How To Buy Running Tops

The right run­ning top will keep you dry and free from chaffing while you train. Luck­i­ly there are so many inno­v­a­tive brands offer­ing high-tech run­ning tops, it’s hard to make a bad deci­sion. Still, the per­fect option is out there wait­ing for you. This guide will help you learn how to choose the best run­ning top for your needs.

Style: There are three basic styles of run­ning tops, dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed by arm length: tank, short sleeve, and long sleeve

Tanks: Run­ning tanks are typ­i­cal­ly made for women, though they can also be found for men. Tanks, espe­cial­ly those that are racer­back style, pro­vide the most flex­i­bil­i­ty for move­ment in the arms and the most air­flow to the underarms—which can help keep things cool and dry dur­ing long or hot (or both) runs.

Short Sleeve: The most pop­u­lar style of run­ning top for men, tech­ni­cal short sleeve shirts pro­vide flex­i­bil­i­ty and com­fort when made from the right mate­ri­als. Run­ning-spe­cif­ic short sleeves are typ­i­cal­ly made from fab­rics that will keep things nice and dry to pre­vent chaffing and dis­com­fort, while still offer­ing a high range of move­ment in the arms.

Long Sleeve: When the weath­er gets cool­er, long sleeves keep the run­ner warm, whether in the form of a long sleeve base­lay­er, pullover (some come in half-zip style), or zip-up jack­et. Lay­er­ing long sleeves over short­er sleeved shirts or tanks can be a great way to main­tain com­fort dur­ing a long run, espe­cial­ly if the weath­er might change. Long sleeves are typ­i­cal­ly worn dur­ing reg­u­lar exer­cise runs or train­ing runs. Most run­ners pre­fer to keep cloth­ing min­i­mal dur­ing races to max­i­mize speed.


Fab­ric: Run­ning tops are typ­i­cal­ly com­posed of syn­thet­ic fibers, syn­thet­ic-cot­ton blends or cot­ton fibers. Fab­ric type gen­er­al­ly dic­tates how well the top fits, how breath­able it will be and how long it will hold up in the long run.

Syn­thet­ic Fibers: Run­ning tops made of 100 per­cent poly­ester, like tech shirts, pro­vide the high­est amount of mois­ture-man­age­ment for breatha­bil­i­ty, but styles with sleeves sac­ri­fice best fit for women. While short and long sleeve tech shirts tend to fit men bet­ter than women, tanks made com­plete­ly from syn­thet­ic fibers do fit the female tor­so well. How­ev­er, syn­thet­ic blends (think poly­ester-elas­tic) can also pro­vide great fit for women in sleeved styles with­out sac­ri­fic­ing sweat wick­ing capa­bil­i­ties, espe­cial­ly in pullovers or zip-up jack­ets.

Syn­thet­ic-Cot­ton Blends: Syn­thet­ic-cot­ton blends (like a poly­ester-cot­ton or nylon-cot­ton blend) tend to pro­vide fan­tas­tic fit, while still hav­ing a good amount of sweat-wick­ing mois­ture man­age­ment. These fab­rics tend to be a lit­tle less breath­able than com­plete­ly syn­thet­ic blends and are more like­ly to show sweat.

Cot­ton Fibers: Shirts made of 100% cot­ton, although breath­able, pro­vide the least amount of mois­ture man­age­ment. Though breath­able, they are also high­ly absorbent and will soak up sweat, which can lead to chaffing and over­all dis­com­fort since the shirt will feel heav­ier. That said, cot­ton is soft to the touch and pro­vides a com­fort­able fit for short­er-dis­tance runs.


Sea­son­al­i­ty: When run­ning in cold­er or unpre­dictable weath­er, it’s best to lay­er run­ning tops to main­tain com­fort through the entire run. Long sleeve base­lay­ers under a short sleeve t‑shirt and jack­et can keep the run­ner dry and warm in the win­ter. In the heat of sum­mer, it’s best to wear as lit­tle as is com­fort­able on top to avoid over­heat­ing.

Reflec­tiv­i­ty: Most run­ning jack­ets and some t‑shirts and tanks have reflec­tive strips on either the back or arms to help keep vis­i­bil­i­ty as high as pos­si­ble for run­ning in the dark and around areas with high vehi­cle and bicy­cle traf­fic. Some mate­ri­als like 3M’s Scotch­lite can reflect light up to 160 Meters (a car can see a per­son wear­ing dark col­ors at 30 meters, giv­ing over five times the dis­tance for a car to rec­og­nize you on the road).