Every summer, my run club takes a trip to the beach. And by that I mean we run from downtown Boston to the shore, take a leisurely dip in the ocean, then run back again. It’s a glorious way to spend a Sunday, and one of my favorite runs of the year.
The only problem? I’m usually stuck in uncomfortably wet shorts for the last part, so I feel like I’m running back in a dirty diaper—which has sometimes led to chafing, and isn’t exactly healthy for the lady bits. It’s a similar conundrum whenever I try to bike ride home after taking our inflatable kayak out on the river, or if I want to go for a hike, or even just a walk around town and have brunch after doing something like paddle boarding. (I’m not the most graceful on the water, and somehow always end up wet.)
So I went on a hunt for versatile, quick-drying shorts that were swim-friendly, but also designed to comfortably run, bike, and hike in after getting wet. After putting several through their paces, I landed on four that felt great to wear in the water, and also easily move around in on land, wet or dry.
To test each one, I first went for a run and also walked around the city with them dry to see how they felt on a day-to-day basis without going in the water. Then, one-by-one, I got them soaking wet before heading out on an easy run—always on sunny afternoons in the low 70s—so that I could time just how long it took for each to fully dry. Here’s what I found, and why these four deserve a place in your closet if you’re heading out on the water but want to avoid the dreaded swamp butt.
Quick-drying shorts for all-day adventures
Designed with a four-way stretch fabric that’s used for Olympic speed suits, I found these shorts actually feel best when they’re wet. Although they’ll ride up a bit on my thighs when they’re dry, once I get them even just a little moistened, they stay perfectly put for the rest of my run (even just getting sweaty does the trick). And they actually feel good to run in when wet—the fabric doesn’t tug or leave me chafed. I also appreciate that they’re cute enough to wear as straight up swim shorts (there’s a matching sports bra, if you’re so inclined).
Time from fully soaking to dry: 47 minutes
Pockets: A large zippered pocket in the back that fits a phone
Fabric: 71% micro nylon, 29% elastane
Care: Machine wash cold, lay flat to dry
Color options: 2 (though new colorways will be released in June 2023)
- Body-hugging silhouette
- Fabric feels great when wet
- Zippered back pocket big enough for a phone
- These run on the small side—I’d suggest sizing up
- Fabric rides up a little on the thighs when completely dry
It actually took some effort for me to get these shorts soaked—the water-repellent fabric really lives up to its name. On top of that, they were bone dry in less than half an hour. Without any liner, these shorts are incredibly lightweight, clocking in at just 3.9 ounces. The stretchy fabric makes them flexible enough for an easy run or hike, but the cut is a tad constrictive so I wouldn’t recommend them for when you really want to open up your stride with faster running.
Time from fully soaking to dry: 24 minutes
Pockets: Three zippered pockets, including a hand pocket on either side (including one with a little loop bungee for your keys), and one near the back that’s large enough to fit a phone
Fabric: 91% recycled polyester, 9% elastane
Care: Machine wash cold with like colors; tumble dry low
Color options: 3
- Water repellant and very quick to dry
- Ample pockets, including room for your phone
- Made of mostly recycled materials
- Comes with a five-year guarantee
- Two percent from the purchase is donated to clean water efforts
- Water darkens the color quite a bit, so it’s obvious when (and where) they’re wet
- Cut is a bit too constrictive for faster running
These shorts scream summer. Maybe it’s the native Californian in me, but the pattern of palm trees, bears, and, yes, rabbits, reminds me not to take whatever I’m doing too seriously. Although these took over an hour to fully dry, with lightweight fabric and a relaxed fit, I honestly didn’t mind running and moving around in them when they were wet—they weren’t distracting or at all uncomfortable.
Time from fully soaking to dry: 68 minutes
Pockets: One small pocket in the front left of the waistband, and one larger zippered pocket with a flap on the back right side (though not big enough for a phone)
Fabric: 89% polyester, 12% spandex
Care: Machine wash cold, tumble dry low
Color options: 1
- Lightweight and breezy
- Great cut for running
- Fun pattern
- They can take over an hour to fully dry
- There’s only one color available, so if patterns aren’t your thing, you’re out of luck
The durable water repellent coating on these shorts made them the fastest-drying of any I tested: Literally just 15 minutes after completely drenching them, they didn’t have a lick of water left. Although these are designed to keep you dry while fishing and boating, I found them flexible and comfortable enough for a hike or a short run.
Time from fully soaking to dry: 15 minutes
Pockets: A hand pocket on either side, and two pockets in the back, including one zippered one (though not big enough for a phone)
Fabric: 44% nylon, 41% recycled nylon, 15% spandex
Care: Machine wash cold inside-out on gentle cycle, can tumble dry low (but hang drying will extend lifespan of the water repellant coating)
Color options: 3
- Water resistant and super quick to dry
- Muted colors don’t show when wet so these shorts can work well for a post-adventure brunch or stroll around town
- They run a bit large—if you’re between sizes, I’d pick the smaller option
- On the expensive side