top performer in their respective price ranges. For me, pockets are a necessity, so I’ll be commenting on that as well. Update 6/19: I’m going to update to shorts that I’ve tried out that aren’t necessarily my top picks, but rather popular shorts in the fitness scene, to cover a broader spectrum of preferences.
For reference: I’m 5’9″ (on a good day), 180lbs, 32″ is what I wear in my denim, 30″ inseam, medium in most shorts, and large in most tops. I’m also a Sagittarius, ESTP, and sometimes enjoy the occasional rom-com.
Nike Flex Shorts (2016) – It never ceased to amaze me that the giant that is Nike produced such “meh” training gear, until just recently to coincide with the release of the original Metcon. Nike introduced their Flex shorts last year, and they were some of my favorite shorts Nike has ever come out with. They weren’t long or baggy, they looked nice and the material was good, but there was definitely room for improvement.
This year’s Flex shorts are an upgrade in a big way. They now feature their Hydra Void technology with DWR finish that was previously on the Flex Repel shorts, which costed almost double the price. You get the same 8″ inseam, but now there are added side slits so the shorts don’t chafe your legs. The side slit pockets are excellent, plenty of room for even the largest phones. The 4 way stretch fabric feels very similar to Lulu’s Swift Ultra fabric, comfortable but substantial enough to not look like you’re slumming it.
Recommended – $60 Nike.com
Rhone Field Bullitt Shorts – In the past year, it seems Rhone has gone from being a grassroots brand to a full on fitness clothing locomotive, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I look back on when they started with only a couple of options for shorts and shirts, to now with a larger shorts collection than their entire store was. In a world full of fitness brands marketed towards females, Rhone stands tall as an all male brand providing premium quality gear.
Last year I reviewed the Mako shorts, and they’re still one of my favorite pairs. Recently I got my hands on the new Field Bullitt shorts, and they’re now my favorite shorts from Rhone. Workouts with a lot of cleans can be hell on shorts at the point of contact but the 4 way stretch nylon ripstop fabic will be able to take a beating, all while being comfortable and still looking great. There are no tight areas with these shorts and the abundance of pockets is ridiculous; two side, one media, and a zippered rear pocket. You’ll be covered whether you’re out for the day, on a hike, or in a brutal workout.
Essential – $64 Rhone.com
Reebok Speedwick II/Super Nasty/Pro Shorts – How could you make a CrossFit shorts buyers guide without including the official partners, Reebok? Honestly, it could happen. $250 shorts? Reebok sells them. Why? No one knows. Though not all of their stuff is that expensive and not bad in quality, most of it comparatively speaking is over priced. Lucky for us, Reebok usually has a ton of sales so chances of paying full price for anything is slim.
Super Nasty – Like CrossFit, sometimes the designs Reebok puts out are loud and brash. The Reebok Super Nasty Hero board short are excellent examples of toeing the line between too much and just enough. Personally, I dig the pop-art style and I don’t think that these shorts though loud, are ridiculous. The 4 way stretch fabric is pretty much the same they use on all of their boardshorts; light, airy, and extremely comfortable to wear. The shorts have a flattering fit, but not uncomfortably so as these are designed with performance and athletic bodies in mind. Don’t plan on wearing these anywhere but the gym, maybe a pool party, because they only have a single sorry excuse for a pocket that won’t fit anything other than a couple cards and a key.
Pro – In my video about the Pro shorts, I said that they’re not worth the money. I’m standing behind that statement, but as a pair of CrossFit shorts, they’re actually good. The pockets are nice and deep, the DWR material is comfortable and the fit is nice. It bothers me that after a single day of cleaning, you can already see threads coming undone, but I contacted Reebok and they took care of me there. Worth $120? Probably not, but I paid about half that, which is what I think they should cost. Wait for them to go on sale, they definitely will.
Speedwick 2 – Other than colorways, the Speedwick short has largely remained unchanged since it launched a few years ago. Unlike most CrossFit shorts, the design features an elastic waistband with a softer poly/cotton blend body. These are some seriously comfortable shorts that are good for just about everything, especially considering they have two generous side pockets. The styling is minimal, but some people like it that way. I’ve always wished they had side slits, but the lack of them gives the shorts more of a cleaner look anyways. You wouldn’t expect the softer material of the shorts to take a beating, but they actually hold up very well. On top of everything, these are the cheapest shorts in all of Reebok’s line-up!
Essential (Speedwick 2), Recommended (Super Nasty), Not Recommended (Pro) – $50, $70, $120 Reebok.com
The WOD Life Flex Shorts – Not one you’d expect to see in a sea of big names, The WOD Life has crept their way up to the USA in the form of TWL Gear. The Aussies are bringing all the style with them, as their designs are my favorites of the bunch tested. Unlike most of the other brands tested, TWL Gear is a full fledged fitness store that sells everything from shorts to supplements. Check them out, they also have a really sick leather lifting belt.
Their Flex shorts come in all sorts of different flavors, giving you a short that you can not only WOD in, but take to the trendiest of Vegas pool parties. The 4 way stretch material is nice and light, the fit is above the knees, the legs have side slits and there are two functional side pockets! The sizing is a little large, as a medium is supposedly a 34″ waist, if you’re in between sizes, you might want to go down. We could probably do something about getting a nicer looking logo, but the prints these shorts come with are second to none.
Best of all, besides the ranger panties, these are the least expensive shorts of the bunch. That just means you can buy more! Also, make sure you use code “AMRAP10” for 10% off your order!
Essential – $50 TWLGear.com
Vuori Kore/The Banks Shorts – Vuori seems to have just popped out of no where. I didn’t even know of this brand until earlier this year, but they’ve got a store chock full of options. At first glance Vuori might be mistaken as a yoga wear company, but their products cover the fitness gamut, “One short, every sport”. Being a SoCal native, I love that their designs embody California’s style. If you know, then you know.
The Vuori Banks shorts blew my mind, not only were they stylish, but they were extremely functional with side, front coin and rear pockets. The V4 4 way stretch was extremely comfortable and the Banks became my “go-to” shorts for my recent trip in Japan. I everything from hikes to just commuting around town in them and they remained odor free the whole time. The above the knee cut is accentuated by a shallow side slit giving you more than enough mobility for anything you’re going to put these shorts through.
The Kore shorts are another great option from Vuori. While not as flexible as the Banks shorts, literally and figuratively. They’re perfect for someone looking for shorts with liner. The 4 way stretch fabric doesn’t provide as much stretch as the V4 in the Banks shorts, but it should be enough for most training or running. Still the Kore shorts are very comfortable as the Coolmax liner keeps you cool and dry for even the most demanding workouts. For my money and training, I would still go with the Banks shorts.
Vuori also has their “Investment in Happiness” guarantee. Simply put, if you don’t like it, send it back. ez pz.
Essential (The Banks), Recommended (Kore) – $68 www.vuoriclothing.com
Hylete Verge Flex/Helix Flex Shorts – Since Hylete’s inception, the brand has gained an almost cult like following. For good reason, the products are great, the customer service is stellar, and the warranty is awesome. I’ve had to use the latter two reasons more than I’d like to say, as the original cross-training shorts had some issues with their velcro. Each time one would fail, Hylete would happily take care of me, so I wouldn’t even knock them for that. The velcro has been ditched since then for some more streamlined fitment options in their Verge and Helix Flex shorts.
I’ve been a long time wearer of Hylete and the Vertex shorts were some of my all time favorites. The new Verge Flex shorts basically take the Vertex shorts and improves on them in almost every way. The majority of the shorts are the new flex woven fabric that is a lighter material than their older fabric, that’s only now found in the pocket areas of the Verge shorts. The flex woven fabric is now more like other brand’s 4 way stretch material. More comfortable, quick to dry, but more versatile without the risk of getting chewed up by some hang cleans as the older material was softer. I still have shorts sized small (I’m now medium) from when I first started CrossFit, and they fit me due to Hylete’s patented waistband system. Side pockets remain the same giving you the flexibility to wear these shorts to the gym or to the beach.
The Helix shorts are basically the same shorts as the Vertex shorts in design but feature integrated “cargo” pockets. Rather than having a separate part sewed on for the pocket, they’re now a part of the side area. The point is the minimize bulk while maintaining functionality. Honestly I didn’t notice a huge difference, so I would probably save money and go with the Vertex shorts or spend a little more and get the Verge shorts.
The best thing that Hylete does is offer 3 different lengths with their shorts. Us “short” guys appreciate the above the knee cut.
Recommended – $80/$75 Hylete.com
Myles Everyday Shorts – The only returning short to make it on the list! The Myles Everyday shorts continuously update themselves just by releasing new colorways. Props for being made in California, Myles provides excellent performing shorts with a classic aesthetic that everyone can love. Their 4 way stretch fabric is a bit more substantial than the rest of the shorts on the list, making the shorts not really even look like gym shorts. You can dress them up, or dress them down for serious training sessions. They’ve got a water repellent finish and generously sized side pockets.
I’ve taken my Myles on pretty much every trip I’ve been on since getting them. When options are limited, you can count on your Myles shorts to be good for just about everything. You can get them in an 8″ or 11″ inseam and 8 different colors now.
Essential – $58 MylesApparel.com
Soffe Ranger Panties – Freedom, all for about $13. If you don’t plan on doing anything other than gym, these are the shorts for you. Make sure your quad game is strong because these shorts leave don’t leave much to the imagination. There’s a thin built in liner so you get the full package, for your package, with these shorts. They might look silly and people might make fun of you, but these are some of the most comfortable, well performing shorts I’ve ever worn. Put your shame aside and try them out, you probably won’t ever go back to normal shorts.
Skies out thighs out.
Essential – $13 Amazon.com
Lululemon T.H.E. Shorts – What list could be complete without an offering from Lulu? They stepped up their training short game with the Assert short last year, which I never got to try out but I’ve seen plenty of my friends with them, but as of recently discontinued it for some reason. All we’re left with now is their T.H.E. Shorts.
It seems like the fabric has been beefed up from their old Luon material to the new slightly more durable feeling “swift ultra” fabric. It’s still lightweight, has a 4 way stretch, and seems like a cross between their Luon material and what was on the Assert shorts. The versions I have are with liner, but if I could do it again I wouldn’t get it with because the liner is a tad bit long and actually gets stuck on my quads. Like most Lulu’s, make sure you remember to size up. Another thing, the inseam is 9.5″ which is just on the cusp of passing my knees, there’s no side slits so they feel somewhat long. Still, if you love Lulu, you’ll probably still like these shorts, just keep in mind that there are other excellent options nowadays.
Update 6/19: With more testing, I’ve come to the conclusion that barbell cycling does indeed end up scratching up the newer material, just as it did the old. Either pull up your shorts or avoid wearing these for days with a lot of barbell movements.
Recommended $78 Lululemon.com
2POOD Performance V. 4.0 Shorts – I’ve always been on the fence with 2POOD’s styling, though they have been a favorite among the functional fitness community. I just don’t see the need for such a large logo on the side of their shorts. There has to be something to these shorts, curiosity got the best of me and I ordered a pair of Inferno V. 4.0 shorts.
The material used is a middleweight 4-way stretch fabric that adorns the whole short with an elastic waistband with a tie together front. I really like the length of these shorts, which is somewhere around 7.5-8″, leaving them well above my knees. The cut is also nice, as the V 4.0’s are not an overly baggy pair of shorts. They feel great and actually look fantastic once you get past that huge logo. Overall the shorts look, feel, and perform great…but…
…On their site, 2POOD states: “This is an amazing material but excessive scraping with barbell knurling will damage these shorts”. Of course this is part of the test, and their warning should not be taken lightly. One workout and the area where the bar meets my leg is already starting to lose color (EDIT: also has tons of scratches after 3 wears). Obviously I figured this would happen, just not that fast. Hopefully I’ll get to try out the Pendleton short soon, which is supposed to have more durable fabric than the V. 4.0. At $65.99, it’s tough to recommend the 2POOD V. 4.0’s for only days that don’t have any barbell work.
2POOD Metcon Shorts – Who loves short shorts? More wearable day to day than the Soffe ranger panties because they’re slightly longer, but still have the second shortest inseam (3″) of all the shorts in this guide. The 2POOD Metcon shorts have a simple 2P logo that should be on ALL 2POOD shorts, versus the huge one they always put on the side. Worried you won’t be able to find compression shorts that are shorter than these? No worries, they come with a built in liner. Going running and afraid people the awesome camo will be too effective? They’ve got reflective strips on the side that shine bright like a diamond. Got thighs like Sam Dancers? You’ll get plenty of room in the seat, leg openings and a gusseted crotch, so you won’t have to worry about them catching. Best part about these babies is that they don’t show wear like the v4.0’s do and they’re the cheapest shorts in 2POOD’s line-up at $52!
All this isn’t with it’s downsides. First off, there’s only a single rear pocket, but I guess one is better than none and unfortunately the material isn’t as stretchy as the V4.0’s. Though I would take the more durable material any day.
v4.0 – Not Recommended, Metcon Shorts -Essential $65.99/51.99 http://www.2poodstore.com/
Tango Charlie Apparel WOD Shorts – I literally stumbled upon TCA’s shorts via Facebook ad (I guess they really do work), but I’m very glad that I did! These shorts are a real gem and it’s sad to see them not get the popularity they deserve. Speaking to the owner Tommy over the phone (who even does this anymore?) gave me a real sense of what his ultimate purpose is: to provide the best quality gear, made in the USA and to support his fellow veterans as a portion of each sale is donated towards veterans in need.
When you look at a lot of the CrossFit
To top it off, the TCA shorts come with two side pockets! Fit is excellent and stops plenty before my knees, but I do wish there was some a side slit/scalloped side as they can catch your quads when squatting. One more thing I’d like to see is a change in the size of the logo; it’s not awful but it is a little big. A simple “TCA” or just smaller logo would do the trick nicely and make these shorts even better. Not to mention, they’re a steal at just under fiddy bucks.
Essential- $49 http://www.tangocharlieapparel.com/
Under Armour HIIT Shorts – Easily the biggest surprise when it came to putting this guide together. I stumbled upon the UA HIIT shorts from checking out their store at the Americana out of boredom. The first thing I thought was –
“Wow, these are cool looking shorts!”
Though I’ve never been much of a UA fan due to their lack of training gear, the HIIT shorts are enough to make me a believer. Other than looking great, they have a 4-way stretch material that feels great all while being substantial enough to take a beating and not show it(the camo ones are a smoother material than the solids). Two side slit pockets means you can wear these for more than just gym time. The inseam is 8″ landing right above the knees, but they also have side slits to give you even more clearance. The cut could be a little more open in the legs, but they’re still very comfortable training shorts. On top of all that, they’re available for as low as $30!
IAMBEASTMODE Helios Shorts – I love when people mix innovation with out of the box styling, but the IAB Helios shorts are a pair of sharp looking shorts with some thoughtful features that don’t quite hit the mark.
IAB uses a poly/spandex blend to create their very lightweight and comfortable 4-way stretch fabric that can take punishment. Traditional boardshort design means there’s only a velcro and tie closure system with no elastic waistband. My issue with this is that when you undo the velcro, there’s nothing keeping the two sides together and also, the string isn’t secured on the shorts at all. These are two things that most major boardshorts manufacturers have been doing for years.
Being 5’8″, shorts that go past my knees are a big no-no and I avoid them because they make me look stumpy, which is where the Helios shorts end. The side slits take a little away from the look and open up the legs, but overall the IAB shorts could be an inch or two shorter for my tastes. I constantly found myself pulling the short legs up while squatting. Interestingly, the pockets are located lower on the thigh, making things stored sit closer to your knees. This is weird because if you put your phone (or anything else) in your pocket to run, it will end up bouncing all over the place rather than securely closer to the hip. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
At just under $60, I feel like the Helios shorts should be more than just looks. If you’re a taller athlete or love the way they look (they are dope), then by all means go for them if you can live with the low pockets.
Not recommended unless you’re taller – $52.50 http://www.iabmfg.com/
I’m going to try to keep this list growing to have a more comprehensive guide for you guys, please leave me a line if you don’t see something here that you think should be here!