Written by Lenard

Modified & Updated: 30 Dec 2023

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

Running Shorts, Athletic Shorts, Running Shorts Facts, Workout Shorts

Whether you’re going out for a run on a nice, sunny day or just plan to pick up a few things at the grocery store, running shorts are an easy go-to piece. They’re an essential part of a wardrobe for athletes and non-athletes alike. These shorts are lightweight, comfortable, and provide both form and function for athletic or casual use. Although they’ve been around for quite a long time now, it wasn’t until fairly recently that they became such a staple article of clothing. Learn more about these innovative garments with these running shorts facts.

  1. Prior to the 1930s, shorts used to be only popular among young boys.
  2. 1/2 split seam shorts are the shortest.
  3. 3/4 split seam shorts are short, but not as short as 1/2 split seam shorts.
  4. American fitness instructor Richard Simmons owns 400 pairs of running shorts.
  5. 1/2 split seam shorts do not encumber movement.
  1. Running shorts are athletic shorts specifically designed for running.
  2. Many of these shorts have inner linings that serve as undergarments.
  3. These shorts often have seams that are split at the sides.
  4. Square leg shorts do not have these split seams.
  5. V-notch shorts have a characteristic upside-down v-shaped cutout on the side of the leg seams.
  6. Split shorts are loose shorts that have notches similar to the v-notch, but the seams aren’t sewn together. This design allows for a wider range of movement.
  7. These shorts may either have unisex or gendered designs.
  8. Men’s athletic shorts typically provide groin support and have longer inseams than women’s shorts.
  9. Shorts that are shorter in length retain less moisture and body heat.
  10. Most of these shorts wick off moisture and do not become heavy with sweat.

  1. “Shorts” earned their names because they’re shorter versions of pants or trousers.
  2. Running shorts are less popular in more traditional countries in the East.
  3. The “athleisure” fashion trend features casual, athletic garments which include running shorts. This casual style of clothing is popular in the West.
  4. Hot pants look similar to running shorts, and some runners use hot pants instead for athletic wear.
  5. Large companies such as Nike, Under Armour, and Puma produce a wide variety of running or athletic shorts.

Table of Contents

The top runners of the 19th century wore high-waisted running shorts.

Walter George, Lon Myers, Running, Running Shorts
Source: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons

Although using shorts in the past were typically seen on young schoolboys, short trousers for athletic wear existed as far back as the late 19th century. Even the top runners of the late 19th century wore high-waisted and knee-length running shorts in their running matches. Two world record-setting runners were known to sport this style of athletic shorts, namely the famous competitors Lon Myers and Walter G. George.

Even today, the style of high-waisted workout shorts remains a popular variation of athletic shorts. These shorts sit high above the waist and give wearers a more streamlined figure while allowing freedom of movement in the legs.

Running shorts for everyday wear became popular in the 1970s.

The 1900s saw white shirts and running shorts become a standard uniform for runners. They became less exclusive to schoolboys and the military, although their popularity then was still mainly restricted among top runners and other athletes. However, in the 1970s to the 1980s, the trend of running as a form of regular exercise became more popular, and so did running shorts as a comfortable garment to wear while running. This trend follows the opening marathons in big cities, such as the 1970 New York City Marathon and the 1981 London Marathon.

Running shorts are now popular for both men and women.

In the past, very short fabrics on athletic shorts were particularly unpopular among men due to the amount of exposed skin. From the 1950s onwards, however, athletes began wearing shorter shorts to allow for more freedom of movement. This trend of short athletic shorts continued up until the 1980s for both men and women. These athletic shorts became longer shortly after then, but they now come in a wide variety of lengths depending on what the wearer is comfortable with.

Running shorts provide less constriction and chafing compared to pants and regular gym shorts.

Man Running, Running Man, Running Shorts
Source: Pixabay

Some of the most essential running shorts facts you have to remember are their important advantages compared to other athletic wear. Modern versions of these shorts work to provide maximum comfort and running efficiency to their wearers. Compared to pants and regular shorts, these shorts do not constrict the lower legs and the knee area, making movement easier and less burdened. During endurance runs, marathons, and other activities that entail a significant amount of running time, longer shorts or pants especially tend to feel heavy and uncomfortable to the wearers.

The short and lightweight materials of running or athletic shorts also reduce friction and chafing, which is a common occurrence in runners and other athletes. Most athletic shorts also provide ample support in the groin area.

Running shorts sometimes have features built for running at night.

A wide population of modern runners prefer running at night to avoid the sun, enjoy the cooler evening temperatures, or perhaps because they have day jobs and only have the time to run at night. Unfortunately, with low visibility at night, runners who go out at night are more prone to vehicular accidents than day runners. To address this problem, athletic shorts manufacturers designed various shorts with built-in visibility features. These reflective shorts help keep runners safe by having highly-reflective materials that enhance their visibility in low-light conditions.

Nylon, spandex, and polyester are popular fabrics for these athletic shorts.

Most running shorts consist of synthetic fabrics such as nylon, spandex, polyester, or any blend of the said materials. These materials provide the shorts with higher flexibility than natural fibers, allowing a wide range of motion without the risk of tearing. Moreover, they are more durable and offer better moisture control. That’s one of the running shorts facts you have to keep in mind when you’re looking into shopping for some!

Tri-shorts are shorter variations of running shorts specialized for triathlons.

Triathlon shorts, or tri-shorts, are a variation of athletic shorts specially designed for triathlons. These all-purpose athletic shorts are fit for all three sports involved in triathlons: swimming, biking, and running. Tri-shorts are often quick-drying, breathable, and have bike pads for enhanced comfort in long bike rides.

Dolphin shorts are one of the most popular styles of running shorts.

Woman Running, Athletic Wear, Athletic Shorts, Running Shorts
Source: Pixabay

Dolfins or dolphin shorts are a unisex variation of athletic shorts that became popular in the 1980s. This style features side slits and rounded corners, as well as a visible waistband. They’re typically very short, and some people categorize them as hot pants. The American company Dolfin first produced this type of shorts in the 1980s. Their name originated from their manufacturers, and not their physical resemblance to actual dolphins.

Compression shorts can enhance endurance and help against muscle pains.

Another variation of running or athletic shorts is the compression shorts variation, which are form-fitting and elastic shorts popular among various athletes. Sports scientists studied the effects of these shorts and found that compression garments provide more endurance and better blood flow. Compression shorts may also help with muscle recovery after running, helping to reduce muscle pain, inflammation, and fatigue.

Running shorts now cater to many different body types.

Fortunately, running shorts aren’t just exclusive for athletes nowadays. These comfortable shorts provide comfort and style in workouts and casual wear. Due to the sheer popularity of these shorts in modern days, they now come in a wide variety of variations, sizes, and shapes. 

With advocacies for body positivity becoming more prominent, manufacturers now begin to cater to a more diverse set of people. For example, plus size active shorts are currently popular because they’re form-fitting for plus-sized men and women. The different variations of shorts now fit a wider demographic than ever, effectively ensuring that these shorts don’t go out of style any time soon.

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