Triathletes are a special breed. Personally, I find running to be quite enough of a challenge. But doing three sports in one should be quite the accomplishment in anyone’s book.
Triathlons are difficult. Even a “sprint” triathlon lasts about as long as a half marathon. And given the length of these events, what you wear matters quite a bit. Time is of the essence, and if you have to waste it changing clothes in between you’re only slowing yourself down. Which is why a great pair of triathlon shorts is a must-have if you are going to get serious about multisport.
The best triathlon shorts need to be suitable to run in, bike in, and swim in. That’s quite something to ask, but we’ve found ten pairs that fit the bill.
Our number one spot goes to the De Soto Forza Tri Short 4-pocket. As its name suggests, it has a useful array of pouches for storage, a wide leg gripper for supreme comfort, and compression fabric designed to help relieve muscle aches.
Here’s the full list so you can choose one that suits you!
Top 3 Best and Favorites
De Soto Forza Tri Short 4-Pocket
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De Soto Femme Riviera Tri Short
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Pearl iZUMi SELECT Pursuit Tri Shorts
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Best Men’s Overall
1. De Soto Forza Tri Short 4-Pocket
Too often, triathlon shorts are so skin-tight they have no space for pockets. This pair, though, manages to fit four small but adequate pockets onto it – two on each outer thigh.
Obviously, they’re not big enough to carry a phone or keys around in. But they are great for energy gels or a small snack bar. When empty, they lie flat against the leg and don’t contribute at all to drag.
The integrated chamois is 4mm thick, and is sewn directly into the surrounding fabric. There are no flappy bits that could catch anywhere! Between that and the flatlock seams, there’s very little chance for chafing.
Their compression fit also serves the purpose of stimulating circulation and reducing muscle soreness, so you’ll recover quicker after your triathlons. A feature we like is the 3-inch band around each thigh. Not only does this provide the benefits of compression gear, but it also stops the shorts from riding up as you move.
The only thing that may put triathletes off is the low-rise design. The waistband lies just below the hips, which may be uncomfortable for some.
But apart from that, Forza shorts pack some great features and are perfectly comfortable for each leg of your event. We highly recommend this pair as our best triathlon shorts.
- Four pockets for convenient storage
- Compression fabric helps prevent & relieve muscle soreness
- Flatstitch seams for streamlining
- Integrated padding for extra comfort
- The price tag may put some runners off
- Some may be uncomfortable with the low-rise design
Best Men’s Runner-Up
2. Castelli Free Tri Short
The Castelli Free Tri Short is our runner-up. Not quite as comprehensive as the De Soto, they still offer a streamlined spandex fit (in fact, they run small – choose a size up if you don’t prefer high levels of compression).
Two hip pockets are a nice addition, and are long enough to fit some nutritional supplements or granola bars easily.
The multi-density chamois pad is designed to be soft in all the right places without being bulky and getting in your way while running or swimming.
The sizes run from small to 3XL, but they run small. Choose a size up to avoid restriction and circulation problems – they’ll still be tight (as they should be) but shouldn’t be a problem.
- Spandex construction
- 2 hip pockets
- Multi-density chamois
- From small to 3XL
- They run small, so go a size up
Best Women’s Overall
3. De Soto Femme Riviera Tri Short
We’ve chosen these as our best triathlon shorts for women as they’re designed to be both comfortable and flattering. The feature to thank for this is the wide, 2-inch waistband and similar-sized thigh bands.
These serve the dual purpose of distributing pressure evenly over these areas so no chafing occurs, and keeping everything where it should be! What more could a woman want?
On top of those two factors, though, these shorts are loaded with useful features. Perhaps the most useful is a 6mm chamois pad that’s designed for a woman’s anatomy.
They’re quick-drying, so swimming in them isn’t a problem. Moisture-wicking properties mean you stay dry on your run, and as an added bonus, it’s antibacterial to keep smelling fresh.
The unique multi-panel design means the seams are placed strategically to prevent them falling on pressure points. The seams are made of microlock contrast stitching, which is extremely durable.
Other things that get a thumbs-up are the two leg pockets, an inner drawcord to get the right fit, and a couple of funky, eye-catching designs.
- 6mm Femminin Tri Pad
- Compression fabric for better circulation
- Wide waistband and leg bands
- Strategically placed seams for less chafing
- May feel too tight when first put on – some may assume this is abnormal, but it’s actually to be expected
Best Women’s Runner-Up
4. SLS3 FX Tri Shorts
If you weren’t taken with our best ladies’ choice, maybe the SLS3 FX shorts will do the trick. They’re a close runner-up, and offer enough quality to be a decent contender.
A 1.25-inch waistband is wide enough to be comfortable on the skin. The leg grippers are made the same way, just single-layered and designed for comfort.
Unlike most others, the chamois on this pair is fairly thin. That gives a definite advantage when running or swimming, but may be a problem on cycles. That being said, they retain a decent comfort level in the saddle, especially for shorter days.
Ladies who want something a little thinner and less bulky, this would work for you. You won’t be getting pockets, but these shorts will do their job nicely whether on land or in the water.
- Comfortable 1.25-inch elastic waistband
- Thin but effective chamois
- Good length for those who prefer longer
- Anti-friction seams
- Not safe for use in water containing chlorine
- No pockets
5. Pearl iZUMi SELECT Pursuit Tri Shorts
Pearl iZUMi’s Select Pursuit Tri shorts are not only well-priced, but they’re a minimalist design that is no-fuss. They’re of a good length, coming to the mid-thigh, and feature just a few flatlock seams for comfort.
The women’s design has a slightly wider waistband than the men’s, as well as leg grippers. Silicon is the material of choice for the grippers, which are effective and lightweight.
Their SELECT Transfer Dry material provides some of the benefits of compression wear, while wicking away moisture to keep you as dry as possible while on the road.
You’ll hardly feel the thinner-than-usual chamois when you run. But if you prefer more comfort on the bike, you might find it a bit too thin.
For triathletes on a budget, though, these shorts would be a good pair to get and are as streamlined as they come. They’re also UPF50+, for extra protection!
- Minimalist design
- UPF 50+
- Envelope pocket on the back
- Quick-drying fabric
- Padding may not be enough for longer rides
Top Made-in-US Tri Shorts
6. De Soto Carrera Tri Short
Knowing that your shorts are made right here in the USA give you the peace of mind that they’re of the highest quality. The De Soto Carrera Tri short is exactly that, and you’ll feel it in the soft texture when you wear them.
The women’s version features a wide comfortable waistband with a removable drawstring, so you can get it as tight as you desire. The men’s waistband is not as wide, but still comfortable and non-chafing, as well as being a low-rise design.
An added comfort function is that the fleece pad is sewn right into the fabric for a seamless inner environment. It dries quickly, but may be a little thin for extended rides.
These shorts get a nod of approval for blocking up to 75% of the sun’s UVB rays. They’re also available in a variety of interesting and colorful designs, so if you’re looking for something American-made and eye-catching, why not try a pair of these?
- Made right in the USA
- 2 side pockets (women’s only)
- Fleece tri-pad for cushioning
- Seamless inner design
- No pockets on men’s design
Best Men’s Long Tri Shorts
7. Zoot Core 9″ Shorts
There’s nothing too fancy about the Zoot shorts, but they look stylishly minimalistic and offer all the necessary protection.
Men who prefer longer shorts will appreciate the 9-inch length. The BioWrap Gripper-free hem is comfortable and doesn’t squeeze the leg like some others may.
A double-layered fleece pad is built into the shorts. It’s effective for short to medium-length rides on the bike, although some customers report that it’s thinner than others they’ve worn previously.
Mesh holster pockets provide a little space for gels, although they may be tricky to reach while you’re moving. Choose your true size if you plan to make full use of the compression benefits. If not, size up for a snug but less compressive fit.
- 9-inch length for better coverage
- Sun protection factor built-in
- Holster pockets
- BioWrap gripper-free hem
- Pad may be a little narrower than other shorts
- The holster pockets may be hard to reach
Best Women’s Long Tri Shorts
8. Zoot Core Tri 8″ Shorts
Ladies who don’t enjoy short shorts, this 8-inch long pair could be the one for you. Very similar to the men’s pair above, they’re minimalistic but still look sleek when worn.
The waistband has been widened for the ladies’ design, to provide a flat hem with little pressure or chafing. To avoid the “sausage effect”, Zoot uses an innovative BioWrap Gripper-free hem to keep the shorts from lifting without restricting blood flow.
They’re flattering and comfortable, with a double-padded chamois built into them.
- 8 inches in length
- Gripper-free hem for comfort
- Double holster pockets
- Gender-specific fleece chamois
- Length may be too long for some to wear comfortably
Top Men’s Tri Shorts with Pockets
9. De Soto Mobius Tri Short 4-Pocket
Pockets are extremely useful during a triathlon, and many pairs of shorts don’t come with them. This one more than makes up for that, though, with 4 pockets for small storage of gels, hydration sachets, or first aid gear.
Aside from the 2 pockets on each leg, the shorts are constructed in an 8-panel design for stretch and stitched together with micro lock stitching which is very durable and non-chafing.
The leg bands will go easy on your thighs, as their 3-inch width keeps them where they are without squeezing or hurting.
- 8-panel construction
- Minimalist integrated “Invisipad”
- Microlock stitching
- 3-inch leg bands for grip
- Some men may find the back waistband is too low-cut when riding
Top Women’s Tri Shorts with Pockets
10. Zoot LTD Tri 6″ Shorts
The Zoots are funky shorts. You won’t find a pair without a pattern, but you will gain two pockets, which is highly useful when out on the road to have a gel or snack handy.
The Italian-made fabric is moisture-managing and form-fitting, allowing you to run unimpeded by drag and unhindered by sweat.
An integrated 2D pad provides support and cushioning where you need utmost, without getting in your way as you move.
They’re also built for comfort, with a wide-flattering waistband, Seamlink stitches, and 3-inch gripper for effective but comfortable immovability.
- Two waist pockets
- Variety of interesting designs
- Wide waistband with drawstring
- Wide leg grippers for comfort
- Run a bit small (even though they’re meant to be snug)
Do you have some questions about the best triathlon shorts? Wondering why you should invest in a pair over regular running shorts? Here are some answers!
How Tight Should Triathlon Shorts Be?
Triathlon shorts are made to be skin-tight. Be discerning when it comes to choosing what’s right for you! They should sit snugly but not uncomfortably, and there should definitely be no circulation problems.
Triathlon shorts should not be loose. You want something you can run, bike, and swim in. If your shorts are loose, you’re going to create drag, especially when swimming and cycling.
What is the Difference Between a Tri Suit and Tri Shorts?
Tri shorts are just the bottom piece of apparel. They’ll cover your bum and thighs, and end at the waist. A tri suit is the full package – from shoulders to thigh, in one piece of material.
Neither is necessarily better than the other. It really comes down to personal preference. Professional athletes may say that a one-piece increases streamlining a little, but the difference is so small that you’ll most likely not notice.
What Material are Triathlon Shorts Made Of and What is Important?
Different manufacturers have their own ways of making their shorts, but most are created from the same or similar materials and have quite similar features.
Often, the outer shell is constructed from a blend. Nylon or polyester are great and often seen base fabrics, and the stretchiness comes from Lycra or elastane. The best triathlon shorts will feature flatlock seams, which means no chafing against your skin when you’re on the move.
When you’re doing three sports in one, it’s essential to be prepared for all three. You’ll need soft padding in the crotch area, not only to reduce the chafe while running but also to add some cushioning while cycling.
You’ll want this protective layer to be between 3 and 8 millimeters thick for the best effect. Anything less, and you may start to feel the bike seat through it halfway through your race. Anything more, and you may feel like you’re being weighed down and can’t run naturally.
Other things you should look at are leg grippers (is there some sort of grip at the bottom of the legs to prevent them riding up?), the length (this is also a personal preference thing), and whether or not there’s a waist drawstring or pockets.