The right equipment in any sport can give you an edge and improve your comfort and ability. Running is no different. There are two main varieties of men's running shorts. Conventional running shorts or track shorts usually are made from a loose-fitting fabric that doesn't inhibit movement. Compression shorts, on the other hand, use spandex fibers to fit tightly across your skin, compressing your muscles to increase blood flow.
Loose and Limber
The best conventional running shorts for men should be lightweight, quick-drying, and loose-fitting. These shorts often are made from polyester or nylon, with a spandex waistband to prevent them from slipping during a run. The best running shorts also feature a moisture-wicking liner, which adds additional support for a comfortable, secure fit. The Mountain Hardwear Refueler short has all of these features, while weighing only 3.5 ounces so you can run without feeling inhibited. For a shorter, track-style short, the Nike 2" Distance Short is one of the best.
A Tighter Fit
Compression is a relatively new feature of running shorts that many competitive runners use to slightly increase the performance of their leg muscles. A comprehensive study conducted by the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany found a 2.1 to 6.2 percent increase in the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds of runners who used compression shorts. This increase in muscle efficiency also was coupled with an anecdotal report of less soreness by runners using the shorts, which may indicate a benefit in muscle recovery.
Compress For Success
Compression shorts are more expensive than traditional running shorts because there's a lot more incorporated in their design. An example of the best compression shorts are the Salomon EXO S-Lab short tights, which are designed to support key muscle groups with an anatomical fit. If you're looking for something a bit more flattering, Salomon also produces the Exo S-Lab Twinskin Short, which features the same design with an incorporated outer short that makes them look more like your regular running shorts.
Give the Man a Choice
When you're looking for new running shorts, you may want to try both types on shorter and longer runs and see which one you prefer. Ultimately, your comfort should be the priority, since you'll be able to stop worrying about your clothing and focus on your run. If you're uncomfortable running in compression shorts, you may not perform at your best, negating the benefit of increased muscle efficiency. The best running shorts meld seamlessly with your running form without restricting you or breaking your concentration. You can create an ideal short for yourself by combining a pair of supportive running underwear with an outer short, giving you the benefits you want without features you don't need.