Saturday, October 28, 2023

On Ultra Shorts & Ultra-T Tee Multi Tester Review: 6 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Valliere, Renee Krusemark, Jeremy Marie, Mike Postaski and Sam Winebaum

On Ultra Shorts ($120)

Sizes S-XXL


Jeff V:  The On Ultra Shorts are a high performance, long distance race day piece, featuring ultralight technical fabrics for lightweight breathability, with a soft inner brief and an adjustable waistband to keep the shorts cinched in place.  

The highlight feature of the Ultra Shorts are the 6 built in pockets, 4 stretch pockets around the side/forward perimeter of the waist band, a rear zippered pocket, as well as an outer right side thigh pocket, plus a pass through “pocket” on the rear, possibly for poles, but more practically for a minimal windbreaker or soft flask.

Renee: The women’s version of the Ultra Shorts has the same features as the men’s (see Jeff’s notes). I found the four stretch pockets in the waistband great for fuel storage as well as for small knit gloves and arm sleeves (i.e. shedding layers in cool temperatures). 

Jeremy Jeff perfectly describes the Ultra Shorts features. The shorts are stretchy with differentiated materials between front and back. The inner liner is one of the softest I’ve encountered and promises a no-chaff experience.

My size M weighs 130g/4.5oz, which is on par with light shorts…despite this one packing lots of storage, a zippered pocket, and a stash pocket on the thigh.

Sam: I look for pockets in all my run shorts and the On Ultra has them. This summer, I ran in the similar carry  Dynafit Ultra DNA with a short tight as well as my long time favorite the Salomon S/Lab Sense 6. 

I was curious to see how the far more stylish On measured up. I immediately noticed the color scheme of my pair, a grape front and black rear with a black thigh pocket. Classy! And more than just different colors as the front is a very stretchy very thin  fabric while the rear is a mainly non stretch more ripstop material.

Storage seemed good but I wondered why the front pocketing, where I typically put my phone was divided and the rear zip while adequate for my iPhone 15 Pro, a bit hard to get to on the run. Not to worry I found the outer thigh pocket perfect for my phone and more than adequately sedure.


Jeff V:  I am size medium in all running shorts and the On Ultra Shorts are no exception, fitting me perfectly with enough room to not feel compressing or overly snug and with a strong enough adjustable elastic cinch cord to hold the shorts up adequately even when loaded down.  The length of the shorts are a touch on the short side for an Ultra short, falling just below mid thigh on me.  This is not a problem at all however, as while I typically prefer a longer short, it keeps them lighter and enables a nice range of motion.

Renee: I wore a women’s size small, my typical size. If you look at ON’s website, the model, who is 5’11”, is wearing a size small. I’m about four inches shorter, so the shorts do not look as short on me as they do on the model. Like Jeff, I’d prefer about an inch longer in length for ultra shorts. I measured the women’s inseam at 4”. 

I had no issues with the shorts riding up because the material is loose and the slits on sides prevent bunching. The brief liner is adequate. For big booty runners, you likely won’t get full coverage from the liner, but the short’s length/material is enough wherein the shorts won’t expose your back side while running in the wind. 

The elastic around the liner has a loose seam, which prevents any chafing from the liner digging into the skin when sweaty or wet (i.e. a positive for the “ultra” aspect). The waist sits mid-to low for me. I do not prefer high waisted shorts, especially if the waist line is tight. The waist sits perfectly (right above my c-section scar). I had no issues with discomfort even with loaded pockets and my iPhone in the zipped pocket. I didn’t need to pull the drawcord to keep the waist from slipping, even with the pockets loaded. 

Jeremy As with all my other shorts, I’m a size medium in the On’s Ultra, and they fit me perfectly. And that’s a real “perfect” in this case, as they fall right in the sweet spot between roomy and tight for my personal preference. “Adjusted” is the word. My cycling thighs don't rub against the shorts, and the stretchiness of the fabric, combined with the general lightness of it, gives a “barely there” feel.

Their length also falls right with my preferences, but I admit that they’re shorter than usual “ultra” shorts.

The draw cord might look too thin and a possible source of pressure against the hips, but it’s perfectly implemented and really serves well at stabilizing the shorts once fully loaded.

They sit quite low on the hips, something I also favor.

The rear zipper pocket will eat a large phone (iPhone 14 Plus with a case) and despite its unusual construction, being “suspended”, it does not bounce.

Sam: I am medium in shorts and here the fit is good and a bit on the relaxed side at the waist for a short with lots of storage.  I did experience some bounce and droop at the rear with my phone there unless I pulled the back up high, yet none in the black patch hip pocket which was actually surprising given the soft thin stretch grape color mesh up front. I might have actually sized down to small for more waist hold? While the draw cord with its reflective front holder is effective, I think the top mesh pocketing and waistband could be higher and with a bit more compression at the back.

As far as styling I love the colors and fit here. For sure a run short all the way but one that you could also wear otherwise. 

Mike P: I received the Ultra-T and Ultra Shorts along with the Cloudventure Peak 3 for testing. Just like ON footwear, perhaps even more so, ON’s technical apparel demonstrates a clear sense of superior fit, function and craftsmanship. You can bet that each element of each piece of apparel has been carefully thought out, designed and tested. I already have several pieces of ON apparel which were personal purchases - namely outerwear. While some outerwear pieces in my running collection tend to come and go, all of my ON apparel has remained in rotation.


Jeff V:  Performance is excellent, as I appreciate the light weight, breathable, quick drying materials, soft inner brief with no chafing, good “containment” and no annoying or noticeable seams.  

The elasticized waist cord is minimal, comfortable and very effective at keeping the shorts in place, even when the pockets are loaded and running fast down technical trails.  

While I often use a Naked waist belt or a Camelbak Ultra Belt, my favorite shorts are the ones where I can easily carry a phone, stuff my car key and perhaps a few other essentials like a soft flask, windbreaker, food, gloves, beanie. The On Ultra Shorts check all of those boxes.  

The 4 perimeter waist pockets are great for smaller items like gels/food, or glove liners, a beanie, chapstick, car key, etc…, but they are shallow in relation to some other similar shorts and especially compared to a waist belt.  I will note here though that I have a mini key beaner that I use to secure the key to the shorts so I don’t worry about the key falling out of my pocket, but it would be really nice to have a simple key clip inside one of the pockets here as some other shorts do.  T

The rear zippered pocket easily fits my iPhone 13 Mini in a protective case and can easily be retrieved/put away on the run for a quick photo or navigation check. I think it would handle the more common “regular/medium” size iPhone 13/14/15.  Stuffing a max size phone in there might be difficult though.  

With a 16oz. Camelbak soft flask

The thin drawcord for the waist looks thin and insufficient, but is surprisingly comfortable and effective. The cord holder is reflective..

Underneath the zippered rear pocket is the opening for the pass-through pocket, where I find it easy to stash a windbreaker or soft flask of water here (easier with a phone zipped into that pocket, but doable).  

Ultra thin windbreaker in pass through pocket with iPhone 13 Mini in zippered pocket.

The outer right thigh pocket could double as a phone pocket or for any of the other items, but it is less secure and heavier items are more likely to bounce around there and possibly fall out.

Renee: My longest run in the shorts was four hours, with several 2 to 3 hour runs as well. I ran with food in the waist pockets (fruit snacks, Kind bars, Cliff Bars, arm sleeves, and knit gloves). Looking back on the photos, it looks like I’m wearing a heavy waist belt, but the feel is light and not obtrusive. 

I used the thigh side pocket for trash. My phone does not fit in the thigh pocket, but as Jeff wrote, it’s not a pocket for heavy items. My iPhone 14 Max Pro fits in the back zipper pocket, even inside a plastic baggie. The fit is tight, and it’s not quick/easy to take in and out, but it works. While I can feel the weight of the phone, the shorts stayed in place and for easy paces and hiking mixed in, I found the performance good. 

In comparison to wearing a belt to store my phone, I enjoyed not having the shorts ride up. Typically, a waist belt that holds my phone will eventually ride up to my natural waist which is annoying. 

I ran with a small tripod in the pass-through pocket, so you might be able to place poles back there. However, I agree with Jeff, the pocket is best for a jacket (I stored my Adidas Terrex windbreaker there, the same jacket shown in Jeff’s photo). Like Jeff, any light weight items in that pass-through storage will fit better if you have an item in the zipper pocket (in my case, an iPhone 14 Max). 

Jeremy I wore those shorts for some 3h runs, and also for shorter speed sessions. In both cases, they delivered exactly what I expected.

During the longer runs, I used the pass-through pocket  to store a light vest under the zip pocket, which was holding my phone. That’s the best use I’ve found for this space, as it did not feel too secure when I tried to put poles there (and there’s a big risk of tearing a hole with the poles- when putting them back in). The waist pockets held light gloves and my snacks. At first they can look a bit shallow, but they proved the opposite. Snacks were held tight, and I never lost one even when bombing downhills.

I was a bit skeptical at first with the pocket on the thigh, as it’s loose and does not have a special “thing” to hold things…and its use just naturally came on the run: it’s a perfect stash pocket! It can also holds your “current snack”, like the other half of the bar for example.

Being stretchy, they never constrained movement even during power-hiking or when taking big steps uphills.

They also drain moisture very well and don’t soak with sweat, nor they run up the waist while running, something I usually face with belts, as Renee described.

During the shorter speed session, so completely unloaded, they completely disappear, and the split sides do a nice job to avoid the short from bunching up.

Sam: The performance as an all around run short is fantastic. The forward grape color portion stretches easily and at the same time is not billowy. I think credit due to the non stretch ripstop like rear black fabric. Moisture transmission off the front is total with the brief supportive and comfortable. Moisture is felt on the rear smoother thicker non stretch rear ripstop fabric which is less evaporative but in a pleasant way.

I do think the pocketing system and waist band needs some tuning. The front pocketing is divided into 4 small pockets, 2 on each side of the draw cord. At least one side should be a larger pocket eliminating the dividers.

The stretch top waist band could be a bit higher for more storage and also less rear droop as with a phone in the rear zip pocket I had a bit too much bounce and sag and it is a bit hard to reach having me put the phone in the excellent front hip pocket where I had no concerns my iPhone 15 Pro in an Otter Box case would come out. 

Slimmer phones or phones with no case might be an issue in that pocket.

Mike P: I’m 5’10”, 138 lbs, thinner in the upper body, so I’m a perfect fit in size small for all of ON’s tops. I’ve never worn any ON shorts or pants so I was curious about the fit of those. I received the Ultra Shorts in size small, which usually works for me for most brands. Shorts can be tricky though due the variations in the liners, and the fact that as a trail runner, I’d say I’m relatively “thicker” in the “glutes” and thighs relative to the rest of my body.

The Ultra shorts fit pretty well size-wise, although like Jeff V - I do prefer a bit more length on the outer short. They’ll at least be good for extending my runner’s thigh-tan in the summer months. I do find the liner to be a bit small for me, the edges around the rear feel like they’re riding up just a bit, which is noticeable. Again, liner fit is very subjective. Also, I do typically prefer a boxer style liner, especially for longer runs/races.

But the liner material is super soft and as Jeremy mentions, and chafe-free. There are no stitched seams along the edges around the legs - they are welded so there’s no chance or irritation. There’s some stitching along the front side, and something of a “pouch” area up front for the guys. The stitching here is soft and causes no irritation as well.

As for the Ultra-T, it is semi-fitted - somewhat between a t-shirt and a base layer, but leaning more towards the base layer side. Fit is perfect for me in size Small. The hem is nicely shaped and falls perfectly over the hips. It can easily be tucked into the Ultra Shorts as well if you want to keep the waist pockets accessible. It’s also a great, close to the body fit for usage underneath a running vest.


Jeff V:  Overall I really appreciate the performance, utility and comfort of the On Ultra Shorts.  They are high quality, well thought out and cool on hot days, with excellent carry capacity and of course a level of style that On has mastered.  I would recommend them for any length run, from a daily jaunt from your door or a mountain 100 miler.

Renee: The major pro in these shorts (for me) is that I can fit my iPhone 14 Max Pro in the back zipper pocket. While I do sometimes like to wear a belt, I’m not a fan of tight material around my waist and with a phone in a belt, it eventually rides up. No such issue with these shorts. 

Even without the pockets loaded, the shorts work fine for short runs as well. The price is steep, but ON’s quality is fantastic. Another positive for me is that  often pocketed shorts (especially any short that holds a phone) have tights as a liner. These shorts have briefs. For those who chafe along the inner thighs, tights might be better, but I like the comfort of the briefs (some tights have a seam on the inside that is NOT comfortable). 

I’ve washed the shorts and placed them in the dryer (not delicate) five times since receiving them. The durability is holding up. A possible negative might be the brief liner has a thin elastic which has loosened some. Possible wedgie situation for those with big, beautiful back sides. Minor note is that items in the waist pockets might fall out when making quick pit stops/bathroom stops. 

Jeremy I must say I’m impressed with those shorts. They combine great comfort, lightness, and yet pack lots of storage capacity, earning their “Ultra” name. Their understated looks, especially in black, the reflective details, albeit tiny, makes them a versatile, efficient piece of apparel that can serve for both training sessions, road races or mountain ultras.

Sam: The On Ultra short is supremely comfortable, classy in styling and not “over branded” and with a very decent but not quite perfected pocketing system. With a bit of tuning it could easily become the ideal run short not only for ultras but any run. As with all On apparel quality is outstanding as should be durability. Don't just think trail and ultras here. It is also an excellent road short and would be ideal for a marathon where more than just a singlet is the uni: for gloves, gels, phone, etc..

Mike P: Below are some pics fully loaded (for me) along with contents. I say “for me” because normally I don’t like to load up my waistbands too much. The most I’ll do is a few gels, chapstick, race map, and possibly gloves. Race belts are too bouncy for me, so I prefer a short with ample waist band storage (such as this one) in combination with a running vest. There’s a multitude of pockets though, and you’ve seen already how much others have loaded them up. 

Here I can carry 4 gels, one in each mesh pocket, a windbreaker in the pass-through pocket, and a Pixel 6a in the outer zip pocket. I put my gloves, one each, in the front mesh pockets, but the side hip pocket is also the perfect size for light gloves. 

I don’t like carrying poles in my shorts, as they rub on the bones of my lower back. But the pass-through pocket works great if you prefer this carrying style. I put a Black Diamond windshell in the outer zip pocket on top of the poles here.

With this amount of gear, I experienced very little bounce while running. I also can tuck in the Ultra-T so everything is out and accessible. The shirt is also fitted enough so, when untucked, there’s not an excess of material flapping around over the loaded waistband. 

There’s also a small pocket on the Ultra T - roughly near the rear/left hip. You can fit a gel or two, or maybe something else small in there. There’s no closure along the top. Nothing fell out for me, but I wouldn’t put anything important in there.  I tried it for a moment, but honestly I’ve never had a T-shirt with storage and it doesn’t seem like a useful storage pocket to me.  Especially if I’m already wearing shorts with good pockets like the Ultra Shorts.

6 Comparisons:

Ultimate Direction Jason Schlarb Short (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Schlarb shorts have an elasticized waist belt built in, as if attaching a pair of shorts to a Naked waist belt.  They are comfortable and the pockets are deep and very functional for storing all the usual items, plus pole loops in the back that are nicely functional.  Without a waist cinch though, fit can be tricky and can feel snug when I am full, loose when I have been running for a few hours and can sag a bit when loaded.  The On Ultra is a bit more comfortable given the elastic cinch drawstring and because of that I lean towards them (the Schlarb short also has an awkward cut that I don’t particularly care for).

Sam: Far more storage but less comfort go for the UD Schlarb. Its waist is quite snug, its fabric heavier and denser, its brief not nearly as comfortable. it could relax while the On could use a bit more substance to its carry system. Style wise hands down the On Ultra wins.

Gore Wear Ultimate 2 IN 1 Shorts (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Gore has a 2 in 1 design with a tight almost compression like inner liner with a loose outer short.  They are heavier and less breathable, but have a cinch waist, large deep usable waist pockets and thigh pockets on both legs on the inner liner.  They can carry more gear more securely than most shorts including the On, but there is a weight and breathability penalty (not for hot days).  I prefer the On for most runs, but lean to the Gore for high alpine runs and chilly mornings.

Dynafit UltraDNA Shorts (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Dynafit shorts have a long bike short like liner, but are very thin with small perforation holes for exceptionally good ventilation and breathability.  The Dynafits have a similar design with a rear zippered pocket that can accommodate a small phone and more generous deeper stretch mesh pockets around the remainder of the band. 

Sam: Short tight vs brief the key difference here. I wore the DNA many days this summer often in very humid conditions and the inner tight is about the most comfortable I have ever tested. The ON waist storage is more comfortable but not as secure as the Dynafit’s with the Dynafit waist comparatively snugger and a bit more constraining.

Salomon S/Lab Sense 6 Shorts 

Sam: As far as I am concerned, still the reference for shorts with storage and lots of it. Incredibly airy, the Salomon has deeper storage around the entire waist, a very comfortable brief and lighter fabrics. Not sure how they do it but the storage is secure and plentiful and there is no over squeezing at the waist. The On easily wins on style points.

Adidas Terrex Agravic Pro Trail Running Skirt (RTR Review)

Renee: The Pro Skirt has similar mesh, waist pockets (3 components), although they aren’t as deep compared to the ON Ultra Shorts’. The back zipper pocket is also not as deep (no way a phone can fit there while my iPhone 14 Max fits in the ON shorts). For pockets storage, the ON shorts work better. The Terrex shirt has a tight as compared to the brief of the ON shorts. Both are great, it’s a runner’s preference for the pocket size and if briefs or tights work better that will determine the choice. 

Brooks High Point 2-in-1 Shorts (RTR Review)

Renee: The High Point shorts have a back zipper pocket, although not as big compared to the ON shorts (works for small items, like a key fob or gels). The High Point has two small side pockets on both sides, which work fine for gels. Overall, the storage of the ON shorts is better. Again in comparison, the ON shorts have briefs while the High Point shorts have tights. I like both, it’s just a matter of storage and if I feel the need for briefs or tights. 

On Ultra Shorts are available at our partners


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Tester Profiles

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Renee is a former U.S.Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Jeremy MARIE, French, 44y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90 kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120 kms, Some shorter more mellow races (Saintelyon 45 kms, Ecotrail Paris 45 kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Also active cyclist and 70.3 Ironman. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km - 4’30/km. He has an un-official marathon PR of 2h54 (solo) and 10K PR of 36’25. He does few timed road races.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets very very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. Sam purchased his Ultra Shorts. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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