Let’s face it, gone are the days when you’d be willing to shrug on an old cotton t-shirt for a run. Running gear has come a long way in recent years and when you’re heading out on the trails, you want something that’s going to support your performance in all conditions. The best women’s running tops help to regulate your temperature on a long run, wick away sweat and never get in the way of your movement.
Naturally, if you’re a regular trail runner, you’ll want to have a few different running tops at hand to keep you protected from icy winds or cool in summer. Some of us prefer long sleeves over short sleeves and others are die-hard vest wearers no matter the season. Some women’s running tops are made using eco-friendly, sustainable materials and others rely on the durability of synthetic fabrics for long-lasting performance. The one thing all running tops seem to have in common in versatility, whether they can double as a base layer for a cold winter hike or serve as a yoga tank on the mat, meaning you always get more for your money.
The good news? With our pick of the best women’s running tops, there’s something for everyone. We tested out the best women’s running tops and recommend the ones that perform the best, and still look and feel great on a trail run. You can pair yours with the best women’s trail running shoes and running leggings to get the most out of your high-speed adventures.
Best women’s running tops: long sleeves for cold weather
Black Diamond claim their Long Sleeve Rhythm t-shirt is the world’s lightest ultimate high output, breathable layer, and weighing in at just 104 grams, they can’t be too far off. This high quality base layer comes in a classic design but is made using Nuyarn merino wool technology which is touted as lighter, faster drying and 35% more stretchy than standard merino.
Sure enough, this soft, featherlight top is designed for movement, with a slim-but-not-tight fit, underarm panels to aid movement and a wide crew neck. It’s thin enough to fit under any mid layer in colder weather, makes the perfect breathable trail running top for when you’re covering a lot of ground in cooler temperatures and looks and works great for everyday use too. It holds up to a lot of action without needing to be washed after every adventure, so though it comes at a premium price, you’ll barely take it off once you pull it on.
This mid-neck flattering base layer is climate positive, stylish and performance based. It features a fun design based on Strava maps and feels extremely soft to the touch, made from a blend of absorbent bamboo and organic cotton which wicks away sweat when you’re on a run. It features thumb holes which are great for cooler runs and helps to regulate your temperature. Made from a bamboo blend, this top alone avoids 2.6 kg of CO2e emissions in production and saves 842.3 litres of water according to the company. Add to that how well it works as a performance fabric and you can see why we love bamboo. We love this eco-friendly base layer as a running top going into cooler weather, but it’s not great for running in the rain, as it holds water and becomes heavy (and takes a long time to dry).
The Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top is entirely made with merino wool – a magic material that keeps you warm when you need it to, but which can also cool you down when conditions are hot (those sheep are smarter than they look). Merino wool maintains it warmth-giving properties when wet, but garments do become heavy if soaked through.
New Zealand company Icebreaker very early on recognized the potential of this fabric for an outdoor-active audience, and they remain way out in the lead when it comes to producing classy and quality garments made from merino, such as this base layer, which is 100% straight off the sheep’s back.
Best women’s running tops: short sleeves for mild temps
This lightweight, technical tee is made for running in cool to warm weather. The ultra soft material and active fit provide chafing-free comfort on the trails, bolstered by moisture-wicking and quick drying technology.
Keela manufactures all their clothing at their own factories in Scotland and were the first Scottish clothing manufacturer to sign up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan. Even though this tee is made using polyester rather than natural fabric, it’s been treated with an anti-bacterial component that stops the growth of odor-causing bacteria, reducing sweat smells which means you wash the garment less often and keep it out of landfills longer.
This running top promises to keep you cool during high intensity movement. It is a stylish and lightweight technical tee that fits neither snug nor loose, making a great alternative to tank and long-sleeve styles.
This top is made from Cool-Lite, a lightweight and breathable fabric blend of merino wool, TENCEL and nylon, which is designed to wick moisture away from your body and regulate body temperature, so it’s intended for hefty runs on warm days but also keeps you warm in cool weather. It features an eyelet mesh back for full ventilation, underarm gusset for mobility, and offset shoulder seams meant to prevent pack rub if you’re wearing a hydration pack.
This lightweight running top promises advanced cooling technology for warmer days on the trail wrapped up in a soft, stylish tee. It’s crafted from Columbia’s own Omni-Freeze fabric designed to react with your sweat to lower the material’s temperature when you work out.
This short-sleeve top is designed to be slim-fitting and stylish, made from super soft, stretchy fabric. It also provides moisture-wicking and odor-controlling technologies.
Best women’s running tops: light vests for warm days
This ultra-lightweight, slinky racerback makes for a versatile top that you’ll be happy to wear for long trail runs and afterwards to cool down on the yoga mat. As you’ll have guessed by the brand’s name, Gym+Coffee has lots of stylish athleisure wear and is great for gym goers, but this item definitely works as part of your trail kit too. Made from breathable fabric, it wicks away sweat on the trails and dries quickly to keep you cool and comfortable, and whatever you’re doing in it, the T-shaped back means it moves with you with lots of stretch and no annoying seams or zips.
The silky synthetic fabric feels fabulous against your skin and the fit is classic racerback – high necked, slim and flattering without being skin tight. Reflective details on the left chest and low back offer protection for night runs. With a budget friendly pricing, there’s basically no reason not to add this to your running kit.
|Running top||Price||Style||Best use|
|Black Diamond LS Rhythm Tee||$110 (US) / €80 (UK)||Long sleeve crew base layer||Trail running, hiking, camping, skiing, snowshoeing|
|BAM Bamboo Women’s Tregarrick base layer||€44 (UK)||Mid neck long sleeve base layer||Trail running, hiking, camping, winter sports|
|Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top||$95 (US) / €75 (UK)||Long sleeve crew base layer||Trail running, hiking, camping, winter sports|
|Keela Trail Short Sleeve top||€29.95 (UK)||Crew neck T shirt||Trail running, hiking|
|Icebreaker Women’s Cool-Lite Amplify Short Sleeve Low Crewe T-Shirt||$75 (US) / €65 (UK)||Crew neck T shirt||Trail running, hiking, base layer|
|Columbia Women’s Zero Rules t-shirt||$40 (US) / €30 (UK)||V neck T shirt||Trail running, hiking|
|Gym+Coffee Women’s Activate Vest||$37 (US) / €25 (UK)||Racerback vest||Trail running, summer hiking|
What to look for in the best women’s running tops
Like any article of performance clothing in your kit, what makes for the best women’s running tops is a very subjective experience and a lot of it comes down to personal preference. There are, however, certain factors to consider that will influence your choice, like the weather and the climate.
If you tend to do most of your trail running in the summer or in a milder climate, or just don’t love having sleeves when you’re running, then you’ll be happiest in a vest style top. Of course, on chilly days you can easily layer a long sleeve base layer or running jacket on top, so your vest tops don’t have to get packed away for winter.
But if you’re looking for something that will protect you in cold weather or from the sun, then you’ll want to consider a long sleeve running top. These might cost a little more up front, but of course you can use them as a base layer for hiking, camping and winter sports too.
Finally, some of us prefer a good old fashioned t-shirt-style top. These can be a little more awkward to layer on top of, but they provide a nice mid-point between hot and cold weather attire and some sun protection for your shoulders.
The following are some factors that are worth considering whatever season and weather you’re running in to ensure adequate protection and comfort.
When you’re already challenging yourself on the trail, the last thing you want is for your clothes to be uncomfortable. There are a lot of factors that play into comfort, from the fit of your running top to the material it’s made from. The best women’s running tops are made using soft fabric that’s not too tight anywhere and don’t have annoying seams that rub.
You’re always going to be working up a sweat on a run, so perhaps the most important factor when it comes to running tops is whether it wicks away moisture. Good breathability means you won’t get clammy or chilled no matter how hard you run, and the best women’s running tops dry quickly on the drive home.
Whether you prefer a slow jog or like to spring up the side of the mountain, it’s always good to have a bit of dynamic stretch in your running top so you can move your arms with ease. Fortunately, the best women’s running are designed with freedom of movement in mind. Look for a percentage of elastane or spandex in the material make-up of your running tops – any mention of four-way stretch is a good sign.
Lots of the best women’s running tops are now treated to help with odor control, which means that you can wear them a few times without having to wash them. This means your running top lasts longer and your purchase is better for the environment.
Depending on the weather, you will want protection from wild weather and sun. You can achieve this either with a long sleeved top, or by layering a running jacket over a short sleeved top. Check the Ultraviolet Protection Factor – UPF – rating of your running tops if you’re planning on being outside a lot in fair weather during the middle of the day.
Not only do running tops have to hold up to a lot of sweating, you’re also likely to be wearing yours with a running backpack or hydration vest if you’re on a longer trail run. The best women’s running tops can withstand the rub of your pack straps and still look like new after a run.