Finding the right running clothes is the key to being a successful runner.
Understanding what clothes work best is ESSENTIAL when you’re just starting to run.
Here, we focus on what to wear on your legs.
Two popular forms of clothing are running shorts and running tights. But which is the better option?
If you can’t DECIDE between running shorts and tights, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our guide to shorts vs. tights!
Running Shorts vs. Tights – Who Wins?
As the name suggests, running shorts are a pair of shorts designed specifically for running. They typically come in various lengths and materials, with some being tighter than others.
Running tights, also known as running leggings, are longer versions of running shorts that extend down the entire length of the leg to the ankle. These are designed to be tight to the skin.
Here are some KEY points to remember when choosing running shorts and tights.
1. A Comfortable Outfit Is Essential
The most important thing to remember when buying jogging clothes is that the clothes must be COMFORTABLE.
Sprinting in uncomfortable clothes can seriously impact the effectiveness of your run, often resulting in a disrupted gait, rubbing, chafing, and irritation.
Unfortunately, there is no clear winner between running shorts and tights in terms of comfort, because it all comes down to personal preference.
Some runners prefer shorts if they struggle with SENSITIVE skin, while others prefer tights if they are prone to CHAFING while running.
2. Pockets to Carry Your Stuff
How to carry your essentials when on the run? Running waist belts and hydration backpacks are convenient for carrying your phone, other necessities, and even water. But they can be OVERWHELMING for a shorter run!
In most cases, running shorts offer pockets to hold your essentials, such as your phone, keys, and wallet.
So, look for a pair of shorts or tights that can hold your belongings.
Depending on the product, some will offer more pockets and storage than others – and some might even come with zipper pockets to prevent items from falling out.
Unfortunately, running tights don’t typically come with pockets.
Even if they do, the tight nature of running tights means that your items will be held very CLOSE to your skin, which can be uncomfortable.
3. Flexibility for a Full Range of Movement
The last thing you want is an item of clothing that limits your range of motion.
Runners will run in a vast range of terrains. If you know you’ll be sporting and climbing up steep inclines or leaping over boulders and tree trunks, then you need clothing that offers complete flexibility.
Fortunately, both shorts and running tights can offer flexibility if they fit correctly (and not RIDE up). It all comes down to personal preference.
Keep in mind that tights offer protection against scratches if you like off-road sprinting, though.
4. Adapting to Changing Temperatures
A huge element to ensuring your comfort while jogging is keeping your temperature at a balanced level.
As you’d expect, shorts offer far more ventilation than tights, because your entire legs are exposed to the air.
Plus, as shorts are flowy and not tight to the skin, this offers breathability to the upper part of your legs, too.
Running tights, however, don’t offer much breathability.
If you plan to run in the heat or if you know you’ll get hot whilst out there, then opt for tights with breathable mesh features to provide some ventilation.
However, if you plan on going out in winter or early in the morning (which many think is the best time to run), you will benefit from running tights thanks to the insulating fabric.
After all, you don’t want to get sick or catch frostbite because you went for a run in the snow wearing running shorts.
You can also get running tights with zipper ankles to allow for some cool air near your feet, or tights with shorter in-seams that allow more skin to be exposed to cool air.
Just make sure to look for tights made of moisture-wicking materials and mesh in strategic places to allow for some breathability.
5. Weather Protection
Here’s where shorts meet their downfall.
While running shorts keep you cool on your run, they offer no protection against weather conditions.
This includes protection from rain, wind, frost, and harsh UV rays.
So, if you care about protecting your legs against weather conditions, you might want to opt for a pair of running tights instead.
While leggings might not offer the same level of ventilation as running shorts, they protect your skin from all weather conditions.
This includes protection against harmful UV rays – so, if you forgot to apply SPF (or you know you’ll just sweat it off anyway), then leggings will offer the protection you need.
Chafing is one of the most inconvenient discomforts known to runners, next to blisters.
If your thighs naturally rub together and are prone to chafing, you might want to look for a pair of shorts or tights that protect your thighs from chafing.
- Running tights: If you are prone to chafing opt for running tights. Because of the soft material, your thighs won’t stick together or cause soreness.
- Running shorts: They can rise up and result in painful chafing. You can look for cycling-style running shorts or 2-in-1 shorts if you worry about chafing.
Cycling-style and 2-in-1 shorts provide some protection against chafing. Plus, you won’t have to pull them down constantly.
Cycling-style shorts are slightly longer, form-fitting shorts (with some compression effect) to minimize chafe and maximize comfort.
2-in-1 shorts look like classic running shorts but have a tight cycle-style layer under the outer layer. The outer layer is relaxed, providing cover, and the inner layer is tight to prevent chafing.
Questions & Answers
Do All Running Tights Have Compression?
Not all running tights offer compression. Check the label before buying a new pair.
Compression tights have been shown to improve performance and recovery. The tight fabric compresses blood vessels to increase blood pressure and blood flow.
Lower-body compression may reduce muscle soreness after a run by reducing muscle micro-tearing and speeding up recovery.
Why Do Runners Wear Shorts Over Tights?
The top reason to wear shorts over leggings is modesty. Some people find the tight leggings too revealing. Putting a pair of shorts on the top helps the athlete feel more comfortable.
Alternatively, you can wear a top just long enough to cover the groin and rear and maintain modesty.
Pockets are yet another reason. Sometimes the tights don’t have pockets, so adding shorts with pockets provides a way to carry a phone on your run.
A third reason is that the shorts add warmth. The shorts can help keep you warm by cutting the wind and cold more than just leggings would.
Should I Wear Tights Or Shorts When Running In The Rain?
Your legs are going to get wet when you run in the rain. It is possible to wear rain pants, but they are often bulky and offer some resistance. You have to decide whether you prefer shorts or tights if you want light gear.
If the rain is coming down sideways or particularly fierce, tights offer an extra layer of protection.
Wearing clothes that don’t rub will minimize chafing. Consider wearing spandex tights.
What To Put Under Running Tights And Shorts?
Have you ever wondered what to wear under tights and shorts? Well, it depends if you have lined or unlined shorts (you can read more in our article on lined vs. unlined running shorts – what are the benefits of each).
Some prefer going without underwear with lined running shorts. With underwear, seamless might be the best option.
Hygiene-wise, neither option is better than the other. Following a workout, take a shower and wash your running clothes.
Why Are Running Shorts So Short?
Running shorts are short to allow free leg movement and better ventilation.
Longer shorts with all the extra fabric will restrict your movement when sprinting.
If you’re looking for new running shorts, note that there are actually several different lengths of running shorts. We have another whole article about why running shorts are so short (and do they look funny on you).
Conclusion – Who Wins?
Technically speaking, there is no clear winner between running shorts and tights.
Both items of clothing have their advantages and disadvantages. It all comes down to personal preference and what feels most comfortable for you.