Whether you’re trail running, hitting the gym, or just trying to survive the summer heat in the city, everyone could use a good shirt that breathes and wicks moisture better than your typical cotton T-shirt.
So after spending many days in a whole bunch of different options, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite running shirts. There are some ultralight, super-breathable tops for the terribly hot days, some shirts that easily transition between the running trail and the coffee shop, and plenty of options in between.
And if you’re also in the market for a new pair of running shorts, check out our Running Shorts Roundup.
Altra Racing Singlet 2.0
- Body: 100% polyester
- Upper: 82% polyester, 18% spandex
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 68 grams
Best For: When the temperatures literally feel like Hell.
As the only sleeveless style here, the Racing Singlet 2.0 is a bit of an outlier. But what it lacks in sleeves, it makes up for in breathability — this thing basically feels like you’re wearing nothing. And it’s not just the sleeveless silhouette, as the Racing Singlet 2.0 features laser-cut holes around the upper panel of fabric to add even more ventilation. So if you’re a fan of the tank top / singlet silhouette, the Altra Racing Singlet 2.0 is a great option, and the best top here for ridiculously hot weather.
- Solids: 2.3-oz 100% recycled polyester double knit.
- Heathers: 2.7-oz 100% polyester (37% recycled) double knit.
- Stripes: 2.3-oz 100% polyester (83% recycled) double knit.
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 76 grams
Best For: Breathability and comfort
Patagonia recently overhauled their summer-weight baselayers, and we’ve been really impressed by the new “Capilene Cool” lineup. The Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt is one of the most breathable and lightest options here, which makes it an excellent option for really hot days.
The light and airy fabric of this top not only lets wind through easily but, unlike some mesh fabrics, the Capilene Cool Lightweight fabric feels very soft, comfortable, and not “clingy” on skin. Along with the next shirt, the Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt is one of my go-to tops for when the temps climb and I’m out in the sun for a long time. Plus, at $45, this top is not obscenely expensive and, combined with its excellent performance, this makes it a very good option if you want to stock up on several shirts that you can use all summer long. Lastly, the Polygiene anti-microbial treatment makes this top fend of moisture better than most synthetic tops and I’ve found that I can use it for a couple of runs before it starts really stinking.
The North Face Flight Better Than Naked Short-Sleeve Tee
Fabric: 90 g/m² 100% polyester jersey double knit with FlashDry™
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 90.5 grams
Best For: People who don’t like mesh fabrics but still want excellent breathability.
This is one of my all-round favorites, and I’m usually torn between grabbing this or the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt when the temps are really hot. The Flight Better Than Naked Short-Sleeve Tee is very light and very breathable, but its fabric is a bit more similar to a traditional jersey knit, and I think it feels a bit more comfortable on skin than the mesh fabrics on shirts like the Salomon Agile SS Tee and the old Patagonia Windchaser.
Salomon Agile SS Tee
Fabric: Double-knit polyester fabric with ActiveDry technology
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 107 grams
Best For: Getting the most bang for your buck.
While it’s one of the cheapest options here, the Agile SS Tee is still far more breathable and wicks moisture way better than any old cotton t-shirt. The Agile SS Tee uses a pretty open mesh throughout, and while it’s not as feather-light as the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt or North Face Flight Better Than Naked Tee, the Agile SS Tee still wicks moisture and breathes well enough for very hot runs. In terms of performance-to-price ratio, I think the Agile SS Tee is the best option here. That said, the Agile SS Tee is noticeably more “clingy” compared to the other options here, so if that’s something you try to avoid in running shirts, take note.
Trew Weightless NuYarn Merino T
Fabric: 105 g/m2 Nuyarn (85% merino wool / 15% nylon)
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 114 grams
Best For: Providing the benefits of merino wool without the weight.
The NuYarn fabric used on this shirt is a relatively new take on a merino / synthetic hybrid, and it certainly stands out among other wool fabrics when it comes to stretch, comfort, and lightweight feel. The Weightless NuYarn Merino T’s is the softest and most comfortable wool shirt I’ve ever used, and it seemed to wick sweat better and absorb less water than the other wool pieces. As its name suggests, the Weightless NuYarn Merino T feels very light on skin, and it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it. It fits a bit slimmer than the Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt, but is looser than the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt. So if you want the anti-odor benefits of merino wool but also want tons of stretch and a lightweight feel, the Weightless NuYarn Merino T is the best option we’ve used.
Trew Superlight Merino Pocket T
Fabric: 125 gsm NuYarn (85% merino wool / 15% nylon)
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 147 grams
Best For: Casual looks and year-round comfort
This top from Trew uses a slightly heavier-weight version of the NuYarn merino fabric and packages it into a more casual pocket-tee silhouette. The result is a shirt that offers NuYarn’s phenomenal stretch, comfort, breathability, and odor resistance in a more casual-looking package.
While I’d opt for the options above from Patagonia or The North Face for the absolute hottest days (they wick moisture a bit better), Trew’s Superlight Merino Pocket T is still plenty breathable enough for most runs and I also feel more comfortable wearing it during shoulder-season runs when I don’t really know what the temperature is going to do throughout the day. Another thing that makes this piece stand out is the fact that it doesn’t really look like a running shirt — I wear it out almost as often as I use it while running, biking, or ski touring. Lastly, this shirt has held up extremely well after two years of use, which is impressive for a lightweight wool garment.
If you want high performance in a casual style, this is an excellent option.
Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt
Fabric: 4-oz 100% polyester spun jersey with Polygiene® permanent odor control.
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 125.5 grams
Best For: Running everywhere — whether on the trails or to the store.
The Capilene Cool Trail Shirt doesn’t have any fancy mesh panels or crazy light fabric. What it does have is a simple silhouette, a moderate price, and a super soft polyester fabric that makes it look (and feel) like your standard cotton t-shirt, but with much better on-trail performance. So while the Nine Trails shirt does wick moisture better and dries much faster than a cotton shirt, it also doesn’t make you look like you’re on the way back from a marathon. The Nine Trails runs a bit looser than most of the options here, which I’m fine with for a shirt that I’ll be wearing on and off the trail.
Mons Royale Huxley Hike T
Fabric: 140 g/m2 60% Merino Wool / 40% Lyocell
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 141.5 grams
Best For: Lounging and running in a super-soft merino fabric.
The Huxley Hike T fits in with the Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail Shirt as something that works pretty well on runs and on the trail, but that doesn’t look out of place in town. The Huxley Hike T’s Merino / Lyocell blended fabric feels a bit softer and silkier than predominantly merino fabrics like that on the old Mons Royale Yamakasi T, and the Huxley also features the same microfiber sunglasses wipe at the hem. The Huxley doesn’t wick moisture as quickly as most of the synthetic options here, but the Huxley still breathes significantly better than a cotton shirt, is very comfortable, and, in my opinion, is pretty stylish. Lastly, the Huxley has a longer fit than many of the shirts here, which is a big part of why I find myself wearing it both while running and mountain biking, where a bit of extra coverage is nice.