Just as a strong core is the foundation of any exercise, a solid workout shirt is the foundation of any fitness getup. Sure, an old cotton tee from your alma mater will suit a workout just fine, but it won't enhance it. It won't fight odor, control sweat build-up or do anything to prevent chafing.
A quality workout shirt — tee, tank or long sleeve — will do all that and more; it'll be something you look forward to throwing on, which can sometimes be all the motivation you need to get up and get moving.
Through rigorous research, testing and staff input, we've hit upon the following 11 performance-enhancing all-stars. Amongst the wide variety of superlative options below, you're sure to find the perfect workout shirt(s) for you.
Ten Thousand collected thousands of measurements and fit preferences before making its workout shirt so that when it did, it'd be as close to perfect as can be. One of the learnings from the process was that one size doesn't fit all, so it made the shirt in three fabric blends to suit all kinds of people. We love the Versatile edition, which feels great and lives up to its name by rolling with all kinds of workouts, from light cardio to heavy lifting.
Lululemon's Metal Vent Tech shirts are pricey but peerless in combining breathability and odor-protection in a fabric that doesn't feel plasticky. They are ultra-comfy, thanks to a design that minimizes seams and positions them where they won't chafe. Everyone from professional trainers to elite mountain climbers are on board, and having worn them for running, biking and other activities, we can understand why.
Best Bang for Your Buck
Under Armour claims this shirt's mineral-infused fabric absorbs the body's energy and emits it back, increasing blood flow in the muscles for greater endurance. "I don't know that this shirt actually does what it says," our tester concedes, "but it fits great, stays cool and is the first one I grab for HIIT and kettlebell workouts." Right now, this shirt is on sale for as much as 54 percent off, making it the steal of this list. Note: If you are dead set on the black colorway, you can get it here for $44.97.
Best for Sweltering Workouts
When you're about to sweat in the sun or a gym where the AC is down, reach for the Hot Shot. It features DropTemp, which beats heat not through chemical treatments but through a fast-wicking fabric structure that German scientists found tops the competition when it comes to "evaporative cooling." Like most Saxx products, this shirt just happens to be comfy as hell too.
This light, breezy tank with reflective accents is perfect for running, and anything really. "I have exactly one of these but I wash it constantly so I can work out in it as much as possible," says our tester. "It's easily the best workout shirt I own for Peloton-ing, running or any exercise that doesn't involve putting my sweaty back on machines/benches in public spaces."
Rab's lightweight base layers are legendary, and this mountain running-oriented top is no exception. Strategically placed open-knit mesh panels — under the arms, at the cuffs and on the lower back — enhance airflow, as does that handy chest zip, which provides instant climate control. Meanwhile, soft micro-seam stitching enhances comfort and minimizes weight, helping this shirt come in under 5 ounces.
Best Long Sleever
The Cascade's long sleeves make it ideal for working out in cooler temperatures, yet are tight enough to stay up when pushed up. What's more, this shirt's Tencelite 19 fabric is incredibly soft and stretchy, dries quickly and fights stink, you don't have to be dainty about laundering it, and its UPF 50+ rating makes it a sneaky great sun shirt, too.
Best for Daily Wear
Thanks to four-way stretch and strategic cool zone panels, this shirt fits incredibly well. The fabric — a mix of polyamide, polyester and elastene — feels ultra comfy and breathable while wicking moisture and fighting odor. And though it's fantastic for tough routines, it's understated style is also suitable for working from home, running errands and meeting up for brunch.
According to one tester, the Reign is "light, comfortable and always fresh no matter how many times I wear it without washing it — probably too many times to admit." Rhone makes it with a nylon-polyester blend in a raglan construction to keep annoying seems off your shoulders. Perhaps best of all, it comes in lots of colors.
Most Trail Ready
This Patagonia tee is deceptively lightweight at 2.6 ounces, and its 100 percent recycled polyester fabric fights stink far better than other synthetic shirts thanks to a HeiQ odor control treatment. It's also great at wicking away sweat and drying quickly and has a closer fit than some of the other shirts on this list, which make it ideal for a wide range of activities — including, given the heritage of the brand, hiking and climbing.
One of our testers stated that he throws this shirt on when he knows he's getting into an intense workout. "It's very comfortable, made of this kinda beefy material and has a look and attitude that weirdly compels me to add an extra five pounds to any lift," he says. "Nice price too."