No matter what season you are training in, there are three things you need from a top: it has to wick the moisture away from your skin, keep you cool on your run and not chafe.
For autumn and winter runs, it is best to choose short-sleeve or long-sleeve tops in the form of a base-layer or pullover. On top of that, urban joggers might want to keep an eye out for synthetic fabrics that allow your elevated body temperature to cool quickly if you head back indoors after a long run.
Long distance runners might be in the market for tops made from merino wool. These tops are breathable, but also keep the runner warm when cooling down outdoors. They may also need extra pockets for keys or gel sachets, compression technology to avoid the build-up of lactic acid and sun protection when exposed to the elements.
Those who jog every day may also want to keep an eye out for fabrics that stay odour free, so as to avoid washing their kit every night.
1. Montane Sonic Long Sleeve T-shirt: £22.80, Wiggle
This long sleeve T-shirt feels exactly like a base-layer should – like a second skin. And it’s ideal as a base layer for the serious trail runner. The wicking fabric is combined with odour-resistant technology, so can be worn for multiple days. It comes in this goes-with-everything grey colour.
2. New Balance Performance Merino Tank: £34, New Balance
This top acts well as a base layer for winter runs when teamed with a pullover or running jacket. The polyester and merino wool combination did a good job of wicking sweat away, while allowing the skin to breathe during sprints. There is also added perforated back detail to boost airflow and an extra pocket for your essentials. Comes in either black or blue.
3. Asics Lite Show Winter Long Sleeve: £48, Asics
This soft winter running top has a turtle-neck design and sits snuggly against the body, with even the hands covered thanks to the thumbholes. Despite being so warm the jersey fabric is ultra-light and its softness allows for ease of movement when running. Available in either pink or kingfisher blue.
4. Roxy Ozalee Workout Vest: £30, Roxy
The flexible fabric of this sports vest allows you to attack all types of workout or any tricky yoga move, while keeping the inimitable style of a Roxy boho fashionista. The loose-fit and wicking fabric comes in three distinctive Roxy prints, each with a plain-coloured back panel and cut-out shoulder straps. If you dare, pair with the matching leggings for maximum impact. It is ideal for trans-seasonal running up to December but we’re doubtful it will keep out the January chill, unless worn with a warmer top beneath, which is also a good look.
5. New Balance Newbury Layer Tee: £22, New Balance
This sleeveless tank top made from polyester, nylon and spandex didn’t cling to the skin – even very sweaty skin – and felt very breathable. The design, with an unusual cut-out back seemed to contribute to its cooling qualities and kept things breezy during runs. Probably not one for deepest winter, though.
6. Ashmei Short Sleeve Classic Jersey: £99, Ashmei
Taking its inspiration from vintage cycling jerseys, Ashmei brings classic style to sport that usually puts form over fashion. That isn’t to say that form has been overlooked by the brand. In fact, the short-sleeve, merino-carbon blend jersey provides natural thermo-regulation. The wool contains air pockets to lock in heat, while the carbon allows for wicking, something merino wool is less effective at. The fabric is also rated UPF 50+ and the antibacterial merino wool means that the top can be worn multiple times without needing to be washed.
7. Odlo Briana Seamless Running Pullover: £50, Odlo
Odlo started 70 years ago as a brand making sportswear for cross-country skiers, and since moving into running gear it has kept its principle “from the skin up” by taking winter layering very seriously. This top straddles two seasons by acting as a winter mid-layer or an autumn top layer. It doesn’t get more high-tech than the fabric used by Odlo. The way the fabric is knitted together makes the fabric feel springy and manoeuvrable as you move your arms, or when stretching post-workout. The top comes in three colours.
8. Gymshark Seamless Long Sleeve T-shirt: £30, Gymshark
Available in pink or grey, this long-sleeve shirt with thumb holes is a no-nonsense, figure-hugging winter base layer. The seamless knit fabric is soft, supple and feels secure, and made us feel much less wobbly when running. It works well as a top for warmer autumn days, and as a base-layer under a running jacket when the wind and rain pick up.
9. Puma Running Women’s Graphic T-shirt: £18, Puma
This is best worn as a soft and comfortable base layer for warmer autumn days, as the polyester fabric is great for drawing sweat from the skin, but cools quicker which isn’t ideal on extremely cold winter days. The reflective trims are discreet, so if in an area of low lighting, you might need extra reflection from the rest of your kit. The top comes in three other jazzier designs.
10. Nike Dri-fit Knit Running Top: £55, Nike
The seamless design of this short-sleeved base layer comes in nine colours and allows for comfortable movement, while the dri-FIT fabric is ultra-drying when combined with the knit-in ventilation. The top doesn’t cool as quickly as other 100 per cent polyester tops, so despite being short-sleeved it is best suited as a base-layer for winter running.
11. Sweaty Betty Elite Seamless Long Sleeve Run Top: £85, Sweaty Betty
The fun thing about this top is the hood/balaclava feature which provides protection for the face on those windy, cold winter runs. The ultramarine blue makes it transferable from the road to the café, as the hood turns into a stylish turtleneck. The top is on the long side, which is great for extra bum coverage in the cold and for women with longer torsos. The arms also have thumb hooks for extra coverage and the high stretch knitted fabric adapts to the body’s movement for an unrestricted run. There’s an extra key pocket too, if all of the above features weren’t enough.
12. Dhb Women's Long Sleeve Quarter Zip Run Top: £25, Wiggle
This long-sleeve top performs way above its price point. This versatile piece can be worn as a base-layer or as an outer layer. The lightweight performance fabric wicks moisture away from the skin and the anti-bacterial treatment keeps the garment fresher for longer. There is also a useful pocket, thumbholes and reflective logo. The downside is that it is less breathable than other tops and ventilation is provided by the quarter zip.
The verdict: Women’s running tops
At the lower end of the spectrum the Dhb Women's Long Sleeve Quarter Zip Run Top is a great outer layer to wear on urban jogs. At the higher end, we’d recommend the Sweaty Betty Elite Seamless Long Sleeve Run Top – it has the most innovative and useful features for winter runs, as well as turning into a cool turtle neck. It looked so good and felt so comfortable that we forgot to take ours off. But our ultimate favourite, which is best for longer trail runs, is the Montane Sonic long sleeve t-shirt.
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