When’s the last time you really dug through that overflowing drawer of free 5K race tees? If you’re like most runners, you’ve probably accumulated enough running shirts to outfit an entire track team, yet have only a few that you actually enjoy wearing. But having the right shirt for your workouts is important. After all, it’s hard to love your run if your tee is heavy from the rain, soaked from sweat, riding up, or chafing. So keep your lucky race-day singlet and your nostalgic high school gym top, but if you’re ready to replace a few of those bottom-drawer duds, we’ve literally got you covered with the best running shirts, according to our experts and wear-testers.
Best Running Shirts
- Best Short-Sleeve: Nathan Rise Short-Sleeve Shirt
- Short-Sleeve with Sun Protection: Hoka Performance Short-Sleeve
- Durable and Comfortable: Lululemon Swiftly Tech Short-Sleeve Shirt 2.0
- Best Value: 32 Degrees Cool Active T-Shirt
- Best Women’s Tank Top: Janji AFO-Vent Tank
- Best Men’s Tank Top: Under Armour Iso-Chill Run Singlet
- Best Merino Wool Shirt: Smartwool Merino Short-Sleeve Tee
- Long-Sleeve With Sun Protection: Coolibar LumaLeo Long-Sleeve T-Shirt UPF 50+
- Best Racerback: Oiselle Flyte
- Best Crop Top: Lemedy Longline Sports Bra Top
- Soft Fabric: Beyond Yoga Spacedye Slim Racerback Cropped Tank
- Best for Visibility: Brooks Carbonite Long-Sleeve
- Reflective Details: Korsa Cadence Run Short-Sleeve
- Best Long-Sleeve: Tracksmith Brighton Base Layer
The Expert: Emily Shiffer runs three times a week, anywhere from 1 to 5 miles, and hits up HIIT and bootcamp classes at least twice a week. Living in the Northeast, she usually sticks to the treadmill during winter. But once the temp hits above 60 degrees, she is usually running and walking outside. Emily tends to sweat a lot but likes to layer her shirts to help her get warmed up. And once she is, she prefers to run in a running tank or sports bra. In addition to staying comfortable, this also gives her a chance to get some sun, which she is all about.
Choosing Your Ideal Fit and Style
Most running shirts have an athletic cut that’s more fitted than your average tee. So if you’re between sizes or just like a little more room, don’t be afraid to try a size up. Also, take note that women’s tops are shorter and tend to have a more tapered, narrow fit around the waist.
You also have to choose between sleeveless, short-sleeve, and long-sleeve styles. The weather and your natural temperature tendencies while running are two things to consider when it comes to sleeve length. Break out sleeveless tops for hot runs and long-sleeve shirts for chilly runs. If you prefer less material, sleeveless is the one to go with. But if you like more coverage, choose a short-sleeve or long-sleeve running shirt. These styles not only offer protection from the sun, but also reduce chafing.
Understanding Running Shirt Material
We won’t stop you from running in your favorite all-cotton tee, but be wary that the material gets heavy when wet and dries slowly. Plus, 100 percent cotton shirts will most likely do some serious shrinking in the drier. Some better options are technical fabrics that blend various materials, such as polyester, elastane, spandex, and nylon. If you want a shirt that really wicks sweat fast, choose a mix with a higher percentage of nylon. Or if extra stretchiness is a must-have, seek out more spandex. Synthetic fabrics with open weaves or larger fibers also breathe better on humid runs, and some even have antimicrobial properties for combatting bacteria and odor. For year-round temperature regulation, Merino wool has excellent moisture-wicking properties to keep you warm or cool, and the fibers are naturally odor-fighting.
If you’re a diehard for the comfort of cotton, try a 50-50 blend that pairs it with a second, more sweat-friendly material like polyester. You’ll still get some of that cottony softness but with added durability and even UV ray protection.
How We Tested and Evaluated These Running Shirts
We test running shirts constantly, putting them through a veritable gauntlet. Our team of wear-testers gauges odor control by forgoing washes, then running through rain, high heat, and blustery winds, and finally submitting them to (several) laundry cycles to find out whether they come apart in the dryer. In addition to testing many of these shirts and evaluating their comfort, fit, and design, we also considered price point. Two of the options below cost $30 or less, so you don’t need to break the bank to have solid pieces of running gear in your closet. Here are 14 of the best running shirts that made the cut.
Nathan Rise Short-Sleeve Shirt
Sizes: XS–2XL (M), XS–XL (W)
Materials: 80% polyester, 20% spandex (body); 92% polyester, 8% elastane (mesh)
You’ll stay focused on the trail instead of worrying about friction, stressing over visibility, or sweltering under the sun in this ultra-soft T-shirt. Part of Nathan’s foray into apparel, the Rise has a mesh chimney panel on the back, so-named because it allows body-generated heat to escape as you run. It also has reflective panels on the sleeves and back and is woven with flat-lock seams to prevent chafing.
—SHORT-SLEEVE WITH SUN PROTECTION—
Hoka Performance Short-Sleeve
Sizes: XS–2XL (W)
Materials: Recycled polyester
The Performance Short-Sleeve isn’t your ordinary tech top. The recycled Polartec Power Dry polyester manages moisture with bi-component knit construction, which translates to a highly breathable, sweat-wicking fabric. The soft, lightweight material is also odor-resistant and has UPF 50+ sun protection. Gusseted underarms and a relaxed fit allow mobility, and reflective logos add visibility.
—DURABLE AND COMFORTABLE—
Lululemon Swiftly Tech Short-Sleeve Shirt 2.0
Sizes: 0–20 (W)
Materials: 54% nylon, 40% recycled polyester, 3% elastane, 3% X-static nylon
Hands down, Lululemon’s women’s-only Swiftly collection is a favorite among Runner’s World editors. Not only is the Swiftly Tech lightweight, but it comes in 11 sizes and tons of bright colors and prints to go with any running outfit. The fabric is also super soft, and as one editor noted, “helps with armpit chafing.” I tried this one, and at 5-foot-2, I felt that it was a little long in the torso but was obsessed with how it looked and felt. We also recommend the Swiftly Tech Long-Sleeve Shirt 2.0 and its relaxed fit counterpart, which are warm yet breathable for chilly runs. All three shirts are expensive, but they hold up amazingly. One editor noted, “I’ve had two of my three since 2013 or ’14, and I’m just now thinking about replacing them.” And if you’re pregnant, it’s also a great maternity shirt. “I bought one a size up and am currently wearing it at 32 weeks pregnant,” an editor said.
32 Degrees Cool Active T-Shirt
Sizes: S–2XL (M and W)
Materials: 90% polyester, 10% spandex
Sweaty runners, rejoice! This shirt from 32 Degrees (and the Cool Fitted T-Shirt for women) was specifically designed to keep you cool while working up a sweat. It’s made of 90 percent polyester and 10 percent spandex, so it quickly wicks away sweat and dries quickly to keep you cool as a cucumber. Another feature we love: It’s tagless, so say goodbye to itchiness. One RW editor had high praises, noting it’s “durable, soft, good for hot weather, wicks sweat away.”
—BEST WOMEN’S TANK TOP—
Janji AFO-Vent Tank
Sizes: XS–XL (W)
Materials: 80% nylon, 20% elastane
AFO is an acronym for Air Flat Out, what Janji calls its stretchy, paper-thin, fast-drying, Bluesign-certified fabric, which is free of harmful chemicals. The “vent” version used in this women’s-only tank top has a four-way stretch and micro-perforations for all-over breathability. The flowy yet flattering silhouette allows for range of motion and doesn’t cling to your skin. A bonded hemline, neckline, and armholes don’t chafe vulnerable areas, such as the underarms.
—BEST MEN’S TANK TOP—
Under Armour Iso-Chill Run Singlet
Sizes: S–2XL (M)
Materials: 90% polyester, 10% elastane
This men’s-only singlet is made of stretchy poly-elastane fabric woven from flat yarn to disperse heat. Under Armour combines this with titanium dioxide, which helps absorb and protect against UV rays. Finally, the material is infused with an antimicrobial tech to fend off bad B.O. Reflective logos and accents enhance visibility, and a back mesh panel provides ventilation. Our tester liked how the cut allowed free movement and commented that it was so lightweight “it feels like there is nothing there.”
—BEST MERINO WOOL SHIRT—
Smartwool Merino Short-Sleeve Tee
Sizes: S–XL (M), XS–XL (W)
Materials: 87% merino wool, 13% nylon
If you prefer a natural-fiber running shirt, Smartwool has great options. And this Merino wool and nylon blend short-sleeve tee does a good job of wicking sweat. One RW editor noted, “The Merino wool is soft on my skin, absorbs sweat, and isn’t too heavy for high-intensity workouts. I’ve worn it back-to-back days during weekend backpacking trips without feeling stinky.” The wool’s temperature-regulating function means we also reach for it as a baselayer for runs during fall and winter. Bonus: It also has UPF 20+ to offer some extra protection from the sun during outdoor training.
—LONG-SLEEVE WITH SUN PROTECTION—
Coolibar LumaLeo Long-Sleeve T-Shirt UPF 50+
Sizes: S–2XL (M), 2XS–3X (W)
Materials: Organic cotton, bamboo viscose, and elastane
If sun protection is important to you, then you need this long-sleeve top from Coolibar. The LumaLeo is made with organic cotton, yes, but that’s combined with moisture-wicking bamboo viscose and elastane for a hint of stretch. Coolibar also infuses the blend with zinc oxide sun protection that won’t wash out. The UPF 50+ fabric promises to block 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays. The design stands out, too. The relaxed fit shirt is breathable in the heat, has a crew neck that isn’t too high or too low, and features flatlock seams that are comfortable next to skin. And did we mention it has thumbholes?!
Oiselle Flyte Tank
Sizes: XS–3X (W)
Materials: Polyester and nylon
This 25-inch racerback comes in a rainbow of colors, including leaf (shown above), obsidian, and clementine. Its Arque Plya fabric is a nylon-polyester blend that wicks away sweat. The women’s-only tank has a seamless construction and jacquard mesh bird designs for ventilation. It’s close-fitting but not constrictive.
—BEST CROP TOP—
Lemedy Longline Sports Bra Top
Sizes: S–2XL (W)
Materials: 87% nylon, 13% spandex
I have been a fan of this Lemedy sports bra top since 2020 when I first learned about it on social media. I currently own three, and I’ve raved about them to family and friends, who’ve also ordered multiples. The fabric is thick in a good way, and I feel supported by the shelf bra (though this might not be true for all runners). However, it’s not the most breathable material. After two years, my tops are still holding up. Plus, Amazon always has sales on them. And a former Runner’s World feature editor is obsessed: “The quality is good, you don’t need to wear a bra, they’re super comfortable and stylish! I have six.” Another winner to check out if you don’t like spaghetti straps of this model is the Lemedy Yoga Crop Bra Top, which is also a fave among RW editors and has thicker straps.
Beyond Yoga Spacedye Slim Racerback Cropped Tank
Sizes: XS–XL (W)
Materials: 87% polyester, 13% spandex
This women’s-only top is my all-time favorite. (I have nearly 10 of them. Seriously.) For me, it’s the fabric: Beyond Yoga’s Spacedye material is buttery soft and just feels good on my skin. The racerback straps make me feel supported, and it has a shelf bra that offers medium support, which works well for me. There are a bevy of colors to choose from, and the brand releases new ones on the reg. My one gripe is that it isn’t particularly sweat-wicking, and lighter colors show sweat. But when I’m working hard, it doesn’t really bother me.
—BEST FOR VISIBILITY—
Brooks Carbonite Long-Sleeve
Sizes: S–2XL (M), XS–2XL (W)
Materials: 84% recycled polyester, 16% spandex
The next time I plan to do an early-morning or late-night run where I anticipate to be running in the dark, you better bet I will be wearing the Brooks Carbonite. The reflective strips are bold and plentiful and can be seen 600 feet away, which will make me feel safe and seen. The thumbholes are an added bonus, and there is also a zip pocket for secure storage (which not many shirts have!). This is also a great cold-weather shirt. The fabric is thick yet breathable, and the long-sleeve has a bit of a mock neck style.
Shop Men’s | Shop Women’s
Korsa Cadence Run Short-Sleeve
Sizes: XS–XL (W)
Materials: 88% polyester, 12% spandex
Hit your stride in this deceivingly basic-looking short-sleeve. The Cadence is made of sweat-wicking polyester-spandex and has antibacterial properties built in to reduce B.O.—a heaven-sent feature because you’ll likely extend your run in this breathable, sweat-absorbing top. The front is patterned with reflective dots for visibility and provides full coverage without a bothersome too-high neckline.
Tracksmith Brighton Base Layer
Sizes: S–XL (M), XS-L (W)
Materials: 52% wool, 28% nylon, 20% polyester
Soft, breathable, and odor-resistant, the Brighton Base Layer is ideal for cold runs when you need to layer and can also be worn on its own. Test Editor Amanda Furrer was surprised at how warm she felt one day when the weather app read “feels like 28.” Still, the engineered merino wool mesh provided enough ventilation and moisture-wicking power to prevent sweat buildup. That wool also stood up to a seven-day wear streak without holding on to stench. The Brighton feels flannel-soft with a seamless construction to boot. The only drawback is that we noticed slight pilling around the collar after a few wears, but otherwise, the shirt has held up and become a cold-weather favorite.
What Makes a Great Running Shirt, According to Our Expert Emily Shiffer
RW: What style of shirt do you prefer to run in and why?
E.S.: I am a bra tank girl. I usually start with a long-sleeve shirt and end up just wrapping it around my waist on my runs. I like the compressive feel of bra tanks. I prefer tighter-fitting running clothes versus looser.
RW: What’s one feature you pay extra attention to when shopping for running shirts?
E.S.: Thumbholes! I love them in long-sleeve shirts. I think people either love or hate these, but they keep my hands warm, and I like the look.
RW: Any advice on how readers can extend the life of their running shirts?
E.S.: For most of my running clothes, I do my best to hang dry everything. It’s tedious, I know, but it really does keep my clothes in good condition for longer. I also use a ‘sport’ detergent that I think does a better job of cleaning and getting out stink.
RW: We all like a deal, but when is it worth it for people to consider spending more than $50 on a running shirt?
E.S.: Before I spend a lot on running shirts, I always ask around to see if any of my friends have tried either the brand or model I’m looking at. I also think about wearability for other workouts: Can I throw it on during a HIIT class or while lifting weights? If I can justify it being multipurpose, it’s worth the splurge.