Leggings vs Running Shorts: Pros and Cons when Running

Running requires a minimal amount of gear besides clothing and shoes. While you may pack a running belt, backpack, or water bottle, there aren’t many ways you can change your loadout to improve your running performance. However, choosing between shorts and tights can.

While many focus on the right pair of shoes, your choice of garments is just as, if not more important, than your runners. Here are the pros and cons of running shorts and leggings.

The Pros and Cons of Running With Leggings or Tights

Leggings nowadays come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. In fact, some of the best leggings for women range from XXS-XXXL and display every hue under the rainbow. While variety is important, that isn’t the only reason why you’d want to wear leggings instead of shorts.

Pro #1: Leggings are Warm

Leggings are the optimal garment to wear in the winter because they keep you warm and sick sweat away from your skin. They also provide protection from the sun, rain, and snow.

Pro #2: Leggings Provide Circulation

Since leggings are close to your body, this extra support increases the circulation in your legs. They help remove the metabolic waste from your muscles and decrease energy expenditure.

Pro #3: Leggings Provide Wind Resistance

Form-fitting leggings won’t catch the wind, slow you down or affect your overall stride.

Pro #4: Leggings Reduce Chafing 

If you have large thighs, leggings will reduce chafing and soreness when exercising.

Cons: Leggings are Form Fitting, Expensive, and Sometimes See-through

Some tights are restrictive, see-through, and are more expensive than shorts. While high-quality tights will solve most of these issues, men are often stereotyped negatively for wearing form-fitting clothing. While it’s unfair and should be changed, it’s something to be aware of.

The Pros and Cons of Running With Shorts

Shorts range from tight-fitting to loose, but it’s more common for both men and women to use compression shorts. Since they’re form-fitting, they offer wind resistance and a slight boost to speed. You can find shorts, knee-length shorts, and capris in any color or size at most retailers.

Pro #1: Shorts Keep You Cool

With less fabric on your body, you’ll stay cool while you’re running.

Pro #2: Shorts are Lightweight

Leggings may make you feel weighed down, especially when you start to sweat. However, loose-fitting or compression shorts won’t make you feel heavy, or like you’re being held back. 

Pro #3: Shorts Make You Aerodynamic 

As long as you’re wearing tight-fitting shorts, they make you feel like you’re running faster.

Cons: Shorts Chafe, Aren’t Usable in Winter and Catch Wind

Large-thighed men and women will start to chafe if they decide to run in shorts. Both loose-fitting and compression shorts won’t be wearable in the winter unless they’re combined with tights. Finally, loose shorts will catch the wind, making you feel colder or uncomfortable.

Compression Tights/Shorts Provide Even More Positives

In the end, tights are the better investment, but both compression shorts and tights offer even more benefits for your run. Here’s what you gain from using compression tights/shorts:

  • A more effortless workout
  • Reduced muscle fatigue
  • Strain prevention 
  • Lower risk of muscle soreness
  • Increased power
  • Better jumping ability
  • Better muscle oxygenation
  • Better groin support
  • Improved comfort
  • Improved strength recovery
  • Improved recovery after strenuous workouts

When picking out your pair of compression tights or shorts, it’s a good idea to try them on first. If your gear is too tight, you won’t cash in on the benefits compression garments can bring.

Preference is the main determining factor between the two choices. You may feel uncomfortable wearing leggings because they’re too form-fitting, or you may not like the amount of skin your shorts show off. If that’s the case, wear loose-fitting sweatpants that grip at the ankle.