Why Don’t Running Shorts Have Pockets? (And Should They?)

When you go out for a run, it’s helpful to take at least your identification and a key but there’s a big problem: where do you put them? Why don’t running shorts have pockets?

Running shorts don’t usually have pockets in order to ensure speed, ease of movement, safety, lack of interference, and removal of extra weight. Given that such shorts are also used for various sports, their lack of pockets can be beneficial for avoiding injuries and ensuring mobility.

Keep reading for more about why running shorts don’t have pockets and whether or not they should in the first place.

Why don’t running shorts have pockets?

Serious runners will often go to great lengths to reduce drag. Some runners prefer to wear tight-fitting clothing for this reason. I once knew a guy who would shave every exposed hair on his body (except, for some reason, his eyebrows) to reduce his time. While that’s certainly taking it to the extreme – especially for a so-so high school track runner – there are certain things that both professional and casual runners alike can do to improve their comfort and performance.

Runners gravitate toward pants that don’t restrict them and generally don’t get in the way. Some runners wear compression tights, others choose very short shorts, and others still go the big and baggy route (don’t knock it – Courtney Dauwalter is one of the best endurance athletes in the world and she runs in oversized men’s shorts). What most of these pants have in common is that they don’t have pockets. But why?

Most running shorts don’t have pockets because of the following factors:

  • Speed
  • Movement
  • Safety
  • Interference
  • Extra weight
  • Space

Let’s look into each of these factors in detail to see why they’re so important.


Running shorts without pockets can help you maintain a consistent and fast speed.

Pockets usually end up adding extra layers of fabric to a pair of shorts while also often sticking out or getting stuck to your skin due to sweat. This can end up slowing you down a bit, resulting in lower performance levels while running or playing a sport.

Why don't running shorts have pockets? They might slow you down.

Additionally, if you have items in your pockets, you’re likely to spend your run worrying about them moving around rather than trying for a new personal best.


Moving around flexibly is extremely important when it comes to running or playing a sport that involves a lot of running. The shorts you wear during such situations can make a huge difference in terms of the way you move your legs.

Even though pockets are only small parts of the running shorts, having them might still end up limiting your ease of movement and range of motion. The extra layer might get caught or twisted and lead to clunkier movements on your part, not to mention that you might need to spend more time adjusting the shorts again.

By getting rid of pockets altogether, running shorts help ensure that they can support all the necessary movements you need to make.


You might think that it is a stretch for pockets to lead to safety issues, but many of them come equipped with buttons or zippers that can lead to cuts or other small injuries.

The most likely safety concern that pockets pose is actually what you put in them. Have you ever gone for an intense run with a heavy set of keys in your pocket? It hurts.

Now imagine you’re running along the sidewalk and your phone falls out of your pocket. Do you automatically reach to pick it up without seeing if there’s a car around? We’d all like to say of course not, but accidents happen – unless, of course, you don’t have pockets for your phone to fall out of!

Lack of interference

Pockets present in running shorts can lead to problems while dealing with all that extra fabric.

Since the pocket portion is usually only attached to the shorts from one end, the other end tends to hang loose while wearing the shorts.

The extra fabric used to make pockets could actually tangle and get in the way of your stride while running.

This can create issues like the seams coming apart, pockets hanging beyond your shorts’ sleeves or even getting stuck to your skin when you sweat or when there is too much humidity.

When you are in the middle of running, playing or working out, these issues can end up interfering with your performance or simply making you feel uncomfortable while undertaking the given activity.

Removal of extra weight

Pockets also lend extra weight to your running shorts.

While otherwise quite light, the presence of pockets might end up dragging your shorts down while also making it clumsier for you to move around properly. By keeping pockets out of the shorts completely, you will not need to worry about this.

Even if you intend to use your running shorts for casual purposes, the extra weight through accessories kept in them might still drag your shorts down and make it awkward to keep pulling them back up.


Running shorts typically come in 2-inch, 5-inch, 7-inch, or 9-inch lengths.

Practically speaking, not all running shorts have the length to allow for traditional pockets.

Some running shorts simply don't have the physical space for traditional pockets.

Some running shorts have small pockets along the waistband because there’s simply not room for them anywhere else on the shorts.

Should running shorts have pockets?

Running shorts typically don’t have pockets, but does that mean they shouldn’t? After all, it’s hard to run without at least your ID, a key, and maybe your phone.

While not exhaustive, here are a collection of reasons a runner might want pockets on their running shorts:

  • Convenience – Pockets, even small ones, allow you to carry your most necessary items without an additional bag.
  • Aesthetic – Many modern athletic pants (especially women’s pants) use side pockets as a design element.
  • Wearability – Not having pockets makes it more difficult to wear your shorts for casual purposes like working around the house or running errands.

Do any running shorts have pockets?

Now that we’ve discussed all the reasons running shorts don’t have pockets and reasons they maybe should, there are some running shorts that try to reduce the problems with pockets while meeting runners’ basic storage needs.

Many running shorts have small pockets in the waistband, deep side pockets along the thighs of longer shorts, or both.

Even the shortest running shorts typically have a small zippered pocket on the waistband (like this one) where you can store a key, a couple of dollars, or maybe even an identification. While this doesn’t hold nearly as much as the pocket on a regular pair of shorts, it’s good for the essentials.

Longer compression-style shorts (like these) often have a deep, wide pocket down the side of one or both thighs. This pocket is snug enough that your phone can slide in but won’t bounce out during your run.

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