How Long Do Running Shorts Last? (With 5 Quick Longevity Tips!)

One often overlooked yet very important running accessory is running shorts. It’s common knowledge that shoes can wear out within six months to 1 year, but how long do running shorts last? And what are the consequences of failing to replace them?

Running shorts typically last three years or more if properly cared for. This includes avoiding unnecessary wear and tear, such as ripping holes in the shorts or rubbing them on extremely rough surfaces. Additionally, washing the shorts on a cold setting and drying them on a low setting will extend the life of your shorts by a few years.

Take a look at some more specific questions regarding running shorts’ durability below. 

How long can running shorts be worn?

The answer to this question, of course, varies. Different shorts, made of different materials, will remain in usable condition for various amounts of time. That said, most pairs of running shorts today are made from the following fabrics. 

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Spandex
  • Lycra

The fabrics listed above are often used in producing high-quality running shorts, as they are strong, flexible, and more resistant to stretching, fading, and other forms of wear and tear.

However, it is difficult to say which of these fabrics makes the most durable running shorts. The durability of a fabric depends on many factors, such as the quality of the fabric, the type of fibers used, the weave or knit of the fabric, and the way the fabric is treated during production. 

In general, fabrics that are tightly woven or knitted and made from high-quality fibers tend to be more durable than fabrics that are loosely woven, knitted, or made from lower-quality fibers.

How long should you keep running shorts?

man running on a sunny day

The timeline for purchasing a replacement pair of running shorts will usually become obvious very quickly. Either the material will begin to break down from the accumulated friction, or the shorts will rip or tear and require replacing. You may even begin to develop horrible chafing and rash symptoms if you wear your worn-out shorts too long. 

Running shorts are typically made to last around three years if they have suffered normal wear and tear. Obviously, some circumstances can accelerate this timeline dramatically. Occasionally, running shorts can get snagged on a branch or another sharp object and become torn. In this case, it can be repaired so long as most of the fabric is not damaged. Some models of running shorts, of course, are not worth the effort of repairing and should just be replaced. 

One brand, Lululemon, famously offers free hemmings and repairs to their shorts at many of their locations. However, if you’re doing your own repairs, it may make more sense to save time and money by buying a new pair instead. 

How do you take care of running shorts?

washing running shorts in the clothes washer

If you want your investment in a quality pair of running shorts to pay off in the long run, you need to make sure you care for them properly. The following steps may help you generate the most use out of your shorts. 

  • Wash your running shorts after every use
  • Use a mild detergent
  • Wash your running shorts separately from other clothing
  • Avoid using fabric softeners
  • Hang your running shorts to dry after washing

Wash your running shorts after every use

Washing your running shorts after every run will remove sweat and dirt that can accumulate during the exercise and prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria.

This will also help prevent the transfer of sweat, dirt, and bacteria from your running shorts to your other clothes, keeping them clean and fresh.

Use a mild detergent

Strong detergents can damage the fabric of the shorts and can cause fading or other forms of wear and tear. Mild detergents are ideal since they are not as abrasive and don’t have as many strong chemicals as regular detergents.

Wash your running shorts separately from other clothing

While you can definitely safely wash your running shorts alongside other clothes, it’s ideal to run a separate load for your workout clothes and other fabrics that are made with similar materials. This is because cotton lint can adhere to your running shorts, and heavy fabrics may cause abrasions. 

Avoid using fabric softeners when washing your running shorts

Fabric softeners can coat the fabric of the shorts and make them less breathable, reducing their effectiveness during exercise.

Hang your running shorts to dry after washing

Avoid using a clothes dryer, as the heat from the dryer can damage the fabric of the shorts and cause shrinking or other forms of wear and tear.

How do you tell when running shorts are worn out?

woman running in running shorts

One way to tell if running shorts are worn out is to look for wear and tear indicators like holes, fraying, or faded fabric. Another approach is to pay close attention to how they feel as you run. It may be time to change the shorts if they are no longer cozy or supportive or if they are already causing chafing or irritation. 

It might also be time to get a new pair of shorts if the moisture-wicking or breathability your current pair provides is no longer enough. Overall, the best way to tell if running shorts are worn out is to apply your own judgment while considering the shorts’ age, how frequently you wear them, and how they feel.

Can you still wear worn-out running shorts?

While you may still rep the ratty pair of lucky running shorts from college every now and then, if you’re a serious runner, you will probably want to invest in a new pair of running shorts periodically.

Generally, wearing running shorts past their prime is not a good idea. Running shorts that are worn out may not be able to keep you dry and comfy while you’re out for a run and may no longer offer the support that you require. 

Additionally, chafing and discomfort from worn-out shorts can be painful and uncomfortable. It is a good idea to buy a new pair of running shorts if your current ones show wear and tear or no longer feel comfortable. This will help ensure that you have the best running experience possible.