Flexible waist work shorts can make life much more comfortable on the job. Not only are elastic waist work shorts more comfortable, they also can help increase your range of motion while working.
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These are our choices for best flex and elastic waist shorts for work:
- Lee Men’s Extreme Motion Swope Cargo Shorts (click here to view)
- Dickies Men’s 11 Inch Active Waist Washed Cargo Shorts (click here to view)
- Propper Men’s Tactical Action-Stretch Waist Work Shorts (click here to view)
- Helikon-Tex Men’s Urban/Outdoor Tactical Shorts (click here to view)
- Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts (click here to view)
- Wrangler Men’s Cargo Performance Comfort Flex Waist Short (click here to view)
- Weekender Men’s GPS Cargo Shorts (click here to view)
- Wrangler Men’s Performance Side Elastic Utility Shorts (click here to view)
- *Big & Tall* Boulder Creek® Side-Elastic Cargo Shorts (click here to view)
- *Big & Tall* Boulder Creek® Cargo Full Elastic Waist Shorts (click here to view)
- *Women’s* CQR Women’s Quick Dry Stretch Shorts (click here to view)
- *Women’s* Columbia Women’s Silver Ridge Stretch Shorts (click here to view)
One of the first things you will want to consider is how you want the waistband to look. Some styles of elastic waist work shorts are a bit more noticeable along the waistline due to the way elastic bunches up the excess material.
If you want a smoother look, many of the brands listed above offer flexible waistbands that lay flat against your skin, and have the look of a normal waistband. Of course, if your shirt or belt is covering your waistline, this might not matter to you anyway. And some elastic waist shorts will use side-elastic panels that are a bit easier to hide.
I also like to use shorts that have a gusset for extra comfort.
In this article let’s take a closer look at the best flex and elastic waist work shorts so you can find a style that fits your needs. Let’s also discuss a few things to consider when buying these types of work shorts. For pants, visit our article about the best elastic waist cargo pants.
Best Flex & Elastic Waist Shorts for Work
Lee Men’s Extreme Motion Swope Cargo Shorts
LEE is a well-established name in apparel, and they make stretch fabric cargo shorts that also have an “Extreme Motion” elastic waistband to provide you with even more comfort and freedom of movement.
Here’s what these Lee Men’s Extreme Motion Swope Cargo Short look like:
This is the current price of these LEE elastic waist shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shorts:
- Material – Yes, this short is made with a 98% cotton/2% spandex stretch canvas fabric will provide the durable comfort you expect day after day.
- Waistband – Yes, these are flexible waist shorts. They have what LEE calls an “Extreme Motion” elastic waistband to provide you the comfort you need around the waist.
- Pockets – Two front pockets, two flap rear pockets, side flap cargo/utility pockets, and a cell phone pocket offer plenty of space to stash whatever you need to meet your next job or adventure head-on.
- Fit – If a traditional cargo is too bulky for you, the Extreme Motion Swope Short will be a refreshing change with its streamlined-yet-relaxed fit and slim pockets. The 10.5-inch inseam hits right near the knee.
Here’s how these LEE Swope cargo shorts fit on me:
Yes, these shorts use a lightweight, summer-friendly fabric that has a breathable feel to it. My size 32 weighs 0.84 pounds:
But even though these shorts are lightweight, the material is a ripstop fabric designed to discourage tears. If you look closely, you can see the ripstop weave in the material:
These shorts have side cargo pockets, but also have additional pockets on the outside of the cargo pocket which gives me a nice spot to store my phone:
These shorts stretch and make it very easy to bend and crouch on the job. Yes, they also have an elastic waistband that is hidden on the inside of the shorts:
Click here to buy these LEE elastic waist shorts at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.
Dickies Men’s 11 Inch Active Waist Washed Cargo Shorts
Dickies is another popular name in workwear, and they are well known for making budget-friendly clothing for a wide variety of jobs. And they do make flexible waist work shorts.
Here’s what these Dickies Active Waist Cargo Shorts look like:
This is the current price of these Dickies flex waist shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shorts:
- Material – These shorts are made with a 98% cotton/2% spandex stretch fabric blend (8.2-ounce). The material is brushed for a supremely soft feel.
- Waistband – Yes, these shorts have an active waistband that will be flexible and fit easier around the waist.
- Pockets – These shorts have two front pockets, two rear pockets with button closure as well as a combination multi-use cell phone pocket and an expandable cargo pocket, both with hook-and-loop closures.
- Fit – The regular fit of this short sits slightly below the natural waist while the flexible fabric and active waistband allow for superior ease-of-motion. An 11-inch inseam flatters a variety of heights.
Click here to buy these Dickies flex waist shorts at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.
Propper Men’s Tactical Action-Stretch Waist Work Shorts
Many people like to use tactical shorts on the job because they often emphasize both storage and comfort. Workers who wear tactical shorts need something lightweight and responsive.
These types of shorts put an emphasis on freedom of movement, and many, including these Propper shorts, use an elastic waistband. Here’s what these Propper shorts look like:
This is the current price of these Propper elastic waist work shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shorts:
- Material – The lightweight 6.4-ounce, 65% polyester/35% cotton ripstop construction of this tactical short is treated with a Teflon fabric protector to help repel liquids and stains. Shrink-, wrinkle-, and fade-resistance increase longevity and ease-of-wear.
- Waistband – Yes, these are elastic waist work shorts. Side elastic panels allow these shorts to stretch and fit comfortably around your waist.
- Pockets – These shorts maximize the amount of pockets. Nine total pockets on these shorts, including cargo pockets, and several small utility pockets so you can keep essentials within reach.
- Fit – The action-stretch waistband sits at the natural waist. A relaxed fit throughout the hip and thigh includes a heavy-duty double seat. The 9-inch inseam is an ideal length for an array of heights.
Click here to buy these Propper elastic waist shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.
Helikon-Tex Men’s Urban/Outdoor Tactical Work Shorts
These Helikon-Tex shorts are another great option to consider if you like to wear tactical work shorts. Just like the Propper shorts above, these shorts maximize both storage and comfort.
Here’s what these Helikon-Tex Men’s Tactical Work Shorts look like (multiple colors available):
This is the current price of these elastic waist work shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shorts:
- Two Styles – Please note these shorts come in both an “urban” style and an “outdoor” style, and the two styles will have differences. Both styles have a wide variety of pockets that can vary by style.
- Waistband – Both styles of this short feature an elastic waistband in the back which allows you to comfortably tighten these shorts around your waist, without feeling choked off.
- Material – The urban-style PolyCotton Ripstop short is constructed of 60% cotton/37% polyester/3% spandex. The outdoor-style VersaStretch Lite is a 93% nylon/7% Elastane with DuPont Teflon coating. Both fabrics are lightweight and breathable for ultimate comfort in a variety of climates.
- Fit – A traditional jeans “neck” shape prevents the short from riding down and an elastic waistband with easy closure provides a measure of adjustment within the size. The 50mm-wide belt loops allow for wider belts. An 11-inch inseam provides sufficient coverage while still keeping you cool.
Click here to buy these elastic waist shorts at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.
Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts
Columbia is well known for making outdoor active-wear. What I like about these shorts is that they are very lightweight, and are a nice option when the summer turns brutally hot.
Here’s what these Columbia ripstop shorts look like:
This is the current price of these Columbia ripstop elastic waist shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shorts:
- Moisture Wicking – These shorts will wick sweat away from your body and distribute it in a way that helps it dry quickly. The evaporation process also naturally pull heat away from your body.
- Ease of Movement – These shorts have a partial elastic waistband and also have gusseted details to allow you to move freely while wearing these shorts.
- Low Profile Pockets – These shorts have low-profile pockets that aren’t too bulky. The pocket on the left leg is a zip pocket, giving you a secure place to store essentials.
- Material – Yes, these shorts are made with a lightweight ripstop nylon. They offer UPF 50 sun protection to help protect you from UV rays.
As I mentioned earlier, you’re buying these shorts if you want an ultra-lightweight work short. My size 32 weighs just 0.42 pounds:
They’re so lightweight it almost feels like I’m wearing swimming trunks. This lightweight, moisture-wicking material really allows your legs to breathe.
That said, the reason these are tougher than swimming trunks (and still usable for work and outdoor tasks) is they are made with a nylon ripstop material that discourages rips and tears.
Here’s a close look at the material. If you look closely you can see the ripstop weave:
Here’s a look at how mine fit. The inseam on these shorts is about an inch shorter than the Carhartt shorts we discussed first.
One thing I like about these shorts is the low-profile zip cargo pocket that gives me a safe place to store essentials:
An inseam crotch gusset allows you to comfortably bend and crouch on the job:
Yes, these shorts have side-elastic panels on the waistband that help provide a snug, but comfortable fit around the waist:
The main takeaway here is you are buying these Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Shorts for their lightweight breathability. The nylon ripstop fabric, despite being lightweight, is still tough enough to use for most jobs. Just don’t expect these shorts to take on a beating like a pair of canvas shorts could.
Click here to buy these Columbia elastic waist shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). These shorts are machine washable.
Wrangler Authentics Lightweight Comfort Flex Cargo Shorts
These Wrangler Authentics Comfort Flex Cargo Shorts are another great lightweight option that also has plenty of essential storage space. Yes, they are made with a flex fabric (nylon/spandex) blend, so they will be easy to move around in.
I’ve owned these shorts for several years. Here’s what they look like:
This is the current price of these Wrangler stretch shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Here’s what you need to know about these shorts:
- Waistband – Yes, these shorts have a flexible waist band. Wrangler call is a “Comfort Flex Waistband”. In my experience, it fits easily around the waist and doesn’t dig into my waist or side.
- Comfort – These shorts, in my opinion, feel almost as lightweight as swim trunks, and that’s why I like them. In my experience, still tough enough for most types of work. Overall, a nice blend of lightweight and toughness.
- Fit – These shorts have a relaxed fit in the seat and thighs. They do not hug tight against your legs (but also aren’t obnoxiously loose). That relaxed fit in combination with the flex fabric makes these easy to wear. They have a 10″ inseam.
- Pockets – As we discussed earlier, pockets are usually essential for work shorts. These Wrangler shorts have 2 cargo zip pockets, 2 slash front hand pockets, and 2 back pockets.
Here I am wearing these Wrangler Authentics Lightweight Comfort Flex Cargo Shorts:
These are another pair of shorts that I turn to a lot when I need lightweight flexible cargo shorts for work. So why aren’t they at the top of this list?
Well, again, these are a lightweight option. I personally prefer a lightweight summer work short when it gets extremely hot, but some people prefer a more durable fabric.
If you are like me and you just want something super lightweight and flexible around the waist, with some storage pockets, then these are a great option.
Again, they feel so lightweight and won’t weigh you down. My size 32 shorts only weigh 0.66 pounds:
The moisture wicking fabric can help you stay dry while you sweat in the brutal summer heat. The fabric is also rated UPF 30, so it will also provide some protection from the sun.
Here is a close-up look at the material on these stretch shorts. Again, although it is a lightweight material, it still has a bit of toughness to it.
One thing to note about these shorts, is they have a snap button front. This may affect your decision, so I wanted to make sure I pointed it out.
Yes, it fits very comfortably around the waist with a ‘comfort flex’ waistband.
These shorts have low-profile zipper side pockets to help you safely store essentials. If you like low-profile pockets, visit our article about the best cargo shorts with zipper pockets.
These shorts are great for summer and really allow your legs to breathe in the hot weather. Obviously, they won’t be as tough as super heavyweight canvas shorts, but there has to be a trade-off for summer.
Click here to buy these Wrangler flex cargo shorts at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com). Again, in my experience these shorts fit true-to-size.
Other Flex & Elastic Waist Shorts to Consider
- Wrangler Men’s Performance Side Elastic Utility Shorts – These shorts have zip pockets in the back, and one side zip cargo pocket. The total of three zip pockets gives you plenty of space to safely store essentials. Yes, these shorts have a partial elastic waist band. They have a 10-inch inseam and are made with water-repellent polyester fabric. Click here to view these Wrangler Cargo Shorts (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
- *Big & Tall* Boulder Creek® Side-Elastic Cargo Shorts – Do you need extended sizing? These Boulder Creek shorts are offered up to a size 68 waist and have for garment washed for extra comfort. Side-elastic panels on the waistband. Double-stacked cargo pockets give you plenty of storage space. Boulder Creek also makes a full-elastic waist option. Click here to view these Boulder Creek shorts (affiliate link takes you to kingsize.com).
- *Women’s* Columbia Women’s Silver Ridge Stretch Shorts – For women who are shopping for lightweight work shorts, these Columbia Silver Ridge Shorts are a great option. Made with a partial elastic waist for a comfortable fit, these shorts have a zip pocket for storing essentials. Fabric also provides sun protection. Click here to view these Columbia women’s shorts available at Amazon (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
5 Things to Consider When Buying Elastic Waist Shorts
How many pockets do you really need? Having too many pockets can be overkill and just add bulk and weight to your work shorts. That doesn’t help anyone. But not having enough pockets can be a problem too.
If you choose stretch cargo shorts, you’ll want to make sure you consider the bulkiness of those cargo pockets. I personally prefer low-profile cargo pockets that don’t take up a lot of space.
Of course, if you don’t want a lot of bulky pockets, then you could also just use carpenter shorts on the job. If you prefer a stretch fabric and want more options, visit our article about the best stretch work shorts.
I discussed this throughout the article, but how durable do you need your work shorts to be? For me, I’ll often use a lightweight fabric when the temperature turns brutally hot, but that might not make sense for all jobs.
Which style is best for you will likely come down to personal preference and the demands of your job. If you need something that is quite durable, I’d personally stick with a pair of canvas work shorts or ripstop work shorts.
For lightweight options, visit our article about the best breathable work shorts.
You will definitely want to consider the inseam of your workwear shorts. Obviously, your height matters, but a 10″ inseam will often hit near the top of the knee. If you prefer long-fitting shorts, you’ll probably need shorts with an inseam of 11 inches or more.
A crotch gusset is extra material sewn into the crotch to add comfort and flexibility to your shorts. Buying elastic waist shorts that also have a crotch gusset is a nice way to maximize comfort.
The gusset helps you comfortably crouch, bend, and kneel while on the job and also takes some stress off the crotch seams, which can help prevent tears and rips. To read more about gussets, visit our article about the best gusset shorts for work.
Flex vs Elastic Waist Shorts
One tricky detail here is each company will brand their flexible waist in different ways. Some elastic waist work shorts have a waistband that looks crumpled from the elastic.
If you don’t want the elastic to show, then some of these shorts will put the elastic on the interior of the waist, so that it isn’t noticeable. You also have the option of buying shorts that just have elastic side panels that aren’t as noticeable.
Many of these brands create a flexible waistband that lays flat against the skin and isn’t noticeable. But if you’re looking for the most flexible option, it will be a full elastic waist short.
Ultimately, all of these styles should give you needed flexibility around the waist, but some will be more forgiving than others. For drawstring options, visit our article about the best drawstring cargo shorts.