Lined vs Unlined Shorts – Pros and Cons of Each


Most runners love their running clothes!

It’s a great feeling when you find the perfect running shirt, the most comfortable shorts, or the pair of shoes that cushions and supports your feet in just the right way.

But one of the biggest apparel questions runners often have is lined vs unlined shorts.

Most people prefer one over the other, but how do you know which one is the right choice for you?

Here are the pros and cons of each so you can decide which would suit you better.

What Are Liners in Shorts?

Liners in shorts are an extra layer of fabric that’s sewn into the shorts to form a skin-tight lining.

They’re made of sweat-wicking material and are designed to serve the purpose of built-in underwear.

You don’t need to wear your normal underwear when you have a pair of shorts with a liner since the extra layer of fabric can cause chafing. The liner provides support and compression, so both men and women can use lined shorts without underwear.

Liners come in two different styles: brief and boxer. Brief-style liners are short and don’t extend down the thigh (think brief-style underwear). Boxer-style liners extend down the thigh, providing more extensive coverage (think boxer brief underwear).

Pros of Shorts Liners

Choosing shorts with liners may not be everyone’s first choice. But liners do have some advantages that unlined shorts don’t offer.

Liners can help to reduce the risk of chafing, as they rest close to the skin and don’t move very much. This also means that there’s no need for you to wear underwear, so you save a layer.

The liner in your shorts can help to wick away sweat, keeping you cooler and drier. It also supports the muscles—boxer-style liners support the quads and glutes, and brief-style only supports the glutes.

The light compression provides support, but also helps to retain heat in the muscles, especially during longer runs and cold weather.

Sometimes the liner will also have a small extra hidden pocket hold gels or small items like cash or a key.

Cons of Shorts Liners

That being said, not everyone will like shorts with liners in them. For some, they may find the liner to make the shorts uncomfortably tight and they feel that their range of movement is restricted.

Runners who overheat easily may find that wearing shorts with a liner can become too hot, especially in summer weather. They may also start to feel heavy when you’ve been running for a long period of time.

Lined shorts are also more difficult to get in and out of.

Pros of Unlined Shorts

Wearing shorts without a liner may be more comfortable for some. As they don’t have an extra layer of material inside of them, runners can wear their own comfortable underwear without much chance of chafing.

You can also wear unlined two or three times before they need to be washed, as long as you don’t sweat too much. Although, this is a personal preference.

In winter weather, runners can wear a pair of unlined shorts over tights, which can’t be done with lined shorts.

They are also usually more breathable than lined shorts and can help you stay cooler, so runners who are prone to overheating may benefit from unlined shorts.

Cons of Unlined Shorts

Unlined shorts aren’t as warm as lined shorts, so you may get cold faster in cold weather.

The absence of a liner also means that the muscles are less supported as there’s a lack of compression that you’ll find with lined shorts.

Are Running Shorts Gender-Specific?

Running shorts are usually gender-specific and tailored for each type of body. They also come in different sizes and colors, most of which are catered towards the specific gender they’re made for.

Men’s Shorts

Men’s shorts usually have a longer inseam and have a supportive, compressive fit, especially in the groin.

Women’s Shorts

Women’s shorts are usually focused on fitting more snugly in the hips, thighs, and waist for better comfort. They also usually have a shorter inseam than men’s shorts.

Unisex Shorts

Unisex shorts are not as common as gender-specific shorts, and you may not be able to find a pair at your favorite running store. However, you will be able to find them online.

These kinds of shorts—suitable for both men and women—don’t offer the same support and comfort as gender-specific shorts do.

In order to be suitable for both genders, these shorts remove all the gender-specific features and instead are a more plain and less supportive piece of apparel.

If you want shorts with a liner, you should avoid unisex shorts and instead look at gender-specific shorts.

Types of Material Used in Shorts

Synthetic Fibers

Many pairs of shorts—lined and unlined—are made of synthetic fiber, either nylon, polyester, or a blend of polyester and spandex.

Polyester is stretchy and offers moisture-wicking properties, which help to keep the wearer cool and dry, as well as preventing chafing.

Synthetic fibers – used in Nike’s Dri-Fit – are often highly durable and can be used for a long time before needing to buy a new pair of shorts.

Natural Fibers

Sometimes you’ll find shorts made of natural fibers like cotton. These types of materials are comfortable and offer a good range of motion, but they aren’t moisture-absorbent, which can increase the chance of chafing.

They also aren’t often as durable as synthetic fibers, which means that most shorts these days are made of synthetic materials. In general, avoid cotton shorts for running.

Types of Running Shorts

Compression Shorts

Compression shorts are skin-tight shorts. They’re made of material such as spandex, that’s stretchy and tight. This kind of tight design can help to support the muscles as you run without compromising flexibility.

The closeness to the skin also means there’s less chance of chafing. Usually, compression shorts won’t have a liner because they’re already very close to the skin and offer the same benefits as a liner does.

V-Notch Shorts

You can spot V-notch shorts quickly, as they have an upside-down V-shaped slit in the side of the leg. They’re very popular as they provide excellent breathability and give the runner a good range of motion.

They have a looser fit than compression shorts, and they can sometimes have a liner in them, either a brief-style liner or boxer-style lining. This style can be prone of riding up while you run.

Split Running Shorts

Split running shoes look a lot like V-notch shorts. The biggest difference is that the slit in the side of the shorts is not sewn together, but instead the sides of the split overlap.

This allows for even more flexibility and breathability. The split can range from a small size—½-inch—all the way up to the waistband of the shorts.

This type of shorts may or may not have a liner in them. Their flexible style allows for a liner to be present. However, if you want a pair of split running shorts, don’t assume that they have a liner.

Additional Features of Running Shorts


Most men’s running shorts feature sizable pockets, although the women’s shorts don’t often have the same space.

Shorts that have a liner inside them may also have a small, hidden pocket that’s ideal for small valuables like cash or a house key.


If you run at night or in the early morning, you’ll need to get shorts that have good visibility in low-light conditions. This will help cars and people see you as you’re running and keep you much safer.

Choose a pair of shorts that are lighter in color and that have reflective detailing on them that will shine in the light of passing vehicles.

Adjustable Drawstrings

An adjustable drawstring can help runners to get a comfortable but tight fit on their waist. This will allow them to run comfortably, without worrying about the shorts moving, chafing, or falling down.

Elastic waistbands can work for some time, but after repeated use they will become stretched and won’t fit the right way anymore.

Choosing a pair of shorts that’s adjustable also allows you to keep wearing the same shorts regardless of changes in your size, as you lose weight while running.

Also, making sure your shorts fit properly will ensure that if you’re wearing a liner, it stays in the right place and provides the support you need.


Shorts length is a personal thing and there’s no right or wrong length. They can range from 3 inches to 9 inches in length—usually in standard sizes of 3 inches, 5 inches, 7 inches, and 9 inches.

The length of the shorts also often doesn’t influence whether or not they have a liner. Liners can be found in both short shorts and long shorts. Sometimes you’ll even see the compression liner sticking out underneath short shorts.

Photo of author


Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.