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Lululemon Pace Breaker Shorts Review — Lined Vs. Linerless

Jun 02, 2023

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I ran, lifted, and did yoga in both versions of the popular cross-training shorts. Which you should buy depends on a few factors.

As I get older, I have become far more selective about my workout gear, whether I need it for a run or weightlifting. I’m growing more curmudgeonly, and I’m less likely to make do with subpar equipment. I like my shoes to have a bit of extra cushioning and my headphones to actually block out the sound of someone clanking a barbell on the ground.

This discretion applies to shorts especially. And of the many brands that I’ve tried, very few make them as comfortable as Lululemon does. Its shorts are popular for a reason, as others agree with me. The brand has a number of choices, from the dressier Commission to the running-focused Fast and Free. However, the most versatile and de facto flagship short is the Pace Breaker. These stand out because Lululemon designed them to excel in any type of workout, from heavy squats to trail-running. A tall task. But Lululemon did it well, and if you’re looking for a pair of versatile shorts that you can wear for both running and cross-training, we recommend this one.

Here’s the rub: The Pace Breaker comes in a lined and an unlined version. Considering the the two are just dollars apart, you may be wondering which is actually most appropriate for you. I only started wearing lined shorts in the past two years, and while they quickly became some of my favorites to throw on, I don’t don them for everything.

Lined and unlined shorts perform different depending on the setting and style of your workouts. I tested out both the lined and unlined Pace Breakers in multiple workouts—running, yoga, and weightlifting, gauging how each performed under different circumstances. While I loved both pairs, I found myself preferring one style over the other for certain activities.

The clear distinction between the two types of shorts is that the lined variety have an interior layer, similar to a pair of compressive boxer briefs, that snugs around your legs. Unlined shorts, as the name suggests, don’t.

The interior liner is made of a compression fabric blend typically consisting of polyester, spandex, or elastane. A good liner hugs without binding up while wicking moisture away from your skin to keep you cool and comfortable as you work out.

At the same time, lined shorts free you from having to wear underwear, since that inner layer serves as a pair of tight briefs. This creates a more cohesive athletic outfit as well as reduces the amount of laundry you have to do. Some liners also have a side pocket big enough to hold a smartphone or wallet, so you can keep items secure while on a run.

Unlined shorts obviously lack all that and serve as a less involved, more traditional option. They give you a bit more freedom in your legs and let you decide what underwear to choose for your workouts. The lack of a liner also makes them a lot more comfortable to wear casually.

Lululemon built the Pace Breaker shorts as a jack of all trades. Instead of skewing specifically toward training or running, they’re a versatile mix meant to perform well under the stress that any kind of workout may provide.

The lined and unlined options of these shorts are made primarily of recycled polyester and elastane blend. This mix ensures stretchiness as you move as well as a tight, secure feel around the waist and, in the case of the lined shorts, on your legs. You can buy both styles with a 5-, 7-, or 9-inch inseam depending on your preference. I opted for the 5-inch inseam because I’m not remarkably tall and like showing off a bit more leg.

The first thing I noticed when trying on both pairs was how soft the fabric felt against my skin. While I did expect the shorts to be comfortable, I was surprised at how almost delicate it was compared to other brands I have tried. Lululemon initially built its reputation on the comfort of its leggings, so no surprise that this carried over to the shorts.

The elastic waistband is quite smooth, which is a small but appreciable difference compared to other shorts at similar prices. Even after wearing the Pace Breakers for multiple workouts, I never felt the waistband dig in to my skin or rub.

The lined version was initially a bit tight when I put it on, but after a few seconds of adjustments and acclimation, it fit snugly and comfortably. The liner also comes with two different side pockets, so I easily stowed away my phone and wallet with no issue.

Both options also come with traditional side pockets as well as a zippered pocket for more secure storage.

I tested both options with a brisk 3-mile run. I actually found the freedom of the unlined shorts to be slightly more comfortable than the lined pair. That being said, I have to chalk that up partially to the underwear I had on; the Adidas Sport mesh boxer briefs are a personal favorite of mine.

Where the lined Pace Breakers shined was the compression and storage. The liner kept my legs from chafing against one another and my hips and legs feeling stable. As for the storage, instead of my phone and wallet bouncing around in the zippered pocket, the side leg pockets kept them locked in. The compression helped here, too, with the elastane and recycled polyester blend keeping my phone and wallet tight against my legs.


The first test I ran each pair of shorts through was a heavy lifting session. Weightlifting and strength training are a core part of my workout routine and are beneficial even if you focus more on distance running. I made a point to test each during a leg day. More specifically, I wore them for two hot summer sessions of squats.

While both shorts performed well, the benefit of the lined version became apparent. When deep in my squat, the outside of the shorts rode up, but the liner stayed put. At the same time, the humidity in the gym and the intensity of the workout made me, an already incredibly sweaty man, even sweatier. The liner continually wicked away moisture, keeping me comfortable even as my temperature rose.

In a final test, I took my (at this point) incredibly sore legs and began stretching them out in a yoga session. After about a week and a half of leg-focused exercise, yoga was exactly what body needed. Both pairs of shorts excelled in this less intense setting.

The recycled polyester and elastane material on each stretched significantly, even beyond my own flexibility so that I couldn’t max it out or get the liner or shorts to slip. The lined shorts continued to score highly on comfort, with the liner again showing off its impressive breathability.

The unlined shorts did, however, restrict me less and afforded more freedom. Without the interior liner, I could choose the underwear that gave me the most space to stretch and enter new poses without feeling constricted. The looser feel helped me stay centered and comfortable.

Both the lined and linerless Pace Breakers from Lululemon proved to be comfortable and breathable, performing well under the stress of multiple types of workouts. That being said, for both weightlifting and running, I found the lined version to be better despite the freedom of the unlined option. So this isn’t quite a jack-of-all-trades pair of shorts. Just a jack of most. If you’re not a yogi, get the Pace Breaker with the liner. But if you’re looking for a breathable, comfortable pair of shorts to wear for your practice, save yourself several bucks and skip the liner.

Buy the Pace Breaker Lined Shorts Buy the Pace Breaker Linerless Shorts

Tom Price is an Associate Editor of Commerce for Popular Mechanics, and also contributes to Runner's World, and Bicycling. He has previously covered product reviews, startup news, and even professional wrestling. In his free time, he enjoys watching pretentious TV, low-brow movies, and exercising for beauty, not health. If you are interested in exploring more of his work, check out his website.

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