Whether you love epic trail runs or logging a couple quick miles around the block, we’ve found the best running shirts for any situation. Read on for the most comfortable, best-fitting, top-performance running shirts on market.
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 shirt is worth it.
Whereas the wrong shirt will stink, chafe, unravel, or fall apart after a few hard runs, the right shirt dries quickly, stays odor-free, and is oh so comfy you’ll forget you’re even wearing it.
After countless hours of pounding the pavement, hitting up the trails, and even a few miles on the treadmill, we’ve found the best workout shirts for women. This list runs the gamut — from tank tops to long-sleeves — and should comfortably fit a variety of body shapes and running styles.
Read on to find our picks for the best running shirts of 2021, or jump to a category below:
- Best Overall for Women
- Best Budget
- Best for Plus Sizes
- Best Long-Sleeve
- Best Fleece
- Best for Extreme Heat
- Best of the Rest
Best Running Shirts of 2021
Best Overall for Women: Brooks Distance Graphic Running Tee
With an overall 4.8-star rating and an awesome price tag, we love the Brooks Distance Running Tee ($34).
The tee is comfortable to wear on its own or with a pack or vest for higher-mileage pursuits. And it wicks away moisture and odor well. We’ve run with this shirt in 50-degree weather and 90-degree weather — bottom line, it gets the job done.
It’s been one of our editor’s favorite shirts to run in for the past few months, and it’s durable enough that you don’t need to wash it after each use. And if you’re looking for a plus-size option, it comes in sizes up to 2XL.
Runner-Up: Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Shirt
A solid runner-up choice, this tee from Patagonia is everything we love: simple, well-made, and breathable enough for even the sweatiest of runs.
The Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Shirt ($35-45) is made with a Bluesign-approved 100% recycled polyester jersey fabric and has added HeiQ Fresh odor control technology and 50-plus UPF sun protection. The shirt is available in six colors.
Best Budget: icyzone Workout Tank
Three shirts for $20? That’s a downright steal! The flatlock seams 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 a regular cotton tank, making it comfortable for all-day wear. If you like a looser fit, we’d recommend sizing up.
Best for Plus Sizes: adidas HEAT.RDY Training Tee
This loose-but-not-too-loose wicking T-shirt ticks all the boxes for a running shirt and comes in plus sizes. The 100% recycled polyester knit Training Tee ($50) has lots of zoned ventilation areas, a cropped-cut/drop-tail hem, and temperature-regulating tech to keep the wearer feeling cool during exercise. Adidas uses its in-house HEAT.RDY cooling technology to increase airflow and breathability.
Essentially, if you need a plus-size tee that does a good job wicking away sweat and keeping you comfortable, check this one out.
Best Long-Sleeve: HOKA Performance 3/4
Some would argue a long-sleeve and a three-quarter-sleeve are very different, but we love this layer so much we couldn’t resist highlighting it. HOKA recently expanded its apparel line, and this Performance 3/4 Sleeve ($58) is, in our opinion, the star.
It’s stretchy, fits well in terms of length, arms, and shoulders, and is great for running in shoulder temps. I almost always run in short sleeves, but this style managed to win me over with its great fit and comfort on the trails.
And if the snow/weather is really coming down, you can layer easily with a vest. If anything, this shirt is on the lighter side, which also makes it great for intense workouts that aren’t running.
Best Fleece: Janji Stormrunner Fleece Jacket
I have literally been living in this run layer the past few months for my early-morning (read: cold) runs. In fall and winter, the Stormrunner ($154) is one of my favorite go-tos.
With a bit more warmth than a typical long-sleeve, this grid-fleece jacket provides a great balance of warmth, coverage, and stretch. It’s got enough warmth that I can run in 15- to 20-degree weather without another jacket over — it’s a one-layer wonder.
The shirt-jacket also has reflective bands on the stretch wrist cuffs, collar, and the back hem to ensure visibility. On the interior, it features a light zippered security pocket on the left breast. On the outside, it has a DWR coating to stave off light rain as well as two zippered pockets lined with — you guessed it — more cozy grid fleece.
Really, you can’t go wrong with this fleece jacket, especially if you’re looking for a solid layer that can perform well in the cold.
Best for Extreme Heat: Odlo BLACKCOMB PRO T-Shirt
We’ve been testing this new running shirt from Odlo for months and have to marvel at its construction. There’s just something about it that makes it feel extra good at wicking. The fabric is a polyamide blend with Odlo’s new Ceramicool technology, an add-on that actively cools your skin by up to 1 degree Celsius.
The PRO T-Shirt ($65-70) also has ZeroScent technology, a woven barrier that blocks odor compounds from permeating and wearing down the fabric. All that spiffy tech aside, it’s a great shirt that moves with you and feels amazing next to skin.
One note: It’s a slim fit, so size up if you’re between sizes.
Best of the Rest
Marketing claims aren’t always true but this one is: Janji’s AFO Singlet ($58) is “virtually weightless.” This singlet running tank is made with Janji’s four-way-stretch AFO (AirFlatOut) tech to keep the weight down and keep you feeling breezy and cool. If you want something quick-drying, packable, and lightweight that doesn’t like feeling restricted by sleeves, this singlet is a great option.
Like many of its run layers, the singlet is topped off with Janji’s reflective blue logo for extra visibility. And Janji frequently updates its collections and patterns, so check back for more designs if you can’t find your favorite. Bottom line: It’s lightweight and has that comfortable barely there feel.
Whether you’re looking for sun protection or increased warmth during cool mountain runs, the Divide Tee ($69) is a winner.
The poly/cotton blend offers up the soft, comfy 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 time is short between transitions, we reach for the Divide Tee because it looks great (and works hard) on and off the trails. It’s also available in a short-sleeve version.
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This shirt will easily transition from trail to climbing crag to town. The lightweight nylon blend is cool and buttery soft. 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 farmer’s 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 seams 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. It retails for $60 but can often be found on sale.
A great shirt with a great price tag, the Salomon Agile tee ($35) made the list for its comfy, easy-to-care-for fabric. The Agile Tee is 100% polyester but made with Salomon’s ActiveDry technology that gives the weave better breathability and stretch.
We really like it for its simplicity, accurate sizing, and price. And with a 4.8-star rating, it’s easy to see other users agree.
Bonus points: This tee has a wide range of color choices and reflective detailing.
Icebreaker’s Cool-Lite Crewe shirt ($75) is one of our favorites for aerobic, high-intensity workouts with a lot of sweating. Although no fabric will keep you 100% 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 keep sweat off the back. This merino and TENCEL fabric shirt is great for long runs, big hikes, and everyday excursions. However, because of the thinner back material, we don’t recommend wearing a pack for an extended period of time, as it will wear through the fabric.
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 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. Don’t overlook these little extras. They can make the difference between a good shirt and an awesome shirt.
Have a favorite running shirt we missed? Let us know in the comments below for future updates to this article.