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Women’s Running Shorts: A Comparison

September 30th, 2011

For nearly a decade, a single short has dominated the women’s run apparel industry. The Nike Tempo Track Short is the queen of running shorts; women of all shapes, sizes and abilities adore it, some so faithful that they refuse to wear anything else. Through the years, the Tempo has taken on over 1500 color combos and hundreds of prints, from tie die to stripes, checkers to polka dots. Other running brands have tried to confront the Tempo “craze”, but they have ultimately been unable to draw attention away from the hoards of colors and the incredible following that the short maintains. (There are entire walls of tempo shorts in many retail stores, and even a blog entitled “Confessions of a Tempo Addict”).

In some ways, the success of the Tempo Short is peculiar – it’s very basic in shape, fabric and features. In other ways, it’s no wonder that it has won over the hearts (and purses) of so many female runners: the fit is forgiving and generous, not to mention that it’s reliable and always available, with 20+ colors and prints to choose from during any season. Women need not “shop”, they can simply “buy”.

Priced at $30.00 MSRP, the Tempo is clearly a price-point buy. But Tempo-mania goes far beyond that, and it is likely to continue given that Nike is offering some 50+ versions of the short for the Holiday season alone.

Fascinated by the dominance of such a simple short, we decided to do a comparison between the Tempo and its competitors. Interestingly, when put in a line-up among other 3”–3 ½ ” running shorts of similar price and style, the Tempo didn’t pan out where expected.  According to an in-house survey of 5 different shorts, a Saucony short actually out-did the Tempo in all 3 areas of criteria: Fit, Fabric and Aesthetics.

Nike Tempo Track Short

Our findings were totally unexpected: the Tempo – last? No way. Well …  While the Nike Tempo Track Short does have “hanger appeal” and some women in the survey even admitted to owning 10 pairs of the short, it all boiled down to one word: Diaper.

The “democratic fit” that makes the Tempo so popular, versatile and non-intrusive is actually the very thing that can make it so unappealing; extra material in the crotch and on the back causes poofiness and bunching. It’s “comfy… but not in public,” according to one of our staff members. Many who were surveyed also found the short to be very restricting when running. However, other employees admitted to being swayed by the fun selection, and by the fact that you can feel comfortable in the short at any level of fitness.

Saucony P.E. Revival Short

Out of nowhere, the Saucony P.E. Revival Short stole the Gold in our survey. Upon closer inspection, it’s quite clear why. When asked if the P.E. Revival was flattering on the body, many surveyors wrote, “Yes!” explaining that the short falls nicely over curves, does not bunch and has fantastic mobility. The Saucony short has soft, lightweight fabric that moves with you and scalloped sides to allow comfortable strides. It even has cute detailing like a rollover waistband that reads “Faster than You” on the back.

The Saucony P.E. Revival Short has an MSRP of $34.00 and is usually available in 3 colors per season.

To touch on the other “competitor” shorts…

  • The Brooks Epiphany Stretch Short (MSRP $32.00) has a unique cut and soft fabric that stretches more than typical microfiber shells. When rolled down, it truly lends the low-rise look that so many young women seek out. Ultimately, the survey responses varied: some women loved this short while others found the design to be unflattering or the pin-tuck (lines down the front) to be unattractive.
  • The Nike Pacer Short (MSRP $30.00) did better than it’s Tempo sister primarily because it bunches less, especially when rolled over. The Pacer is available in tons of colors, and is most competitive with the Tempo in this aspect.
  • The adidas Marathon 10 Short (MSRP $28.00) has a straighter, less-curved cut which made it look a bit awkward on more curved women. But the women loved the look of the short and found the fabric to be super nice; the adidas M10’s fabric has a soothing, featherweight feel and it lies very well on the body.

Brooks Epiphany Stretch Short, Nike Pacer Short, adidas Marathon 10 Short

The Tempo will continue to reign the women’s fitness market, but there are many other great options for female runners. Three color-ways probably can’t compete with 15+, but women do care how their athletic apparel looks on their bodies, so perhaps a new short will emerge to compete on this level.

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