Spring Running Apparel Roundup

Intro

Spring can be a pretty frustrating season as far as layering is concerned — especially here in the Rocky Mountains. One minute it’s sunny and 65°F / 18°C, the next it’s freezing and snowing. But here at Blister, we’re actually pretty fond of spring running, partially cause it’s one of the few times of the year where we get to test out all sorts of different types of running apparel — shorts, tights, t-shirts, jackets — you name it.

We’ve been using a variety of spring-worthy apparel pieces from different brands over the last several weeks and in this roundup, we’ll give a quick summary of what we think of each. We’ll also be referring back to a few of the pieces we reviewed last year in our Running Short Roundup, which is also worth a look if you’re in the market for some new shorts.

Gordon Gianniny reviews the Nathan Front Runner Short for Blister
Gordon Gianniny in the Nathan Front Runner Short, Logan, UT

Rabbit EZ Short

Fabric: Shell: 89% Poly / 11% Spandex (no liner)

Inseam Length: 7” / 17.8 cm

Size Tested: Men’s Small

MSRP: $68.00

Gordon Gianniny (6’1″, 145 lbs / 185 cm, 66 kg): Ok, so the Rabbit EZ Shorts aren’t necessarily a traditional pair of running shorts, but they certainly work for running — and they might be the most comfortable pair of shorts I’ve ever worn, so I’m going to include them here.

Rabbit markets the EZ Short as an extremely comfortable “running and lounging” short. The EZ Shorts don’t have a built-in liner like most running shorts, so they definitely wouldn’t be my top choice for most runs. But the EZ fabric that Rabbit uses for the shorts is amazingly soft, stretchy, and (as advertised) comfortable.

Rabbit EZ Short

I’ve mostly used the EZ Shorts for short runs, gym workouts, and casual wear. Their looser fit and thicker fabric don’t make them feel super light or fast during runs, but I still like running in them because they’re so darn comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend getting the EZ Shorts as your only pair of running shorts, but they’re a great option to have around for days where you don’t feel like wearing a tight-fitting, performance-oriented running short, or if you want a pair that is just as comfy to wear around the house or out in town.

Rabbit also makes a women’s version of the EZ Shorts with a 2.5” or 4” inseam.

Odlo MILLENNIUM YAKWARM Tights

MSRP: $90.00

Size tested: Small

Maddie Hart (5’10”, 118 lbs / 178 cm, 54 kg): On cooler spring mornings, lightweight tights are my normal go-to to keep my legs warm without being too hot. As many have experienced, some tights end up riding up or sitting too low in the crotch and causing uncomfortable chafing issues. I’ve always had a hard time finding tights that fit well because of my small waist but larger quads. With that in mind, the Odlo Millennium Yakwarm tights are some of the best tights I have ever worn. To start, these tights’ fit is incredibly comfortable. They sit at the correct length in my crotch to prevent chaffing, and thanks to the adjustable waist ties, I can ensure they fit securely around my waist.

The Yakwarm tight has a seam that cuts diagonally across the upper thigh with a different fabric below this to the knee. The fabric below the knee contains 5% wool. While I haven’t really noticed any differences between the two fabric types in practice, the seam does make the Yakwarm very flattering. These tights are also one of the few I’ve found that are actually long enough for my long legs.

Odlo MILLENNIUM Yakwarm Tight

The Yakwarm tights have a pocket in the back of the waistband, which I’ve found to be incredibly useful. I’ve worn these tights on several longer road runs where I just carried a handheld for water, and the pocket in the tights is perfect for some fuel and my phone so I can listen to music with minimal phone bouncing. I have not found many tights that have a pocket large enough for a modern smartphone, so the YAKWARM’s pocket is a major win in my book.

Odlo also makes a men’s version of the MILLENNIUM YAKWARM Tight.

Nathan Tempo Quarter Zip Long Sleeve

Fabric: 88% Polyester / 12% Elastane

Size Tested: Men’s Medium

MSRP: $75

Gordon: Some people might be thinking “wait, doesn’t Nathan just make running packs and stuff?” Nope, not anymore! Nathan launched a full range of running apparel this spring, and I’ve been trying out a few different pieces from their lineup.

The Tempo ¼-zip is a solid option for chilly spring morning runs. It’s a little thicker than some of my other ¼-zip tops (e.g., the Adidas Terrex Tracerocker Longsleeve), which is great for the 20-25° F / -7° to -4° C mornings I’ve been having a lot of in Utah. It also has extra-long arms with thumb loops, which I definitely appreciate — I haven’t found too many long-sleeve pieces that actually have long enough sleeves for my (admittedly somewhat gangly) arms, but the Tempo ¼ Zip does.

My only critique of the Tempo ¼ Zip is that the body fits pretty loosely. That may or may not be a bad thing, depending on your fit preferences, but I’d prefer a slightly slimmer fit for a running top. If you’re in between sizes, I’d recommend going with the smaller of your two options in the Tempo ¼ Zip, considering its long sleeves and roomier fit.

Nathan Tempo 1/4 zip

Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Grand Shorts

Fabric:

  • Shell: 82% Polyester / 18% Spandex Mesh
  • Liner: 82% Polyester / 18% Spandex Mesh with Anti-Microbial Finish

Inseam Length: 4” / 10.1 cm

Size Tested: Men’s Small

MSRP: $65

Gordon: The Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Grand Shorts initially seemed like a bit of a throwback compared to the fancy fabrics and pockets of many of the other shorts I’ve been running in — but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Grand Short

Tracksmith uses their “2:09 Mesh” (a nod to Billy Rodgers’ American Record Marathon time at the 1975 Boston Marathon) for both the shell and liner of the Van Cortland Grand Shorts, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how comfortable and breathable it is. I’ll admit to having a few flashbacks to the baggy mesh shorts of Middle School gym class when I first saw the shorts, but fortunately, the Van Cortland Grands are nothing like that.

While the Van Cortland Grand’s mesh material does feel a little thicker / heavier than the ultra-thin nylon shell fabrics of shorts like the Patagonia Strider Pro or Rabbit FKT 5”, the shorts actually still feel light and breathable on the trail. They also haven’t caused any of the chafing or rubbing issues I’ve sometimes associated with mesh shorts. The Van Cortland Grand shorts don’t really have much to offer in the way of storage — there are two internal back pockets that could fit keys and maybe a gel or two, but nothing big enough to hold a phone. Then again, the Van Cortland Grand shorts aren’t really designed for carrying lots of stuff on long runs — they’re intended to feel fast and look good on daily training runs and shorter races. And for those purposes, I think they work just fine.

While I wouldn’t choose the Van Cortland Grand shorts for a multi-hour mountain run (due to minimal storage), I like having them as a more casual option for day-to-day training runs around town. They have a more relaxed fit than the Patagonia Strider Pro, and the mesh fabric feels softer and more breathable than the Salomon Agile 5” or Hoka Performance Woven shorts.

My only qualm with the Van Cortland Grand shorts is their fairly steep price tag — the Patagonia Strider Pro and Rabbit FKT shorts are about the same price, and have way more storage capacity. Since I do a lot of long runs and like being able to carry stuff in my shorts, that makes the Van Cortland Grand shorts a little harder to justify. But if you’re more concerned about comfort and style than storage, the Van Cortland Grand shorts could still be a worthwhile investment.

I’ve been testing the men’s 4” Van Cortland Grand shorts, but Tracksmith also makes a women’s version with the same inseam length.

Odlo VELOCITY Tights

MSRP: $80.00

Size tested: Medium

Maddie: On days where the temperatures dip into the teens F (-10°C to -7°C), I usually want a layer for my legs that provides some extra warmth. With a high-rise waist and wind-blocking fabric on the front of the thighs, the Velocity tight is a great option for spring snowstorms or extra chilly mornings.

The Velocity tights, as with other Odlo tights I’ve tried, fit very well on my smaller waist and larger thighs. I tested these tights in a size Medium and probably should have gotten a Small — they were a bit more spacious in the crotch and I had to cinch them down a bit in the waist to get a secure fit. My pair of size Small Odlo Yakwarm tights fit perfectly, so I’d imagine the same would be true for a size Small in the Velocity tights. Even in the Medium, I did not experience any issues with chafing or with the tights riding up / down.

Odlo Velocity Tights

The Velocity tights have a wind-resistant panel on the front of the thigh, adding a little extra protection from the elements without being excessively hot in my experience. The fabric over the butt and low legs is a midweight knit that is pretty breathable but still very warm on colder days. Even on days when I was running hard, I did not experience issues with the Velocity tights being too hot. Odlo classifies the Velocity as a lightweight tight, which I mostly agree with, but they do work well on colder days as well thanks to the wind panels in the front.

The Velocity tight, like the Yakwarm tight, has a pocket in the back of the waistband that’s large enough for an iPhone 8 and a gel. The high elastic waistband keeps things from bouncing around, even when carrying heavier objects like a phone.

I have also worn this tight while cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and they were a great layer. They provided enough warmth on sunny-but-freezing days and blocked the wind while skiing. The Velocity tights are great for a variety of activities on both winter and cold spring days.

Odlo also makes a Men’s version of the Velocity Tight, which also goes for $80.

Nathan Front Runner Shorts

Fabric:

  • Shell: 71% Nylon / 29% Polyester
  • Liner: 82% Polyester / 18% Elastane

Inseam Length: 5” / 12.7 cm

Size Tested: Men’s Small

MSRP: $55.00

Gordon: For Nathan’s first shot at a running short, I’m pretty darn impressed by the Front Runner Short. It has a soft, comfortable, stretchy inner short and lightweight shell with a zippered pocket on the right side / back of the shorts. The Front Runner Shorts also have two open-topped stretchy pockets built into the outside of the inner liner, which are big enough for my iPhone 8 in a LifeProof case or a couple of gels. It can be a little tricky to get things into and out of these pockets mid-run since they’re under the shell fabric, but they do hold things securely without much bounce — which is always an important thing in my book.

Nathan Front Runner Short

The Front Runner Shorts fit true to size — my usual Men’s size Small feels secure without being overly tight. So far I’ve only worn the Front Runner Shorts on shorter runs (up to about an hour), but I haven’t had any issues with chafing or rubbing — I definitely think the Front Runner Shorts will be in my rotation for long runs once the weather warms up a little more.

Nathan also offers a women’s version of the Front Runner with a 3” / 7.6 cm inseam.

Tracksmith Run Cannonball Run Shorts

Fabric:

  • Shell: 71% Micro Nylon / 29% Elastane
  • Liner: 71% Micro Nylon / 29% Elastane

Inseam Length: 6” / 15.2 cm

Size Tested: Men’s Small

MSRP: $88

Gordon: Like the Rabbit Surf ‘n Turf Shorts, the Tracksmith Run Cannonball Run Shorts are designed to address the apparently ever-present dilemma of mid-run swims: most running shorts aren’t great for swimming, but pretty much all swim shorts suck for running. So if / when you do want to take a mid-run dip, it often means dealing with waterlogged shorts and chafing for the remainder of the run. The Run Cannonball Run Shorts fit like a running short, but use a quick-drying, swim-oriented fabric that’s been used on Olympic Speed suits.

Tracksmith Run Cannonball Run Short

In practice, I think that the Run Cannonball Run Shorts are pretty awesome for swimming — but they do sacrifice some performance on the running side of things to make that happen. As advertised, the shorts dry extremely quickly, which does help minimize chafing after a swim (or if you get caught in a heavy spring rainstorm). They also have a comfortable, relaxed fit that’s fairly similar to the Van Cortland Grand shorts. But the swim-specific fabric Tracksmith uses on the Run Cannonball Run Shorts doesn’t seem to be quite as breathable as the lightweight nylon material of shorts like the Rabbit Surf ‘n Turf or Patagonia Strider Pro, which makes the Tracksmith shorts a bit less comfortable in hot weather. It also feels quite a bit stiffer and heavier than the fabric on the Rabbit Surf ‘n Turf.

I still like the Run Cannonball Run Shorts for fairly short runs, but on anything over an hour, they start to feel a little cumbersome compared to their competitors. With that said, they have pretty much replaced my swim shorts for days at the river, and if you have local runs that make mid-run swims a possibility, they’d be a great choice.

Tracksmith also makes a 2” inseam women’s version of the Run Cannonball Run Shorts.

Nathan Versa Long Sleeve Shirt

Fabric: 93% Polyester / 7% Elastane

Size Tested: Men’s Medium

MSRP: $65

Gordon: I think the Versa Long Sleeve might be my favorite long-sleeve shirt ever.

What’s so special about a generic-looking shirt, you might ask? In short, the fabric. The Versa Long Sleeve is a fairly similar weight to the Nathan Tempo ¼ Zip, but the fabric on the Versa is quite a bit softer. Nathan describes it as “Buttery Soft,” and I pretty much agree. The Versa Long Sleeve is great for days where it’s just a bit too cold for a short-sleeve T-shirt or very lightweight long-sleeve top. It’s also pretty awesome for casual wear (or for sitting around at your desk writing reviews — I’m actually wearing it right now). As the name suggests, the Versa Long Sleeve is, in fact, versatile.

Like the Tempo ¼ zip, the Versa Long Sleeve does fit pretty loosely. That’s great for casual wear, but I wouldn’t mind a slightly slimmer fit for running — that really just comes down to personal preference, though. The Versa’s sleeves aren’t quite as long as the Tempo ¼ zip’s, but they’re still plenty long for my arms. As with the Tempo, I’d recommend sizing down in the Versa if you’re usually in between sizes.

Nathan also makes a women’s version of the Versa Long Sleeve.

Nathan Versa Long Sleeve

Hoka One One Performance Woven Short

Fabric: Polyester / Elastane

Inseam Length: 5” or 7” / 12.7 or 17.8 cm

Size Tested: Men’s Medium, 5” Inseam

MSRP: $64.00

Gordon: I usually associate the Hoka brand more with maximal running shoes than with running shorts, but Hoka has also started making a variety of running apparel in the last few years. The Performance Woven Short is a fairly standard take on an everyday running short — it has a built-in brief liner with a hidden key pocket, a large zipper pocket on the back that fits an iPhone 8 in a Lifeproof case, and a lightweight woven nylon shell fabric.

Hoka One One Performance Woven Short

The Performance Woven Shorts fit similarly to the Salomon Agile shorts, but with a slightly higher waist. They aren’t nearly as tight-fitting as the Patagonia Strider Pro shorts, but still feel fairly secure and supportive. I haven’t had any issues with chafing in the Performance Woven Shorts, but the slightly looser-fitting liner does make me a little hesitant to wear them for multi-hour runs. The looser fit also makes the shorts bounce around a bit more when I do have a phone or other heavy items in the back pocket. Finally, the woven shell fabric feels a bit stiffer than the Patagonia Strider Pro or Rabbit FKT shorts, which I’ve found makes the Performance Woven short slightly less comfortable — especially on longer runs.

On the whole, I think the Hoka Performance Woven Shorts are a solid everyday running short — but they don’t really stand out from the competition in my book. They feel fairly similar to the Salomon Agile Shorts, but cost about $20 more. As with the Tracksmith Van Cortland Grand Shorts, the Performance Woven Shorts cost about the same amount as much more feature-packed shorts like the Patagonia Strider Pro or Rabbit FKT. If they were a bit cheaper I’d definitely recommend the Performance Woven Shorts for a day-to-day training short, but the higher price makes them a bit hard to justify — at least for my preferences.

I tested the men’s 5” inseam version of the Performance Woven Shorts, but Hoka also makes a 7” inseam men’s version and 4” inseam women’s version.

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