Porous materials engineered for rapid liquid absorption are useful in many applications, including oil recovery, spacecraft life-support systems, moisture management fabrics, medical wound dressings, and microfluidic devices. Dynamic absorption in capillary tubes and porous media is driven by the capillary pressure, which is inversely proportional to the pore size. On the other hand, the permeability of porous materials scales with the square of the pore size. The dynamic competition between these two superimposed mechanisms for liquid absorption through a heterogeneous porous structure may lead to an overall minimum absorption time. In this work, we explore liquid absorption in two different heterogeneous porous structures [three-dimensional (3D) circular tubes and porous layers], which are composed of two sections with variations in radius/porosity and height. The absorption time to fill the voids of porous constructs is expressed as a function of radius/porosity and height of local sections, and the absorption process does not follow the classic Washburn's law. Under given height and void volume, these two-section structures with a negative gradient of radius/porosity against the absorption direction are shown to have faster absorption rates than control samples with uniform radius/porosity. In particular, optimal structural parameters, including radius/porosity and height, are found that account for the minimum absorption time. The liquid absorption in the optimized porous structure is up to 38% faster than in a control sample. The results obtained can be used a priori for the design of porous structures with excellent liquid management property in various fields.