The 8 Best Workout Shorts for Women for Warmer Weather
Swap out your long leggings for a pair of warm-weather workout shorts to improve comfort and breathability during exercise.
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Workout shorts for warmer weather
With the change of season comes much-anticipated changes in wardrobe.
You can store your chunky sweaters and pairs of long denim away until fall and start setting out your short-sleeve shirts, tank tops, and denim shorts.
The same is true for your workout wear—it’s time to give your sweat gear a refresh and swap long workout leggings for workout shorts that are more lightweight, moisture-wicking, and breathable to keep you dry and cool on a hot summer’s day.
(Here’s what to know about re-wearing sweaty workout clothes.)
What to look for in workout shorts for warmer weather
Here are some key features that fitness pros recommend looking for when shopping for workout shorts for the summer months.
Moisture-wicking capabilities: This feature is by far the most important when working out in hot weather, according to Melanie Kotcher, a certified wellness coach with the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) and HIIT Pilates instructor.
“This type of fabric moves sweat from your skin to the outer layer of clothing, but also dries rapidly so that your sweat doesn’t saturate the fabric,” she says.
“By eliminating the moisture quickly, clothes are less damp, more breathable, and simply more comfortable so you can move freely.” (These are the best leggings for exercising outdoors.)
Mesh panels: When the temperatures heat up, it’s important to make sure your workout wear has ample ventilation, explains Helen Fields, physical therapist, former collegiate athlete, and virtual trainer with FlexIt Inc.
“A mesh panel allows you to air out and feel cooler and more comfortable as you start to sweat,” she says. “Without mesh built-in, you are more likely to have the material stick to your body.”
Back zipper: Sometimes workout shorts come with a pocket in the back with a zipper that can hold your phone, keys, or credit card.
This is super convenient, especially when you’re running long distances outside.
Built-in liner: If you prefer a regular short over a biker short for a looser fit, a built-in liner is a must, according to Dr. Fields.
“You don’t want to feel limited in the exercises you can do out of fear of someone seeing your underwear as you move around,” she says.
“Built-in liners protect your privacy and keep you feeling confident throughout your workout.”
(Curious about vegan clothing for exercise? Learn about plant-based activewear.)
What are the best materials for workout shorts?
When considering which type of fabric is best for your warm-weather workouts, Fields suggests polyester, which is sweat-wicking and lightweight.
“It is important to note, however, that if you have very sensitive and acne-prone skin, you may need to consider trying a more natural fabric, such as a sweat-wicking cotton or bamboo,” she says.
Nylon is another material that’s good at wicking away sweat, according to Stephanie Mansour, a Chicago-based weight loss coach and corporate wellness trainer.
“When sweat drips, this material will help absorb the moisture so it won’t weigh you down,” she says. “It’s important to remain comfortable when working out in the heat so that you can focus on your workout.”
Another material that can help wick away sweat is microfiber.
“Microfiber is a synthetic fiber but is quick-drying and moisture-wicking,” says Kotcher. “The tightly woven fabric repels water more easily which also makes it last longer after several washes.”
(Find out if you should wear underwear with workout clothes.)
Lighter vs darker colors for daytime exercise
According to Fields, the answer to this question changes depending on your goal.
“If you want better [ultraviolet] UV ray protection while exercising outside during the day, it is better to be wearing dark or bright colors rather than lighter colors or white because the darker and brighter colors absorb the rays, preventing them from reaching your skin,” she says.
“If your goal is to stay cool while exercising outside during the day, you may want to consider wearing white or lighter colors due to their reflective nature.”
(These are the best workout leggings, according to fitness trainers.)
How should workout shorts fit?
The fit of your workout shorts depends on whether you prefer a looser, more breathable short or a form-fitting biker short, which depends on your activity or personal preference, explains Fields.
“If you are wearing a looser-fitting short, you want to make sure they are loose enough that when you bend or squat the bottom of the shorts don’t dig into your thighs.”
Now, if your shorts are too loose, she warns that they could cause your thighs to rub together and lead to chafing.
“If you are opting for a biker short, the goal is a nice tight fit with a wide waistband,” she says.
“If the waistband is thin or has a tougher material running through the waist, it will press into the skin and cause discomfort.”
(Check out these yoga unitards that you can wear anywhere.)
Another determining factor for how your workout shorts should fit is which exercise activity you will be performing in them. If you are cycling or performing yoga, Fields recommends biker shorts.
“Cycling can easily cause chafing and the material to get caught and roll up on your legs, so you want a form-fitting short,” she says.
“For yoga, you want your clothing to feel like an extension of your body without them flapping or folding over as you move through different poses.”
If you plan on running in your workout shorts, Dr. Fields recommends a mid-rise short with a looser fit, which allows for some breathability.
The best types of shorts for big thighs
If you have larger thighs, you might have a harder time finding the perfect pair of workout shorts, but Mansour has you covered.
She recommends seeking out a pair of workout shorts that have elastic waistbands with ties to adjust them. “If your thighs don’t fit in your ideal waistband size, buy a larger pair that you can tie tighter,” she says.
“You could also buy shorts made of spandex material that stretches and fits snugly around your legs.” (These are the best black leggings with pockets.)
The best workout shorts for women
Ready to shop expert-recommended workout shorts for warmer weather? Check out these great pairs that’ll make summer even more enjoyable.
90 Degree By Reflex High Waist Power Flex Yoga Shorts
This pair of workout shorts is made out of mostly nylon material with a bit of spandex woven in for some stretch.
It holds you in without feeling restraining in any way thanks to a high elastic waistband that provides gentle compression to your mid-section.
Fabletics On-The-Go Ultra High-Waisted 7″ Short
If you’re looking for an affordable pair of workout shorts for warmer weather, you can’t go wrong with this pair by Fabletics.
“They are made mostly out of polyester with a great side pocket to hold your phone during your workout,” says Fields.
“They are high-waisted for added comfort and come in a deep navy color to provide protection against harmful UV rays.”
(Here’s what your sweat says about your health.)
Nike Women’s Dri-Fit Tempo Running Shorts
With a built-in liner, these running shorts keep you covered and comfortable while you work out.
They feature Nike’s famous Dri-Fit material, which is sweat-wicking and moisture-resistant, as well as an elastic band that allows you to personalize the fit.
There’s also an audio pocket on the back-right that comes in handy for storing small items.
(Nike also carries one of the 7 best workout shorts for men, too.)
Lululemon Speed Up Mid-Rise Short 4″
If you’re a runner, you’ll love these shorts.
“The length isn’t too short and the fit is just loose enough to allow breathability,” says Fields. “They are lightweight, sweat-wicking, and have a back pocket perfect for holding essentials during a long run.”
They also come in 10 fun colors and prints for you to choose from.
Heathyoga Workout Shorts for Women
With a 4-way stretch, these polyester and spandex workout shorts from Heathyoga are quick-drying and non-see-through.
They offer high-waisted tummy control and two side pockets that are convenient for storing personal items like your car keys, credit card, or phone.
Another plus: They come in more than 15 different colors to choose from.
Outdoor Voices Hudson 2.5″ Short
Mansour is a fan of these workout shorts because of their quick-drying, recycled polyester fabric that keeps sweat away.
“The waistband adjusts to your waist and the material flares out so that they’re not too tight around your thighs,” she says. “These shorts also have a built-in liner, which makes them extra comfortable.”
If your thighs are on the larger size, she recommends ordering a size up to make sure they’re not too restricting.
(Here are easy ways to sweat less in summer.)
Brooks Brooks Chaser 7″ Shorts
Mansour likes these running shorts because they’re long enough that you could wear them while cycling, too, even though they don’t qualify as standard “biker shorts.”
“With a longer fit, these shorts don’t ride up as easily as most workout shorts,” she says. “They’re also lightweight and moisture resistant, making them perfect for workouts in the heat.”
Lululemon Align Super High Rise Short 10″
Align is one of Lululemon’s staple lines of clothing, and they come in all sorts of varieties including bike shorts.
Made out of sweat-wicking polyester, Fields points out that this pair is ideal for preventing chafing if you have bigger thighs or want to feel more compression in a buttery-soft fabric.
“They come in multiple different lengths to fit your personal preference or height,” she adds.
Next, check out the best workout shoes for men and the best workout shoes for women.
- Melanie Kotcher, HIIT Pilates instructor and wellness coach
- Helen Fields, DPT, former collegiate athlete and virtual trainer with FlexIt Inc.
- Stephanie Mansour, Chicago-based weight loss coach and corporate wellness trainer