10 Best Base Layers for Running Reviewed
The best gear to help you regulate your temperature with the temperature outside will be your underclothes. In this article, we will break down what makes the best base layers between materials, features, and overall comfort, and then we use these criteria to create a list of the best base layer wear.
The right base layer can bring your running to a whole new level. A proper base layer will wick sweat and keep your dry, which is an integral part of temperature regulation while running. Many top-performing base layers also have muscle compression implemented in their design. Compression can provide support, prevent pain from overexertion, and delay muscle fatigue, which makes this attribute essential to runners looking for the best base layer.
Your base layer should act as a second layer of skin, preserving the body heat that you generate and pulling the sweat from your skin to eliminate the discomfort caused by dampness. To do all this the base layer needs to be tight and have a close fit.
- Helly Hansen Long Sleeve Crew
- Merino Wool
- Icebreaker Everyday Base Layer
- Lightweight 100% Merino wool
- Tesla Mesh Compression Base Layer
10 Best Base Layers For Running
1. Helly Hansen Men's HH Warm Ice Long Sleeve Crew
This wool base layer is available in 18 colors and dual tones, each as sleek as the next - Black with Flag Red and Racer Blue with Evening Blue are exceptional. Sophisticated technologies contrasted with a classic design fuse to create a high functioning, aesthetically pleasing base layer. Flatlock stitching and low-bulk cuffs mean comfortable fabrics and fit next to the skin. You need your base layer to work for you and look great, while simultaneously forgetting your wearing it at all. With the NH Warm Ice, mission accomplished!
Coupling merino wool with 43% polypropylene makes for excellent fabric that thermoregulates and feels right next to the skin while also providing both insulation and drying capacities. Patented Lifa T3 hollow fiber engineering keeps athletes even warmer during hardcore workouts in the coldest climates. The lean design and low bulk cuffs make throwing your layers over easy-breezy. Flat lock stitching adds essential smoothness with anti-chafing and less irritation. With warm wool and wicking properties together, you’ve found your perfect long sleeve base layer!
Medium price point with high end value.
Looking for an all-around base layer look no further we have the solution for you, functions are wide and regulate temperature at any given time provides insulation and drying capabilities while simultaneously forgetting you’re wearing it at all.
If you are an all-weather runner we have what you are looking for, one that can keep you warm when need be and can also help you cool down when there is need to due to its thermoregulatory function.
- Lifa T3 insulation and cooling
- Performance Merino Wool
- Low bulk cuffs for easy layering
- Refer to size chart; fits snug some run a size up.
Icebreaker Everyday Base Layer
Made with 100% Merino wool, it is soft and comfortable as well as non-itch. The neckline is accommodating to whatever you may want to wear over the layer and will allow room to move and breathe if you’re active. The fit is slim so it isn’t bulky or hard to wear underneath other tops, but it also runs a bit small and short. Also, the material isn’t blended with any spandex or Lycra so it doesn’t have a lot of stretch and may easily lose its shape if stretched out.
The fantastic Merino wool content of this base layer means that you’ll stay warm without overheating or dealing with excess sweat. Merino wool naturally wicks moisture and is ultra-breathable, as well as odor resistant. Compared to other base layers made with Merino wool, this one is very thin and lightweight, so you can wear it under practically anything or as a sheer top over a camisole or sports bra. It’s the perfect layer for if you just need a little bit more warmth and coverage without needing a heavy-duty undershirt.
The Icebreaker Everyday Top sits at about the mid-range compared to other selections on our list but is cheaper than some other Merino wool layers. With as much daily use as you can get out of a base layer like this it’s sure to earn its keep. If you can afford to invest a little you may even want to get two or three for convenient everyday wear.
- Merino Wool
- Moisture Wicking
- Breathable and soft
- More lightweight than other 100% Merino Wool layers
- Close fit
- Wear as a base layer or a top
- Runs small and short
- Not much stretch
- Lacking Durability
Tesla Mesh Compression Base Layer
The material make-up is 87% polyester and 13% spandex for a great combination of elasticity and function. The fit is unfortunately where this base layer falls short. Customers expressed dissatisfaction with the fit and not often did they all have the same complaint. Some said it was too long while other said the sleeves were too short, some expressed it didn’t have enough compression and others complained it was too tight to wear. The issues are inconsistent and wide-spread, but this inconsistency may mean that they are outliers for an otherwise useful product that many others loved.
The material blend is great for wicking moisture away and there are mesh panels for ventilation in the back and sides, keeping you cool and dry. It does offer a little more warmth when layered with other gear, but it’s a better choice for temperature regulation while running in any season than to keep warm while doing things like hiking and skiing. It also will help keep you protected from UV rays with UPF 50+.
One of the greatest qualities of this base layer is that it is extremely affordable. At less than 20$ (or 10$ depending on the size and style) it is a great option for those on a budget or for those who aren’t sure what they’re looking for but don’t want to feel like they are throwing away too much money.
- Quality blend of materials
- Compression fit
- All-season wear
- Moisture wicking
- Lots of colors to choose from
- Good temperature regulation
- Side and back mesh panels for ventilation
- Sun protection UPF 50+
- Runs small for compression (Order one size up for regular fit)
- Varying fit issues
- May not be wearable by itself
Duofold Men's Mid-Weight Wicking Thermal Pant
A base layer pant can be crucial to a productive workout. These thermals dual-perform as an everyday, soft bottom and an incredible athletic base. Ankle length with an adjustable inner drawcord, the Mid Weight Wicking Thermal Pant boasts a calm, comforting aesthetic. Feel softness against your skin while you workout, rest or whatever. Feel confident these pants will get you through your tough training dry, cool and odor free.
Fabric comprised of 96% polyester and 4% spandex/jersey is soft while providing 360-degree stretch for flexible motion. The thermal fibers insulate, keeping your body warm and odor free.Flat-locked seams are smooth and prohibit chafing and irritation while the fabric itself provides full length wicking and quick drying. Small details with big impact include a tag-free elastic waist to assist with moisture control and irritation. A base layer pant should work hard so you can work out hard. This one definitely does!
Excellent price point.
- Soft thermal fibers fused with 360-stretch fabrics
- Tag-free elastic waist
- Odor control
- Limited colors
4. Hot Chillys Men's Micro-Elite Chamois Crewneck
An utterly stylized base layer top for all your training needs. The accent striping enhances the shoulders and chest while the fitted cut looks on-trend and athletic. Available in black or granite - definitely check out the granite - you’ll love the appearance of this crewneck and equally, the softness. Hard to believe something that looks and behaves so tough is simultaneously so gentle and comfy against your skin - we won’t tell!
We love that the Chamois is UPF 30+. With increasingly sunny days ahead, it’s crucial to have protection. Be confident you’ll stay free of morning chill, with a Warmth Factor of 8, too. Add flat seam construction for additional strength and resistance to abrasions, a sanded fabric for enhanced softness and Bio-Silver trademarked microbial fibers to resist odor and you’re soft, easy chamois is also your base layer machine.
Price point is fair - medium cost but enormous value.This type of layer is best known for stretching and flexibility,it provides,softness,warmth and enough comfort as well,so for the price you get that value,this is the all in one kind of scenario.
This is for the runners who are looking for a hard to believe, something that looks and behaves so tough and is equally gentle and comfy against your skin – tough to break easy on you kind of layer.
- Bio-Silver microbial fibers to control odor
- UPF 30+
- Warmth Factor 8
- Refer to sizing chart - runs tighter. Possibly best to order a size up.
6. CompressionZ Women's Leggings
We love the on-trend appearance of these sleek compression leggings. They fit snug in all the right places, offering excellent support and an attractive fit. With go-to, all-occasion capability, the CompressionZ Leggings are certain to be a favorite. Reasonably priced, we’re pretty sure you’ll want one in each color (nine, to be exact)! Choose Leopard Blue to appease your wild side or sophisticated Ferns Silver for day outings that transition into night’s at the gym. With odor free fabric, not only are they the perfect “everything” pant, you’ll love the way you can wear them from gym to park-and-play to dinner without missing a beat!
Sit back and relax - this may take awhile. The CompressionZ Legging helps to reduce unwanted muscle motion during runs or hard workouts. This assists in energy waste-reduction, ultimately improving your workout and stamina. The compression fabric also works to improve circulation and reduce muscle fatigue and pain during and after your training. This helps athletes to feel less soreness even days after strenuous workouts, too. The patented Smart Moisture Management system eliminates moisture and sweat and protects the body from chafing and abrasions or irritation. We love the antibacterial/anti-odor technology fused into the fabric. When you don’t have time to shower between the gym and lunch, you don’t have to worry - between the microbial protective system and the wicking fabric, you’ll feel fresh and ready for anything.
Average priced, but this pant does its duty as your go-to fashion legging and compression gear. Well worth it!The pants stand on their own hence eliminating the need to buy other compression clothing.Quiet amazing as it provides just the boost that your lower half needs and craves for.
we have to admit that not everyone likes to put on shorts,reasons best known by them that is why we feel that this compression pants will be your go to.they act as support on your lower half eliminating the need to shop for a number of compression clothing,they are a perfect choice since they also have a number of advantages with them.
- Best compression fabrics
- Wicking, breathable
- Anti-odor technology
- Compression fit will run snug, see size chart.
7. Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 Zip T
Jaw-dropping good looks may be the first thing that comes to mind when considering the Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Zip T, but trust us: this base layer isn’t that superficial! Full of modern technologies that promise to enhance your workout, you get to love the way you look and feel in this gorgeous design. Merino wool is soft and cozy and the colors are sophisticated and earthy at once. We love the Taupe Heather. ‘Urban Mountain Man’ comes to mind. Swoon.
This base layer covers every tech need to promote your better and more comfortable workout. Smart shoulder panels reduce the necessity of shoulder seams which means a smooth, irritation free fit. The flatlock seam adds to chafe-free, comfy wear and fine merino wool fibers creates an uber soft, itch-free environment for your body. SmartWool provides a moisture and temperature controlled environment that also prohibits odor. All of this provided in an UPF 50+ construct for ultimate sun protection. Fall in love with a slim fit base layer that looks amazing and keeps you healthy and productive during all of your activities.
Pricey but stunning. A must-have purchase for great looks with sun, fitness tech, and safety features.
Mid 250 Our warmest base layer. Works as a single layer in cool weather or as a base layer in cold weather ,perfect for winter runs, apart from this it also provides the masculine nice sexy look in a guy, we are not only trying to make you warm but also look great in the process. It’s a ‘win’ for you!
Smart wool Men’s NTS Mid, wear alone in cool climates or as a base layer in harsher conditions, Easy right? Get one of this keep it in all weathers.
- Smart shoulder panel
- Flatlock seams
- SmartWool technology for moisture, odor and temperature control
- High priced
8. CW-X Insulator Stabilyx Tights
These tights are made seamlessly to optimized wearer comfort and prevent and abrasiveness and discomfort that the repetitive motion can cause. Now the one negative with the Stabilyx Tights that a lot of wearers warned about is that they can sometimes be very difficult to put on. The general consensus is that once they are on, though, they perform more than satisfactorily. The CW-X Insulator Stabilyx Tights are made from 80% coolmax and 20% lycra.
The Stabilyx tights are much more known for keeping in their heat over their warm weather wear. They are also remarked on having remarkable compression, preventing muscle pain and fatigue after extended activity. Another attribute of note is these legging provide knee support and stability, so issues with injury, recovery, or problems with chronic leg conditions can be mitigated by the CW-Xs support web. The Stabilyx also sports a support panel to help with abdominal and lower back support.
These are on very high end as far as prices go for tights, but they deliver on their price in both product quality and performance.
If you are looking for a year round base layer, the CW-X Insulator Stabilyx Tights may not be a perfect fit, as they tend to keep a runner pretty warm. They are a remarkable pair of tights in that the support and compression they provide makes them very valuable to the runner who needs that specific type of gear: If they fit your niche, they are well worth the cost.
- Provides knee, hip, and back support
- Keep heat well
- Helps with pain
- Can mitigate post run issues
- Can be difficult to put on
WoolX Hannah Midweight Merino Base Layer
The materials are high-quality, using 100% Merino wool for this midweight base layer. The cut is a little more relaxed but still comfortable and offers extra coverage with length added to the back hem and the cuffs. Most wearers said it was true to size but if you’d like something looser feel free to order up a size. There are also plenty of colors and styles to choose from as far as design; take your pick from a gorgeous solid midnight teal, a modern two-tone black and grey, a series of stripes, and more!
The Merino wool content of this base layer means reliable temperature regulation with plenty of extra perks. Merino wool is incredibly breathable to prevent overheating while also keeping you warm and snug. It will easily wick moisture away from your body and has antimicrobial properties that will resist odors so you don’t have to worry about scaring away your backpacking buddies after your second day of hiking. This is a midweight base layer, so it may not be perfect for all-year wear, but you can definitely count on it to get the job done when you’re ready for cold weather adventuring.
This base layer is a little more in line with what most Merino wool layers will cost. It’s not the most affordable, but you can be sure that it will do all of the things you need it to do when you need it to do them. That reliability is worth the cost, in our opinion.
- 100% Merino wool
- Breathable and soft
- Can be worn by itself
- Odor resistant and antimicrobial
- Trendy with multiple colors and styles to choose from
- Longer cuffs and back hem for coverage
- Not the most affordable
- Not great for all seasons
10. NIKE Dry Element Running Top
The Dry Element’s construction is intended to do just that, keep you dry. And with Nike’s Dry fabric there is no doubt that this base layer will wick any moisture away from its wearer. The Nike Dry Element ensures a proper, slip free fit from its position by implementing thumb anchors into the design of its sleeves, making sure its wearer is comfortable but also properly covered at all times.
The Nike Dry Element Running Top is a high functioning piece of gear. It has the capacity to keep its wearer cool and warm with proper breathablility. Additionally the Dry Element sports a half zipper which will allow customizable ventilation even at the base level. Nike’s Dry Element Running Top is also reflective, which makes low light running much safer if you are running with it uncovered.
This running top comes in at a little on the higher side of cost, but with brand reliability like that of Nike’s, the price is reasonable and you receive a much better than average product.
While this may not be the best base layer to wear under multiple other layers, it will work as reliably as some of the other options on this list, keeping its wearer evenly tempered and dry through their run.
- Well ventilated
- Keeps warm
- Zips for adjustable ventilation
- Thumbholes for secure ergonomic anchoring
- Construction may be too thin
This wraps up our guide to the 10 best base layers for running. By now you’ve found your just-right short, tight, compression legging, wicking top or contoured zip layer. With so many tech and design options, there’s a perfect fit for everyone and we’re certain you’ve found yours!
Our Criteria for the Best Base Layers for Running
Of course, when it comes to running, it’s not only about the running shoes. There are so many other variables to improve your endurance and overall workouts. A base layer is a prime example that can set you apart to become your best.
There are some factors to consider when you’re looking to buy a new base layer. We don’t only look for the best and new base layers, we also look for the biggest trends and the best reviews. Below you will find the criteria we used for this list:
Breathability depends on many factors. It starts with the quality used in the products that allow for the right ventilation and thickness vs lightweight in the material. A great example of a lightweight breathable material is the Merino Wool fabric. This fabric keeps away bad odors and keeps you warm, that’s why it’s best to use in cold climates. Other fabrics that offer great breathability are synthetic fabrics that offer wicking properties. This means that the base layers don’t really absorb the sweat, rather they transfer it away from your skin. Unlike other fabrics, this is best used in humid and wet climates.
Another important factor that we take into consideration is how durable the base layer will be. In order to save on cost and keep wearing the same base layer for a long time, we need to take into account the test of time. Merino Wool has been questioned because it is soft and will most likely develop holes with its usage. Therefore, it’s not as durable as the other fabrics.
It’s crucial to read the washing instructions as it will help you extend the base layer’s lifetime. This will allow you to ensure that the fabric remains intact and durable. Some manufacturers are mixing different fabrics together in order to get one product that is stronger. Of course, there are also some other variables such as how comfortable the product feels on the skin, the technology used and how to make the base layer last without compromising its quality.
For the best performance, base layers must fit in tightly which will help the material to pull the moisture from your skin. Some people like to use it as an additional layer and that makes the product less functional. Consider getting a base layer that fits in tightly and avoids looking at the style because of looks.
When measuring the warmth of a base layer, consider its weight. There are different types of weight – lightweight mid-weight and the heavyweight. Depending on your level of activity and different times of seasons will determine what type of base layer you will need. Lightweight is the best for breathability, for example, however, it does not allow you to stay warm. If you’re looking to stay warm and use a base layer in colder climates, then you might consider the Merino Wool fabric as it offers a great deal of temperature control.
Mid-weight is right in the middle. It has just enough weight for the cold weather and also breathable quality for the hot, summer months. Be prepared and make sure you have everything covered. You might want to get one of each in order to be prepared.
This material defines the durability, breathability, and comfortability of the gear. The material is most likely what will keep you cool or warm, therefore, be careful and don’t pick your base layer based on a style by compromising the quality of the material. Merino Wool is usually the higher costs because of its ability to be soft and comfortable, it has superior temperature regulation and anti-odor ability, but it’s expensive and less durable than polyester. Even though it is the most expensive, it is worth the buy.
Then we have the blends. Manufacturers mix different materials to acquire the desired quality. Some brands like Arc’teryx and Patagonia provide a mix of materials and provide the comfort of merino wool and the long-lasting trait of polyester.
More To Think About
Odor prevention is a consideration when picking the best base layer. It’s a great option if you like the merino wool material as it keeps your skin dry and prevents the smell of odors when you sweat.
Base layers have different uses as you can wear it as an under layer, mid-layer or exterior layer during the winter months for running or during the fall or spring for hiking. The thickness of the fabric will have a big impact on the insulation and breathability. Make sure you keep in mind the best use for a base layer and the reasons why you should get one.
When the base layer is compressed against your body, it allows to remove the water from your sweat and keep your skin feeling dry. That’s why a compression base layer keeps your body’s temperature regulated. As a result, you most likely will not feel the lactic acid in your muscles and you will avoid cramping since the chances of developing cramps will be reduced as the muscles are being compressed.
A base layer that is effective is a base layer that has a moisture-wicking fabric of some sort. That means that the moisture is being evaporated from your skin to the outside and is still keeping the body warm. The fibers are allowing you to avoid staying wet and become cold. That’s why you want to select a base layer that has the right materials in the fabric.
Since you’ll most likely be outside running, take a look at how much UV protection the base layer will have. If it says 100% SPF, then that means that it can protect you from all kinds of rays. Even if you’ll use your base layer in cool weather, the sun can still penetrate through, so you want to be covered.
Below you will find some frequently asked questions when it comes to base layers. Some runners have asked them before when they were looking for the best base layers for running.
Q: How is it possible to stay warm and cool with the same compression shirt?
A: A proper base layer is both moisture resistant and well ventilated. Keeping you dry when its cold will allow your body to more easily regulate its body temperature. Proper ventilation and air flow will allow your body to only keep the heat it needs and remain cool in excesses of that. A well-made base layer can easily accomplish both of these goals and be useful to a runner year round.
Q: Which material is best for all season running?
A: The fabric best suited for quality construction, moisture management, and temperature regulation is merino wool. This is the material we would recommend for your base layer, no matter the season.
Q: How often should I replace my base layer?
A: Since it really depends on how often you use it, how you take care of it and other factors, your base layer should be replaced when you see something new on the market, when your base layer is no longer usable or simply because you want to try another base layer to improve your performance.
Keep in mind taking care of the base layer will influence your decision on when to get another one, especially washing and drying. Merino is soft but prone to have holes faster than other materials, but if you go for one of the mix materials, you can end up having a more durable base layer and prolong the life of one.
Q: Which is the best anti-odor base layer?
A: The best factor in avoiding odor is choosing the right material. Merino wool is one of the best fabrics available for this purpose. It pulls sweat away from the body and allows for proper ventilation which will limit the build-up of the bacteria that cause body odor.
Q: What’s the best long sleeve base layer?
A: In our opinion, something that has Merino wool in it. Merino wool keeps you warm in cold weather and keeps you cool in the heat. The wool on a Merino has evolved to vaporize sweat during the summer to give you an anti-odor experience. It may seem strange, but Merino wool will be one of the most effective materials that keep you cool on a 90-degree day. The fact that many manufacturers prefer this material is a testament to its quality and effectiveness.
Q: Why not use a cotton base layer?
A: Cotton is known for its absorption features and also for its effectiveness in retaining water. When it comes in contact with water it immediately gets wet, it doesn’t vaporize. That’s why cotton is not suggested as it becomes a barrier to holding in moisture against one’s skin. This leads to irritation of the skin. There are no environments, hot or cold, where that’s desirable. Cotton likes to hold onto water, unlike other fabrics that will tap it out and make it evaporate. No one desires to stay dump in any cloth.