Summer running in the northeast is a wild and varied thing. On any given day it could mean a cool morning jaunt up a misty mountain trail, a sweaty midday sufferfest on baking-hot asphalt, or a peaceful evening jog by headlamp. Every time you lace up in the summertime, it’s like rolling the dice. A long run on the road in a tropical downpour? Sure. How about a short trail run up a rocky scramble in triple-digit heat? Check. Muddy singletrack? Sandy beach? All fair game. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you can get all of the above in a single workout. Whether you’re preparing for fall marathon season or just trying to maintain your quarantine routine, taking your running into the summer is going to require perseverance, flexibility, and the right gear. From your shoes, to your pack, to your clothing, versatility is an absolute must. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to put one such piece of gear up against everything the season has to offer. Enter the EMS Elemental Active+ Shorts (Men’s/Women’s).

Beating the Heat (and the Humidity)

If you’re running with any sort of regularity in the summer, you’re going to be spending some time doing it in hot and humid conditions. Anything you’re wearing needs to be light and comfortable or you’re in for some seriously rough sledding. The Elemental Active+ Shorts are both—the built-in liner and combination drawstring-elastic waistband are snug without feeling tight and the outer shorts don’t even feel like they’re there.

And when the heat of the day is too much, and the run needs to wait until sundown, the reflective accents on the Elemental Active+ will keep you seen on even the darkest of roads.

Staying Dry

Staying dry on summer runs is basically impossible. If it’s clear, you’re most likely sweating by the gallon. If it’s raining, it’s most likely pouring on you. Having had to run more times in the rain this season than I would care to count, it’s safe to say that the Elemental Active+ holds up and doesn’t feel overly-clingy when soaked through. They dry pretty quickly too—I ended one recent run in the Gunks with a dip at Split Rock and was—delightfully, surprisingly—mostly dry by the time I got back to the car—not too bad!

What’s more is that even with all the sweat and moisture, the shorts’ odor resistant treatment holds up incredibly well, which is great for those long, post-destination-run rides home.

The Extras

I’d yet to see a pair of running shorts with satisfactory pockets until I came across these. More often than not, if I’m running, I have my phone. It’s great to track training runs, take photos, or have as a map on new trails—and unless it’s cool enough for a pullover with a chest pocket, it’s in my hand, which can be a bit of an impediment when things get scrambly. The liner pocket on the Elemental Active+ is secure, perfectly sized for a phone, and hardly noticeable.


Where I found the Elemental Active+ really excelled was on longer trail runs. The combination drawstring–elastic waistband was outrageously comfortable with going the distance and the quick-access cell phone pocket made stopping for a photo or a map check super easy.

Shorts are one of those things you hope not to have to think about on a run. Essentially, they’re just there to keep you modest without being uncomfortably or restricting while you try to go fast. And while the EMS Elemental Active+ Shorts (Men’s/Women’s) tack on some features I forgot I wanted, they more than check the box as the ideal lightweight, “forgettable” running shorts for summer days.