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The Great Gym Shorts Showdown: I Tried 5 Brands and Here’s What I Thought

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mizzou chapter.

When dressing for a grueling gym session, girls have a lot to think about. Will we sweat through anything? Will anything show that’s not supposed to? How do we look? Should we dress cute in case our gym crush is there? All of these thoughts have danced through my head in the moments leading up to forcefully pushing myself out the door, pre-workout energy drink and Rice Krispie Treat in hand. 

But how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth and looking cute as hell when shopping for gym apparel? I found myself wondering the same thing. So naturally, I ordered a pair of shorts from five popular and reasonably-priced gym apparel brands. So, which ones are worth your money and will make you look like a goddess in the gym? Read on! 

The Best…

Gymshark: 7/10

Before writing this article, I had already owned a pair of Gymshark’s Adapt Camo Seamless Shorts. These shorts are great. They’re a fun pattern without being too obnoxious or flashy and their compression definitely makes me feel like everything is nice and secure. Not to mention, they make me look like I have an insane hourglass figure. Score. But the shorts I wanted to try next were one of their most popular pairs: The Vital Seamless 2.0 Shorts

These are the first pair of shorts listed on their website and upon investigating, they come in a variety of colors from black to bright yellow. I ordered mine in pink. When they came in, the packaging was simple: a big plastic bag with a fancier plastic bag inside. But when I slipped them on, that’s when the panic started. They felt super tight, almost too tight. Too tight to the point where if I bent over, the waistband rolled downwards. *Sigh* But I was too quick to judge. I put them through a few workouts and slowly but surely they began to sit right and stretch out to fit my figure. Now, they slide on relatively easily and after a few adjustments to how the fabric sits, they make me look like a workout Barbie and I’m fine with that. Overall, the fabric is great and not see-through. The shorts are high-waisted and the little fabric contours make your butt pop. At $40, a quaint little color selection and good material, I give these shorts a 7/10. 

AYBL: 9/10

I had never heard of AYBL (pronounced “able”) until this year when I started going to the gym six days a week. I started to see their Instagram ads pop up on my feed and flood the ads on my computer. It wasn’t until I actually saw someone wearing their clothes that I knew it was time for me to pull out my credit card. 

When I visited their site and navigated to the shorts section, something seemed very familiar. They too had camo-printed gym shorts, but they rang in around $10 cheaper than Gymshark’s selection. Interesting. As much as I love camo, I wasn’t about to order a second pair of camo shorts for my collection. So, I decided to try AYBL’s Balance V2 Seamless Shorts in Chambray Blue. Much to my satisfaction, shipping was fast and soon enough the shorts were put through an exhausting leg day. These shorts are not only a beautiful and fun color, but the material doesn’t suffocate you like Gymshark shorts might. The fabric is not as thick and doesn’t have as many compressing properties, yet they still make you look amazing and stay in place. The waistband is nice and thick too and doesn’t move or slip down. The fabric breathes with your skin while you’re dripping sweat. And the best part? They’re $30. While they don’t have as many colors as Gymshark, I still give these shorts a 9/10. 

NVGTN: 10/10

NVGTN (pronounced “navigation”) has begun to sneak into a lot of fitness experts’ closets, including my own. And for a really good reason. I had to save the best for last and this brand is definitely the best. And now, after quickly gaining recognition for incredible athletic wear on places like TikTok, the brand is beginning to sell out. Let’s just say I’m glad I got my hands on a pair of their shorts. 

Two words: Pro Shorts. Look no further for the best pair of affordable gym shorts that make you look absolutely stunning while holding everything together and surviving even the most sweaty workout. There is something about these shorts that just makes me want to jump with joy. When I ordered mine, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard much about if people liked the shorts or if they were good quality. I thought it better to just find out for myself. The shorts arrived, I slipped them on and headed off to train my quads. 

Halfway through my workout, I couldn’t stop staring at myself in the mirror. My legs looked amazing, my butt looked the most spectacular I had ever seen and the shorts were so fun and vibrant that I knew I had to go get another pair. The material doesn’t squeeze me to death; in fact, the material is thin (but not thin like Nike Pro training shorts). The shorts still offer some compression while highlighting your assets, pun intended, and the shorts move with your body throughout your workout. Surely you’re thinking shorts such as these must be upwards of $50. Well, aren’t you in luck. Much like AYBL, these shorts ring in at $30! The color selection is insane, the material is unmatched and they make you look unstoppable. 10/10. 

Not the Best… 

Bo + Tee: 5/10

I had high hopes for this brand. I had seen some fitness influencers strut around in cute matching Bo + Tee sets and athletic girls show off their physiques in shorts from this brand. Being as that I aspire to look strong and athletic, I thought it only right to own a pair of Bo + Tee shorts. But when I visited their website, I felt an entirely different vibe from strong and athletic. As I scrolled through the multitude of pictures of models in shorts, I felt like this was a brand worn by the likes of Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber and Madison Beer. The vibe was giving me Soul Cycle-green juice-Trader Joes- “that girl” vibes. But hey, I don’t judge. So I clicked to order. 

My Flash Curved Waist Mini Shorts in Light Orange arrived after about a week and came in a lovely little black box with holographic lettering scrawled across the top. I felt like an influencer. But when I opened the box, I was a little confused. On Bo + Tee’s website, the shorts I ordered resembled the color of a warm and sunny egg yolk. A cheery yellow color. The shorts I pulled out of the box were bright orange. More orange than the pictures they had. Now, I was not immediately upset because orange is my favorite color. So I thought, “Oh well!” and headed to the gym. 

The fabric is thin and not necessarily see-through, but somewhere in the neighborhood of it. The fabric was not what I was expecting either. Like Gymshark and AYBL, I was expecting more of a compressive thick fabric that had weight to it. The Bo + Tee shorts were flimsy, light and had almost a little sheen to them. The shorts also feature a ruched placement on the behind to give the illusion of a rounder butt when you wear them. Not a bad thing, but because the fabric was so thin, the ruching failed to deliver its intended purpose. All this, and the shorts are $35. If you’re looking for thinner fabric and shorts with more aesthetic than actual practicality, here you go. 5/10. 

Raw Gear: 3/10

Last but not least, we have Raw Gear. Ever heard of it? No? Neither had I, until one of my favorite fitness influencers started promoting their clothes. Now, I love the influencer I follow (@cristyfit_ on Instagram), and I thought I’d try out the clothes she was always hyping up. Unpleasantly surprising, the women’s Seamless Booty Scrunch Shorts, the only shorts available for women on the whole website, only came in two colors: Heather Black and Heather Grey. I ordered Heather Grey. 

The shorts came and it looked like everything was going to go great. The packaging was neat and the shorts looked good. The light grey was a nice color and the shorts had ruching on the butt, like many other brands. I slipped them on and… they ripped. Split right in the crotch area. Runs in the fabric spread. And just like that, within two minutes of having the shorts, they were ruined. And besides that, the shorts were so tight, the waistband kept rolling down my stomach and the shorts rolled up my thighs. I felt like the shorts were about to burst. 

Just as a disclaimer, I order a size small in every pair of shorts or leggings I buy from athletic brands. I check size charts, read reviews and then take my chances. 99% of the time, the reward is worth the risk of ordering online. Raw Gear proved to be the missing 1%. However, the website has no size chart and doesn’t provide a description of how the shorts fit. Safe to say, the brand runs small. Before the shorts split, the material felt good and I could tell the shorts were made well and would mold to my body. But, I guess not. And yes, I have contacted customer support. 3/10.

Sydney Scalia is a junior at the University of Missouri studying Journalism with a minor in Italian. She specializes in writing pieces about fashion and style, fitness, lifestyle, and culture such as travel, entertainment, and social media.