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Trail Running Shorts Review Roundup

Posted on May 02 2016

Photos by Alyssa Henry

Up until last Summer and Fall, I hadn’t done much experimenting with different running shorts. Partly this was because I didn’t want to spend the money on something that I didn’t think could be improved upon that much, and partly because there just weren’t that many shorts that deviated from the basic short design with one zipper pocket and a basic material/liner. After meeting with some of the brands at Outdoor Retailer last year, they sent me a small selection of apparel to try out based on my preference for shorts with lots of storage and inner boxer liners. Below are the shorts I was able to try out. Disclaimer: All of the the apparel other than the inov-8 shorts were provided free of charge by the respective manufactures.

Trail Running Shorts

From Top Left to Bottom Right – inov-8 Race Elite 140 (my go to for last 2 years), Brooks Sherpa 2-in-1 7″, The North Face Better Than Naked Long Haul Short, Dynafit Enduro Dry Short, Dynafit React Dry 3/4 Tight.

inov-8 Race Elite 140 (now called Race Elite 6″) – 6″ inseam, inner boxer liner, 1 gel pocket, 1 zipper pocket, elastic waistband. $65 available from Wiggle.com in UK.

inov-8 Race Elite 140

inov-8 Race Elite 140 Shorts

I’ll start with the inov-8 since I’ve used it extensively over the last 2 years. It was the first short I’d tried with an inner boxer brief (as opposed to just a regular brief), and for long mountain outings that is super nice. The liner is very thin, not hot like you would think, and like many other heavier boxer liners are. I’ve done ultras in these with no need for Body Glide, and ran them at Western States where they were wet most of the race and had no issues. Also, the waistband is thick and elastic so I can get it tight to hold my Simple bottle, wind jacket, gloves and other things I want to stick in there without them falling down. The biggest downfall is the lack of pockets. Only one gel pocket on the back right side, and a small zipper pocket in the center. Still one of the best shorts out there, just hard to find in the US for some reason. (Running Warehouse Europe has the 2, 6 and 8″ shorts)

inov-8 Race Elite 140

One small gel pocket on back right and zipper pocket center back.

Brooks Sherpa 7″ 2-in-1 Short – 7″ inseam, inner boxer liner, 2 medium sized hip pockets, 1 back zipper pocket and 1 pocket on right thigh on liner, $64 and available at Running Warehouse

Brooks Sherpa 7" 2-in-1 Short

7 inches is about as long as I like for running.

I really enjoyed the Sherpa short. It has minimal, yet functional pockets, with plenty of storage for most runs, and the liner is very soft and comfortable without being too hot. It is also probably one of the better looking shorts out there that blend in a little more in the summer and don’t as loudly scream “Runner!” as some split road shorts do if you go get lunch after your run :). All in all, a great short for daily training and races, and probably the most versatile out of all the ones I tried as it works good on the road too.

Brooks Sherpa 7" 2-in-1 Short

Very comfortable inner brief liner and 1 gel pocket on right thigh.

The North Face Better Than Naked Long Haul Short – 7″ inseam, inner boxer liner, 2 medium back hip pockets, 1 zipper pocket, 5 pockets on the outer thigh of liner (3 smaller on right, 2 larger on left), $65 and available at Running Warehouse.

The North Face Better Than Naked Long Haul Short

Longest fitting short to me even though they are supposed to be 7″ like the Brooks. Very light outer material with a thicker liner.

The Long Haul Short gets the nod for the most storage of all the shorts I tried. The outer pockets are very similar to the Sherpa short by Brooks, but it adds quite a bit of storage for smaller food items on the outer thigh of each side of the liner. This concept was new to me before these two shorts, and my take away is that it works decent for small items like gels, but not so much for anything larger because then the shorts don’t move very well and look weird too. The Long Haul Short is better suited for colder Fall/Spring weather due to a hotter and longer boxer liner, and I don’t prefer how long the liner is (also 7″ so it comes right to the end of short – they do make these shorts and 5” and 3.5” versions as well). I prefer the liner to be a few inches shorter than the short so it doesn’t show when running, and also it holds less heat too. All in all a great short to carry quite a bit of stuff in cooler weather.

The North Face Better Than Naked Long Haul Short

Left side has 2 larger pockets, right has 3 small gel specific pockets.

Dynafit Enduro Dry Short – 3.5″ inseam, 2 Large hip pockets and 1 zipper pocket on short. $65 for short on the Dynafit website and at Backcountry.com.

Dynafit Enduro Dry Short

Shorter, near split short style with a great, light but tough fabric.

The Dynafit Enduro Dry Short is probably the best designed split, roadie style short that caters to the mountain/trail runner that I’ve come across. I used to run regular New Balance or Nike road shorts all the time and always had trouble putting gear in them because they usually have very little or no pockets, and are made of light and cheaper materials. The Enduro short has the best pocket setup of any short I’ve tried, with two super large back hip pockets, and one zipper pocket in the center. You can fit a lot of stuff into these pockets – they would fit windjackets, gloves, hats, burritos, etc. and not just gels. The biggest issue with all of this is that there is no drawstring on them!?!?! Thankfully, I’ve been told by Dynafit that it will have a draw string in the 2016 version, and I would highly recommend waiting till then to pick them up if you are interested…I sure will be getting myself a pair with the drawstring as they are definitely the best mountain short I’ve tried. They don’t have a boxer liner, but would probably need to be 5″ inseam or longer to realistically incorporate one. Regardless, such a great short for summer mountain outings in minimalistic style.

Dynafit Enduro Dry Short

Huge hip pockets of stretchy material. Such a nice design.

Dynafit React 3/4 Tight -3/4 tight has 2 small hip pockets, 1 zipper and large right thigh pocket. $85 for the 3/4 tight again from Dynafit’s site.

Dynafit React 3/4 Tight

Great fabric on them.

The Dynafit React 3/4 tight is equally nice in design as the Enduro short. The fabric is thin, stretchy and comfortable. It is also a 3/4 tight that that works in a range of temps from 35-55 degrees and will be awesome in the rain. My other 3/4 that I have I’d probably only wear up to 45 degrees as it gets too hot above that. The pocket design is great as well, with 2 smaller gel pockets on the back hip area and 1 zipper pocket in the middle. The most unique feature is a very large pocket on the right thigh. A thigh pocket on a tight is a fantastic idea, and doesn’t come with the problems of the the thigh pockets on liner shorts like the Sherpa or Long Haul Shorts above. Very cool tight, but again no drawstring to help utilize all the storage?!?! Unfortunately the 3/4 tight is not continuing in the line so there will be no updated version with a drawstring. I’m hoping to make one for them; they are that good.

Dynafit React 3/4 Tight

Huge thigh pocket. Why don’t more tights have this type of design? Fantastic idea.

I’d love to hear what shorts work best for you when you have to carry a fair bit of items. Let me know in the comments below!

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