Sure, you could be a walking billboard for a multibillion-dollar corporation. And sure, most mainstream running gear fits alright, performs well and generally looks okay.
But there are better options out there. Options that will take you from, “Who’s that weirdo who always runs wearing lime green?” to “Who's that rock star who dresses as well as they run?” Options that are understated, but won’t leave you soaked in sweat like a cotton t-shirt. Options that won’t look out of place on your post-run coffee stop.
So, burn the neon tee and suit up with some of the following boutique brands that are crushing it lately.
Based in the UK, Iffley Road specializes in a heritage aesthetic. Their clothing is high-performance, but the colors are muted to keep you looking more like a well-mannered lad than a pro track athlete.
Tribe Sports started crafting kits for runners made from the best fabrics it could source in 2011. The brand creates shorts, tanks, jackets and accessories in a variety of bold primaries, sprinkled with patterns throughout each collection. Each piece has details like flat seams and laser cutting to eliminate chafing for runners across the world — whether you’re a world class runner, or just looking to get into the sport.
Dr. Ron Hill M.B.E. was the second man to break 2:10 in the marathon, competed in both the Tokyo and Munich Olympic marathons and was the first Brit to win the Boston Marathon in 1970. That same year, the speedy runner started his namesake company. The collection today features lots of volt and bright blue colors that seem to glow whether you’re emerging from the woods after an early morning trail or doing laps around the track after a rain storm. The brand hits all the basics with short sizes ranging from a split short to a seven-inch short.
If you’re looking for a brand that will help you stand out at the gym, look elsewhere. Ten Thousand is in the business of designing workhorse shorts and apparel that’ll help you achieve your goals in the weight room and in the timed mile. The ’One In, One Out’ program allows you clear our your current closet before you purchase something new — a unique take on activewear.
Black Men Run
While Black Men Run is not an apparel brand, the organization does do occasional branded gear releases, including shirts, hats, visors and face masks. The growing network welcomes runners of all abilities with a mission of promoting health and fitness among African American men through a culture of running.
Mash together performance apparel design with ’80s hair metal aesthetics and you’ll get something close to DOXA. Its entire line bucks the neon-infused convention typified by the big brands and is highly technical purely by nature of its origins in the ever-changing climate of Scandinavia.
Born in New York City, Isaora makes what can only be described as some of the finest technical apparel in running. Many of their shirts and shorts are seam welded, which reduces potential for chafing and irritation. They also use reflective laminates on the shorts and shirts to keep you visible and safe at night.
Tom and Phil Beahon want to take on the likes of Adidas and Nike. How? With premium athletic apparel aimed at the most demanding athletes. The Beahon brothers are continually pushing Castore products to be the lightest, most durable and most functional available. The aesthetics are simple, with little more than the brand’s signature winged logo as an accent to a range of muted color tones.
Performance can’t be faked. That’s why UK-based Ashmei addresses product design on the level of individual fibers. The result is a range of highly technical layers that perform with the environment instead of against it. The fact that everything the brand offers also looks damn good is just an added bonus.
Soar is a running line designed by UK-based Tim Soar, battling Iffley Road for the top UK brand on this list. Soar uses advanced fabrics from Japan and Europe to create pieces that live up to expectations in the performance and style categories.
Satisfy is definitely one of the more fashion-forward brands on this list, but their clothing has the performance chops to back up the bold designs. The Packable long tee is great for shoulder-season runs where you might need an extra layer when you start out but want to shed it halfway through. It packs into a built-in stuff sack for easy carrying.
Tracksmith's aesthetic is decidedly retro, but when paired with technical fabrics and smart features, the clothing itself is anything but dated. The company is based out of New England, which has a rich running history — and Tracksmith fits into that culture well without being kitschy.
Janji is another New England-based running brand, located in Boston. As part of a social initiative, Janji donates money to provide clean drinking water for people in less developed countries. Their colors are bolder than others on this list, but even if bright colors aren’t your thing, their social initiatives are something to get behind.
Saysky is a small Copenhagen-based brand that was established in 2013. Their gear is about being training focused, but still having a relaxed mindset. The urban-Scandinavian aesthetic works just as well in New York and L.A. as it does in Copenhagen. If you’re serious about your training, but less serious about making a fashion statement, Saysky is worth a look.
The minds behind District Vision pride themselves on prioritizing function and performance first, but you wouldn’t be wrong to note the high level of eye-appeal in each and every pair of shades brought forth by the New York–based team. The design is thoughtful, right down to the finest of details — like hypoallergenic rubber nose pads and D+ lens technology, to name just a couple.
Ciele strictly makes running hats. They’re based in Montreal and make what are known in tight-knit running circles to be some of the best running caps available. They’re constructed from ultra-wicking COOLwick fabric and offer UPF +40 sun protection. They also feature reflective hits on the front and back to keep you safe when running at night.