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The Best Fabrics for Wicking Moisture in Running Shorts The Best Fabrics for Wicking Moisture in Running Shorts

Design: Best Running Shorts

The Best Fabrics for Wicking Moisture in Running Shorts

Discover the best fabrics for wicking moisture in running shorts to enhance your comfort and performance. Find out how different fabric weights and textures can impact moisture management and choose the ideal fabric for your running shorts.

When it comes to performance in running, clothing plays a significant role. It’s not just about the fit and style, the fabric’s capability to wick moisture can make a significant difference in your running experience. Understanding the materials used in running shorts will help you make the best choice for your running needs.

Understanding Moisture-Wicking Technology

Before delving into the specifics, let’s get a handle on what moisture-wicking means. Simply put, moisture-wicking fabrics draw sweat away from the skin to the fabric’s exterior, where it can evaporate more easily. This keeps you dry and comfortable during your run, reducing skin irritation and enhancing performance.

Key Properties of Ideal Running Shorts Material

The ideal material for running shorts should possess a few critical attributes:

  • Moisture-wicking: As already mentioned, the material should be capable of efficiently drawing sweat away from the body.
  • Quick-drying: After wicking away the sweat, the material should be able to dry quickly to prevent the build-up of moisture and keep you comfortable.
  • Breathable: The fabric should allow for adequate airflow to help regulate body temperature.
  • Lightweight: A good running short material should be light to not weigh you down as you clock in the miles.
  • Durable: Given the rigorous nature of running, the material needs to withstand regular use and washing.

Top Moisture-Wicking Fabrics for Running Shorts

With the above features in mind, let’s explore some of the best moisture-wicking materials commonly used in running shorts.


Polyester is a synthetic fabric renowned for its exceptional moisture-wicking properties, making it a popular choice for running apparel. It is:

  • Highly durable and resistant to shrinking and wrinkling.
  • Lightweight and quick-drying.
  • Resistant to mildew and most chemicals.
  • Cost-effective and widely available.

However, pure polyester is not the most breathable fabric, so it’s often blended with other materials to enhance breathability.


Another synthetic material, nylon is also a common choice for running shorts because it is:

  • Extremely strong and stretchy, accommodating movement well.
  • Quick-drying and able to wick moisture efficiently.
  • Resistant to mildew, most chemicals, and UV radiation.

Like polyester, nylon is often mixed with other fabrics to improve its breathability and feel.

Spandex (Elastane)

Spandex, or elastane as it’s also known, is a synthetic fabric that is celebrated for its exceptional elasticity. It is:

  • Able to stretch over 500% without breaking and then return to its original shape.
  • Smooth and soft, providing a comfortable fit.
  • Resistant to body oils, perspiration, lotions, and detergents.

While spandex itself doesn’t have strong moisture-wicking properties, it’s often blended with other materials to create a moisture-wicking, stretchy fabric ideal for running shorts.

Merino Wool

Though it might seem counterintuitive to include wool in a discussion about running shorts, merino wool is a unique natural fiber that has gained popularity in the performance clothing sector. It is:

  • Exceptionally breathable and able to wick moisture.
  • Naturally temperature-regulating, keeping you warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather.
  • Odor-resistant, as it has natural antimicrobial properties.

The main downside of merino wool is its price, as it tends to be more expensive than synthetic options.


The type of fabric you choose for your running shorts will directly impact your comfort and performance during your runs. While polyester, nylon, spandex, and merino wool all have their unique benefits, they are often best utilized in blends that maximize their advantages while minimizing their drawbacks.

The key is to find the material that feels best against your skin and fulfills your specific running needs, whether that’s a focus on moisture management, temperature regulation, durability, or stretch.


Are cotton shorts bad for running?

Cotton absorbs moisture, making it heavy and uncomfortable when you sweat. Unlike the fabrics mentioned above, it doesn’t wick away moisture, making it a less-than-ideal choice for running.

How do I wash my moisture-wicking running shorts?

You can machine wash most moisture-wicking shorts and tumble-dry them on low. However, avoid using fabric softeners as they can clog the fabric’s pores and reduce its wicking ability.

Can I use polyester running shorts for long-distance running?

Yes, you can use polyester shorts for long-distance running. However, some runners prefer natural fibers or blends for better comfort and odor control during extended runs.

Do I need different running shorts for hot and cold weather?

Yes, the weather can affect your choice of running shorts. For hot weather, you’ll want shorts that are light and highly breathable. On the other hand, for colder weather, consider shorts with a longer cut or built-in briefs for extra coverage.

What’s the difference between men’s and women’s running shorts?

While the materials used are generally the same, the cut and design of the shorts may vary. Women’s running shorts often have a wider hip area and a shorter inseam, while men’s running shorts typically offer a straighter cut with a longer inseam. Always go for what’s comfortable and suitable for your body type.