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Running Tights vs Shorts – Choosing the Best Gear for Your Run

Heorhii Rysak

Running Tights vs Shorts: What Should You Wear?

When choosing athletic wear, especially for running one of the most common dilemmas is the choice between running shorts and tights. Many people struggle with this decision, often unsure which option offers better comfort, efficiency, and overall performance during their runs.

Fortunately, this conundrum has solutions rooted in understanding the distinct advantages of each. Running shorts, often preferred for their breathability and freedom of movement, are excellent for warmer climates and shorter runs. Tights, on the other hand, offer compression benefits, warmth for cooler weather, and can reduce chafing on longer runs.
After reading this article, you will not only understand which option is best suited for your needs but also how to maximize your comfort and performance while running.

What Are Running Shorts?

Running shorts, specifically designed for the needs of runners, incorporate a unique combination of design, materials, and functionalities. Firstly, these shorts focus on providing comfort, enhancing performance, and catering to a runner’s individual style. Secondly, they are crafted from lightweight and breathable fabrics, ensuring optimal comfort. Additionally, their loose fit significantly enhances freedom of movement, which is essential for effective running. Moreover, these shorts often come equipped with built-in liners that offer added support, along with practical features like elastic waistbands and pockets. In conclusion, running shorts represent a harmonious blend of utility and comfort for runners.

Types of Running Shorts

Split Shorts: Designed with a side split to enhance freedom of movement, these are ideal for sprinters and competitive runners.

V-Notch Shorts: Similar to split shorts but with a less pronounced cut, offering a good balance between mobility and coverage.

Compression Shorts: Tight-fitting shorts that provide muscle support and are often worn alone or under looser shorts.

Long Shorts: Runners who prefer modesty or need extra protection against the elements often choose these for their more extensive coverage.

2-in-1 Shorts: Combine the benefits of tight-fitting compression shorts with an outer layer of loose shorts.

What Are Running Tights?

Running tights offer a unique mix of comfort, support, and functionality. Initially, they serve as an integral component of a runner’s attire. Particularly beneficial in cooler climates, these tights provide much-needed warmth. Furthermore, they are valued for their ability to support muscles and reduce chafing during extended runs. Hence, running tights are not only a practical choice but also an essential one for dedicated runners, especially in challenging weather conditions.

Different Styles of Running Tights

Full-Length Tights: Cover the entire leg and are ideal for colder weather to keep the entire leg warm.

Capri or 3/4 Length Tights: End below the knee or mid-calf, offering a balance between warmth and breathability, suitable for transitional weather.

Compression Tights: Specifically designed to offer more targeted muscle support and improve circulation, beneficial for recovery and performance.

Thermal Tights: Have added insulation for running in cold conditions.

Trail Running Tights: Often feature reinforced areas and additional pockets, tailored for the demands of trail running.

Running Tights vs Shorts: What Is the Difference?

Running shorts and tights are both popular attire for runners, but they serve different purposes and offer distinct benefits.

Running Shorts:

Design and Material: These shorts are typically loose-fitting and made from lightweight, breathable fabrics like polyester or nylon. Some models have built-in briefs or liners for additional support and comfort.

Temperature Suitability: Ideal for warm or hot weather, their loose design helps in air circulation, keeping the runner cool.

Freedom of Movement: The loose fit allows for unrestricted leg movement, which is beneficial for sprinters or short-distance runners.

Storage: Many running shorts come with pockets or small pouches for storing essentials like keys or a small music player.

Variety: They come in various lengths and styles, catering to different preferences and running conditions.

Running Tights:

Design and Material: Running tights, form-fitting and made from stretchy, moisture-wicking materials like spandex or a spandex-blend, offer compression to aid in muscle support and recovery.

Temperature Suitability: While primarily used in colder weather to keep muscles warm and prevent strain, there are lighter versions for warmer conditions.

Aerodynamics and Efficiency: The snug fit reduces air resistance and can potentially improve running efficiency. This feature is particularly beneficial for long-distance runners.

Protection and Support: Tights provide muscle support and can reduce chafing, which is common in long-distance running. Some have UV protection for outdoor running.

Versatility: You can wear them alone or under shorts, making them versatile for different weather conditions and personal preferences.

Combining Shorts and Tights


Many runners popularly practice blending the benefits of both shorts and tights to enhance comfort, performance, and versatility across various conditions.

Benefits of Combining Shorts and Tights

Enhanced Comfort and Protection: Wearing tights under shorts can provide the muscle support and warmth of tights, while the shorts offer an additional layer of coverage and protection. This combination works particularly well in transitional weather conditions, when it’s too cool for just shorts but too warm for only tights.

Versatility in Weather Adaptation: Choosing to wear tights with shorts offers runners the flexibility to adapt to fluctuating weather conditions, especially during extended runs or across diverse seasons. For example, during cooler mornings in early spring or late fall, tights provide necessary warmth, but as temperatures rise, removing the tights and wearing just the shorts may be more comfortable.

Reduced Chafing: Tights can help reduce chafing that some runners experience with shorts, especially over longer distances. The layer of tights provides a smooth surface that minimizes skin irritation.

Increased Privacy and Comfort: Some runners may feel self-conscious or uncomfortable in just tights due to their form-fitting nature. Wearing shorts over tights can add a level of modesty and confidence.

Style Preferences: Runners can also combine shorts and tights as a style choice, creating a unique look that sets their appearance apart.

How to Effectively Combine Shorts with Tights?

Material Consideration: Ensure both the shorts and tights are made of moisture-wicking fabric to keep dry and comfortable.

Fit and Length: Choose tights that fit snugly without being restrictive and pair them with shorts that are not too baggy to avoid excess bulk. The length of the shorts should be such that it complements the tights without causing bunching.

Layering for Temperature: In colder weather, consider thicker tights under lighter shorts. For milder conditions, a thinner pair of tights under regular running shorts works well.

Personal Comfort: Experiment with different combinations to find what feels most comfortable and suitable for your running needs.

Wearing tights with shorts provides a versatile approach that accommodates comfort, temperature control, modesty, and personal style. This combination lets runners harness the advantages of both types of attire, effectively meeting the diverse demands of different running environments.


The choice between running tights vs shorts largely depends on personal preference, running conditions, and the specific needs of the runner. Running shorts offer breathability and freedom, making them ideal for warmer conditions and shorter runs. Tights provide muscle support and warmth, suited for cooler weather and longer distances. Understanding these differences helps runners make an informed choice, ensuring comfort and optimizing performance for their running.


Are there different types of running tights for different seasons?

Yes, there are different types of running tights designed for various seasons. In warmer weather, lighter, more breathable tights are preferred. For colder months, thermal or fleece-lined tights offer extra warmth. Some tights have UV protection for sunny days, and water-resistant features are available for rainy conditions, ensuring comfort and performance in diverse weather scenarios.

How to wear tights with shorts?

To wear tights with shorts, start by selecting a pair of form-fitting running tights that provide comfort and support. Then, layer a pair of loose-fitting running shorts over the tights for added coverage and style. Ensure both garments are made from breathable, moisture-wicking materials for optimal comfort during your run. Adjust the waistbands for a secure fit, and you’re ready to go.

Is there a difference in the range of motion between running tights vs shorts?

Yes, there’s a difference in range of motion between shorts and tights. Running shorts typically offer more freedom of movement due to their loose fit, making them ideal for sprints and high-mobility activities. Tights, while form-fitting, are designed to stretch and conform to the body, providing support without significantly restricting movement, making them suitable for varied running styles.

Can I wear running shorts over tights?

Absolutely, you can wear running shorts over tights. This combination is popular for added coverage and style, especially in cooler weather or for runners who prefer the support of tights but want the modesty and extra layer of shorts. It also allows for versatility in adjusting to changing temperatures and personal comfort preferences during a run.

How do I choose the right size for running tights or shorts?

To choose the right size for running tights or shorts, measure your waist and hips, then compare these measurements with the sizing chart of the brand you’re interested in. Aim for a snug but comfortable fit for tights, and a loose, non-restrictive fit for shorts. Try them on to check the fit, as sizes can vary between brands and styles.