Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new picks for 2017. Last year’ picks can still be found on page two, but some older styles may not be available currently.
We all hold on to it: that faded, ratty, maybe even torn-up cotton t-shirt that we love to wear every time we got out for a run. It’s lasted forever. It’s comfortable. And it was free — awarded for competing in a high school state championship or participating in a 5k charity run. Why would we ever get rid of it?
Because it can’t be worn anywhere but on a run, down a road far enough away from anyone who might actually be able to see through its holes. Because cotton doesn’t wick — once it’s wet it stays wet. Because it smelled in college and it smells now.
Fortunately, when it comes to running apparel, nostalgia has been beat out. The days of neon tights and cotton tees have waned and gone, making room for a new trend that favors style both during and after exercise and performance that extends from the treadmill to the tarmac. Welcome to the new era of active apparel. Here are three kits to get you familiarized.
Boston-based apparel designer Tracksmith has joined New England style cues with technical materials to create a line of running clothing that looks as good as it performs. The Harrier Tee utilizes a soft and breathable merino wool blend in its weave while the Longfellow Shorts are built with Schoeller Dryskin for four-way stretch. Both items look good enough to wear beyond a fitness routine, and when paired with Stance’s moisture-wicking Momentum QTR socks and Roka’s run-optimized Vendée sunglasses, you’ll look more like you’re geared up for brunch than six-mile training run.
Iffley Road is another running brand embracing a heritage aesthetic through technical running threads. The Cambrian Stripe is stylistically simple with a slim cut, slightly longer sleeves and a striped pattern, but features like the polyester dri-release microblend fabric and a hidden stash pocket make it an ideal layer for running. The Hampton Shorts are equal parts stylish and functional, with a flat-front design and a mesh inner. Balega’s ultralight socks and a mesh-backed, run-dedicated cap from Ciele round out the smaller but no-less-important details of this kit.
If you’re going to run far it’s better to wear less, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing style. Satisfy produces a high-quality line of running apparel that pushes the boundary of activewear until it intersects with fashion. The Light Tee and Short Distance Shorts are simple until you notice the bonded hems and flat seams that detail the technical four-way stretch Swiss fabric. Add Feetures! High Performance Cushion No Show socks and CamelBak’s superlight hydration vest, and this becomes a kit with miles of capability.
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The Fitness Runner (or Gym Goer)
Under Armour’s line of Coolswitch shirts and shorts feature “an exclusive coating on the inside” that works to move heat away from your skin, in theory helping you perform better over longer periods of time. The shorts and shirt also feature four-way stretch, which helps when you go from running outside or on the treadmill to weight training or HIIT workouts. Fits’s Ultra Light Runners are the ideal running and gym socks. They conform to your foot like nothing else on the market and the merino wool resists stench and helps to regulate moisture and temperature. For the perfect activity tracking companion, Samsung’s Gear Fit 2 tracks every metric you could possibly want.
If Savile Row is the pinnacle of tailoring, then Iffley Road is the pinnacle of running style and fit. Sure, the big box brands make quality gear, but this England-based brand takes quality, appearance, performance and fit to the next level. The Pembroke shorts are crafted from high-performing Italian fabric and feature a flat-front design that allows free movement when running. The Cambrian shirt is made from a “bespoke micro-blend of dri-release fabric” to wick away sweat. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is one of the best fitness trackers and smartwatches that we’ve ever used, and the built-in optical heart rate sensor is surprisingly accurate.
Our obsessive’s kit is the ultimate in running performance and style. The backbone of the kit is a short and shirt combination made by New York-based Isaora. Both are seam welded, which helps reduce any chances of rubbing and irritation. In the Micro Knit shirt, the material is laser cut, with ventilation holes to keep you cool. ICNY’s Breeze cap features a band that absorbs sweat, while the bill trim an logo are reflective to keep you safe when running at night. To cap it off, The Athletic‘s La Galaxie socks fit well and brings the kit together with a touch of design.