The market for high-quality workout shorts is dominated by a few big brands.
Though the materials in mass-market products are generally good — breathable, comfortable, stretchy, non-abrasive, performance gear blends — design can feel stale and overpriced, especially when you see the same thing all over the gym. It’s refreshing to break the mold with a boutique product that is simultaneously more attractive, cheaper, and equally as functional — like the Katana training short from the MMA turned all-around fitness apparel company Respect Your Universe.
These shorts have all the specs you'd expect out of top-quality apparel. Recycled 4-way stretch material bespeaks the company's fight-sport roots, offering ease of movement and moisture-wicking tech. A free, lower gusset reduces restriction in awkward jiu-jitsu positions or during explosive exercise, and asymmetrical stitching prevents chafing. If you scrunch the shorts up in your hand, you'll feel spongy tension, but the surface of the cloth is very soft. It's the aesthetics, however, that makes them an enticing buy.
The Katana comes in two colors. The black is sleek, but the "ocean," which walks the line between baby blue and electric cobalt, particularly pulls in the design. The Velcro waistband and triangle crotch are arresting, and the side cuts stamp the shorts with a solid martial arts feel. Though these manipulations are quite small, they distinctly set the Katana apart from the typical no frills training-short. RYU's other products, like the asymmetrically colored compression top enact similar magic. The company in general seems to operate along this principle of subtle flair — similar to the way the way Lululemon revolutionized yoga apparel with minor, polished manipulations before exploding. To seal the deal, the Katanas are available for only $33. Try to find a pair of Nike's in that price-range. [$33; RYU.com]