Running Shorts in the Pool: Pros, Cons & Impact on Performance

Ever found yourself wondering if your running shorts could double up as swimwear? It’s a common question, especially for those who love to pack light or enjoy spontaneous dips. After all, why lug around extra gear if you don’t have to?

Well, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are a few factors to consider, like the material of your running shorts, comfort, and the potential for chafing. Let’s dive into the topic and find out if your running shorts can really make the cut for your next swim.

Key Takeaways

  • Running shorts are typically constructed from materials like polyester and lycra, known for their durability, breathability, and quick-drying properties. They often feature design elements like internal liners and split sides to optimize running performance.
  • Although running shorts may seem suitable for swimming because of their lightweight and fast-drying materials, they may not offer the ideal comfort or fit for aquatic activities. After getting wet, running shorts could feel heavy and may hinder swimming performance.
  • Constant exposure of running shorts to water, especially chlorinated or salty water, can potentially cause the fabric to fade or deteriorate faster than usual. Hence, while they may be fine for occasional swimming, they are not ideal for frequent use.
  • Swimming in running shorts can raise the risk of chafing. The shorts absorb and retain water, creating an environment susceptible to friction and skin irritation. Using them in salt water or chlorinated water conditions can further exacerbate this issue.
  • Before deciding to use running shorts for swimming, it’s essential to test them in water. Pay attention to how they feel when wet, how long they take to dry, and whether they cause any discomfort.
  • Using running shorts as swimwear could lead to faster wear and tear, possibly reducing the lifespan of the shorts. Despite seeming like a convenient choice, it’s crucial to consider the potential impact on comfort, swimming performance, and skin health.

Using running shorts in the pool affects performance due to increased drag and potential chafing; insights into suitable swimwear can significantly enhance swimming efficiency as explained by Swimming World Magazine. While some swimmers prefer the comfort and flexibility of running shorts, they may impede speed and ease of movement, which is crucial in competitive swimming scenarios, a topic well-covered by Runner’s World. Despite the cons, if one chooses to wear running shorts, selecting the right material and fit can minimize negative impacts, a point that Triathlete highlights.

Materials and Construction of Running Shorts

When it comes to running shorts, the material and construction are pivotal attributes. These shorts are generally made of a variety of materials designed for stamina, breathability, and quick drying. Here, polyester and lycra frequently take the lead in material selection due to their exceptional characteristics.

For example, polyester, a synthetic fiber, is famous for its breathability and sweat-wicking properties. It’s lightweight and dries very quickly which is essential for any active sportswear. It’s durable too, an important factor to consider, especially when wearing these shorts in various conditions and environments.

On the other hand, Lycra (also known as spandex) is highly elastic. It provides superior comfort and flexibility, thereby improving your overall running experience. It’s also resistant to detergents and body oils, contributing to the durability of your running shorts.

In addition to the material, the construction of the shorts also plays a crucial role. Running shorts usually feature an internal lining for support and protection. This aspect of construction, the liner or brief inside, is almost always made out of a breathable mesh material allowing for comfortable airflow.

The outside of the shorts often has split sides, enabling greater freedom of movement. If you’re a long-distance runner, you’ll strongly consider this feature as it can contribute to improving your stride and performance. Flat seams are another invaluable design element. They help to mitigate friction, reducing the risk of skin irritation and chafing.

Remember, running shorts are designed with a specific goal – to optimize a runner’s performance. But the questions remain: Are these materials and construction attributes conducive to swimming? Will they stand up to the demands of water, chlorine, or salt? The next few sections aim to break this down, considering the potential impacts of using running shorts as swimwear.

Comfort and Fit for Swimming

When it comes to aquatic activities, your comfort and fit in the wearer’s attire play an equally vital role as it does while running. On the surface, running shorts and swim shorts might look identical, but the way they feel once wet can be strikingly different. This difference owes its existence to the properties of the fabric and the construction of the shorts.

Running shorts, like any other athletic gear, are engineered to ensure maximum functionality. They’re designed not just to sustain high-intensity movement but also to provide exceptional comfort. They offer a non-restrictive fit that’s further enhanced by internal liners, split sides, and flat seams. Running shorts are often made of lightweight, quick-drying materials such as polyester and Lycra which ensure breathability and durability during a run. However, when these shorts face a swim test, the story starts to change.

Your running shorts may take a longer time to dry completely compared to actual swimwear. The internal liners that offer support during running aren’t necessarily suitable for swimming. They may hold onto water, making you feel weighed down. Similarly, those useful split sides meant for running can become a disadvantage too. When you swim, they can catch too much water affecting your swimming speed.

Here comes the real question: How do running shorts withstand the harsh effects of water, especially when it has chlorine or salt? Although many running shorts are made with quick-drying and breathable polyester, frequent exposure to chlorine or salt water can be harsh on the material. This exposure could potentially cause the fabric to fade or degrade faster than usual.

Thus, while running shorts might suffice for an occasional swim, they may not be ideal for regular use. Despite their undeniable comfort and utility in running scenarios, their swim-appropriate qualities are yet to match up to individual swimwear. So, before you jump into that cooldown pool post-run, think twice. Is the convenience worth the potential compromise in performance, durability, or comfort in the long run? Only you can make that call.

Potential Chafing Risks

When it comes to the question of swimming in running shorts, one aspect you probably haven’t considered is chafing. With inbuilt liners and more extensive materials, running shorts aren’t always designed to get wet. They absorb water and can stay damp for longer, creating an ideal environment for chafing to occur.

Let’s be clear here: chafing isn’t just a minor discomfort. It’s an irritating skin condition that can lead to redness, stinging sensations, and even broken skin if not addressed promptly. Wet clothing clinging to your skin can exacerbate these symptoms, leading to discomfort that might just ruin your swimming session.

Consider the water factors. It’s not just about the wetness; it’s also about the salt or chlorine. These substances can increase the likelihood of chafing by drying out your skin. You know the feeling – right after you exit the pool or the sea, your skin starts to feel a little bit tight. Imagine that feeling, but with the added friction of wet shorts against your skin. It’s certainly not the most enjoyable scenario, is it?

”’Markdown Table

FactorsEffects on Skin
WaterMoisture breakdown, Chafing
Salt/ChlorineDryness, Increase Chafing

Think about it the next time you’re grabbing your swimming gear. It’s not just about the fit or the style; it’s also about the potential for discomfort and the toll it could potentially take on your skin’s health. And while there are ways to prevent and treat chafing, bear in mind that repeated exposure to these conditions might just lead to more persistent issues over time.

Testing Your Running Shorts in the Water

Let’s break it down – you’re contemplating the idea of wearing running shorts for swimming. Whether driven by necessity, utility, or simply a fashion statement, it’s imperative to test your running shorts in water before fully committing the switch in swimwear.

Initially, you’ll want to gauge the comfort and fit of your running shorts as they get wet. Jump into a pool or just run them under the tap. Pay close attention to how the material feels against your skin as it absorbs moisture. Notice whether those shorts take a long time to dry or they stick to your skin uncomfortably. Running shorts were designed to wick sweat, not to withstand full submersion in water. They might feel different, perhaps even uncomfortable, when their built-in liners and materials absorb water.

Furthermore, consider the weight of wet running shorts. When saturated, some running shorts can get significantly heavier, potentially affecting your swimming performance and comfort in the water. Moreover, that added weight and water retention could enhance the risk of chafing thus intensifying discomfort.

Chlorine exposure can accelerate the drying effect on your skin and increase friction. Chlorinated water can dry out the protective oils on your skin, causing it to get parched and making the skin surface rougher and more prone to chafing. Similarly, exposing your running shorts to salt water can lead to the high salt content leaving residues that harden when dry.

Moving forward, it would be important to understand that by using running shorts as swimming gear, you are repurposing them. This could lead to faster wear and tear and may shorten the life span of your shorts. Versatile clothing is great but knowing where and how to use them optimally is the key.

So you see, it’s not just about looking good or saving on buying specialized swim gear. It goes deeper than that. It involves your comfort, fitness performance, and skin health. Testing your running shorts in water is not just a step. It’s actually a non-negotiable part of the process.


So, can you use running shorts for swimming? It’s not a straightforward yes or no. You’ve learned that it’s crucial to test them out first. Take note of the comfort, fit, and how quickly they dry. Be aware of potential skin irritation and chafing from chlorine or salt exposure. Remember, running shorts aren’t designed for full submersion, so you might deal with discomfort and faster wear and tear. It’s more than just about looks and saving money. Your comfort, performance, and skin health are also on the line. Make an informed decision, and you’ll be swimming (or running) with confidence.

Can I use running shorts for swimming?

Running shorts can be used for swimming, but it may cause discomfort, increase the risk of chafing, and deteriorate the shorts due to the different materials in running shorts that were not designed for submersion in water.

What should I consider if I want to use my running shorts for swimming?

You should test your running shorts in water, assessing their comfort, fit, and drying time when wet. Plus, consider potential skin irritation and chafing due to exposure to chlorine or salt.

What can be the downside of using running shorts for swimming?

One downside is the shorts may wear out faster because the material is not designed to withstand chlorine or salt exposure. Additionally, there could be discomfort due to the fit and drying time when wet.

How can swimming in running shorts affect my skin health?

Extended exposure to salt and chlorine, when wearing running shorts not designed for swimming, can cause skin irritation and chafing.

Does repurposing running shorts for swimming save money?

Though it may seem an immediate cost-saving, the faster wear and tear of the shorts and potential skin health implications may inevitably increase your overall costs.