Can Running Shorts Be Used For Swimming?


Swimming is a great way to train your cardio without putting so much stress on your joints. That is why I and many others use swimming as an active recovery exercise or a way to cool down after a hard workout. Sometimes, I even go straight swimming after a long run so I wanted to know if running shorts can be used for swimming by trying them out.

Running shorts can be used for swimming. Unlike cotton shorts, running shorts are made with synthetic fiber which does not break down in the water and clog the filters of the pool. In addition, they’re light and nonabsorbent too, making them great for water activities. 

Ahead, we will discuss how running shorts differ from swimming shorts and see how both perform on the water. In addition, we will also discuss why cotton fabrics are not allowed in the pool and some disadvantages of using your running shorts in the water.

What you can’t wear in the pool

To know what type of shorts to wear in swimming, it is important to know what NOT to wear in the swimming pool and the reason behind it. 

The University of Nebraska Omaha outlined the following guidelines for proper swim attire. These guidelines are often the same guidelines used in any public pool worldwide. 

Street clothes – you can’t wear street clothes in the swimming pool because they can contaminate the pool with air and waterborne contaminants. In addition, most of them such as cotton shorts are heavy and uncomfortable when wet. 

Cotton shorts – Not only that cotton absorbs water which makes it heavy, but it also breaks down underwater. Cotton fibers can clog the pool’s filtration system which can damage it. 

Dyed materials – Dyed materials can bleed into the pool, especially with the presence of chlorine. 

Running shorts vs Swim shorts: Similarities and differences

Running shorts and swim shorts use the same types of fabric. Polyester, nylon, and spandex. These types of fabrics are quick-drying and nonabsorbent which makes them the best types of fabric to submerge underwater. 

Both also feature a built-in lining that wicks away moisture and eliminates the need for underwear. 

(Related: Why Running Shorts Have Built-In Underwear)

Notice the differences between the fit and fabric of swimsuits, running shorts, and board shorts.

The difference, however, is in the design and composition. Running shorts are usually loose on the thighs to allow more range of motion. Because of that, running shorts can ride up and catch air pockets (forming like an inflatable balloon) underwater. 

Swim shorts (like board shorts) are usually longer and less “baggy” to prevent inflating underwater. In addition, board shorts are also less stretchable than running shorts. Some don’t even stretch at all. They focus more on the design rather than the performance. 

Other types of swim shorts used for swimming like Speedos are more geared toward performance. Swimsuits (like Speedos) are tight-fitted to decrease water drag and increase speed in the water. 

Don’t use compression shorts in pools

Compression shorts are similar to swimming trunks. Both are tight-fitting and both use the same materials like spandex and lycra. However, compression shorts aren’t designed to handle chlorine which will eat away its elasticity, especially in the waistband. 

Swimsuits have a special blend that helps them maintain their elasticity in pools. Ocularly, you can observe that swimming trunks look shinier which suggests higher levels of water-resistant properties. 

Disadvantages of wearing running shorts for swimming

Although using running shorts in swimming is usually fine, there are a few disadvantages of using them for swimming. 

  • They may not be tight enough – If you swimming in the sea with big waves, your running shorts may not be able to handle the power of the strong waves and current. 
  • It will feel baggy and inflate – Because most running shorts are loose on the thighs and stretchable, may inflate when you go on the water. 
  • More drag in the water – The excess fabric and its lose fit may cause water drag making you swim slower.
  • It may shorten its lifespan – chlorine and saltwater can eat away the elasticity of your running shorts. 

Can swim shorts be used for running?

Yes, swim shorts can be used for running. The best type of swim shorts that can be used for running are swimsuits (like Speedos trunks). They are moisture-wicking, comfortable, and provides a good range of motion similar to compression shorts.

If you’re looking for a good pair of swimsuits that you can use for running as well, check out the Speed Jammer Endurance+ (men).

Board shorts, on the other hand, does not have enough flexibility for running. In addition, board shorts can irritate your skin when you run in them resulting in chafing.

Lixada 2-in-1 Running Shorts
Lixada 2-in-1 Running Shorts

Final Thoughts

Running shorts are a great pair of athletic shorts for a lot of reasons including their comfort and range of motion. However, it is not made for all types of activities. 

Sure, you can use running shorts for other activities aside from running such as hiking and swimming. However, I highly recommend you invest in a pair of board shorts or swimming trunks if you’re spending a considerable amount of time swimming. 

Hey, if you’re looking for the perfect running gear and you’re having a hard time choosing one, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites below.

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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