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Compression shorts apply pressure in a way that may aid muscle recovery after exercise and some sports-related injuries, such as groin strains.

We refer to “women,” “men,” or both to align with how companies market their products, but there is no need to stick to one type or the other. A person should choose the product that best suits their needs.

A quick look at the best compression shorts of 2023

Features to consider when choosing compression shorts include:

  • Moisture-wicking materials: Moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics dry quickly and draw away excess sweat from the body. These include polyester, polypropylene, polyamide, Merino wool, and bamboo.
  • Breathable designs: Mesh paneling, for example, can provide ventilation.
  • Pockets: Some garments have hidden or zipped pockets.
  • Stretch: Some fabrics stretch in multiple directions allowing for greater freedom of movement.
  • Comfort: All sportswear should be comfortable and free from chafing.
  • Antimicrobial: Antimicrobial materials may help reduce odor.
  • Sun protection: Some fabrics contain an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which helps protect the body from direct sunlight.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Price: MNT chooses products available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Reputable: MNT chooses products from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.
  • Materials: MNT chooses products that use safe and durable materials and fabrics that are easy to clean.
  • Sizing: MNT chooses products available for various body shapes and sizes.
  • Quality: MNT chooses companies that adhere to high quality manufacturing processes.

Some companies sell “compression shorts,” and others sell “compression or tight-fit” shorts. The latter may not provide the same therapeutic and performance benefits as compression shorts.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

MNT follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best knee length shorts: CompressionZ Compression Shorts

  • Price: Around $40
  • Sizes: XS–4XL
  • Colors: Black only
  • Pros: Affordable, breathable fabric with antibacterial and odor-reducing properties, and helps blood and oxygen flow to decrease injury risk and swelling
  • Cons: Reviews claim sizing runs small, some people experienced chafing, and others found the shorts repeatedly slip down.

These compression shorts help the muscles warm up more quickly due to increased blood flow. Warm muscles work more efficiently and improve a person’s athletic performance.

Additionally, improved blood flow may help reduce the kind of leg swelling that some people experience when traveling.

According to the company’s website, these shorts enhance oxygen flow to remove lactic acid, leading to faster and easier recovery after exercise. They may also help reduce the risk of injury during runs and workouts.

Made with 85% nylon and 15% spandex, the shorts give those who wear them greater flexibility and range of motion. The company says the fabric is anti-itch, anti-bacterial, and breathable.

Individuals can wear these shorts under running shorts, pants, or even jeans as a base layer. Alternatively, the shorts are lengthy and best for those who prefer coverage down to the knee.

Best for core strength: 2XU Accelerate Core Compression Shorts

  • Price: Starting from around $46
  • Sizes: XXS–3XL
  • Colors: Black or Black and Silver
  • Pros: Core support, reduce muscle fatigue, reduce injury recovery time, enhanced exercise performance, prevent chafing, UPF 50+ sun protection
  • Cons: Reviews state the sizes run small and the seams can cause chafing

These compression shorts support the core muscles. They decrease muscle fatigue, soreness, and damage caused by overuse. According to the manufacturer, they can also help speed recovery from injury.

The company also says the shorts may enhance a person’s muscle alignment, agility, and exercise performance.

The machine-washable fabric is 72% nylon and 28% elastane. It is reportedly durable, breathable, moisture-wicking, and antibacterial. It also provides UPF50+ sun protection.

These shorts feature:

  • elastic closure
  • drawstring elastic waistband
  • graduated compression technology for performance and speed
  • power-weight-flex (PWX) signature fabric
  • moisture-wicking and odor-prevention technology
  • flatlock seams to prevent chafing

Best 2-in-1: BALEAF Flyleaf 2-in-1 Compression Shorts

  • Price: Around $21
  • Sizes: XS–3XL
  • Colors: Green, black, Merlot, Eclipse, Polignac
  • Pros: Lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking, UPF 50+ sun protection, pockets, chafing prevention
  • Cons: Reviews claim sizing runs small

These 2-in-1 compression shorts consist of two layers. The outer layer is a pair of loose-fitting running shorts, and the inner layer is a pair of compression shorts. The two layers attach.

According to the company’s website, these shorts feature:

  • a high-rise style
  • wide waistband with drawstring
  • two side pockets and one waistband pocket
  • flatlock seams that prevent chafing
  • side splits on the outer shorts for better range-of-motion

The outer layer, machine washable fabric is 80% nylon and 20% spandex. The inner compression layer comprises 78% polyester and 22% spandex.

Best logo-free design: Aero Tech Women’s USA Classic Unpadded Bike Shorts

  • Price: Around $40
  • Sizes: XS–XXL
  • Colors: Black, navy, royal blue, purple
  • Pros: No advertising logos, chafing prevention, lactic acid buildup prevention, UPF 50+ sun protection, moisture-wicking
  • Cons: Smaller size range than others, uncomfortable seam

According to Aero Tech, these logo-free shorts improve blood and oxygen circulation to the muscles and support muscle recovery. They also minimize muscle soreness. Additionally, they prevent lactic acid buildup.

These shorts feature:

  • a durable fabric
  • a four-way stretch
  • anti-chafing properties
  • an elastic waistband

The machine-washable fabric is 84% nylon and 16% spandex with a four-way stretch. The inner compression layer comprises 78% polyester and 22% spandex.

Best secure-fold pocket: Pacterra Middy Compression Short

  • Price: $36
  • Sizes: S–XXL
  • Colors: Grey, black, white, pink, blue, yellow, 90’s print
  • Pros: Fold-over hip pocket, anti-chafing design
  • Cons: Fewer sizes than others

These compression shorts come with a fold-over hip pocket that secures a person’s valuables.

According to the company’s website, these shorts feature:

  • soft SwingLoft fabric
  • smooth support
  • anti-chafe design
  • a high back rise
  • a Jacquard waistband
  • a hip pocket

The short’s SwingLoft fabric is 86% polyester and 14% spandex and supports free movement.

Best for higher budgets: Beyond Yoga Spacedye Biker Short

  • Price: $68
  • Sizes: XXS–4XL
  • Colors: Darkest night, black charcoal, nocturnal navy, black white, and chai
  • Pros: Good size range, UV protection, no outside seams
  • Cons: Higher cost

According to the company’s website, these shorts come in ultra-soft, four-way stretch fabric. They also provide UV protection.

They have moisture-wicking properties, a high-rise, 5 inch (in) waistband, and a 7 in inseam.

The shorts are machine-washable and have a four-way stretch fabric of 87% polyester and 13% lycra.

Best for sustainability: Nike Women’s Pro Shorts

  • Price: $30
  • Sizes: XXS–2XL
  • Colors: Black/Volt/White, Black/White, Medium Olive/Black/White, Cinnabar/Black/White, Canyon Rust/White, Smoke Grey/Heather/White, Game Royal/Black/White, Obsidian/White, Atomic Green/White, Black/Iron Grey, Iron Grey/Black/White, Mystic Hibisbus/White, Pinksicle/White, Madder Root/White, White/Black/White, and Worn Blue/White.
  • Pros: Sustainable, moisture-wicking, supportive
  • Cons: Reviews claim poor construction and inaccurate sizing

Nike’s website notes that it makes these shorts with sustainable, recycled materials. They come in 11 colors, both with and without contrasting colored waistbands.

The company describes the shorts as supportive and moisture-wicking, with a 3 in inseam, and a wide, mid-rise elastic waistband.

The shorts comprise a polyester and Spandex blend, with 50% recycled fibers from plastic bottles. Nike turns flaked plastic bottles into yarn to achieve this. This manufacturing process has a lower overall impact on the environment, with Nike claiming it reduces waste and up to 30% carbon emissions compared to virgin polyester.

Best value: Champion Powerflex Compression Shorts

  • Price: $25
  • Sizes: S–2XL
  • Colors: Black and Slate Grey Heather Black
  • Pros: Patented quick-drying fabric, moisture-wicking technology, ventilation zones, muscle support
  • Cons: Reviews claim unsupportive and poorly made waistband

The company states these shorts provide muscle support and work well for training, running, and CrossFit. They help the body stay cool with ventilation zones in the front and back.

The short’s four-way stretch fabric is made from 84% polyester and 16% spandex and they have a 6-in inseam.

Best size range: Adidas Techfit Volleyball Shorts

  • Price: $30
  • Sizes: 2XS–5XL
  • Colors: Navy/White, Power Red/ White, White/Black, Black/White, Royal Blue/White, Dark Green/White, Maroon/White, College Purple/White, College Burgandy/White, Dark Grey/White
  • Pros: Large size range, proprietary Techfit design, wraparound seams
  • Cons: Reviews claim poor stitching and inappropriate length

The company claims these shorts provide support and flexibility for volleyball players. Smaller sizes have a 3-inch inseam and larger sizes have a 5-inch inseam.

They have a recycled polyester and elastane blend that comprises 85% polyester and 15% spandex. The waistband is pre-curved for comfort and fit.

Best for lower back support: Tommie Copper Women’s Pro-Grade Lower Back Support Shorts

  • Price: Around $70
  • Sizes: S–XXL
  • Pros: Patented fabric that prevents odor and enhances performance, moisture-wicking, lower back support
  • Cons: More costly than other options and some reviews claim mainly back support and little compression elsewhere

These shorts have innovative power mesh panels that offer lower back support. The compression features help soothe sore muscles and joints.

The shorts have patented Copper Znergy technology to prevent odor and enhance the fabric’s performance. Other features include:

  • a pull-on closure
  • high-waste design
  • comfortable compression technology
  • breathable fabric
  • four-way stretch fabric
  • patented odor-prevention technology

The fabric comprises 86% polyester and 14% lycra spandex.

Best for improving circulation: Copper Compression Recovery Shorts

  • Price: Around $33
  • Sizes: Large only
  • Colors: Black
  • Pros: Circulation boosting properties, healing copper, muscle support
  • Cons: Only one size available and hand-wash only

In addition to supporting the muscles, these shorts boost circulation to better protect the user from injury. They also allow for a full movement range. Other features include:

  • copper nylon fabric
  • healing copper compression
  • hygienic benefits
  • happiness guarantee of full refund

The fabric comprises 88% copper nylon and 12% spandex. It is hand-wash only.

Best for deep pockets: Yogipace Women’s Active Workout Shorts

  • Price: Around $20
  • Sizes: XXS–XXL
  • Colors: Black
  • Pros: UPF 50+ sun protection, increased blood and oxygen circulation, deep pockets, drawcord in waistband for added security, moisture-wicking,
  • Cons: Reviews claim the shorts run small and some claim they have poor quality

These compression shorts come with two deep pockets on the sides and one hidden in the wide waistband. People can easily fit their phones and other similar-sized items in their side pockets.

The manufacturer claims these shorts increase the circulation of oxygen and blood flow in the lower body to reduce the risk of injury.

There are both 7- and 10-in inseam options available. The 10-inch option works well for taller individuals or for those who prefer more coverage. Other features include:

  • drawcord in waistband
  • UPF 50+
  • moisture-wicking fabric

The stretch fabric comprises polyester and spandex.

Best for ultra-tight compression: Under Armour HeatGear Compression Shorts

  • Price: Starting from around $19
  • Sizes: XS–4XL Tall
  • Pros: Large size range with added sizes for taller people, ultra-tight compression, ergonomic seams, ventilating fabric
  • Cons: Some reviews claim inseam measurement is incorrect and fabric is not durable

The close fit creates ultra-tight compression and the strategically placed mesh panels help to wick away sweat. Carefully stitched seams help prevent chafing.

Features include:

  • tight “second skin” fit
  • ergonomically designed seams
  • use of ventilating fabric
  • fast-drying, moisture-wicking fabric
  • elastic pull-on closure
  • wide waist band
  • updated supportive gusset design
  • pocket for storage
  • 6-in inseam

The shorts are machine washable, and the lightweight HeatGear fabric comprises 84% polyester and 16% elastane. Reviews describe them as flattening, cooling, and flattering.

Compression shorts may have several benefits, but they can also pose risks to some people.

Benefits

A 2016 study found that compression clothing may slightly enhance running performance and help reduce inflammation, muscle pain, and damage. They may improve running economy and muscle temperature regulation, for example.

In addition, a 2019 study involving male football players found that compression shorts helped reduce groin pain, compared with regular sports clothes. The compression shorts appeared to have no negative effects on performance.

Another study found that some compression garments may help prevent knee injuries, though further research is necessary.

And according to a 2020 review, compression garments reduce muscle vibration, which may help reduce fatigue.

Risks

Having a correct fit is key. According to a 2018 review, compression garments that apply too much pressure can cause discomfort, numbness, and breathing difficulties.

Compression shorts may not be safe for people with certain conditions, such as older adults with malnutrition. They may also be unsafe to wear if there is broken or damaged skin in the area.

Anyone with an existing health issue, particularly a skin or circulatory condition, who is unsure about the risks of compression clothing should speak with a healthcare professional before making a purchase.

The table below compares the compression shorts in this article.

BestProsConsPrice
CompressionZfor knee-lengthaffordable, breathable fabric with antibacterial and odor-reducing properties, and helps blood and oxygen flow to decrease injury risk and swellingreviews claim sizing runs small, some people experienced chafing, and others found the shorts repeatedly slip downaround $40
2XU Accelerate Corefor core strengthCore support, reduce muscle fatigue, reduce injury recovery time, enhanced exercise performance, prevent chafing, UPF 50+ sun protectionreviews state the sizes run small and the seams can cause chafingaround $46
BALEAF Fly-leaf 2-in-1for lower budgetslightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking, UPF 50+ sun protection, pockets, chafing preventionreviews claim sizing runs smallaround $21
Aero Tech Women’s Bikerlogo-free designno advertising logos, chafing prevention, lactic acid buildup prevention, UPF 50+ sun protection, moisture-wickingsmaller size range than others, uncomfortable seamaround $40
Pacterra Middysecure-fold pocketfold-over hip pocket, anti-chafing designfewer sizes than others$36
Beyond Yoga Spacedye Bikerfor higher budgetsgood size range, UV protection, no outside seamshigher cost$68
Nike Women’s Profor sustainabilitysustainable, moisture-wicking, supportivereviews claim poor construction and inaccurate sizing$30
Champion Powerflexvaluepatented quick-drying fabric, moisture-wicking technology, ventilation zones, muscle supportreviews claim unsupportive and poorly made waistband$25
Adidas Techfit Volleyballrange of sizeslarge size range, proprietary Techfit design, wraparound seamsreviews claim poor stitching and inappropriate length$30
Tommie Copper Women’s Pro-Grade Lower Back Supportfor lower back supportpatented fabric that prevents odor and enhances performance, moisture-wicking, lower back supportmore costly than other options, some reviews claim mainly back support and little compression elsewherestarting from around $70
Copper Compression Recoveryfor circulationcirculation-boosting properties, healing copper, muscle supportonly one size available, hand-wash onlyaround $33
Yogipace Women’s Active Workoutfor deep pocketsUPF 50+ sun protection, increased blood and oxygen circulation, deep pockets, drawcord in waistband, moisture-wickingreviews claim the shorts run small and some claim they have poor qualityaround $20
Under Armour HeatGearfor ultra-tight compressionlarge size range with added sizes for taller people, ultra-tight compression, ergonomic seams, ventilating fabricsome reviews claim inseam measurement is incorrect and fabric is not durablestarting from around $19

People might try compression leggings, also known as compression tights. These work like compression shorts but provide full leg coverage.

They may help improve recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage, particularly when a person wears them immediately after intense, resistance-based exercise.

Below, we answer some of the most common questions about compression shorts.

Can it be harmful to wear compression shorts?

When used correctly, wearing compression shorts is not harmful. However, a 2020 study found mild reactions to compression therapy include pain, discomfort, and skin irritation. Users should also look for compression shorts with breathable fabrics that do not lock in too much moisture. Individuals should wash their compression shorts frequently to rid them of unwanted bacteria.

Do you wear anything under compression shorts?

Whether a person wears underwear with compression shorts depends on their comfort level and will be down to personal preference.

Are biker shorts the same as compression shorts?

No. Biker shorts and compression shorts are similar products. Compression shorts do not typically work well for bikers because they lack padding. Most biker shorts have some padding for increased comfort on lengthy bike rides.

Compression shorts may help improve muscle recovery after exercise and reduce pain and inflammation following injuries in the area.

But anyone with damaged skin, a circulatory condition, or questions about the suitability of these shorts should speak with a healthcare professional before making a purchase.