Can You Swim in Running Shorts or Regular Shorts?

The sun is high, the water’s shimmering, and there’s only one thing standing in your way: you’ve got your running shorts on, not swim trunks. Questions swirl in your mind, “Is it okay to take the plunge? What might happen if I do?”

can you swim in running or regular shorts

Yes, you technically can swim in running shorts. However, doing so isn’t generally recommended. The reasons range from reduced personal comfort and swimming efficiency, to drowning concerns, and damage to your shorts caused by chlorine or saltwater.

Whether you’re a casual beachgoer or an avid swimmer, understanding the nuances of this seemingly simple decision can make all the difference. So, before you make that splash, please at least skim this article and consider why it’s not a good idea to swim in running shorts.

Why You Shouldn’t Swim in Running or Regular Shorts

Safety Concerns

Running shorts are typically made from fabrics that absorb more water than traditional swimwear. This absorption can make the shorts become heavy and soggy when immersed in water. 

When shorts get heavy, they can cling to the legs, restricting movement and increasing underwater drag. This restriction could make it difficult for someone, especially a weaker swimmer, to move their legs freely in the water. In extreme cases, the increased drag and restricted movement can even increase the risk of drowning.

Reduced Mobility

Running shorts are designed for land-based activities. Their design and fit might not facilitate the wide range of movements needed for swimming. Traditional swimwear, on the other hand, is designed to move seamlessly with a swimmer’s movements. Wearing running shorts can, therefore, make swimming more strenuous, requiring more energy to move the same distance.

Material Degradation

Chlorine, commonly found in swimming pools, can be harsh on fabrics not designed for repeated exposure. Similarly, salt from seawater can also damage fabric. Over time, the fabric of running shorts can weaken, thin out, or even start to fray. This degradation not only reduces the lifespan of the shorts but can also lead to unexpected tears or malfunctions.

Additionally, the vibrant colors and patterns on running shorts can fade over time with repeated exposure to elements like chlorine or saltwater. This fading can make the shorts look prematurely old, worn out, and less aesthetically appealing.

It’s always recommended to rinse out any swimwear or shorts in fresh water after swimming to help prolong their life and appearance.

Chafing and Discomfort

When fabric is wet, it tends to stick to the skin. Running shorts, when soaked, can rub against the skin in a way that causes chafing, especially during repetitive movements like swimming. This chafing is exacerbated in environments like the ocean, where salt can act as an abrasive on the skin. Over time, this rubbing can cause redness, rashes, or even blisters.

Transparency When Wet

Different fabrics have varying levels of opacity when wet. Some running shorts may not retain their opaqueness when soaked, making them become translucent or even transparent. This potential loss of privacy can lead to embarrassing situations and might not be evident until after entering the water.

Absence of Supportive Lining

Most swim trunks come with a supportive mesh lining that provides both comfort and modesty. Running shorts often lack this lining, which can lead to potential discomfort, especially when the shorts are wet and clingy. Additionally, the lack of lining may also raise concerns about exposure, especially if the shorts become transparent when wet.

Slow Drying

Swimwear is made from quick-drying materials to ensure comfort post-swim. Running shorts, in contrast, are often made of materials that retain moisture for longer durations. Wearing damp shorts can be uncomfortable, and the prolonged moisture can also create an environment conducive to bacterial or fungal growth, leading to potential skin infections.

Against the Guidelines

Swimming pools, beaches, or certain cultures might have specific norms or regulations regarding appropriate attire. Wearing running shorts might go against these norms. It’s always essential to be respectful of local rules. In some places, failing to adhere to dress codes can even result in being denied access to the pool or beach.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I care for and wash my running shorts after swimming in them?

After swimming in your running shorts, especially in chlorinated pools or saltwater, it’s important to rinse them thoroughly to remove any lingering chlorine or salt. This will help prolong the life of the fabric. Here’s a step-by-step guide to care for and wash your running shorts post-swim:

  1. Immediate Rinse: As soon as you’re out of the pool or ocean, rinse the shorts with fresh water. This will help in removing most of the chlorine or salt, which can degrade the fabric over time.
  2. Hand Wash: For best results, hand wash your running shorts using a mild detergent. Gently agitate the water with your hands and let them soak for a few minutes.
  3. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Do not use bleach or other strong cleaning agents, as these can harm the fabric and cause colors to fade.
  4. Rinse Thoroughly: After washing, rinse your shorts thoroughly to ensure all soap residues are removed.
  5. Air Dry: Let your running shorts air dry. Avoid wringing them out harshly, as this can damage the fabric. Also, avoid direct sunlight, as this can cause colors to fade.
  6. Avoid the Dryer: It’s recommended not to put running shorts in the dryer, as high heat can damage the fabric.

Do running shorts provide any UV protection when swimming outdoors?

Running shorts are not typically designed with UV protection as a primary function. While they may offer some minimal protection simply by covering the skin, they often do not have the same UV protective qualities as specific sun-protective swimwear or UPF clothing. 

If you plan to swim outdoors in running shorts, it’s essential to consider other forms of sun protection, such as sunscreen on exposed skin, wearing a hat, or even a UV-protective shirt. Always check the label of your running shorts; some modern sportswear might come with UV protection features.

Will swimming in running shorts affect my swimming speed or efficiency?

Yes, swimming in running shorts can negatively affect both your speed and efficiency in the water. Traditional swimwear is designed to reduce drag, allowing swimmers to move through the water more smoothly. 

Running shorts, due to their looser fit and excess fabric, can increase drag. This resistance makes swimming more labor-intensive and can slow you down. 

Competitive swimmers always wear specialized swimwear to maximize their speed and reduce resistance. For casual swimmers, while the difference might not be significant, it’s still noticeable, especially over longer distances.

Why would someone choose to swim in running shorts instead of regular swimwear?

There are several reasons someone might opt to swim in running shorts instead of traditional swimwear:

  1. Modesty or Personal Comfort: Some people feel more comfortable or modest in running shorts, especially if they’re longer or looser than traditional swim trunks.
  2. Spontaneity: An unplanned dip might mean that one doesn’t have swimwear on hand, so running shorts or whatever they’re wearing might be the only option.
  3. Lack of Knowledge: Some might not be aware of the advantages of swimwear over running shorts in the water.
  4. Multi-activity Days: If someone is doing a combination of activities, such as running on the beach and then swimming, they might not want to change clothes in between.
  5. Fashion or Personal Style: Some might prefer the look of their running shorts or might be making a fashion statement.
  6. Budget Constraints: Investing in multiple types of attire might not be feasible for everyone, so some might use running shorts as multi-purpose wear.

While there are valid reasons to swim in running shorts, it’s essential to be aware of the drawbacks and consider the activity’s context and one’s safety.