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.
Patagonia Short-Sleeved Windchaser Shirt
- Body: 2.3-oz 100% recycled polyester solid double knit.
- Contrast: 2.4-oz 100% polyester highly breathable mesh with Polygiene® permanent odor control.
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 81.5 grams
Best For: Maximum breathability and minimum weight.
The Windchaser is extremely light, and has a very open knit structure. The result is a shirt that’s incredibly breathable. Air just moves right through this thing, so even when it’s not windy, the Windchaser makes it feel like there’s a slight breeze if you’re moving at even a moderate pace. Some people might not like it’s very slippery feel, but I’ve had no problems at all with it, and the combination of that smooth fabric and its welded seams leave few areas for potential chafing. If you want one of the most breathable shirts out there, check out the Windchaser.
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-around favorites, and I’m usually torn between grabbing this or the Patagonia Windchaser 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 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 the cheapest option here, the Agile SS Tee is still far more breathable 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 Windchaser or North Face Flight Better Than Naked Tee, the Agile SS Tee still wicks moisture and breathes very well. In terms of performance-to-price ratio, I think the Agile SS Tee is the best option here.
Trew Weightless NuYarn Merino T
Fabric: 105 g/m2 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 Nine Trails shirt, but is looser than the Mons Royale Yamakasi. 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.
Altra Performance Tee 2.0
Fabric: Engineered Mesh
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 124.5 grams
Best For: People with sensitive skin.
The thing that stands out most to me with the Performance Tee 2.0 is how comfortable and smooth it feels. It uses a soft mesh fabric with sections that seamlessly transition from a denser knit to a more open one in areas like the upper back, which means you get better breathability in the areas where you need it most. It also has welded seams that should be less likely to chafe on long runs, and a fairly long, slim fit. While the more open mesh areas on the back of the Performance Tee 2.0 do help it breathe fairly well, I’d say it’s one of the least-breathable synthetic options here. But if you prioritize anti-chafing features and don’t like traditional seams, the Performance Tee 2.0 is definitely worth a look.
Patagonia Short-Sleeved Nine Trails 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 Nine Trails shirt doesn’t have any fancy mesh panels or crazy light fabric. What it does have is a simple silhouette and a 100% recycled polyester fabric that makes it look like your standard cotton t-shirt. 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. While it’s labeled as a slim fit, I’d say 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 T-Shirt
Fabric: 140 g/m2 50% Merino Wool 50% Lyocell
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 141.5 grams
Best For: Lounging and running in a super-soft merino fabric.
The Huxley T-Shirt fits in with the Patagonia Nine 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 T-Shirt’s Merino / Lyocell blended fabric feels a bit softer and silkier than predominantly merino fabrics like that on the Yamakasi, and the Huxley also features the same microfiber sunglasses wipe at the hem. It’s not as breathable 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.
Mons Royale Yamakasi T
Fabric: 140 g/m2 83% merino wool, 13% nylon, 4% elastane
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium): 161 grams
Best For: Warding off odor, and looking good while doing it.
The Yamakasi T features a fairly lightweight merino jersey fabric throughout most of the body, but has a merino mesh fabric on the back and underarms. This makes it breathe a bit better than standard merino shirts of similar weights, though I have noticed the seam that runs across the shoulders blades while running. This hasn’t been a major issue, but people with sensitive skin might notice it more. While it works fine as an active shirt, I also really like the Yamakasi for casual use because of its long, slim fit and simple, minimalist look. And thanks to its merino fabric, the Yamakasi takes significantly longer to start smelling compared to the synthetic options here. Plus, the Yamakasi features a sewn-in microfiber cloth at the hem for cleaning your sunglasses, which is a nice touch.