Best Triathlon Shorts for Men and Women – Updated 2019!
Any experienced triathlete can tell you; the right gear can make the difference between an outstanding race, and a grueling one that feels like torture to complete. Fortunately, these days it’s easier than ever to find great race gear. But, with so many options on the market, it can be challenging to decide what race day apparel is best for you.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the humble triathlon short and identify some of the best triathlon shorts for men and women.
Triathlon Clothing Options
When it comes to clothing for race day, athletes have a few different options for what they can wear.
Tri Suits – These suits are almost always one piece, and they’re designed to provide riders with the utmost in comfort.
Tri Shorts and Tops – Tri shorts and tops worn together as part of a two-piece outfit, and they tend to be the most versatile of all training apparel. Many racers prefer a two-piece racing suit because they’re appropriate for training, race day, and the gym, as well.
Wetsuits – Wetsuits are optional, and the weather usually dictates the decision to wear or not wear one. A wetsuit can make the swim section of the race a bit easier to manage, and they can also keep you warm in colder waters. Wetsuits are typically worn over whatever clothing you’ll be wearing for the other legs of the race.
Benefits of Triathlon Shorts
While tri suits may have the slightest edge over a two-piece tri short and top combo, there are plenty of benefits to wearing triathlon shorts instead of a trisuit.
First, triathlon shorts are far more versatile than a tri suit, and as such you’re able to get much more use out of them. Nothing against tri suits, but they’re typically only worn on race days due to their racy styling. Meanwhile, tri shorts are just as useful for workouts, cycling, or even a trip to the gym. If you’re looking to get the most out of your gear, you may want to stick with tri shorts.
There’s also the issue of fit. Since a tri suit combines both a top and shorts into one garment, it can be a bit more difficult to find your perfect fit. This can be particularly true for people who have a long or short torso. While most people can find a tri suit that fits them well, it’s easier to find a great fitting pair of triathlon shorts.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the issue of the bathroom. If you’ve ever tried to take off a wet tri suit to use the bathroom, you already know what I mean. They can be cumbersome and annoying, and certainly not as quick and easy as using the bathroom is in tri shorts.
What to Look for From Your Tri Shorts
While they may seem like a simple pair of shorts, there’s tons of features and technology that go into a pair of triathlon shorts. If you’re in the market for a pair, you’ll want to consider these different aspects before deciding on the best pair for your needs.
Most tri shorts offer some level of padding in the bike seat area, which makes the bike ride a bit more forgiving. The level of padding differs between brands and even between models of shorts from the same brand. You’ll want to look for a pair that offers sufficient padding for the bike leg but won’t impede you during your run.
Shorts are available in many different inseam lengths. Some athletes prefer shorter shorts, while others prefer more coverage. A variety of inseam lengths also helps to fit the needs of shorter or taller athletes. Most manufacturers make their shorts in multiple inseam lengths. The most common lengths are:
Triathlons are long and grueling, and one way to make them seem even longer and more grueling is to invest in shorts with poor seam construction.
A good pair of shorts will have seams that are virtually undetectable, whereas a poorly made pair of shorts will have pronounced seams that can cause chafing and irritation throughout the race.
Typically, the more you spend on your shorts, the better the construction will be, and the more seamless the shorts will feel.
For most athletes, compression is a matter of personal preference. What nearly everyone can agree on is that some degree of compression is a practical necessity when it comes to triathlons.
As you race, (or engage in other physical activity) a compound known as lactic acid can build up in your body. Lactic acid causes soreness and fatigue, and it has a profound effect on your ability to race effectively.
Compression attire helps to reduce the effect of lactic acid on the body. Compression works to improve circulation and blood flow, which allows your body to flush lactic acid more effectively, which makes it easier for you to manage fatigue and soreness throughout the race.
The level of compression you prefer is a matter of personal preference. Most athletes prefer high compression triathlon clothing. Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between medical compression attire, and athletic compression attire. Always make sure you’re wearing compression attire designed for strenuous activity.
It’s crucial that your shorts stay in place while you’re biking and running. Shorts that ride up or bunch during the race can have a negative impact on your ability to race comfortably. To counteract this, tri shorts have a grippy material on the bottom of the short, which helps to grip your skin and prevents the shorts from riding up or bunching.
Not only is it essential that these grips do their job, but they need to do their job without causing any discomfort during the race. Fortunately, most manufacturers do a great job of making grips that are comfortable and effective.
Pockets are almost entirely a matter of personal preference. Some athletes can’t do without them and use their pockets to store gel packs or nutrition bars during longer races or marathons. Other athletes find pockets to be uncomfortable and avoid them at all costs.
Most pockets are located on the thigh area of the shorts, but some brands add pockets to the rear of the shorts instead. Your personal preference will dictate the type of shorts you’ll want on your shorts. Many athletes prefer shorts without pockets altogether.
For the most part, triathlon shorts are designed to be replaced rather often. Over time, the integrity of the fabric becomes compromised, which can lead to reduced compression, fraying or ripped seams.
If you’re not keen on the idea of replacing your tri shorts every race season, you’ll want to look towards a model that has a reputation for durability.
One way to dramatically increase the lifespan of your shorts is to avoid machine washing them as much as possible. A quick soak in warm water and soap is usually enough to keep your shorts clean and fresh in between races. Try and save the washing machine for once every four or five wears.
Another way to extend the life of your tri shorts is to avoid wearing them outside of race day. When you’re training, wear clothing specific to the sport you’re engaging in, and keep the tri shorts hanging in the closet until it’s time to race.
Top Six Triathlon Shorts for Women
These tri shorts from TYR are a great starting point for triathletes of all skill levels who are looking for their first pair of triathlon shorts. The Competitor shorts are affordable, but TYR still manages to pack them full of industry-leading features that are often only available with much more expensive pairs. As for the construction, TYR uses a combination of mesh and woven fabrics to make a short that’s comfortable, stretchy, and quick drying. TYR’s patented Compression Web technology provides additional compression in critical areas to help reduce muscle vibration while increasing blood flow and circulation.
The advanced fabrics of the Competitor short also offer SPF 50 protection against the sun. A triple density foam bike pad helps to add an extra layer of comfort during the bike leg of the race. Silicone beaded leg grippers help to keep your shorts securely in place while the low-profile seams help to reduce chafing during the long race. TYR also included some intuitive features, like a comfortable stretch drawcord, and a hidden pocket that’s easily accessible during running or cycling.
- Advanced compression
- Hidden pocket
- Very comfortable to run in
SKINS has cemented a reputation as one of the leading triathlon apparel brands, and their dedication to producing quality products is evident with their Tri 400 shorts. As for the materials used, these shorts are among the most luxurious on the market. They feel great when you’re wearing them. The inside leg panels are infused with carbon, which helps to reduce friction by up to 40%, according to SKINS. They also feature SKINS Dynamic Compression Technology, which provides the right amount of compression in the right places, which helps to optimize circulation. These shorts also feature an internal pocket SPF 50+ UV protection and a generously padded bike pad.
- Comfortable fabric
- Carbon infused leg panels reduce friction
- Dynamic Compression Technology
- Comfortable for running and biking
These German designed tri shorts from SLS3 are stylish, feminine, and among the most comfortable shorts you’ll find. They’re made from a blend of nylon and Lycra, which moves well with your body. They provide advanced comfort, and they dry very quickly. The bike pad is generously sized and antibacterial, and provides ample comfort for riding, without impeding your ability to run. These shorts feature flatlock seams throughout, which virtually eliminate chafing and irritation as you run. As a bonus, SLS3 works closely with the Villalobos Animal Rescue Center, and a portion of each sale benefits their rescue efforts.
- Very comfortable fit
- Generously sized bike pad doesn’t impede you when running
- Feminine styling
- Flatlock seams
If you’re looking for one of the most affordable triathlon shorts for women, this pair from Canari is one of the most popular choices on the market. These shorts are made from a nylon and lycra blend and constructed in a six-panel design to provide ample compression. They don’t provide the comprehensive level of compression you’d find from a more expensive pair, but most athletes find that the compression is more than adequate. These shorts are very quick to dry, and they feature a chamois cycling pad which also dries quickly and doesn’t impede you as you run. By the same token, the pad is thin and doesn’t provide a tremendous level of support. Then again, very few shorts do.
Perhaps most importantly, these shorts from Canari feature flat seam construction which helps to reduce or eliminate chaffing. They also have Canari’s signature Softouch leg grippers which help to keep your shorts in place without discomfort.
- Great seam construction
- Dries quickly
- Comfortable for every leg of the race
Pearl Izumi is one of the fastest growing names in racewear, and it’s no wonder the company is growing so rapidly given the value and performance that they deliver.These shorts feature a nylon and elastane blend and six-panel construction, which offers a similar look, fit and feel compared to all of the leading tri shorts on the market. The material also provides UPF 50+ sun protection. As you’d expect, these shorts offer ample comprehension, although it’s not as comprehensive as some more expensive shorts can provide.
What separates the Quest short from many other triathlon shorts for women is the 3D chamois pad. This pad is thin and low profile, but it features enhanced padding in all the right places, which results in a particularly comfortable ride. For that reason alone, we’ll be reaching for a pair of Pearl Izumi Quest shorts over many of the other options on the market.
- Very comfortable for cycling
- Transfer Dry fabric dries quickly
If you’re looking for the utmost in compression, you may do well with these shorts from Louis Garneau, thanks to several intuitive features.Garneau is well known for producing some of the most advanced tri shorts on the market, and they pulled out many of their signature tricks for the Comp shorts, as well.
The fabric is Endurexx, which is a mix of polyester, nylon, and spandex. This fabric dries quickly, offers four-way stretch, and unlike most shorts, it’s also chlorine resistant as well, which makes these shorts an option for training in the pool as well. Like most other shorts on the market, the cycling pad leaves a bit to be desired, but it still does offer a bit of additional support during the bike leg. The pad dries quickly and doesn’t impede the athlete at all during the run or swim. These shorts from Garneau also feature high-quality seam construction, and the seams are placed throughout the short in areas where they’ll cause the least amount of chafing and resistance. This helps to make these shorts exceptionally comfortable throughout every leg of the race.
The Comp shorts also provide the high-level compression that’s missing from many of the more affordable shorts on the market. The Powerband leg cuffs provide additional compression in the lower thigh without restricting blood flow. Also included is a single covered in the rear of the shorts. This allows you to carry nutrition with you during the run. But, we wouldn’t recommend you keep anything in the pocket while riding a bike. They’re also relatively affordable, so if you’re looking for a good blend of performance and comfort, these shorts may be right up your alley.
- High-end compression
- Available in a variety of colors
Top Six Triathlon Shorts for Men
De Soto has solidified quite a reputation for producing high-quality triathlon gear with an emphasis on sustainability and the environment.The Mobius shorts are highly engineered, fabric wise. These shorts are made from eight panels of De Soto’s MobiusSkin compression fabric. This fabric is particularly comfortable and doesn’t feel restrictive at all. At the same time, it offers more than ample compression.
While it may be a bit of overkill, these shorts also feature a total of four pockets. We can’t imagine what you’d need to have with you during a triathlon to necessitate that much storage, but the pockets are well designed, and you probably won’t even notice they’re there.The durable Microlock stitching also helps to make these shorts feel entirely seamless, despite being made from eight panels. A seamless fleece cycling pad is included, although it doesn’t offer very much padding for the ride. It’s a trade-off though because these are among the most comfortable shorts to run and swim in.
- Exceptionally comfortable
- Plenty of pockets
- Dries quickly
- Highly durable
Zoot is one of the biggest names in Triathlon apparel, so you can feel confident that anything you get from them is going to offer comfort, durability and high performance.The endura nylon and spandex blend fabric wicks moisture away from the body efficiently while offering UPF 50+ sun protection. The innovative BIOwrap hem works well to prevent the shorts from riding up, which eliminates the need for leg grippers, which are often uncomfortable.
These shorts also feature a chamois cycling pad which is very comfortable for running. It’s easy to forget that it’s there at all. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to forget it’s there during the bike leg of the race, as there isn’t much padding.Despite the lack of padding from the cycling pad, these shorts still manage to be among the most comfortable of any short on the market, and they’re a strong choice for anyone looking to maximize comfort during the race.
- BIOwrap hem eliminates uncomfortable leg grippers
- Superior fit
- Very comfortable for running
- Dries quickly
SLS3 has quickly been rising through the ranks of triathlon apparel brands thanks to their quality construction and innovative features.These shorts feature an exceptionally tight, second-skin fit that may take some getting used to, but most athletes will find that these shorts are exceptionally comfortable and offer superior compression to other tri shorts on the market.These SLS3 shorts feature a thin leg gripper that’s further reinforced by the tailored lower leg section, which translates to shorts that stay in place and are more comfortable than shorts with more substantial leg grippers.
The bike pad is thin, but it has additional foam padding in all the right places. That way, you get the support you want while riding, but you aren’t dealing with a bulky and uncomfortable pad while you run or swim.Also included are two 4×4” back packets which are roomy enough for any nutritious products you’ll be bringing along. However, the choice to position them in the rear of the short is a bit odd, since it requires a little bit of contorting to get into the pockets while on the go.
- Superior compression
- Flatlock seams
- Supportive bike pad
The Competitor short from TYR offers plenty in the way of comfort, high performance, and durability, which makes it an ideal choice for many triathletes. These shorts feature TYR’s Competitor woven technology, which provides advanced comfort and compression. The fabric is an 80/20 blend of nylon and spandex, which is comfortable and dries quickly.This fabric also provides athletes with graduated compression that’s further reinforced with TYR’s compression web which helps to reduce muscle vibration while increasing blood flow and circulation.
The Competitor short also features TYR’s patented AMP pad, which is thin and quick drying but manages to provide ample support during the cycling leg of the race. The rear of the shorts features a single back pocket, which allows riders to carry their favorite nutrition with them during the race. While the pocket is located in a spot that will allow you to ride comfortably without crushing whatever is in the pocket, you do run the risk of whatever carrying working it’s way out of the pocket as you ride. Rounding out the Competitor short is TYR’s newly designed Free Finish leg gripper, which helps to keep the shorts in place without causing any discomfort.
- Advanced compression
- Available in a variety of colors
- Supportive cycling pad
If you’re looking for a short that’s able to perform at a high level without breaking the bank, these shorts from KILO may be a good choice for you. These shorts are made from a fabric called polyamide that’s fortified with Xtra Life Lycra, which provides four-way stretch, making these among the most comfortable shorts available. When it comes to compression, these shorts offer a fair amount. However, if you’re looking for the level of compression that you’d find on more high-end offerings, you may want to continue your search.
Despite how affordable these shorts are, they include one of the nicer cycling pads of any short we’ve covered. The chamois pad is graduated to provide padding in the most important zones, while still maintaining a low profile at the sides. As a result, this pad is one of the most comfortable to run and cycle in. The seam construction is also above average and helps to make these shorts comfortable regardless of how long the race is. Further adding to the comfort level of these shorts are leg grippers which are exceptionally thin. These grips manage to keep your shorts in place, without causing discomfort or restricting movement. Rounding out these shorts are two mesh side pockets that are conveniently located for easy access to whatever nutrition you prefer.
- Comfortable cycling pad
- Available in a variety of colors
- Nutrition pockets are conveniently located
While they’re best known for producing wetsuits, Synergy also produces high-end triathlon wear, including some of the best triathlon shorts for men. Construction wise, these Synergy shorts employ an 80/20 blend of nylon and spandex, similar to many of the most popular shorts on the market. This blend provides a comfortable fit and moderate compression. However, if you’re looking for a high compression short, these may not be the best choice for you. All of the seams are flat-locked, which makes these shorts even more comfortable, and helps you avoid chafing during the race. Synergy forgoes traditional silicone leg grippers in favor of a softer material which manages to keep your shorts in place without the characteristic discomfort of traditional leg grippers.
When it comes to cycling, Synergy provides one of the most comfortable chamois pads available. The gel pad is covered in antimicrobial fleece, and it manages to provide support in all the right places, despite the fact that it’s only 2mm thick. This pad manages to provide riders with ample support during the bike leg, but when you’re running, you almost completely forget it’s there. Overall, these Synergy shorts hit plenty of high points with regards to comfort and design. We wish they offered a bit more in the way of compression, but most athletes will find these shorts to be a good fit for their needs.
- One of the best chamois pads available
- Comfortable fit
Our Top Pick For Triathlon Shorts!
If you’re looking for a great tri short for your next race, you can’t go wrong with any of the picks above. However, of the three shorts we covered for both men and women, there is one that stands out above the rest as our favorite triathlon short.
Best Triathlon Short for Women – SKINS Tri 400
We like the SKINS Tri 400 short for women as it packs a high level of technology and comfort into an affordable package. We especially like the carbon infused leg panels, which help to reduce friction to the point where you almost forget you’re wearing anything at all.
As we mentioned, these shorts fit very snugly towards the bottom, so they may not be ideal for women with very muscular legs. But, most women are sure to love the advanced features and comfort they’ll find in the Tri 400 short.
Best Triathlon Short for Men – De Soto Sport Mobius
The Mobius short from De Soto checks every box: They’re comfortable, they’re stylish, and they offer a high level of compression. We’re still trying to figure out how these shorts are made from 8 individual panels, yet they feel entirely seamless.
While these shorts leave a bit to be desired in the chamois pad area, they perform so well in every other category that it’s easy for most people to overlook that caveat. If comfort and compression are two of your primary concerns, you may find that the De Soto Sport Mobius shorts are the best choice for you.