Deciding the right length of short…

For us fellas looking good in running gear can sometimes be a struggle, one false step and we could descend in to a tenebrous chasm of geekyness.

For the girls it’s pretty simple, you look hot in every form of running attire.   But for the unfairer sex it’s really not that easy.

Girls look much better than guys in running gear

In the first part of what may become a series on fashion no-no’s (or perhaps to be more positive I’ll concentrate on the fashion yes-yes’s) I propose to you the subject of short length.

The vogue at the moment is for slightly longer shorts, that cover the thigh, some of these longer “trail” shorts even combine a inner Lycra support short.  In a moment I’ll address the necessity of inner Lycra, and Lycra in general but first off length.

How long should your shorts be?

Too long and they’re “pirate trousers” that’s an instant no-no, the only time you see pirates running is at the back of a big marathon in the fancy dress section of the race, usually this  coincides with the release of one of those Caribbean films.  In the mean time pirates are only cool if you are a 4 year old boy.  Fortunately for us fashionista’s the running garment manufacturers have already got the idea that pirates are not the in thing and quite frankly lead to impracticalities with the running gait.  Today we can find shorts in four approximate lengths.

Long shorts. (usually around 9 – 7 inches) – not too dissimilar to what soccer players wear, usually they will cover the whole of the top of the leg down to the knee

ron hill shorts

Trail shorts.  The slightly shorter version of the above, sometimes touted as “cargo shorts” but mostly referred to as trail shorts – probably the in thing for most off road orientated folks.  Here’s a picture of me wearing my favourite pair of Ron Hills…

TDC race photo2My legs happen to be very long so they do appear shorter on me than on others.  As I’m not a big soccer fan I prefer this look – revealing a little leg, but leaving something to the imagination.

Square cut shorts.  A bit more late 70’s – early 80’s. Revealing thighs. Here’s another pic of yours truly, sporting my “racing” shorts, these again made by Ron Hill.

Dalou 1 I prefer this type of short when running in the hot weather and it does leave a little less to the imagination.  I like to wear a short like this when running shirtless –  it make’s me feel less clothed (and kind of sexy).  When it’s hot I think this is a good thing. I’m all about maxing the vitamin D absorption at the moment…

Splits.  Shorts for the professional runner, allowing more movement but the trade off is a greater risk of displaying the clutter.  There are only a few that can pull this look off and still be cool.  You need an all over tan for this to work and to be called Anton Krupicka.

Tony Krupicka is the coolest runner on earth

So now we know what’s available, how do you work out what suits our individual leg length?

I’m of the opinion that if you’ve got it you should flaunt it.  Personally I have nice long legs with a reasonably defined muscle, and they usually see the sun in the summer.   I’m going to want to show these pins off!  So I usually opt for a shorter short.  I do like the practicality of the slightly longer length mind you,  for one thing it allows a bit more fabric to pin a race number, and usually this type of short comes with more pockets, good for carrying the odd gel.

So my rule of thumb is if you are long legged like me, perhaps a shorter short is not a bad idea, but for aesthetics I personally draw the line at splits.

But, my legs are a bit shorter, what should I wear?

Shorter guys seem to pull off the longer short thing better… I think it follows that the longer your short the more taller you look.


Baggy is cool right?  Nope, totally not cool – 100 % geek-a-mondo.   For one thing its not functional on the trail, You can get caught by brambles or something equally nasty like a running pole.   Another thing it makes your shorts look like a skirt…  Here’s a picture of me and my best mate Steve from last summer when they came to visit – Look at my baggy shorts…  A definite fashion faux-pas if there was ever one.

steve and nick

Please don’t make that mistake.  Stay away from the baggy.

So you might be thinking that you need tight shorts?  Oh no no no!    Tight shorts are verging on the Lycra look, they’ll also restrict movement – you need to find the middle ground.

But what about Lycra?

Okay, they’re cyclists, but you get the idea.

Isnt support supposed to be good?

Firstly you can get all the support you need from your underwear so there’s no need to buy a twin short – that’s just ridiculous.  We have to ask ourselves is there actually a need for support in the first place?  After 2 million years of evolution its clear this might not be the case – obviously we are designed for naked running.  In reality the short should be just enough to cover up our modesty and let the air circulate.  Lycra may look okay on girls, but in reality its going to increase the chances of a nasty sweaty crotch and consequently yeast infections.  And don’t even get me started on compression shorts, If there ever was a marketing ploy aimed squarely at yuppie runners it’s compression shorts.  Don’t go there, instead let training take care of all your compression needs!

For a while girls have had the option of the skort, which I think is a totally wicked idea – I’d wear one of these if I could get away with it…  As an antidote for the above picture of the cyclists (sorry) here’s Emelie Forsberg rocking a slightly modified version of the Salomon skort. (It looks like she’s taken out the inside compression short – good for her).

Great stuff.  Incidentally Emelie is my favourite girl mountain runner (after my actual girlfriend of course, but you get what I mean)  checkout her blog here, she’s ace.   For the guys like me who habour “Skort envy” don’t despair, I guess we can all release our inner Scotsman and wear the kilt, plenty of people do that without any claim to Scottish lineage, and in fact there is such a thing as an English kilt so fairs fair.

Hoff magic.