Granted, it’s still technically winter but the high in Austin today is 91 and it sure feels a lot like summer. That means a lot of things to different people, but it also means it’s high time to get some new running shorts for the spring and summer heat.
Although dressing properly for a mid-winter run is obviously much more critical than what you wear during spring and summer, wearing the right warm-weather running clothes still matters. In winter, layering is key; in the Texas summer heat, wearing lightweight, running gear is essential for comfortable running.
Certainly, the most important piece of summer running clothes are shorts. While wearing the right running shorts isn’t quite as crucial as wearing the right pair of training shoes, buying the right pair of shorts for your body type, gender and size will go a long way to making your warm-weather runs comfy and enjoyable.
With running shorts as with shoes, fit is everything. The difference is that while styling and colors doesn’t really matter when it comes to shoes—they just have to work—the look and feel of your running clothes does make a difference. Even the most retro, old school runner doesn’t want to look like a relic from the ’70s.
Clearly, shorts are the most important piece of summer running clothes. More than anything, you should buy lightweight shorts designed specifically for running. Long, floppy basketball shorts might look fine on the court, but are not for running. You might be able to get away with cotton shorts on short winter runs, but in the heat of a Texas summer, you will almost certainly end up with severe chafing in a highly sensitive area if you wear cotton shorts while running.
Here are some tips to picking the right pair of summer running shorts:
Fit, fit, fit. The only way you can be certain a pair of running shorts fits you well is to try them on. All the reputable running stores in Austin—Luke’s, Rogue, Ready to Run, Run Lab, Fleet Feet Round Rock–will allow you to try on shorts. Do so. Even if you know your waist size, shorts are available in a variety of sizes and some experimentation might be necessary to find the perfect size for you. You want a snug fit without being too tight.
Fabrics. All technical running shorts are made with light, soft fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin so it evaporates. Most shorts are made out of a breathable Polyester and have an internal brief or liner made of DryLite which is a moisture management fabric which keeps the body dry even on hot, summer runs. Many shorts also have anti-bacterial and anti-abrasion treatments.
Underwear or not? Not. Almost all running shorts are made with a non-chafing, built-in liner. (If you find running shorts that don’t have a built-in liner, they aren’t running shorts.) But wearing underwear—especially if it’s made of cotton—is uncomfortable and negates the anti-chafing fabrics of running shorts. Plus, the liners provide enough support without underwear. Nor do men need to wear a jock with running shorts.
Lengths. Running shorts come in a variety of lengths, starting with “short shorts” and extending all the way to longer cuts to mid-thigh shorts. The length you choose is a matter of personal preference, but if you have “thunder” thighs that tend to rub and chafe on long runs, longer shorts will minimize the problem.
Is there a difference between men’s and women’s shorts? Absolutely. Running shorts for men and women not only look different, they are shaped differently through the waist and hips to create a better fit for each gender.
Pockets are a must. Most brands of shorts come with a key pocket on the inside of the front waistband. But since many runners need a larger pocket to carry gels on long runs, many brands come with an additional side zipper pocket to accommodate any additional nutrition you wish to carry. These side or rear pockets are also deep enough to securely carry a cell phone, iPod or those pesky hotel room keys.
Does color matter? To some runners, it makes a big difference in how they look and feel while out on a run. There are plenty of color options available and you are no longer limited to black shorts. Many of the shorts match up with corresponding shirts and singlets for style-conscious runners.
How much? Running shorts are not inexpensive. High quality shoes made from technical running fabrics will generally cost at least $30, but be prepared to pay $35-40 for the very best styles and models.