Cycling Shorts vs Running Shorts

Miraclecello/Cecil, one of my regular visitors, asked me to write about the merits of using a cycling shorts or a regular running shorts in a road race. I tried my best to make a research on this one on published articles and running references but I haven’t seen any resources that deal on this topic. So, this a new thing to tread on and I’ll try my best to give my opinion on this one from my personal experiences and observations.

In my observation in past sports events and athletics events as seen on TV, Sports Magazines, and actual events, the cycling shorts or tight-fitiing shorts which has a leg length of at least six inches from the groin area or the length goes up to few inches above the knees, are used in shorter distance runs in oval tracks (i.e. 100-meter dash to 10,000-meter runs). Seldom you could see elite marathon/ultra-marathon runners using these tight fitting cycling shorts. I can surmised that this kind of shorts impedes ventilation to the groin area and upper legs, thus, this is not preferred to be used in longer distance runs like marathon and ultra-marathon races. The regular running shorts are used to these kind of races.

Most of the triathletes use the cycling shorts because they can use it in swimming to cycling then to running without removing from their body, thus, minimizing their spent time in the transition phase in between events

In my experience, using the regular running shorts in 10K, 20K, half-marathon and marathon races produces “chaffing” or skin rashes on the inside portions of the upper legs as the wet seams of these shorts stick to the skin and rubs the skin as the legs move during running. The cycling shorts don’t produce any “chaffing” or skin rashes as the upper leg portion is covered due to the longer length of the inseams. However, “chaffing” is prevented with the application of baby oil, body lotion, or petroleum jelly on the inner portion of the upper legs.

In last Sunday’s Mizuno Infinity 15K run, my New Balance running shorts produced some “rashes/chaffing” on the inner side of my upper leg due to the wet seams of my short that tend to stick to the skin. The body oil and lotion that I applied on my upper legs were not enough to prevent the “skin rashes”.

Also, in my experience, the cycling shorts absorbs more perspiration/sweat coming from the upper body, thus, preventing the sweat to flow towards the legs and your running socks. As compared to using the regular running shorts where most of my perspiration flows towards my running socks making my feet wet, creating a hard rubbing between my wet socks and my feet. This creates some blisters to my feet in longer distances. Petroleum jelly applied to the feet before wearing your socks would prevent any blisters to the feet.

Using tight cycling shorts could be aerodynamically more advantageous to elite athletes in shorter races or dash runs in the oval tracks and they don’t restrict natural leg movements while running. The regular running shorts could create restrictions in the leg actions while running and could produce more air resistance due to its loose appearance.

Lastly, using the tight cycling shorts need a “bold face” from the user as it invites others to look what and how big your “boil” in between your legs. If you don’t want to create suspicious faces from people when they look at your tight cycling shorts, better use the regular running shorts.

Bottomline? I highly recommend using the regular running shorts in longer distance runs (half-marathon to ultra-marathon) and using the tight cycling shorts in shorter distance runs.


18 thoughts on “Cycling Shorts vs Running Shorts

  1. miraclecello

    Thanks! I just noticed that your NB kit yesterday was identical to the ones I used at the DND half-marathon, down to the colors. I switched to tights on Sunday to solve the thigh irritation, and ended up actually liking them. They felt cooler, both literally and figuratively ha ha. I also saw one girl in a one-piece blue running suit (across the road to your left in the fourth pic of your Mizuno D-Day post).

    Ernest Hemingway wrote that bullfighters use handkerchiefs to fill out the empty spaces, but that would defeat the purpose of the dri-fit fabric technology no? 🙂


  2. markfb

    The reply of my canadian friend when asked about compression pants/shorts –
    Sport compression gear is starting to make more inroads these days and is definitely an advantage, as long as it works for the sport you’re doing as garments need to be tailored to the muscles in use for the sport

    Feedback from users at runners world

    I got a pair and use it for paddling. I used it for running but the long pants are not suitable for our weather. A good alternative are the compression shorts made by LP, available at Tobys.


  3. kingofpots

    Yup! i bought that NB kit before I ran & used it in the Clark Freeport 10K Run last January 13. the running tights are also nice and i use them also. hope to see you again in the next race.


  4. miraclecello

    Thanks to Mark B also. Oh by the way, a friend confirmed that your lady pacer on Sunday was indeed Leica her Assumption classmate. She was the same one who wrote an article in the Inquirer last month about running being the new “it” sport for women of a privileged upbringing ha ha


  5. kingofpots

    cecil, thanks for the info. she “outkicked” me in the last 500 meters. she is really strong and she has a nice “running form”. i’ll prepare for her..hahaha!


  6. cdomine

    hi all,
    just remember there is a big difference between what u call cycling shorts,
    compression track shorts, running shorts and tris shorts . Cycling shorts(the real ones) have big paddings on them on thebutt part, this is to pad long distance cycling and to pad the butt. Tri shorts have very little padding on them because they are used after cycling to transition into running, running in cyling
    shorts can be a hindrance to some. compression shorts or long track shorts dont have padding on them. Normally trishorts can be worn us an undergarment in tri events where a wetsuit is needed. I myself just use plain running shorts for running events.


  7. markfb

    Another good pair of compression shorts are the ones sold by Nike. It also dries easily, no dripping. LP compresses well but tends to dry longer. CWX is the best and of course, there’s a price to pay for it. Its made by Wacoal.

    Ms. Leica is indeed a strong runner with good form. I’ve seen her before in the Bull run as well. Of course its always from the back as she’s faster. ; ) I keep track of these strong women as my goal is to eventually out run all of them. hehehe Then that’s the time I’ll start competing with the men.

    Here’s the list of those who finished below 1:19:18 for the 15km
    Maricel Maquilan
    Shella Ninobla
    Gabriela Calma
    Michelle Felipe
    Leica Carpo
    Joy Antolin

    Hopefully the list gets shorter after a few years.


  8. kingofpots

    chris, thanks for the added information. i used the term “cycling shorts” for the tight shorts whose length is up to few inches above the knee. the nike compression shorts that i know are the ones being used by nba basketball players as undergarment to their basketball shorts for the purpose of protecting their groin muscles. yes, the cycling shorts are padded on the butt just like the 2007 Discovery Channel cycling uniform (shorts & jersey) that i have.

    mark, we have the same goal/objective–to beat or run side by side with these women “warrior” runners.


  9. transitionzero

    compression shorts for the win!!! bad experience with my nike running shorts during the condura run. it immensely slowed my pace.

    and by the way, joy antolin is a he. and he paced me during the condura run, too. 😀


  10. kingofpots

    marga, you are right. tight/compression shorts are better in 5 & 10K road races. i’ll remind mark that joy antolin is a male runner. keep on running!


  11. markfb

    Hahaha! I just got the list of the results. Organizers got it wrong as well. The list gets shorter every race di ba BR? : )

    Transitionzero, what compression shorts did you end up using?


  12. transitionzero

    Sir Jovie, I think tight shorts/capris are good for all distances! 🙂 I do 21k LSDs using them. Unless I lose my big thighs, maybe I’ll stick to them until my first 42k!

    Mark, I have Mizuno and Adidas. Yung Mizuno parang capri pants na tight tapos yung Adidas are medyo short but long enough to keep your inner thighs from chaffing.



  13. transitionzero

    BaldRunner, I’ve been doing longer distances (practice lang!) with my compression shorts and tights and I don’t think I’ll be letting go of them anytime soon! 🙂

    Mark, I use Mizuno and Adidas. Yung Mizuno longer, parang capri pants. Adidas shorter naman but long enough to keep my thighs from chaffing. 😀



  14. kingofpots

    marga, i also use compression/tight shorts up to half-marathon but for being a runner from the 80s and a “conservative-type” in marathon runs, i still prefer to use the usual running shorts ala Bill Rogers, Frank Shorter, and Cierpinski but with lots of petroleum jelly on my inner thighs.


  15. transitionzero

    sorry for the double post. was using my colleague’s laptop earlier kasi and the cache won’t seem to register my post. anyway, swerte na lang siguro naming mga babae that we can get away with wearing tight shorts. hahaha.

    and i always keep on forgetting to put petroleum jelly!!!


  16. Pingback: Cycling Blog

Leave a Reply to kingofpots Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s