4 Different Types of Running Shorts (Which One Is the Best?)

I was going to buy a pair of running shorts when suddenly I saw these different types of running shorts used in their descriptions. I had no idea what they were and how they were different from each other so I researched. 

There are 4 common types of running shorts: Split shorts, v-notch shorts, compression shorts, and 2-in-1 shorts. They are usually short in length and are made of moisture-wicking fabric like polyester. 

After knowing the different kinds I needed to know how they were different and which one is a better option. So, after spending time in different kinds of running shorts in different conditions, I finally can give a good recommendation as to the type you should use. 

Ahead, I will share with you their main differences and which one to use in different running conditions. 

The 4 Different Types of Running Shorts

Originally, there were only 3 types of running shorts. The split, v-notch, and compression. However, after looking at a bunch of running shorts, sellers started calling 2-in-1 shorts (lined shorts) a type of running shorts so I decided to include them as another type rather than considering them as a short with running to help you choose a type of running shorts better. 

Type of shortsProsCons
Split shortsWidest range of motion
Most Breathable
Very light
Geared for performance
Prone to chafing
Usually very short
V-notch shortsOffers lots of length options
Looks natural
Some shorts are a little tight of the crotch and groin area
Compression shortsOffers added muscle compression
Provides heat during cold weather
Adds support
Best in preventing chafing
Feeling of restriction
A little warm inside when the weather is humid
Uncomfortable to wear in public (usually for men)
2-in-1 ShortsPrevents chafing
Offers modesty
Lining gives a feeling of restriction
Warm during hot weather
Hard to choose the right size
Summary of the types of running shorts, their pros and their cons.

Split shorts

Split shorts are made of two panels. The front panel overlaps the back and they usually have V-shaped cuts at the outer side which is why it’s commonly confused with V-notch shorts.

They are the lightest, most breathable, and offer the widest range of motion out of all types of running shorts making them popular shorts for elite runners running in hot/humid conditions. 

Most split shorts are very short in length (2-4 in) which makes them prone to chafing. 

Thigh chafing is a condition that happens when friction is frequently occurring between your thighs. This is common for those using short shorts without compression shorts underneath. 

The easiest way to combat chafing is by either wearing compression shorts underneath or applying an anti-chafe balm or vaseline in between your thighs. 

If you like split shorts, most of ASICS split shorts look nice and feel great. You can check them out on Amazon.

V-notch shorts

V-notch shorts look just like regular athletic shorts but have a V-shaped cut in the outer portion to allow movement. 

They are the most popular type of running shorts and are often seen in different sports. 

This type of shorts is highly recommended for recreational runners looking for a nice pair to run in public with. That’s because V-notch shorts offer a lot of designs, styles, and lengths to fit your preference and fashion. 

Take a look at this v-notch shorts from New Balance, for example. They look nice and tidy and they look just like any other athletic shorts. Unlike split shorts or compression shorts that is hard to find a design you can feel confident to walk around the city and drink inside a coffee shop post-run.

The downside of this type of running shorts is that some options are a little tight on the crotch area making it uncomfortable while some can also be too loose to the point where your thighs can rub against one another and cause chafing. 

In other words, because there’s a whole bunch of options out there that are created unspecific to running, it’s harder to choose the right v-notch shorts that will fit you and your activity. 

A lot of V-notch shorts being sold on amazon contain “running shorts” in their description but they aren’t really made for running. 

One way to make sure you get a nice pair is by buying from brands known to produce high-quality running shorts like New Balance, Asics, and other big brands. 

Compression shorts

Compression shorts are tight-fitting shorts that look very similar to cycling shorts. 

This type of shorts offers muscle compression that is said to aid performance by delaying the lactic acid formation in your thighs. 

This is commonly seen in sprints and marathons but is less common for recreational running. 

Compression shorts are the best in preventing chafing making them a great option for those with thighs. 

But like all the other types, compression shorts come with a downside too. They are tight, less breathable, and uncomfortable to wear in public (for some, especially men). 

Others wear this as underwear and wear some type of shorts over it while others wear it as it is. Whichever you decide to go for, it’s always nice to own at least a pair of compression shorts because of their versatility and muscle compression properties. 

If you’re trying to decide what to get, I like the Under Armour HeatGear 2.0. Check them out on Amazon.

2-in-1 Shorts

One search on amazon about running shorts and you’ll find a bunch of sports shops selling 2-in-1 shorts. 

These are a type of lined shorts where the built-in lining is like a compression short (but usually thinner) and the shorts outside are either v-notch shorts or any athletic shorts. 

I see this a lot when I go trekking or when I join a local fun run which tells me lots of runners are comfortable running with these. It’s becoming a popular option in the gym too. 

2-in-1 shorts are great for those who like going commando (no underwear) when they run because of the compression and modesty it offers. These are also great at preventing chafing. 

Despite all the praises it’s been getting, I found them to be a little warm in the summer. But overall, this is my favorite type of running shorts.

If you’re a woman, try out this Under Armour Women’s Play Up 2-in-1 short. A friend of mine owns one and she’s been telling me she likes the feel of it.

I use Lixada 2-in-1 shorts and it’s my favorite running shorts ever. The best thing about it is it’s very affordable. You can buy them on Amazon.

Which type of running shorts is the best?

When it all comes down to it, it will always go down to a matter of personal comfort and preference. What worked well for me may not work well for you because we have different running forms, and body shapes. Plus, we don’t run in the same running conditions. 

Therefore, to say that one type of shorts is better than the other is pointless. 

However, because I have run for quite some time with different types of running shorts, I can make a few recommendations based on the distance and running conditions.

You can use this information to try for yourself and if it works well for you, stick with it. If it does not, feel free to try on different running shorts.

Sprints, Tempo, Interval, Uphill

If you’ve done sprints, uphills, and intervals, you know the feeling of that incredible soreness you feel the day after the session. 

Therefore, I recommend wearing compression shorts to benefit from the muscle compression and the added support. 

According to a 2019 study conducted on soccer players, researchers found a reduced perceived muscle soreness for players who wore compression shorts in 2 games 72 hours apart. This study shows the effectiveness of the compression short’s ability to reduce fatigue on high-intensity exercises. 

Mid Distance Running (2 miles and below)

Technically, you can wear anything for mid distances, but I like wearing v-notch shorts simply because of how it looks. 

V-notch shorts are nice and modest making them perfect for running in cities and parks – which I usually do when I just want to enjoy the day and run a couple of miles.

It’s like halfway between looks and performance. I’d look sporty and nice when I grab myself a cup of coffee but I can also kick it up a notch and run when I have to.

Long-distance Running (5 miles or more)

When it’s time to perform, split shorts are my go-to when the weather is hot and 2-in-1 shorts when it’s cold. 

I like the breathability and range of motion that the split shorts offer, however, I don’t like how it looks. That’s why I only use it when I’m on a less crowded route or races. And only on a really hot day. 

Just make sure you apply the anti-chafe balm in between your thighs to avoid chafing. 

When I run at night, early in the morning, or when the weather is kind of gloomy, I wear 2-in-1 shorts (which is my favorite type of shorts, by the way). 

The lining acts as underwear and provides additional support while the shorts outside provides storage (some have back pockets) and modesty. 

The Wrap Up

There are four different types of running shorts and all of them possess pros and cons. Your decision on what running shorts to wear should depend on the running condition, distance, comfort, and preference. 

I suggest you should try out a bunch of them and see which one works best for you. 

Other than the type of running short, you should also consider the length of your running shorts in making a decision. I made an article about it. Check it out.

I hope this article was able to help you find the right type of running shorts for you. 

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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