The Best Denim Shorts for Athletic Legs (That Don't Gap at the Waist!)

Why aren’t there shorts for girls who lift heavy shit?

A few weeks ago I snapped a photo in the dressing room, trying on a pair of jean shorts. Like so many pairs I try on, they were super tight in the thighs and too big in the waist.

This is a constant frustration when you live in lululemon then go shopping for “real clothes.” I put my frustrations out to the community and a few of you came back with some awesome suggestions. You told me to check out Madewell, Hudson, American Eagle, and Francesca’s.

But most of you reached out with the exact same problem, saying, “I hate how there isn’t anything for people who lift!”

So I’m like, ok...let’s go find some.

What I look for in a pair of jean shorts

If you’re following the TL Method or other strength-based program, chances are your waist is getting leaner while your legs and booty are gaining mass. Girl, I get it. When I started doing HIIT training, some items in my dresser (like jeans and shorts) no longer fit. It’s like, suddenly I had this body I was really proud of, but my clothes weren’t MADE for that body. Come on, I need shorts for big thighs and a small waist!

I reached out to a few brands to see if they had any denim shorts for an athletic body type. Part of me just wanted to see what they had and try them out. As I searched, I realized there were three things I wanted:

  1. They had to be ready-to-wear. Listen. I don’t go to the dry cleaners. I don’t have a tailor. I don’t return things. I need things that work right away. What’s the point of buying a pair of shorts if you have to alter them before wearing?

  2. They couldn’t be too cheeky. I love my booty, but I’m almost 30. I want to look great and feel good, and that includes not being hyper-aware that my shorts are riding up.

  3. They had to FIT. This is the whole point, right? No saggy crotch, no bulky waste, no cutting off the circulation to my thighs.

4 Pairs of Flattering Shorts for the Athletic Body Type

I found four pairs of denim shorts targeting women who love to lift. Below, I rank each from my least-to-most favorite, along with my size, how they fit, and why I loved them.

4TH: Universal Thread (Target)

My size: US 4

Fit: Real cheeky

Flattering shorts for athletic legs_Target

What I liked:

I love high-waisted anything. High-waisted yoga pants, high-waisted jeans, and a good pair of high-waisted shorts

What I wasn’t crazy about:

Like I said, I’m almost 30 here. I’m not trying to be cheeky ALLL the time. Not only are they real short, but they rode up the more I moved around.

To be honest, these are still a little big around the waist (one of the main problems that started this whole search process).

IMG_0849 2.JPG

3RD: Harper (Francesca’s)

My size: 26

Fit: Alright

Denim shorts for athletic thighs_Harper

What I liked:

These fit “pretty good.” They had the high-waist fit I like. I liked the color, and they looked good with a bunch of different tops.

What I can’t get over:

You know what I can’t get past? The cuffed bottoms. I HATE when they unroll or unravel, and you can never get them to roll back. I know, what a first world problem.

They are a little loose in the crotch area. And I don’t know what’s going on with my pockets.

IMG_0868 2.JPG

2ND: Fran Denim

My size: 25

Fit: Like a glove

Shorts for big thighs small waist_Fran Denim

What I loved:

These were MADE for the modern woman who loves lifting heavy shit. No, really—if you never wore their stuff or heard their story, Fran Denim sells athletic-fit jeans and jean shorts. They look great; they feel great. They’re tight but they move with you.

What made them the runner-up:

Were they a little high on the Daisy Duke Spectrum? Maybe. But if you keep lifting heavy and have killer legs, who cares? These are the perfect shorts for muscular legs. Besides, you can always just wear leggings.

Shorts for big thighs small waist_Fran Denim

1ST: American Eagle

My size: US 6

Fit: SO, so good

shorts for muscular thighs_American Eagle

What I loved:

I LOVE these shorts. These were the best fitting jean shorts of all the pairs I tried on. I love how much they stretch, but still remain in place. They don’t ride up or sag down, they just fit well. Plus, I really love the wash. I’m usually not much of a light-denim girl, but these go with half the shirts in my closet.

My one drawback:

I will say this: these seem to get bigger with each wear. I kinda wish I bought one size down. Although they might have seemed tight in the fitting room, they would be the perfect fit later on.

shorts for athletic legs_American Eagle

My Top Picks: Fran Denim and American Eagle

Why were these my two top picks? Because they made me feel my BEST.

I looked for a high-waisted pair of shorts that didn't gap at the waist, that moved with me, and didn’t leave my butt hanging out. What do you love and look for? What looks best on YOUR BODY? If you love rocking a pair of cut-off Daisy Dukes, girl, go for it.

Anyone have any other shorts they’re absolutely in love with? Tell all of us below. And let everyone know why you loved them, how they fit, and if they run true to size.