Trail running requires apparel that’s a little bit rugged.  Your father’s split-seam, high notch shorts aren’t up for the job.   Long days on the trail require durability and protection – and a few comfort features would sure come in handy as well.  If going long is your game, the Merrell Badlands just might be your shorts.


  • 100% polyester
  • 45+ UPF fabric
  • Opti-Wick™ moisture management technology
  • Crepe mesh liner
  • Double-layer mesh back ventilation panel
  • Rear zipper pocket
  • Elastic waist with slots in webbing belt for energy gels
  • Reflective logo
  • Weight: 190g  (6.7 oz.)
  • 7” inseam
  • MSRP $45

Merrell Badlands Shorts Review

At first glance, these might be a little more substantial than you’re used to: they’re somewhat heavier and have a slightly longer inseam than many shorts out there.  And they come with a belt that may or may not be useful.  That’s why it’s nice to take things for a test drive.

The Badlands made a great first impression, and shot to the top of my rotation in a hurry.  After my first 20-miler in them, they became my shorts of choice for long training days – and in May, I wore them at the hot, hilly Quicksilver 50-Miler in San Jose.  They’re comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time, and tough enough to withstand virtually any trail conditions you encounter.

Test lab at Quicksilver 50M

The shell of the shorts is a 100% polyester fabric that feels very durable – a feature I got to experience firsthand on a recent wilderness run.  I took one nasty spill that resulted in scrapes and bleeding up the entire side of my thigh, but the shorts emerged unscathed.  (Don’t ever say I don’t sacrifice for these reviews.)

One unusual aspect of the shell is that it has something of a gloss to it, which is noticeable primarily in that I often wipe my sunglasses on the leg of my shorts during long training days.  Unlike most cloth-like tech fabrics on other shorts I’ve tried, the Badlands shell doesn’t absorb any moisture, which makes sunglass cleaning a bit of a challenge.

front view; elastic belt on waistband

Another oddity is the elastic belt around the waistband in place of a standard lace-tie system.  However, elasticity of the waistband is quite secure on its own, to the point where the belt seems more of a flourish than a necessity. (Ironically, when reviewing Merrell’s Bison pants, I complained about the lack of a belt.  I appear to be having some bad belt karma lately.)

Rear view; mesh ventilation panel at top

Moisture management of these shorts is excellent, as Merrell’s Opti-Wick fabric pulls moisture away from key sweat zones.  The shell is very quick to dry, and a rear mesh ventilation panel helps keep you cool in hot conditions.  The internal mesh brief liner assists with moisture transfer as well, and stays comfortably in place even after several hours on the trail.

Good Badlands

  • Super comfortable
  • Highly durable
  • Great moisture management
  • Long enough inseam for sun protection and chafe guarding

Bad Badlands

  • Slightly heavy
  • The sunglass cleaning thing – I pack a paper towel with me now.

Bottom Line: Merrell Badlands Shorts

I’ve found the overall performance, durability and comfort of Merrell’s Badlands to be outstanding – so much, in fact, that these have become my new shorts of choice for ultrarunning.  In my world, there isn’t any higher compliment than that.

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About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, ultrarunner, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 20 years of experience in endurance sports. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

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