The temperatures are rising and the hours of daylight are increasing — and you know what that means? The outdoor running season is here. The only problem with is that with outdoor running comes exhausting heat. Thankfully, a better running shirt can make it slightly more manageable. Whether you head outdoors 365 days a year, or default to treadmill running once the thermometer reads below fifty, you should add one of these twelve sweat-wicking shirts to your workout drawer. A sweaty cotton shirt neither looks nor feels good, so buy one of these twelve tops to upgrade your t-shirt game and avoid that sticky post-run feeling.
Here in New York, we’ve had a few unusually hot and humid days — in other words, perfect days to test out lightweight and sweat-wicking t-shirts. The test consisted of running in all of them over dirt, road, sand and pavement, to compare and contrast the feel, weight and how quickly the sweat dried up. Shirts were washed to see how well they stood up to a washing machine, and also timed to see how quickly they dry after being soaked. We ranked the shirts from quickest drying to slowest.
New Balance Q Speed Short Sleeve
The Q Speed is the thinnest and lightest of all the shirts I tested. The stretch knit polyester and nylon fabric features a bonded construction, so there’s zero chafing. Although with fabric this feather-light, that’s to be expected. One thing to watch out for: it’s so thin that there’s a chance it can get a little staticky — not a problem once you start sweating in it.
Made from recycled polyester, this moisture-wicking shirt is as ideal for a long hike on the Pacific Crest Trail as it is for a 5K. The reinforced shoulders and wide neck allow for compatibility with backpack straps — which means if you’re run commuting, this shirt is a good pick. It’s also infused with Polygiene odor control, so there’s never a worry if you sweat in it a lot. Just hang it up and wear it again and again. It’s built for ultramarathoners, so no matter what distance you’re running, you’re set.
The North Face Better Than Naked Short Sleeve
We loved the thin hand feel, and the uber stretchy neck and shoulders in this shirt designed to help you run forever. While you’re not quite naked, if you hold it up to the sun, you can pretty much see through the stitch-free material. Ultrarunner Rory Bosio swears by the shorts and skort of the same material because they never chafe and are super lightweight. We would have to agree that the shirt does the same.
Asics Gel-Cool Short Sleeve
Built by the same people who have made shoes for marathoners and sprinters alike for years, it’s no surprise that Asics knows a thing or two about sweat-wicking t-shirts. The 3D zoning on the back, a vertical line of fabric down the spinal column, allows for sweat to escape and simultaneously cools the entire area. This paper-thin fabric is almost see through it’s so light. The style of the cut-up side mimics the style of split shorts, something you’ll commonly see among elite or hardcore runners.
Outdoor Voices Cool Runnin’s Tee
Made from 100-percent recycled polyester, this mesh-looking tee offers enough breathability for you to feel any light breeze, but not so much that you’re colder with each passing stride. While the material looks exactly like the mesh jerseys we all wore for high school sports uniforms (up close, trust us), it feels way better. I wouldn’t have wrinkled my nose every time I had to be the opposing team in a scrimmage if I had been wearing a Cool Runnin’s Tee.
GapFit Sport T-Shirt
Just like most of Gap’s products, this tee is easy, fits well and does what it claims. It’s incredibly soft for just how sweat-wicking it is (it dried faster than the Tracksmith Tee filled with merino wool, which we found surprising). The seams in this aren’t sealed, but the breathable jersey knit with gDry wicks away sweat before any chafing can occur. After a particularly brutal loop on the local trail, the tee didn’t stick to my back like some others did.
Tracksmith Harrier Tee
Offered in a variety of bold colors (yellow, purple, bright blue and green), this merino and elastane blend is a fan-favorite for Tracksmith employees, and after testing, we can see why. The simple tee is devoid of any superfluous designs and pretty much all logos, except for a small rabbit on the left sleeve cuff and a Tracksmith logo near your right hip bone. It’s inspired by Boston winters and springs, and is built to keep you warm on frosty mornings, while also wicking away sweat brought on by midday runs. The merino is slightly scratchy at first, but after a few good wears and a wash, you’ll hardly notice. Slightly longer short sleeves allow for a bit more coverage, so it’s a good shirt to alternate with a tank so you don’t get a farmer’s tan.
Rhone Celliant Short Sleeve
One tester called this a surprisingly great shirt. With its Lululemon vibes, the just-for-men brand, Rhone, launched its Celliant technology earlier this year. The seamless construction makes it breathable and extremely stretchy, and thanks to SilverTech threads, there’s never going to be a worry about odor-causing bacteria post-sweat sesh.
Endeavor Evolution Tee
The relaxed and comfortable fit is ideal to wear all day long, especially since the nylon and polyester blend fabric with DryForce technology handles your sweat like a champ. The added perforations under the arms make it breezy, almost to the point where I forgot I was wearing a shirt. Testers also wore this fabric in an indoor cycling class, where you’re guaranteed to sweat buckets and found it to be one of the more comfortable shirts to wear during that type of workout.
Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Short Sleeve
Wearing this in the wind was key — it didn’t feel incredibly breathable when I initially threw it on. The Silverescent technology with X-static helps stop stink, while the lack of seams minimizes chafing. In comparison to others on this list, it’s a lighter-weight fabric than the merino wool options, but similar to the Endeavor tee with the side perforations.
Under Armour HexDelta
The hex pattern is clearly visible, helping to trap a minimal amount of heat for those not-quite-spring mornings, but still breathable during a run. The shirt is light enough that it moves with a heavy breeze, but still dries quickly during particularly sweat-inducing days.
Filson Sport T-Shirt
The thickest of all the tees we tested, this one is ideal if you like having a little heft to your shirts. Sometimes the flimsy ones just don’t cut it for training runs. UPF 50+ means you can do more than just run in it — take it on the boat, into town and up the mountain — it’s built to take on the challenge. While running, the shirt moves well with you, not bouncing up and down or swaying to an annoying degree. And the three-fabric blend of cotton, rayon and spandex are softer than pretty much every tee on here.
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