Why Are Running Shorts So Short?

Why are running shorts so short?

Many often wonder why running shorts and attire have changed so little over the years. Mainly, why are running shorts so short? Is there a functional reason?

When it comes to running shorts, many people have thoughts about these awkward-looking exercise garments. And many often wonder, “why are running shorts so short?” The short length is to prevent chafing, allows a wide range of movement, and promotes cool airflow. Let’s dive in. 

Why Is It Necessary For Running Shorts To Be So Short?

Running shorts for men feature inseams that are as low as one inch. The inseam is measured from the base of the crotch area to the end of the fabric covering the inner thigh. Of course, with inseams so low, there’s often little left to the imagination. But, despite how appealing or unappealing this might look from a fashion perspective, there are plenty of good reasons for this scant design that benefits runners.


Perhaps the main reason so many runners run in short shorts is that they prevent chafing. If you’ve ever run in shorts that chafed, you’ll understand why so many runners wish to avoid the rub, especially those running half and full marathons.

Chafing worsens with a lengthier stride, cadence, running time, and higher outdoor temperature. This is why wearing less fabric is more comfortable for runners. You might find our guide on what to wear to an Ironman helpful.


For fashion
Many runners love how they look in shorter running shorts

Believe it or not, many runners love how they look in shorter running shorts. Many runners like showing off their legs, especially those who work hard to sculpt them in the gym. While short running shorts might not be your idea of “tasteful” fashion, there’s no question that they look better on some people than others. Check out our explainer on can you run in jeans.

Temperature Control (Air Flow)

Any runner will tell you things can get pretty hot south of the waistline. And runners are always trying to compensate for either being too hot or cold, but unless you’re running during the winter, you’re more likely to feel hot while running. And this is more of an issue for fast runners, so it’s essential to allow your legs (and other parts) to get as much free-flowing air as possible.

Even during cold days, it’s possible to feel a little too warm in that region, which is a good reason why many runners will even wear short running shorts in cold weather conditions. Plus, running warms the body, and the motivation to stay warm can help a person keep their legs moving. Some runners wear shorts while wearing warm upper layers that can easily peel off during the race as the day gets warmer.

Range Of Motion

Short shorts give the best range of motion. With less inhibiting free movement, runners can experience the entire length of their natural stride, allowing them to run for longer distances and times with less fatigue. You might be interested in learning about split running shorts.

What Is The Best Length For Running Shorts?

What is the best length for running shorts?
Many professional runners will opt for three-inch split shorts

You don’t need to wear one-inch running shorts to get the benefits of short running shorts. Men can achieve similar results with shorts with a five-inch inseam, while women can run comfortably with a four-inch inseam. These lengths offer a fantastic range of motion while providing the kind of modesty that can be very important to the runner and onlookers.

Many professional runners will opt for three-inch split shorts, especially those running marathons. This is because their design is lighter and cooler while offering an optimum range of motion. That said, such shorts may be too “revealing” for some to consider.

The Different Lengths Of Running Shorts

Here are some of the inseam lengths for various styles of running shorts.

Short Shorts

Shorter-length running shorts are classified as having an inseam of three inches or shorter. These shorts offer runners the most excellent breathability and range of motion while doing the most to minimize chafing. They are usually the preferred length for professional runners. However, many find them to be too revealing for comfort.

Medium Length Shorts

Medium length shorts
The most popular length for casual or recreational runners

Shorts with inseams between four to six inches are considered medium-length shorts. They are the most popular length for casual or recreational runners for their balance of breathability, range of motion, and modesty.

Long Shorts

Shorts that measure seven inches or more are long-running shorts. Many basketball shorts fit this category. While the excess material limits the range of motion and breathability while increasing chafing, they offer protection against cold weather and shrubs when participating in trail running.

The Final Word On Why Are Running Shorts So Short?

Running shorts can vary in length depending on a runner’s comfort level. And while short running shorts are not suitable for everyone, there’s no question they offer the best breathability, range of motion, and anti-chafing properties out of any alternative lengths. However, for most recreational runners, medium-length running shorts provide a fair compromise that allows them to run comfortably without having the police called on them.

FAQs About Why Are Running Shorts So Short?

When did short running shorts become popular?

It wouldn’t surprise most people to learn that short running shorts became popular during the 1970s, also known as the “anything goes” era. However, they were around as early as the late 1960s. The 70s was also around the time a strange new sport called “jogging” became a popular fitness fad (that never went away). However, many people were also into tracksuits during this time as well.

Are there laws against short-running shorts?

So far, there haven’t been any known local laws against wearing short running shorts, although it would probably not surprise most people to learn that there have been incidents in which police were called on runners wearing short running shorts.