How to Pick the Best Spandex Shorts for Working Out

How to Pick the Best Spandex Shorts for Working Out

April 26, 2022

2020 was the year spandex bike shorts made a fashion comeback, and they seem to be sticking around. Now, we see them everywhere — from grocery stores, cafes, and malls to trails, parks, and the gym.

If you’re adopting spandex shorts in your workout wardrobe, it’s crucial to be informed and selective about which pair to choose. 

Whether you need spandex women’s sport shorts that bend with you but stay put during a yoga class or weightlifting session, or provide support during a run, you should be aware of the qualities of different spandex shorts options. 

What to Look for When Shopping for Workout Spandex Shorts

You might be surprised by the wide variety of spandex shorts for working out. There’s a lot to think about, from spandex blend fabric types and their respective functions, to style, construction, and how you’re using your shorts.


Spandex shorts normally consist of a combination of spandex and other breathable fabrics. 

For example, spandex-polyester blends combine the stretch, dryness, and lightness of spandex with polyester’s moisture-wicking, quick-drying properties. Cotton-spandex blend shorts may be softer and more moisture-absorbent.

It’s generally best to gravitate towards the most lightweight, moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics for the main fabric of the shorts. You may opt for softness and/or added stretch in the waistband.


Durable fabric will hold up to regular stretching, movement, washes, and outdoor conditions with minimal wear, tears, punctures, scratches, or loss of shape. Durability also comes down to quality stitching that doesn’t pull apart under pressure or consistent wear.


A higher percentage of spandex translates to a greater level of stretch. Also, certain kinds of seams will accommodate more stretch than others. 


Do you prefer to wear a layer underneath spandex shorts? Will you use the spandex shorts as a base layer or standalone short? If you wear something over the shorts, you might lean toward a pair that lays as flat and flush as possible without noticeable pockets, panels, or extra stitching.


For skin-tight shorts, sizing and fit are key. Beyond standard sizing, petite or plus size options are sometimes available, and some sizes are intended for different heights.


While a range of colors is fun for daily wear, beware of light colors such as nude, light gray, or white.

While quality spandex shorts usually wick away moisture efficiently and have enough thickness to provide full coverage, light colors of low-quality shorts may be revealing or sheer, or show sweat marks in an exercise context.

Black, other dark colors, and heather patterns might be the most worry-free when it comes to spandex for exercising.

Type of Workout

Bikers may aim for a cycling short while runners often favor compression shorts. Yoga and weightlifting necessitate more stretch, while backpackers and trail runners need an ultra-strong moisture-resistant short. 

Workout intensity, sweat, and environmental conditions like precipitation and temperature also factor into the materials and their insulation and moisture control.

Extra Features

Other considerations include details like convenient pockets, or chafe-free flatlock stitching, and impact-resistant panels as featured in the Slide Force women’s spandex short.

Style, Construction, and Purpose

You can find low, medium, and high-waisted athletic shorts, wide vs. narrow elastic waistbands, and various inseam lengths in spandex. Some have gussets, front and/or back center seams, and contoured construction for body-shaping, while others have minimal construction for a freer fit. 

There’s a difference between general-purpose spandex shorts for fashion or exercise, and specialized spandex for cycling, compression/running, and more.

What Is the Difference Between Spandex and Compression Shorts?

Not all spandex athletic shorts are created equal. As mentioned above, there’s a ton of variety. One of the most popular types of form-fitting shorts is compression shorts. 

As opposed to standard spandex shorts you can use for almost anything, compression shorts for women can contain either spandex or nylon, and their most popular application is running.

That means you might experience performance perks like longer and faster runs, reduced fatigue, and better recovery if you wear compression shorts.

Compression Shorts Potential Health and Performance Benefits

Compression shorts for women go far beyond the movement-friendly stretch and flattering shaping of typical spandex. Real compression shorts are tighter, applying even pressure to the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. 

The main purpose of this pressure distribution is to increase blood flow and blood oxygen for performance, health, and recovery improvements.

The science reveals mild positive effects of compression clothes on stamina, blood lactate clearance, perceived exertion, muscle power, damage, and inflammation. 

Additionally, compression shorts can moderately impact body core temperature and significantly affect post-exercise leg soreness and muscle fatigue. 

How Tight Should Spandex Shorts Be?

While you should expect a tighter fit in compression shorts, spandex shorts should generally feel snug all over, especially at the elastic waistband and hem so they stay in place. Otherwise, the fit/tightness should feel pretty even. 

When trying on a pair of spandex workout shorts, you should be able to bend your waist, hips, and legs to their full range of motion without feeling restricted, squeezed, pinched, or uncomfortable.

Everything should stay in place when you stretch and move, without bunching, binding, pulling, folding over, or riding up.

How to Buy Women’s Spandex Shorts That Don’t Ride Up

There’s nothing more frustrating than buying what you think are comfortable workout clothes for women, only to find that they migrate and cause a fuss upon testing out your new gym threads.

Fortunately, there are ways to ensure the spandex shorts you get will hug and conform to you just right without moving around.

Check if the elastic bands are a good fit

The elastic waistband and hem should be thick enough to provide stable surface area against your thighs and waist/hips, but narrow enough to be unimposing.

The elastic bands at the hem and elastic waistband should also be just tight enough to stay put without squishing you.

Measure yourself correctly when choosing high-waisted spandex shorts

The only way to know for sure whether your spandex shorts will fit before trying them on is to get your body measurements. Save yourself a lot of time and frustration — follow these pointers for success.

How to Measure Yourself for Spandex Shorts When Buying Online

The fit will only be as good as your measuring technique. Do yourself a favor and follow these tips for your best chance at getting it right on the first attempt:

Measuring tape 

We don’t mean the kind you use to measure furniture or door frames. Use soft, small measuring tape that’s designed to take body measurements and sew/alter clothes.

Measure the right areas

Measure your waist between your belly button and bottom rib. Get your hip circumference by wrapping the measuring tape around the widest point of your hips. You should also measure around your thighs and gauge inseam length along the upper part of your inner thigh.

Measure accurately

Take a natural, neutral stance. If clothed, wear clothes that are tight enough to stay out of the way, but also not so tight that they sculpt you and change your measurements.

Use size charts 

A size chart will indicate what size to get based on the brand’s sizing and specific cut and style of athletic shorts, such as length, low, mid, and high-waisted compression shorts and more.

When do you wear your spandex shorts?

Do you have a go-to workout or task for your spandex athletic shorts? What is their material, style, cut, and function?

Tell us about your favorite workout shorts on Instagram @goalfive. Shop our full collection of versatile workout clothing for women for your next perfect workout shorts, or shop for someone else using an athleticwear gift guide for women.

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