Best Running Apparel Tested
With the seasons changing, it’s time to think about the right running apparel to keep pace with you and the weather. From wicking shirts to light jackets to shorts, we have got you covered. Adjusting to temperature changes, weather conditions and daylight savings just got a lot easier with these top ten pieces to make your run more comfortable, safer and even more fun!
- Under Armour Tech Hoodie
- Moisture Transport System
- Nike Dry Fit Element Top
- Dry fabric + Dri-FIT
- Champion Long Mesh Short
- Light breathable mesh
10 Best Pieces Of Running Apparel
1. Under Armour Tech Popover Hoodie
The UA Tech Pop Over Hoodie is an excellent choice for an active lifestyle. Runners appreciate its design, which is simultaneously comfortable with a relaxed fit, and also high performing with several sports' minded design elements. The knit fabric is soft but also functional with a quick drying technology built into the fabric. The color options are great - select from dark or bright red, cobalt blue, green or classic hues like grey or black. It's a great transitional piece and serves the dual purpose of meeting all athletic expectations with an on-trend aesthetic.
The Under Armour trademark Moisture Transport System confidently wicks perspiration and keeps runners dry. The UA fabric is designed for quick-dry with an ultra soft knit that feels natural. Wearer's are assured a comfortable run, no matter how long or what the conditions! Anti odor technology is one more feature that allows runners to feel sure of freshness - a great component especially when a run is followed by an impromptu lunch date. The 2-snap placket, contrast stitching and lining are perfect touches on this multi-purpose Henley.
Reasonably priced - taking into consideration how dual-purposed this hoodie is.
- Several great colors
- Quick dry materials
- Moisture Wicking technology
- Soft, relaxed fabric
- Material is very thin.
2. Nike Dry Element Half Zip Running Top
The Dry Element Long Sleeve Running Top is so well fitted and trendy that it’ll easily transition from ride to dinner-ready at the local eatery. It comes in several hues, including soft shades of heather grey green. If you like a “pop” of color, you can enjoy a fun shade of pink, purple or blue (just to name a few). What’s really wonderful about the Dry Element top is the soft, cozy feel. Even with the confidence of Dri-FIT wicking fabric, texture isn’t sacrificed. Additionally, flat seams translate into an even smoother fit.
In this pullover, 88% Dri-FIT meets 12% polyester and spandex for a comfy, confident stretch fit that provides excellent flexibility and range of motion. Built-in reflective features mean a safer run no matter the weather, lighting or time of day or night. Accent features like thumbholes at the cuffs keep runners warmer and customize the fit and style. Add a media-cord loop positioned at the upper back and it’s ready-set-go!
This pullover is moderately priced for optimum apparel.
- Dri-FIT technology meets ultra comfort
- Media Cord loop
- Slightly higher end price
3. New Balance Lite Packable Jacket
Ultra stylish and simultaneously lightweight, the New Balance Lite Packable Jacket is also convenient. We like the ease of packing it into its own zipped chest pocket. A perforated logo down the back makes for on-trend breathability and ventilation without the sacrifice of cool and the navy blue selection is extremely handsome. Spring means a few unpredictable showers, winds and changes in lighting. This versatile jacket lets you combat fluctuations in the elements safely without hindering the fun of the run.
The jacket weighs a mere pound and is made of 100% nylon and Nab Dry for enhanced moisture control and faster drying capability. A perforated logo down the back does double-duty as a ventilation system for chic breathability. The 360 reflective tape logo and trim provides visibility and safety. The hood tie down, located at the back of the neck, is a nice stability feature while the zip pocket storage meets our standard of convenience. With such a versatile and well-functioning jacket, runners can keep their focus on the ride, where it should be.
This is an average priced piece of running gear.
- Reflective 360 degree tape and trim
- Great price point
- Ultra lightweight
- Not many color choices
4. Champion Long Mesh Shorts
The Champion Long Mesh Short makes a great running and everyday short. Casual and athletic, it's perfect for a run, workout, or just hanging out. A favorite aspect is that it comes in a variety of colors - 22 to be exact! It also comes in a range of sizes, small through XXX-large. So basically this really is "every guy's" perfect short. Enjoy the breathable, relaxed style of the Champion Long Mesh Short and hit the trails, the courts or your favorite diner in comfort.
This short packs some nice features into its casually athletic appearance, including two sizeable pockets for storage and a draw string for a secure, right-sized fit. These are made out of breathable, 100% polyester for a comfortable cool feeling. The lightweight mesh short has a convenient elastic waistband and is machine washable. These shorts truly are easy, athletic and functional.
Reasonably priced - wouldn't hurt to grab a few pairs at the great price point and so many colors to choose from.
- Casual athletic, everyday style
- Pockets for storage
- Many colors
- Fit varied - use provided size chart, may run large
5. Under Armour Tech Short Sleeve
A smooth, brushed fabric makes this comfy t-shirt a favorite. The loose fit looks great running or for a social gathering. The aesthetic defines its wearer as both athletic and casual. Being so light and comfortable, we promise this shirt will become a favorite. Throw it on for a fun run then just...have fun!
This is where it gets interesting. The technology within this seemingly everyday t-shirt is outstanding. On long runs or workouts it can't be missed that the fabric is cooling, quick drying and ultra soft and natural feeling. UA patented Tech fabric provides fast drying while the Moisture Transport System wicks sweat quickly and assists with drying. A loose cut translates to mobility for better running and overall comfort. You'll still love your favorite old t-shirt, but the tech promises to become your favorite new.
Excellent price for the performance
- Trademark wicking and drying fabric
- Soft, natural, lightweight feel
- Many colors
- Great loose cut but make sure not to order compression or fitted, both offered under the same descriptive heading.
6. Tesla Compression Base Layer Short Capris
The Tesla Compression Capri makes a bold apparel statement. Its modern aesthetic reflects the concept of "machine" as much as apparel. We especially like the orange hue selection, but you can choose from several colors including black, red and gray. Sporting compression wear that is as high functioning as the Tesla Capri will enhance your athleticism and fuel your fun. You'll feel all the part of a serious runner and look it, too.
The compression capri has a flat-lock seam for a smoother fit and seamless feel. Worry not about a run in the sun with the UPF 50, which shields over 99% of harmful rays. The compression design assists with early recovery after a tough run or hard workout by helping to control blood flow and prevent muscle pain. The fabric technology has a built in deodorization function, repelling odors connected to residue, sweat and grime. The all-season apparel is designed for all seasons, wicking moisture, releasing heat and offering a cooling effect. Truly, a these tights are well-engineered and will enhance your run.
Shockingly reasonable for the value
- Wicking, heat release and cooling fabric
- UPF 50 Protection
- Flat lock seam
- Early recovery benefits
- Should purchase a size larger than usual, runs small.
7. Champion PowerTrain Performance Tee
The Champion PowerTrain Performance Tee is a must have for runners who appreciate a pretty transitional piece for everyday. Available in many colors and a nice range of sizes, wearers can also choose between a V-neck, scoop neck or crewneck. The softness might easily distract from the performance value, but this little tee has both. Enjoy comfort and fashion while reaping the benefits of a well crafted fabric boasting the latest performance technologies.
The 100% Polyester material is machine washable and designed with Quick Drying Champion Vapor technology which helps to wick and evaporate sweat and moisture. The fabric is designed for extreme softness and comfort and includes chafe-resistant flat lock seams for a smoother fit. At 4.8 ounces, this is a throw-it-on and forget-about-it kind of tee, except that the softness lends itself to a constant reminder. We can live with that.
Good price point for a well fitted tee with additional components that ensure a performance-with-comfort run
- Trademark wicking and moisture absorbing fabric
- Extremely soft
- 3 styles to choose from
- Each style (crew, V-neck or scoop) has unique elements so be sure to pick a design with the features desired.
8. CW-X Stabilyx Tights
This fabulous looking tight is a must have for any runner who appreciates a great fashion piece. The trendy style is matched with excellent support in all the right places, including the core for a toned, even appearance. The color schemes and patterns are so fun, you can't help but feel airier and lighter on your feet. A bonus for runners!
Components that make this tight more than a fun fashion piece include anatomically engineered, gender specific comfort and ease of motion, flat seam construction to protect against abrasions, "flash" reflective logo for nighttime visibility, a key pocket and double reinforced waistband with draw cord for a more secure fit. Finally, for wicking the fabric is comprised of 80% Coolmax and Lycra for stretch, with UPF 40 protection for an extra fun run in the sun!
A bit pricey but for the fashionable fun with equal parts performance, we think it's a great value!
- Excellent for joint support
- Fabulous colors and patterns
- Coolmax wicking fabric
- Must use size chart for fitting details
- Slightly higher priced
9. Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Skirt
Taking the prize for most colors and sizes, the Gym Girl Ultra Skirt With Athletic Shorts is available in 27 hues and a very wide range of sizes. With a philosophy encouraging all women to feel great in their bodies (and their running gear), Skirt Sports ensures a versatile collection of prints, themes, colors and sizes with the objective that all women will run (and love athleticism) with extreme confidence. Mission accomplished!
Look forward to a dual commitment of fit and flare with a semi-compression short beneath a light skirt. A fabric fusion of Jersey, Polyester, LYCRA, and mesh provide moisture wicking support with motion and flexibility as well as just-right compression for a toned aesthetic. 5" shorts stay neatly tucked beneath a 13.5" skirt (add another inch for the backside). Two pockets located on the shorts' legs create storage for keys, phone, cards or other small necessities. Add a built-in Sonic Music Port for media headset cord and run for miles in a rhythmic bliss.
Slightly pricey but this two-for-one is a lot of value for the cost
- 27 colors
- Fitted shorts for a toned appearance and comfort with a pretty, light skirt for a feminine aesthetic
- Moisture wicking
- Slightly higher end
10. Under Armour Fly By Run Short
Great colors and an attractive fit make this short a favorite. Race tones like red/white or unique hues like anthracite/harmony/red/reflective and several options in between create options for every taste. While the fit isn't snug, it's also not loose. A close to the skin fit without compression feels comfortable and looks amazing. Feminine, scalloped cuffs contrasted with mesh side panels add a pretty yet urban accent. Flattering and functional, this short is a winner for runners!
So much technology is packed into this short, it's unbelievable. HeatGear, an Under Armour trademark technology, keeps perspiration wicked away from the skin and moves it quickly to the surface where it evaporates. Built-in briefs assist in odor protection and comfort, while Moisture Transport System technology provides wick protection back up. Add a cute elastic waist band with draw cord. The fact that the brand is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and we have a hit!
These shorts are priced around the average for similar items.
- Member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition
- Fitted without being tight
- Cute scalloped detailing
- Dual wicking technologies
- Some experienced bunching in the front, which can be resolved with size adjustment.
The Criteria We Used To Find The Best Running Apparel
Whether you are just starting out or a more seasoned veteran in the world of running, we know you have a LOT of options to choose from when it comes to what to wear for your runs. The global revenue numbers for the running apparel industry estimate that annual sales are over $145 billion, and constantly growing. And as technologies change and running trends evolve, so too does the way a consumer runs and works out. Long gone are the days of one or two big-name companies having a monopoly over the running apparel industry. Just walk into any running or athletic clothing store and you will easily find at least fifteen different manufacturers putting out clothes, all of whom declare themselves as the best option for you. So how do you choose? What do you really need in an article of running clothing? And how/what metrics should you use to narrow down your options from such a wide range of styles and brands? The following criteria are the metrics we used to find the best all-around pieces of running apparel for everyone from beginners to experts.
From long-sleeved shirts and tights, to adverse weather gear, to shorts that keep you cool in the heat, we know you have got to stay comfortable. Your weekly schedule is already packed with an ever-growing to-do list, your muscles are already tired before you start, and the workout on your training plan is killer. It might not take much of the pain away, but having a comfortable wardrobe at least helps makes the grind just a little less grinding. With so many different styles and options of running clothes, we have considered several aspects of comfort.
The fit – Running clothes can easily be too tight or too loose, and finding your specific “sweet spot” is not always easy. They should be fitted enough that they comfortably snug your skin without being overly constricting. (However, in the case of base layer clothing, such as running tights, the fit should be a bit tighter than just a regular pair of running pants. There should not be a lot of extra fabric that gathers and bunches as you move, but should remain so close against your body that it acts almost like a second layer of skin.) You want to avoid a lot of excessively loose-hanging fabric, as that will get heavy and uncomfortable once you start to sweat, and will weigh you down – not to mention, if it is REALLY loose it might start to hurt as it flop against you during your run. On the other hand, clothes that are too constricting will make it harder to pump your arms and move your legs faster. Seam lines that are fitted too tight against your body can cut into your skin. This list of best running apparel contains items that have minimal seams to decrease rubbing and eliminate chafing. The same can be said for ultra-tight waist bands. Opt for pieces that have easily adjustable elastic waistbands. Overall, the clothes contained in our list are all fitted in a way that the wearer hardly notices them much at all; they are flexible in such a way that they move easily with you without constricting or inhibiting your run.
The material – Advances in running clothes and the material used to make them are growing. The first thing to remember when picking out a piece of running clothing – from pants to tops to sports bras and even socks – is that pieces made from cotton should be at the bottom of your choice list. While your favorite pair of fitted jeans might be 100% cotton, this fabric tends to chafe easily because it does not wick moisture well. Instead, cotton holds onto water and soaks it up so that when you sweat, your cotton clothes will become heavy and hot (which is just about the last thing you want to experience on your mid-day run in the summer in 90+ degree heat). Instead, you want to look for clothes made out of “technical fabric;” aka, fabric that is breathable, light, moves well with you, and ventilates moisture away from your body to help control body heat in both hot and cold conditions. Examples of technical fabric include nylon, polyester, spandex, and Lycra. Typically, as in the case for most of the items on this list, you will find blends of different ratios of these fabrics. Different blends of fabrics create different feels, so it is important that you know what feels best to you.
To be competitive among top ranking running apparel brands, clothes need to be stylish. Long gone are the days in which running apparel was purely functional. With the popularity of “athleisure wear” on the rise, workout clothes now should be cute and practical. It is especially important that your workout clothes be easily transitional – that is, that you can go straight from the grocery store to your kids’ soccer game to the running trails, all the while looking chic. All the pieces on this list are definitely stylish enough to be seen outside the darkness of your basement home gym. (Yet, they are not so overly trendy that they’ll be out of style next week.) Think about specifics for tops versus bottoms, as well. For instance, consider necklines for your shirts. Among some popular styles to choose from include crew necks, v-necks, and scoop necks. What you choose, and what is included in this list, are stylish as well as functional. Many of the options on this list also come in various colors and patterns. A complete running wardrobe is not only practical, but should be as fun and unique as you.
3. Durability and Performance
Your running performance is the most important factor by which to judge what is the best running apparel. Whether you base performance off of time, mileage, or just personal enjoyment, the best running clothes stand up to whatever conditions you are exposed to throughout your training season. We first consider how each piece of clothing endures the particular temperatures and weather conditions it is designed to be worn in. The heat gear on this list will keep you cool even on the hottest of afternoons and the cold-weather gear will keep you warm on the chilliest of mornings. If a piece of clothing is supposed to keep you dry on a rainy day, then it should do just that. Compression clothes should be both supportive and aid in early recovery. In some instances, running clothes are made to be dual-purpose in that they were created to serve more than one function or be worn for multiple purposes. Again, if a jacket is supposed to both keep you warm when it is cold and keep you dry during a spring shower, then it needs to live up to its branding. Our list of running apparel functions in the ways in which they are made to and remain true to their advertising.
The clothes on this list should also hold up well even over the course of multiple training seasons and thus, multiple washes. We know you don’t want to waste your money on a pair of running tights that you only get a couple uses out of, so we have ensured that all the clothes on our list of best running apparel stand the test of time (and of the washing machine).
4. Special Features
To make a list of the Best Running Apparel, the clothes have got to have a little something extra. There are hundreds of running apparel options to choose from, so to be on this list, we found the clothes that have the “bells and whistles” that set them above and beyond competitors.
Some common features that you will likely find in any quality piece of running attire, and which are included in this list, include reflective features (most commonly found on shoes but nowadays more and more tops/shorts/pants/hats are being made with reflective strips) to ensure safety in darker running conditions, anti-odor technology that both keeps you dry and keeps your sweaty stench at bay, and contain some way for you to stow essentials. Multiple pockets are becoming more and more popular, and are often made to hold specific essentials (such as a small, narrow pocket for your car or house key, and wider and easy-to-reach pocket for gels and fuel, and a narrow pocket in cold-weather gear through which to slip your headphone cords). On our list, you’ll find some variation of all of the above mentioned features in one capacity or another. In addition, some of the items (such as the New Balance Lite Rain Jacket) are made with travel and limited gym bag space in mind, so they can be easily condensed to a small, packable size. Even the simplest features shouldn’t be overlooked: half-zip features (such as the Nike Dry Element Half Zip Running Top) are handy because they keep you super warm when you need it, and can be adjusted to cool you down as temperatures start to rise.
We know you work hard for your money, and we know the sacrifices that you have to make to stick to your training plan and reach your running goals. You shouldn’t have to worry about your running clothes letting you down after just a few wears, nor should you need to take out a second mortgage to be able to buy new stuff when what you’ve purchased falls apart far too soon. Running clothes CAN be expensive – but they don’t HAVE to be. Our list of best running apparel features pieces that are durable, versatile, come equipped with special features, are made from technical fabrics, and still won’t break your budget. Running apparel brands range from very cheap to ultra expensive, but you can count on the items on our list to be reasonably priced among competitors without sacrificing quality or performance.
Other Things to Think About When Purchasing Running Apparel
What season, temperatures, and/or conditions will you be running in?
Some of the items on this list are meant specifically for colder weather or cooler climates. However, if you call Southern Florida home, there are very few days out of the year that you will need a long-sleeved shirt or running tights when you’re out on the road. Perhaps purchasing one is a wise investment (especially if you ever intend to travel a bit north) but you won’t need to fill your closet. The same can be said for other items on this list – if you live in a very dry, arid climate, a pricier rain jacket might not be worth your money, whereas those of us who run year-round in Oregon definitely need the best rain gear we can get. One important factor to consider in regards to climate, no matter where you live, is purchasing clothes that comes equipped with UPF sun protection (that is, Ultraviolet Protection Factor which measures UV protection capabilities of fabrics). Even if where you live and run tends to only see cloudy days, the damaging effect of the sun’s UV rays can be detrimental to your skin, and overexposure is a serious concern. The highest UPF rating is is 50 (meaning it only allows 1/50th of UV rays to pass through, blocking 98% UV radiation). Several pieces of clothes on this list come with excellent UPF protection.
Are you a male or female?
This might seem like a bit of a no brainer, but not all the clothes featured on this list are meant to be unisex. The shirts designed specifically for men won’t fit the female build correctly, and guys probably won’t have much interest in running skirts. However, pieces like the rain jacket can probably be worn comfortably by either gender. Also, if you do see something that is specifically intended for the opposite gender, chances are the same brand sells something very similar (and similarly priced) for your gender.
How are you naturally built?
Part of the beauty of the running community, and running in general, is that it is certainly not limited to one kind of body or body type. Running is for everybody, and for every body. Even among the highest ranking professionals, individual body sizes and builds vary. Therefore, you might absolutely fall in love with a brand or style of clothing online that just does not fit you or your natural build. But never fear! There are so many options to choose from today, that you are sure to find something that is uniquely YOU without sacrificing quality, price, or convenience. If you have broader shoulders, you might not be as comfortable in a typical, form-fitted long-sleeved shirt. If you are taller, not all pants and tights are going to be long enough. It’s best to know your body, what you are comfortable wearing during your run, and then what you specifically need.
What is your personal style?
Some runners like to keep it simple, both when it comes to running attire and their everyday wardrobe. They primarily stick to neutrals, and keep it basic when it comes to style. They are minimalists and don’t particularly care about hidden pockets and extra features. No fuss, no frills. Some even identify as “ninja runners” because you’ll find them out on the trail dressed head to toe in nothing but black or dark colors. If that’s you, then you’ll more likely lean toward very traditional running clothes, styles, and colors. However, some runners like to stand out. They want their shoes, shorts, and tops to be as colorful and bold as their personalities. For these runners, options of running clothes that come in a variety of patterns, colors, and styles are probably more suitable. They will likely be some of the first to try a new, unique-looking piece of athletic wear.
What time of day do you prefer to run?
Until the dream of getting paid to run for a living comes true, most of us have jobs, school, or parent/spousal duties and other commitments that take up the majority of our daylight hours. Especially during the colder months when daylight is shorter, you might never see the sun besides through your office window. Sometimes, running in the dark or limited light is all we can manage, so you’ve got to make the best of it (and stay safe). If you’re an early morning or late night runner, opt for running clothes that come with reflective strips and in a variety of bright colors and noticeable patterns.
Do you prefer the trails or the pavement?
Knowing WHERE you’ll be doing your running is a huge factor when picking out appropriate running materials. Obviously, if you’re strictly a treadmill runner, then clothes that come equipped with multiple pockets and features probably isn’t of high concern to you. If you stick close to home and just jog the streets of your neighborhood, then you probably still aren’t very concerned with all the fun features; but if you plan to log some serious mileage out on the roads (and especially if you plan to go off-roading on the trails) it’s critical that you purchase running clothes that have pockets for your fuel and essentials like your phone and music device, if you run with one. Above all else, it is most important to consider your personal safety and how your clothes can help!
Q. What is the price range of the items on this list?
Because value is such an important metric by which we use to measure our products, everything on this list of running apparel stands up well to competitors in terms of price. For long-sleeved shirts, you’ll pay around $20-$25 and for short sleeves, you’ll stay around the $15-$20 mark (very reasonably priced, compared to other brands). Tights and running skirts are going to be a little pricier, between $50-$75, but shorts are more reasonable at around $30.
Q. How can I ensure the quality of my clothes?
Certain brands of clothes – including a few on this list – are apart of the SAC, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The SAC is an organization that promotes the sustainable production of clothes, shoes, and home textiles around the world. Using the Higg Index, the SAC measures a manufacturer’s environmental, social, and labor sustainability and then ranks them. The goal of the SAC is to improve efficiency of these companies, while reducing harmful risks to the environment and the people employed there. As a member of the SAC, a company ensures that their products are made with integrity, of high quality, and sustainably.
Q. Can I wash it in the washing machine?
While all of the items on this list are machine washable, it’s advised to always pay attention to specific washing instructions for each product to avoid shrinkage and to maintain optimal performance and condition for longer.
Q. Does it travel well?
One of the best ways to see a new city or place is on foot, so it’s important to have running clothes that you can easily pack and take with you. Clothes that travel well can be folded up to a small size and fit neatly away in all sizes of suitcases and bags, including in your carry-on and any size gym bag.
Q. What colors can I get?
Most of the items come in the standard neutral tones, such as black, grey, and dark blue. Especially for the models designed for women though, there are a wide range of other colors (and even patterns) on this list, from pinks and reds to blues and greens. Be wary though – in some instances, a certain color will increase or change the price.