This has been a blog post many years in the making. This post is about women’s running shorts, pockets, and my decade-long struggle with both. I have been running half-marathons since high school, and so I have spent the last 10 years watching the sports apparel industry slowly catch up with the needs of long-distance runners — heck, women runners of all distances!
To preface: I have huge legs. Like, seriously huge. And they’re basically all muscle. One of my friends recently told me I have “cartoonishly muscular legs.” My thighs are probably bigger than most of the thighs of the men I run with, and my calves are, simply put, gigantic. But make no mistake: I am super proud of my giant legs — seeing them at work in race photos is one of the greatest pleasures in my life — yet that doesn’t mean I don’t hate searching for shorts to accommodate them! On with the saga:
When I first started running, pretty much the only shorts I had and could find that were socially acceptable were Nike tempo shorts. It was virtually the only short anyone on my high school cross-country team wore. Sometimes longer, loose-leg shorts could be found, but it was mostly those round-edged tempo shorts. And I loathed them. Firstly, they always ended up bunched up above my inner-thigh chafe-zone and I had to keep pulling them out of a vagina wedgie every 30 seconds. Second, they also only had one tiny pocket in the liner that was house key-sized. I’m not sure who decided that was all the storage space women needed, but that was the standard for most of my high school running experience.
I spent a lot of this race pulling shorts out from between my thighs.
Then when I started running half-marathons, I switched to some Adidas shorts that were a bit longer — less ride-up, and if they did my thighs didn’t start a friction fire — and had a rear zip pocket. Yes, one single pocket. My dad had race shorts with 3 pockets, but the best women’s apparel makers had was a singular pocket. For a brief time, I wore men’s shorts solely for more room to carry gels and my phone, but they just weren’t as comfortable because they are cut differently than women’s shorts.
[I can’t find a good picture of these, which is sad, because I wore the crap out of them.]
At some point in college, I switched over to tight shorts because I was so tired of dealing with shorts riding up between my thighs til they looked like underpants. I wore tight shorts with 5-6” inseams because those were the only ones that didn’t roll up on my big ol’ thighs. However one problem with tight shorts is that if you were shopping at your local Dick’s Sporting Goods and not scouring the depths of Amazon.com: GOOD LUCK FINDING ANY WITH SOME GOD DAMN POCKETS. Because God forbid women have to carry things out on a run like keys or an ID! This was especially annoying as a college student because I had to carry a key and an ID card everywhere with me or else I couldn’t get back into my building post-run.
Then I found the perfect short: Saucony Ignite Tight Shorts. I’ve used and abused two (well-loved and miraculously long-lasting) pairs of these babies in the 2 years that I’ve been running marathons, and they are amazing. Long inseam, no roll, no chafe, big enough to hold my iPhone 4 as well as some gels, and by then I was using a hand-held bottle for on-the-go hydration so the rest of my gels could fit in the zip pocket on the water bottle. But sadly, I realized this spring that my beautiful relationship with the Ignite shorts had to end… why? Because I upgraded my stupid phone!
But look how great my legs look in the Ignite shorts! I still love them and wear them on everyday runs.
One big drawback to the increasing size of cell phones is that they don’t fit in running short pockets, almost across the board. I hate running with a waist pack (tight straps around my waist make me feel, uh… intestinally nauseous) and I hate running with an arm band even more. But I like to have my phone on my person at races for immediate post-race texting and instagramming.
And so began my Spring 2016 Shorts Crisis Race Shorts Search.
Because I needed to put gels and my giant phone somewhere during my upcoming marathon, I tried so many shorts. I needed something to miraculously fit all my needs. And thank goodness for Running Warehouse’s fast shipping and generous return policy as well as Amazon’s super quick return-refund policy.
First I tried Saucony Bullet tight shorts. I tried these last fall actually before Philly (I ended up running in Bullet capris, with the amazing cargo pockets on the legs, but this was pre-phone upgrade when my iPhone 4 fit in the back zip pocket), and they were comically un-wearable. I put them on, looked hella cute and took a selfie, then went outside and ran .05 of a mile in them before I came right back inside to change because they had turned into underwear. Nothing makes you feel more like a cow/whale/other giant animal than having your thighs immediately gush out of a pair of shorts when you begin to move. Back to Amazon they went!
Looking so thrilled, obvi. Like I knew I’d be disappointed only minutes later.
Then this spring I tried Saucony Scoot tight shorts. I was optimistic when viewing them online, but when I got them I was disappointed. The back pocket was ridiculously small — smaller than the Ignite short’s pocket. I could barely fit one gel in Scoot pocket, and definitely not an iPhone 6. I was bummed because they were super cute, but they were not going to work for a marathon. Back they went.
Isn’t that print just to die for though?!
Then I tried Oiselle Toolbelt Rogas. I wanted so so SO badly for these to work. I love Oiselle. I run for a store-affiliated Oiselle team in a Oiselle singlet. The pockets were perfect: gels + phone fit in the back, and my ID and key could fit in the butt-cheek pocket. But then I tested them on a short loop around my complex and it was a no-go. I tried size 6 and size 4; the size 6 barely stayed up once I started moving, no matter how tight I cinched the drawstring. Then I tried the size 4 and I was almost too embarrassed by the fit to go outside. They were incredibly tight through the front, and the seam down the front made it look, uh, obscene. Major camel-toe happening. I tried them out on another complex loop anyway but again: flashing my butt at my neighbors, no doubt. Both had to be returned.
I wanted these to work so badly. LOOK AT THAT. 4 POCKETS!
And then I remembered that one of my favorite instagram runners, bridetoboston, loves Oiselle distance shorts, and I happened to have a pair of distance shorts that I’d gotten last fall to bum around in my apartment… so why not try those? I took them for a spin around the block, and they were surprisingly good for running. Sure, they ride a bit, but that can be cured by some Vaseline, and unlike other loose-leg shorts they never quite make it to underwear-shorts status. But the biggest perk is the pockets; I’d deal with any amount of thigh chub chafe for these pockets. My phone fits easily in the back zip pocket, and the side zippered pocket will easily hold a few gels among other things. I tried them on an 8 mile run the following day and they worked great. It took me a while to get used to air hitting my butt under the loose legs of the shorts after so many years of tight shorts, but the shorts made me feel fast, and once I was sure I wasn’t flashing anyone, I was in love.
Distance shorts in action at River Horse 6k! Loved them for the 10 mile run down and they were so light and airy during the race, I swear they made me faster.
So after many online orders, trial runs, and returns… my marathon shorts had been under my nose the whole time. I am excited to be wearing Oiselle distance shorts for my marathon on May 1. I’ll stuff my phone into the back pocket in a plastic bag along with my ID and some cash, put gels and chapstick in the side pocket, and lube up my thighs with Vaseline like crazy. But at least I can rest easy knowing I have shorts that will carry all my shit for 26.2 miles!
Pockets now seem to be way more common with women’s running shorts in the last few years — especially if you aren’t looking for tight shorts — and apparel makers have finally moved past just the house key-only liner pocket. But as phones get larger and we start carrying more crap out on the run with us, apparel makers are going to struggle to keep up to make their pockets larger and larger. I am sure this will not be my last shorts/pockets crisis in my running career!
And remember, apparel folk: WOMEN NEED POCKETS TOO. I mean, really. We are shamelessly mocked for our huge, over-stuffed purses, and then we get the short end of the stick with running short pockets? Seriously?