The Best Running Shirts for Every Type of Runner

Whether you need a full-coverage hoodie, moisture-wicking or an ultralight singlet

May 18, 2023 11:54 am
Running Shirts Hero
Getty Images / InsideHook

Please note: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

Once you step out for a run, your running shirt should be the last thing on your mind. Ideally, your top is so comfortable, so accommodating, so breezy and moisture-wicking, that it essentially disappears on your torso. That way, you can focus on your form and your pace.

There are tons of men’s running shirts out there, so finding the right one can be a bit overwhelming. Even so, this is a shopping decision that’s worth spending some time on, because uncomfortable clothing can leave you chafed, overheated and ultimately less motivated to run.

The Best Running Shorts for Every Type of Runner
Lined or unlined, short or long, these shorts will get you through all your warm-weather runs

Best Durable: Rhone Reign Short Sleeve
Best Singlet: Bandit Airware Performance Singlet
Best Merino Shirt: Black Diamond Rhythm Tee
Best Lightweight: Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt
Best Baselayer: Saxx Roast Master Midweight
Best for Tall Guys: REI Co-op Swiftland Running T-Shirt
Fun Colorways: Janji Run All Day Tee
Best Hoodie: Patagonia Tropic Comfort Natural UPF Hoody
Best Stylish: Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Polo

Things to consider

Any shirt — including that old cotton T-shirt in the back of your dresser — can be pressed into service as a running shirt. Before shelling out for new apparel, it’s a good idea to run with the running shirts or workout shirts you have and see how they perform. You might be just fine running in the same shirt you wear to the gym. If you’re not happy with your existing tops, however, consider a few key features when shopping for replacements.

Coverage: Running shirts offer varying degrees of coverage, from a hoodie to a barely-there singlet. Technical hoodies and long-sleeve shirts offer more coverage and sun protection. The long-sleeve tees can also double as base layers in colder weather. T-shirts are a good middle-ground option. There are also singlets, which are a solid choice for racing — they typically weigh less than any other top, and they offer maximum freedom of movement.

Material: The fabric a running shirt is made from will have a major influence on its performance. Most running shirts are made from synthetic fabrics, especially polyester. Polyester offers good breathability, wicks moisture and it’s durable. It’s often blended with elastane (a.k.a Spandex or Lycra), a very stretchy material, which helps the shirt move with you and retain its shape.

Merino is a natural fiber derived from sheep, and it’s another top choice for running shirts and other performance apparel. It naturally vents sweat, regulates your temperature in both hot and cold weather and resists odors. Some newer running shirts blend merino with nylon, a synthetic fabric, for improved durability.

Although some runners love cotton (and it can work just fine in chilly weather), it’s generally smart to avoid cotton shirts. They will absorb sweat, cling to your skin and weigh you down while running. A few athletic shirts utilize modal or lyocell fabrics (the Patagonia Tropic Comfort hoodie below is one example). These are semi-synthetic fabrics derived from wood pulp. They offer a comfortable feel similar to cotton, but with significantly improved breathability, so you don’t drown in sweat while running.

Construction: Running obviously involves your legs, but your arms move with each stride as well. It’s important to have a running shirt that doesn’t restrict your movement or cause chafing. There are a few key features to look for. Raglan sleeves — where the sleeve extends all the way to the shirt collar — offer better freedom of movement for your arms. Other shirts use underarm gussets, or separate fabric panels sewn into the underarm areas. They keep the shirt from digging into your arms and allow them to swing freely.

Seams are another important area to pay attention to. Traditional seams, where two pieces of fabric overlap and are stitched together, are bulky, and they can rub your skin and cause chafing. Flatlock seams reduce the bulk. Two pieces of fabric are lined up side-to-side and stitched together with no overlap, creating a flatter, smoother seam. Bonded seams don’t use stitches at all: The fabric pieces are glued together to create a sleek, unobtrusive seam that prevents skin irritation.

All the shirts below are designed to keep you comfortable through serious workouts. Read on for our picks for the best running shirts.

Most Durable

Rhone Reign Short Sleeve
Rhone Reign Short Sleeve

The Rhone Reign short-sleeve shirt is a high-quality top for running and other kinds of workouts. I’ve owned two of these shirts for years, and they’ve been a go-to pick for runs, hikes, bike rides and gym sessions. Unlike many other synthetic fabrics, the Reign’s nylon-polyester-elastane blend is notably soft to the touch and comfortable. The raglan sleeves provide great freedom of movement. I also wanted to note that it’s rated UPF 50, so you get some sun protection as well. My favorite part? Despite years of wear, my shirts still look brand new.

Best Singlet

Bandit Airware Performance Singlet
Bandit Airware Performance Singlet

For hot weather training and races, many runners prefer to have as little fabric as possible up top — and wearing the Bandit Airware singlet is almost like going shirtless. This ultralight layer is made with an Italian mesh fabric that has a silky feel, and it’s crafted with bonded seams for excellent chafing prevention. The fabric has a ridiculous amount of stretch. It also has large armholes and the neck design helps the singlet disappear on your body, so you can focus on your run.

Best Merino Running Shirt

Black Diamond Rhythm Tee
Black Diamond Rhythm Tee

The Black Diamond Rhythm Tee is a well-regarded option that combines the performance properties of natural and synthetic materials. It’s made from NuYarn, where wool fibers are spun around a core of nylon. The result is a fabric with the breathability and temperature regulation of merino and the stretchiness and durability of nylon. It’s also lighter and dries faster than your typical merino garment. One caveat: Some reviewers have had issues with this shirt pilling. Overall, it’s a versatile option you can wear in a variety of scenarios. It’s an especially good pick for running in chillier weather.

Best Lightweight Running Shirt

Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt
Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt

Tipping the scales at a paltry 2.6 ounces, the Capilene Cool Lightweight is an excellent choice for runners looking for a featherlight top. The thin, highly breathable fabric excels in hot weather. It also dries quickly and has an anti-odor treatment to combat any post-run stench. Better yet, it’s notably durable for such a lightweight shirt, so you can expect to get plenty of use out of it.

Best Baselayer

Saxx Roast Master Midweight
Saxx Roast Master Midweight

Saxx markets this long-sleeve tee as a base layer for hiking and snow sports, but it’s a capable pick for running, too. I frequently wear it in mild conditions, and I’ve found it breathes well and the polyester-lyocell-elastane fabric feels soft and comfortable against the skin. It’s a layer you can throw on all year round, either on its own or paired with an insulated jacket.

Best for Tall Guys

REI Co-op Swiftland Running T-Shirt
REI Co-op Swiftland Running T-Shirt

Performance fabrics and cutting-edge construction won’t do much for you if the shirt itself doesn’t fit. For tall runners, finding a good fit can be challenging, but REI’s Swiftland is a standout. It’s one of the few high-quality running shirts with dedicated tall sizes (medium, large, XL, and XXL). Raglan sleeves and underarm gussets provide good freedom of movement, and the polyester fabric is designed to vent moisture and stretch for a comfortable feel on the run.

Fun Colorways

Janji Run All Day Tee
Janji Run All Day Tee

If you’re tired of technical tees in drab hues, Janji’s lineup will add some color to your run. The Run All Day Tee is a workhorse shirt for hot weather training. The brand’s new spring collection includes a vibrant print inspired by the West Indies. Flatlock seams prevent chafing and anti-odor treatment wards off nasty smells. The polyester fabric also offers dependable breathability.

Best Hoodie

Patagonia Tropic Comfort Natural UPF Hoody
Patagonia Tropic Comfort Natural UPF Hoody

A hoodie provides excellent protection from the sun, especially for your neck, but your typical cotton hoodie will quickly turn your run into a sweat-soaked nightmare. I would recommend grabbing this hot weather-friendly hoodie from Patagonia. The unique modal-elastane fabric has a comfortable texture and good breathability. It also offers UPF 40 sun protection for summer training sessions. I also like this hoodie because thoughtful details help elevate this simple top. Thumb holes keep the sleeves from riding up. The button closure on the hood also ensures a snug fit. The hood is also designed to fit over a cap — ideal for keeping the sun off your face.

Best Stylish

Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Polo
Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Polo

The Van Cortlandt Polo combines a heavy dose of preppy style with performance-minded tech. It’s made with Tracksmith’s 2:09 Mesh polyester-elastane fabric, which offers good breathability and anti-odor treatment. While it’s not an ideal pick for hardcore training or race day, if you want to look presentable for your post-run lunch or drinks, this is the shirt to reach for.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.