Finding the right shorts can be as important as finding the right shoes. Each can cause chafing and both have the ability to ruin your day. At the same time, they can each feel invisible and provide you with support you didn’t know you needed. Lucky for us, shoes have made huge advances in the past few years, and it turns out, running shorts are evolving rapidly too.
After hearing Dylan Bowman talk about the Pearl Isumi Ultra Short in this interview, I knew I had to try them. Up to this point, I’ve got most of my running shorts on sale, from race expos, or in one epic Eric move, found them on the trail, brought them home, washed them, and wear them to this day.
My requirements for shorts have always been pretty simple. In the “must have” category is a drawstring that works. I carry a Simple Hydration bottle tucked into the back of my shorts and without a tight waist band, the bottle would pull the shorts down and I’d be nekkid.
Next requirement is there can’t be holes in the liner. Simple, I know, but I learned the hard way that if that little stretch of nylon is compromised, a very painful few miles is just ahead.
Next, they can’t break the bank. I don’t like spending $40 on shorts, and since that seems to be the low end nowadays, that may be the reason why I’m wearing shorts from six years ago with holes in the crotch.
Finally, a pocket is great. Side pockets are ideal, but I’ll take a little key pocket inside for a car key and maybe a gel. I’ve got one pair of Nike shorts my wife got me with a zipped pocket right above my butt and I feel like I’m spoiled.
Color, length, material, brandname…all things I’ve never really payed much attention to.
I’ve been wearing the Pearl Izumi Ultra Shorts for about a month now on runs ranging from 3 miles with the kids to 30 mile training runs and have mixed feelings about this new category of gear…I’ll call them “pack shorts.”
First, the Pearl Izumis are a hybrid of compression shorts and “regular” shorts. They’re essentially a pair of modified running shorts attached to a pair of compression shorts. The bottom half of the shorts look I’m wearing black compression tights under the (strangely) skin colored “regular” shorts, but the top half resembles a hybrid more commonly seen in Lulu Lemon shorts for the ladies…a snug fit around the waist that blends into traditional shorts.
This hybrid design works for me in a few ways. I like the combination compression/traditional short as it has allowed me to run decent mileage without any chafing, rubbing, or weird blisters at all. This is due in large part to the “tights”…they’ve got smooth seams on the interior, further reducing the chance of rubbing.
The tightness of the shorts near the waist has also allowed the designers at PI to include two pockets on the back of the hips that can carry a fair amount of gear without bouncing. Because it’s a stretch material that’s tight against the body, I’ve been able to carry four or five gels in each without knowing they were even there.
In addition to the hip pockets, there’s a zipped pocket on the rear that easily holds an iPhone 5 and a couple of gels or keys. And because this is on the “tight” part as well, there’s no bouncing.
The compression shorts are well designed and all open seams on the interior have been covered to further reduce chafing and rubbing. Going over the whole garment with a soft hand, it’s hard to find any part where an interior seam or stitch could pose a problem. Nice work.
Unfortunately, the stretch band around the top makes it difficult to carry my Simple bottle. Yes, it’s a draw string, but the stretchy aspect doesn’t work well for my purpose.
The “shorts” portion are a strange camel color that have their own amount of stretch and some great water-wicking properties. They’re an 84% polyester blend that feels great. Not ultra light, but a nice feel and light enough. I’ve spilled all sorts of drinks on mine and the liquid runs right off.
One, the sizing is way off. Just like the PI shoes I tried to review here but ended up giving away because they were too small, I’m a mens medium in every single pair of shorts I have. Literally every single pair. Brooks, Nike, generic brands, etc., All medium.
These mediums fit me pretty snug. Part of the tight feeling I’m sure is attributed to the tight band on top, but still, they’re a bit small. Not too tight to prevent me from wearing them, but still pretty snug. I’m a 33″ waist and large is too large. But hey, these may fit you perfectly.
My second complaint is the cost. As I said, I don’t like shorts exceeding about $40, and these suckers come in at literally twice that. $80 for a pair of shorts is steep, even for those with as many features as these have got. In full disclosure, I received these as trials from the folks at Pearl Izumi, but I’d have a real tough time justifying purchasing a pair on my own.
All that said, these are the shorts I’m choosing to wear at this weekend’s hundred. I know I won’t chafe, I’m using the pockets instead of carrying a vest, and the compression shorts will keep me warm in the windy condition on the beach.
If you’re looking for a pair of shorts that carry gear without any bounce and that can be worn for the long haul without chafing…and you find a pair that fit well…and have a very understandable spouse who won’t blink at $80 running shorts, I’d highly recommend checking these out.