Whether you love epic trail runs or logging a couple quick miles around the block after work, we’ve found the best running shirts for any situation.
Everyone knows the importance of a good pair of running shoes, but it’s easy to overlook the necessity of a good top. And while you could, of course, run in any old cotton shirt (and we have plenty of times), investing in a quality running top is worth it. Whereas the wrong shirt will stink, chafe, and fall apart after a few hard runs, the right shirt dries quickly, stays odor-free, and is so comfy you’ll forget you’re even wearing it.
After countless hours pounding the pavement, hitting up the trails, and even a few miles on the treadmill, we’ve found the best workout shirts for women. While this list doesn’t contain every active shirt on the market, it does run the gamut — from tank tops to long sleeves — and should comfortably fit a variety of body shapes and running styles. These are the shirts we continue to wear, mile after mile, and regularly recommend to our family and friends.
Best Running Shirts for Women
Patagonia Airchaser Running Shirt ($49)
Patagonia is known for making gear that lasts, and this shirt is no exception. We’ve put it through the wringer — including several mountain runs in New Zealand. The mesh back panel kept us cool throughout, and we liked how quickly it dries.
If you ever run with a pack, this is the shirt for you. One tester wore it for five days straight on an adventure racing mission. Even after 24 hours straight with a pack on my back, this shirt showed no wear at all, and the intentionally placed and glued seams nixed any possibility of chafing (even when wearing a pack). After three months of hard use, it has yet to show signs of wear.
Oddly enough, one of our favorite features is the discrete and highly functional locker loop on the back of the neck. We’ve used it to hang the shirt up on a tree, on a hook in a hut, and even at home after a big day of running.
Material: 100% polyester
Best for: Multi-day runs with a pack, adventure racing
icyzone Workout Tank Top - 3 Pack ($19)
Less than $20 for one shirt would be a bargain, but 19 bucks for three shirts? That’s a downright steal! The flatlock seam made chafing a non-issue, and they wicked sweat pretty well. For super-hot, long days we’d recommend investing more in a wool blend, but for walking the neighborhood or hitting up the gym, these tanks are a great choice.
This tank feels like a mix between a dry tech top and regular cotton tank, making it comfortable for all-day wear. If you like a looser fit, we’d recommend sizing up.
Material: 95% polyester, 5% spandex
Best for: Jogging around the ‘hood or heading to the gym
Stio Women's Divide Tech Tee LS ($69)
Whether you’re looking for sun protection or increased warmth during cool mountain runs, the Divide Tee is a winner.
The poly/cotton blend offers up the comfy, soft-feel of your favorite cotton shirt, but it dries four times faster than cotton and resists odors. We also found the thumbholes to be convenient. On days when we know that time is short between transitions, we reach for the Divide Tee because it looks great (and works hard) on and off the trails.
Also available in a short-sleeved version.
Material: 85% polyester, 15% spandex
Best for: Mountain-to-town adventures with variable weather
Smartwool Merino 150 Tee ($75)
Packing your bags for a trip that includes sightseeing, running, hiking, and all manner of exploring? Need a single do-all shirt? Then let us introduce you to the new Smartwool 150 Tee.
The capped sleeves cover the shoulders from the sun, while the back cutout lets extra air flow in and adds some fun style. We never had any problem with underarm chafing, and the boxy cut is nice for both running or as a cute pairing with jeans.
Because it is made with 87 percent of their lightest spun merino wool, it won’t hold on to odor even after the sweatiest of runs, so it can go from run to town without skipping a beat.
Material: 87% merino wool, 13% nylon
Best for: A do-all travel shirt
Title Nine Yasumi Wicking ($49)
This shirt is built for the heat. After testing it on multiple hot and humid runs, and even in a few hot yoga classes, we’ll happily recommend it for those days when the sun is blazing and the temperature is climbing.
At first touch, the fabric is silky and smooth. Surprisingly, it stays this way throughout the sweatiest of workouts. One tester wore it during a recent high-intensity workout. She was soaking wet by the end, but not five minutes later, this shirt was dry. Best of all, it didn’t even stink, so she could go on wearing it for the rest of the day.
Material: 86% polyester, 11% Tencel™, 3% spandex
Best for: Running, hot yoga
icebreaker Cool-Lite Amplify Crewe Shirt ($75)
Icebreaker’s Cool-Lite Amplify series is one of our favorites for aerobic, high-intensity workouts with a lot of sweating. While no fabric will keep you 100 percent dry during these kinds of runs or workouts, wool is one of the best options. It works well in hot or cool weather, dries quickly, and doesn’t smell.
The longer back hem and mesh back paneling keeps the sweat off the back. This is a great shirt for long runs, big hikes, and everyday excursions. However, because of the thinner back material, we would not recommend wearing a pack for an extended period of time, as it will wear through the fabric.
Material: 52% wool, 35% TENCEL, 13% nylon
Best for: Long runs in hot weather
Janji Uganda Vista Tank ($48)
This unique and flowing tank from Janji is the perfect blend of performance and grace. Feminine in its look yet fierce in function, this is one of our testers’ all-time favorite pieces for this running season.
The mesh panel and open back are great for keeping you cool, and the anti-chafe seams maximize comfort. We liked the high-cut neckline and found that even with full-coverage, we never overheated. This shirt is also great at wicking sweat, making it an excellent choice for hot summer days on the trail and off.
Material: 92% polyester, 8% spandex
Best for: Long runs in hot weather
Vuori Lux Performance Shirt ($48)
This shirt lies at the crossroads of performance and comfort. The stretch knit is extremely soft, while still wicking moisture like a boss. The boxy cut is surprisingly flattering. It’s an especially good option for women who struggle to find a top that fits their hips without bunching.
There are lighter, more technical shirts on the list if you’re planning a steamy, summer ultra run. But for shorter runs, summer hiking, traveling, and road tripping, this is a good-looking, quick-drying option.
Material: 92% polyester, 8% spandex
Best for: Going from working out to running errands around town to relaxing on the couch
Flylow Jessi Running Shirt ($55)
This shirt will easily transition from trail, to climbing crag, to town. The lightweight nylon blend is buttery soft and cool. It wicked sweat well and dried quickly even during hot, humid days in the south. The casual styling makes it work just as well at the farmers market as it does at the gym.
Our broad-shouldered tester found it snug through the upper back and shoulders, but the curved hemline is flattering and the seems didn’t chafe even after 10 hours of constant wear. The silver-chloride Polygiene treatment means it will stay stink-free, even if you forget it in your gym bag for a few days.
Material: 94% nylon, 6% spandex
Best for: Running, climbing, and hiking
The North Face Reaxion Running Shirt ($28)
There’s a reason this shirt has a cult following. It’s comfortable, affordable (just $28!), and keeps you dry all day long. The drop tail hem offers a little extra coverage in back, and we were impressed with how well it performed for the price.
Plus, it’s made from plastic bottles, so you can feel good while looking good. It is a bit more prone to absorbing odors than other shirts listed, but for the price tag, it’s a great option for running, hiking, traveling, and cruising around town. Since it’s available in a variety of colors, there’s something for everyone.
Material: REPREVE polyester
Best for: Multi-sport days, easily transitions from yoga to hiking to running
How to Choose a Running Shirt
There are a lot of running shirts out there. From long sleeves to tiny tank tops, all the choices can get overwhelming. While there isn’t a single best shirt for every runner or situation, this buyer’s guide will help narrow down the options.
The first thing to consider is what your runs look like. Do you head out for a couple miles around town, regularly mark big miles road running, or head into the mountains for long trail days? Knowing the answer to this question will help identify the best workout shirt.
For shorter runs, you can get away with a less-technical shirt. For mountain runs, you’ll want to consider temperature fluctuations and comfort if you’ll be wearing a pack. A long sleeve shirt like the Stio Divide could work well.
If your summer runs are hot and steamy, we’d recommend looking for something with maximum venting. The open back of the Uganda Tank is great on hot days.
The goal here is breathability and wicking. That means cotton is out, and performance fabrics are in. Wool is popular because it dries quickly and is naturally stink-free. Polyester is another popular choice. As you shop, you’ll find that most brands use unique blends of wool, polyester, TENCEL, and spandex.
Aside from the basic shirt, many running tops have extra elements like reflective patterns and hidden pockets. The locker loop on the Patagonia Airchaser is an example of an extra feature that seemed pointless at first but quickly turned into one of our favorite features. Thus, don’t overlook these little extras. They can make the difference between a good shirt and an awesome shirt.
Have a favorite running shirt? Let us know in the comments and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.