If it’s quite literally — as in they slip and slide — or figuratively, experts share some easy-to-fix factors that will help your shorts stay put during future workouts.
We spoke with fitness instructors, Shop TODAY editors and a workout short designer on how to find shorts best suited for you.
How should workout shorts fit so that they don't ride up?
Founder and designer Melissa Fehr notes that there are two reasons why your workout shorts might ride up: the fit and the fabric. If your shorts don't fit right in the first place, then they're going to ride up despite the fabric.
There are two types of athletic shorts that are primarily worn when working out that riding up can occur.
- Biker shorts: "Shifting hems are often down to the fabric being stretched too tightly, causing the fabric to shift to a smaller area of the thigh in an attempt to not be so overstretched."
- Loose, shorter running shorts: "The cause of the hems riding up is two-fold — the shorts being either too small to accommodate the forward motion of the leg while running or lunging, or the fabric not having enough stretch to allow the forward leg movement."
How do designers/brands ensure that all sizes have shorts that don't ride up?
Fehr notes that it's up to brands to create clothing for all body types and test samples on a wide range of sizes to ensure they're receiving the best fit possible.
"In addition to the usual issues of different body sizes and shapes, activewear patterns must also take into account different degrees of musculature, as well as all the different activities that could be undertaken in that garment," she says, as shorts designed for cycling should be different than those designed for bouldering, she notes.
Fehr notes that brands elect to either create a product that works for multiple activities or is available in multiple sizes.
Brands such as Alo and Nike offer a wide variety of shorts — from biker shorts, shorts with built-in spandex and traditional workout shorts — while also tailoring to a wide range of sizes, from XXS to 4X at times.
What is the most common fabric that athletic shorts are made out of? Does this fabric attribute to them riding up or not?
"Activewear tends to be made from a blend of either polyester or nylon, which a high percentage of elastane," says Fehr. She also adds that consumers have a tendency to be more concerned with moisture-wicking features, rather than be worried about if they'll ride up or not.
Nylon is a breathable fabric made with polymers that allows air to pass through it easily, whereas polyester is waterproof, working to repel moisture rather than letting it seep into the fabric when working out.
"Wicking properties are often added either as a chemical treatment, or as part of the mechanical structure of the fabric itself," she says, adding that "choosing a pair of shorts that fits well is more important for preventing them from riding up than the fabric itself."
Editor- and expert-loved workout shorts
Good for: Tennis, golf, walking | Chafe? No | How long do they last? Going on three years | Sizes: XS-XL
Shop TODAY fitness contributor Stephanie Mansour wears this athletic skort mainly while playing tennis, but also casually as well. The built-in shorts prove to be breathable and provide an ample amount of coverage.
"I stick to clothing that I know and love because I don’t want to be distracted pulling my shorts down or worrying about what kind of view I am giving someone when I am working out in public," she says.
Good for: Running, "boutique fitness classes" such as Barry's | Chafe? Yes (“I think that is less to do with the design of the shorts and more so that chafing is inevitable once you are running for four hours straight.”) | How long do they last? These have been by her side for "the last seven or so years." | Sizes: 0-22
These shorts have become ingrained into senior social media editor Kate McCarthy's workout routine. Having worn them for the past seven years, there's multiple reasons why they're still a staple part of her wardrobe.
It could be because they're affordable compared to other athletic shorts or because they're available in a wide variety of colors. But the fact that they're lightweight and breathable takes home the cake.
"They fit true to size and are super lightweight, so when I’m running, I never feel like I’m weighed down by them or that I have too much fabric anywhere," she says. "They stay put from the first step of my run to my last, which is truly all I care about."
Good for: Running, cycling classes | Chafe? No | How long do they last? Owned for around six months | Sizes: XS-XL
I received these biker shorts over the summer when I was actively training for a half marathon. They've proven to hold up well during long runs and cycling classes on days where I opted for cross-training.
Made with a recycled polyester and spandex blend that makes them feel buttery soft and stretchy, these biker shorts fit true to size.
Good for: Indoor and outdoor workouts | Chafe? No | How long do they last? Did not specify | Sizes: XS-XL
Bombshell Sports is a brand that's well-loved by Khaleah London, a fitness instructor at Equinox, due to their wide range of shorts available and buttery-soft fabric that ensures no chafing.
"In addition to my athleticism and musculature, I possess simultaneously feminine curves," says London. "This is especially true for my glutes. So my go-to brand for such a complimentary curvy figure fit is Bombshell."
Good for: Running or strength training classes | Chafe? No | How long do they last? Le has owned them for a year and a half | Sizes: 0-14
These shorts from Lululemon rank No. 1 in photo editor Vivian Le's book. An elastic waistband, back zipper pocket and breathable lining make it easy to see why.
Available in a wide range of sizes, Le's favorite aspect is the lining because it's "much more comfy than other lined shorts."
Good for: Hot yoga | Chafe? No | How long do they last? Only owned for a couple of weeks but after several washes, no deterioration so far | Sizes: 00-14
I impulse bought these biker shorts during a rare Alo sale on Black Friday when they were 30% off. Immediately drawn to the length, as that is usually a factor in whether something will cause chafing or not, these 7" shorts are also available in a 5" option.
Made with Alo's branded Airbrush fabric that consists of nylon and elastane, these bikers shorts feel like cotton but offer a stretchier feel.
Good for: Running or hiking | Chafe? Yes ("I chafed in them while on a long run while training for a marathon around mile 8") | How long do they last? "A few years" | Sizes: 0-14
Commerce editor Julie Ricevuto primarily wears these while running or hiking, noting that the fabric and material is flexible, allowing for a wide range of motion. Another perk to these shorts is that if they happen to get wet, they'll dry "pretty instantly," according to Ricevuto.
One of the additions to these shorts that help them stand out amongst the rest to Ricevuto is the zippered pocket that sits above your tailbone, allowing you to remain hands-free.
Available in sizes 0 through 14, these shorts are also available in 2.5- or 4-inch length options. The length of the shorts does play into the con of chafing, however, but Ricevuto carries a chafe stick now to resolve those problems.
How we chose
The Shop TODAY editors and writers search the internet to find the best products out there. From interviewing expert sources that have backgrounds and experience in personal training, to designers who work with this type of clothing everyday, the curation of items included in this article are based in part of their responses.
The Shop TODAY editorial staff never shy away from a workout, no matter how difficult it is. Whether it’s running the New York City marathon to attending a local pilates class, this team has experience with workout shorts in a variety of environments and activities.
Meet the experts
- Melissa Fehr is the founder and designer at FehrTrade, a brand dedicated to sewing activewear. Whether it’s via lessons or crafting clothes herself, Fehr combined passions of sewing and running into the brand that FehrTrade is today.
- Khaleah London is a certified fitness instructor at Equinox, based in New York. London teaches a wide variety of classes at the gym, including pilates, barre, HIIT, sculpt, treadmill workouts and more. She is also a former professor of dance at Long Island University and guest dancer at Yale.
- Stephanie Mansour is a fitness contributor for the TODAY Show, and the host of fitness show, Step It Up With Steph.