My kingdom for running shorts with pockets

A couple of days ago I ordered some running shorts from Oiselle, as I needed some new running shorts and have all but given up on most brands of running shorts these days.  I don’t have particularly high standards for my athletic gear – basically I want it to be comfortable, somewhat attractive and functional.  But there is one thing on which I will not budge, which is that I will no longer buy running shorts that do not have pockets.

(And no, that paltry flap of fabric tucked inside the waistband does NOT count as a pocket. I have nothing but a pile of expletives for anyone who tries to convince me otherwise.)

I’m not asking for cargo shorts for runners here.  All I want is a pocket that can fit an energy gel or two, my house key, my iPod Nano, mayyyybe a Chapstick.  That’s all. I’m not asking for the moon on a diamond-studded platter here, am I?

Well, apparently I am, because it is about as hard to find a pair of women’s running shorts with pockets as it is to find meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.  When I do find them, I greedily snatch them up and sprint to the check-out counter before someone can rip them out of my grubby little paws. When I learned that Oiselle makes running shorts that have not one but two pockets – with zippers, even! – I nearly fell to my knees and wept.

Forget all the flashy patterns and laser-cut designs and fluorescent accents – just give me some damn pockets!

Here’s a common conversation I have with other female endurance athletes:  someone says a pair of shorts looks cute and comfortable, and then someone else says, “Here’s the best part…they have pockets,” and our eyes all get very big and we add that brand to our must-try list.  In fact, just this past weekend a friend told me about some tri shorts she loved because they have pockets, not just along the back waistband but also down the sides of the legs.

We want pockets, yet clothing makers aren’t giving them to us. They do this to us all the time.  Like those stupid decorative pockets that are really just bits of fabric sewed to the front of our pants and skirts.  LIKE WE WOULDN’T NOTICE.  (And by the way?  I’m not buying any more clothes with those faux-pockets, either.)  But at least with those clothes we can still carry our shit around in purses and backpacks; try wearing a cross-body when you’re running a marathon.

There’s a bunch of gendered nonsense going on with this. My super-smart friend Josey has a great post about this called The Gendered Nature of Being Unencumbered that is probably my favorite take on what I’m going to call “the pocket ceiling” from now on.  She makes the point that men’s clothing are designed to be functional, first and foremost, and that women’s clothing usually serve a more decorative purpose:

“At base, it comes down to the fact that men are granted full subjecthood. They are expected to be doers, and need clothes that reflect and aid that. While women are granted (or forced into) objecthood. They are expected to be seen and get clothes that reflect and aid that.”

That same kind of mindset trickles down into sporting apparel for women, where a lot of manufacturers put together clothes that look cool and have cute patterns but apparently forgot to dedicate a lot of thought to the actual way the clothes will function for us.  We get the wild patterns and bright colors so we look fly as hell when we run, but not a single fucking pocket to carry the things we actually need when we are running.

These days most of my favorite sports apparel manufacturers are smaller companies that are run by female athletes, which I don’t think is some kind of shocking coincidence.  They know first-hand how important it is to have clothes that actually work for you: waistbands that don’t chafe, chamois that don’t rub you raw, POCKETS.  Yeah, style is important too, but not to the exclusion of functionality.  (And frankly, why can’t we have both?  Although lately with a lot of the clothes I’ve seen for sale, I’m questioning whether many clothing designers even know what “style” is anymore.)

The rest of the companies that make running gear?  You don’t get my money anymore.  Not until you give me some damn pockets in my running shorts.

41 responses to “My kingdom for running shorts with pockets

  1. I just buy men’s clothing for workouts now. Or Zumba pants because most of them have pockets as long as they’re not leggings. If they’re not going to give women pockets then I will not buy their products until they do. It’s a purse conspiracy.

    • I’ve thought this as well! The pants manufacturers are clearly in cahoots with the purse manufacturers.

  2. One thing I love about Oiselle is the function of the clothes. Shorts, capris and tights that have zip pockets and don’t ride up(!!). Yes, these are a thing.

    With jeans, however, pockets are a dream. I don’t like carrying my ID, money and phone in my tiny pockets because I’ve lost my ID before while doing that. The stupid tiny jeans pockets require me to carry a stupid purse anytime I’m not wearing a jacket or coat with sufficient pockets. I’ve been debating purchasing a tiny wallet to use in the summer to make up for the shitty pockets of jeans. Thank goodness autumn is just about here so I can rejoice in jackets again.

  3. I love Sparkle Skirts because I get THREE sizeable pockets, one on each leg that can actually accommodate a small water bottle and a zippered one on my waistband that fits my iphone and then some. I REFUSE TO GO POCKET LESS and have for a very long time.


    I love buying Target workout clothes because they are reasonably priced. But I’ve been noticing that their workout pants routinely do not have a key pocket. Sometimes not even the stupid little flap that holds a key! Do they think we’re all wearing belts of some sort now? I mean, they’re kind of right, because now I NEED to wear a Spibelt.

    I have a couple pair of Athleta pants that have great side pockets that I can slide my phone into on my thigh, and I LOVE THOSE. Apparently I need more of them.

    • Before purchasing a SpiBelt (if you are in that market), check out the Flip Belt. I sell both, but previous SpiBelt owners have nearly all converted to the Flip Belt due to lack of movement and its ability to hold more.

  5. I work in the specialty running world as an apparel buyer and merchandiser. When I meet with vendors (Nike, Brooks, NB, etc.) and they show me shorts, capris, or tights- my very first question is: Does it have a pocket?? If it doesn’t, I immediately cross it out (with exceptions for something like a studio tight where a bulky key would inhibit movement). No runner out there is going to trust their key in those teeny tiny waist band pockets or those little bag pockets with no zipper.

  6. Great post. I’ve sewn pockets onto my shorts in the past. Energy gels get tucked underneath a buff, worn on my arm, also containing my iPhone.

  7. AMEN SISTER! This post talks ALL the sense. I don’t own a single pair of shorts with a functioning pocket. Not one. I survive by shoving everything into my sports bra which means I get my house key and credit card number engraved onto my boobs by the end of a fun. Brilliant that… Oiselle sound like such a great brand that have got the functionality nailed – but alas we do not have them in the UK ! 😭

  8. Because I’m a cyclist as well, I have started buying sleeveless jerseys at at least one size bigger than normal using my jersey pockets for all of my stuff. It works really well, but I definitely have to wear at least a bigger size – I buy men’s larges, so they aren’t so form fitting.

    • Cycling jerseys are the best! I love that I can jam a phone, a bottle of Boost, a Clif bar, a debit card, my sunglasses, a towel, all sorts of stuff back there. I know it doesn’t make sense to have that much storage when you’re running vs. riding, but man, it is SO nice to be able to carry what I need with me when I’m on the bike, and without having to add a bento box to my setup or anything.

  9. I’m the same way about skirts/dresses with pockets. Someone says, “I like your dress,” and I’ll respond “Look, it’s got pockets!” like I won a prize or something.

    • LOL I’m the same way. You know that scene in Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig’s character is trying to sell everyone else on the less expensive dress by talking about how it has pockets? That would be me. I would buy the less expensive dress with pockets over the fancy Fritz Bernais.

  10. I just looked at the Oiselle site and love the clothes – all of them! – but sadly, the size range is not wide enough for me, not yet anyway. 😦 It drives me crazy when a company only goes up to L. Really?

    • That’s one thing I’ve noticed about all of these companies, that they only go up to L or maybe XL. Compounding that is that I suspect they may run small. Like, I get an L in Oiselle’s shorts because the brief is too small otherwise, and you know that I’m a pretty slim lady.

      I think that just points to the fact that more manufacturers need to step up their game to make sure athletes of all sizes get quality gear.

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  12. I looooooove my Oiselle Distance shorts. I have 4 pairs and have worn them in both marathons I’ve run. They don’t chafe and I can hold 5 gels + my phone in them.

    • I just got my pair of the shorter Rogas and so far so good. I haven’t tried Distance yet but I think I will next time I’m in the market for running shorts.

  13. WORD. I have thought many angry thoughts about this, and thought it was definitely blog-worthy….and here I am heh heh. I also used to wonder why the heck guys got pockets and women didn’t.

    I was pretty pleased about the pockets on my Oiselle shorts – my other pairs with pockets are from Puma and The North Face, though the material for the Puma shorts is a bit thick and I don’t think they make them anymore. Still, those had a zippered pocket at the back and *two* side pockets.

    But one of my best discoveries so far? Running tops with pockets. Mango had them a while back (–running—technical-racerback-t-shirt/?id=43063602&n=0&ts=1429309384787) – the tops were good quality, the zippered pocket at the back was a great idea, and the price is pretty dang affordable compared to the standard stuff from Nike etc. It still blows my mind that to this day, I’ve never seen anything this practical from one of the big brands. I swear it’s some weird ploy so that you end up having to buy other crap to carry your crap.

    Anyway, rant over. Thanks for the post!

  14. Sorry, me again. I noticed a typo in para 2 of my reply (i.e. should be ‘material’, not ‘materia’). Could I trouble you to correct that if my comment’s being posted? Ex-sub-editor here, hence anality is an occupational hazard. Thanks!

  15. Pockets – and fit – are two of the reasons why I sew some of my own clothes. If you’re feeling creative, take a look at these patterns for sportswear.

    If you don’t feel like making your own clothes, you can add a patch pocket with a Velcro closure with minimum sewing skills. Google patch pocket tutorials and you will find loads of info.

  16. POCKETS! I was actually thinking about this the other day, only I was mourning that my regular business pants don’t have real pockets, just those fake pockets that make me want to have strong words with the designer. I was actually shocked to realize the other day that one pair of workout shorts I have has a key pocket, and I was excited for even that. That’s how ridiculous this world is.

    There should be a petition or something. Is it possible that most designers actually don’t know how angry it makes me that most of my clothing doesn’t have pockets, and that I am in the majority here (at least of the women I know)? Putting on my hiking pants is like slipping into a heavenly alternate universe where I actually have MORE POCKETS than I have stuff I want to put in them. I’m sick of tucking my key into my sock because I’m just going for a quick walk and my summer clothes don’t have pockets!

    • Almost every woman I know complains about the lack of pockets in our clothes on the reg, and yet it never seems to change. I don’t get it.

      The upside is that it’s really cut down on the amount of money I spent on clothes, since I won’t buy clothes with fake pockets (or without pockets, really) anymore.

  17. Tri kit! Tri kit has all the pockets. Maybe not with zips, but if you put your key and cash in the pocket of the Distance shorts, you can still fit a gel or two and the iPod nano in the pockets on a good tri top. I’ve been known to do long runs in my 2XU tops for that very reason…

    • I love the pockets in my tri top! One of my favorite things about doing a brick workout is getting to wear my tri top and shorts when I run.

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  19. What are you out of your mind? Go to Running Warehouse, there’s literally “ten’s” of shorts that have pockets in them. Don’t make this a gender thing, men’s shorts don’t have 6 pockets on them either. They have one zippered pocket in the rear, just like what you can find plenty of on any running specific site.

    • Men’s clothes easily have more pockets than women’s in general. It absolutely is a gender thing. And most pockets in running shorts are really tiny, enough for a key.

    • Dude, I would be HAPPY to get that one zippered pocket in the rear but I have to search high and low even for those. Like I said in my post, I’m not asking for fuckin’ cargo shorts to run in, just some acknowledgement that I’m actually wearing running shorts for more than looking cute.

  20. YES!!!!

    (and re unencumbered – guess that explains why I hate carrying a purse – and since I don’t wear jeans anymore, but Athleta pants where back pocket a smidge too small for wallet, use jacket pockets or gak, a flipbelt)

    Bet you’re talking about Saucony bullet shorts.

    If you don’t want to wear Race Ready (they bug my stomach):

    Best shorts I’d found before they changed them TNF Better Than Naked shorts – small zip & 2 mesh in back.

    Currently plan to use for marathon – small women’s brand Raeswear – they’re tight, and the “pocket” is actually the waistband, front and back. There’s no closure, but I can hold 3 gels in front and 3-4 in back no problem. Think it might fit phone & other stuff too. For marathon, using those and Asics Abby bra (3-4 gels in 3 pockets, plus 2 wet wipes & a lip balm). The North Face Stow-n-Go bra has pocket for keys/balm & bigger one (fits iphone 5 in baggie) in front.

  21. I found a pair of new balance longer shorts with deep side pockets at Goodwill a few weeks ago and have worn them on trail runs and they are life changing. Phone, keys, etc. all fit fine and comfortably and don’t bug me when I run. The only problem? The waistband is tight (they’re size large! they are tighter than my medium Old Navy running shorts!) and there’s like this weird gigantic amount of fabric that pouches in front and makes me look like I’m carrying around a football shoved down the front of my shorts. BUT POCKETS.

    So I just found out I’m getting Oiselle’s for Christmas. How do I know this? Because I went into a brand new running store in town, saw them on the rack, remembered your post, texted my MIL, gave them to the guy behind the counter and said, “my MIL will be in shortly to buy these for me for christmas, thanks a bunch!” I cannot wait to try these.

    Also, you’re an inspiration to me. I’ve been following you since your Tumblr days (we were mutuals, once) before you did your first marathon or triathlon or anything. I tried to be a runner off and on for years, but picked it up for real about a year ago. I think I’m a trail runner at heart though and have been getting more and more into it. 2015 was my year of 5ks (one a month!), but 2016 will be my year of the Run Big Trail Series. But through it all, when the going gets tough for me I say to myself, “Caitlin did it, so can you.”

    • I want to print out the last paragraph of your comment and wallpaper my house with it, so I can read it whenever I’m feeling down on myself. Thank you so much.

      And yes, I remember you too! It’s good to hear from you! Let’s stay in touch in a different way now that I’ve peaced out from tumblr.

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