Even if you’re a relative newbie to the sport, you’ll know that wearing the right running kit makes a huge difference to your comfort levels.
Many of us started off wearing an old cotton T-shirt before quickly realising that they A quickly start to smell and that smell never washes out and B, it doesn’t dry when it gets wet, whether that’s from sweat or rain, and then feel heavy and start to chafe.
Good running tops should be a combination of breathable and wicking (pulling moisture away from the body to dry quickly) fabric and move easily with your body without feeling restrictive.
Thought should also be given to features like flat seams to prevent chafing.
The tops below have been tested on hot summer runs and are made from technical fabrics designed to keep you cool and comfortable.
We’ve included tanks for people who like as much ease of movement and ventilation as possible, T-shirts for a little extra coverage and long-sleeved tops for those that want better sun protection or don’t like to have their arms on show.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Lululemon swiftly tech racerback 2.0
Yes this does come with a higher price tag, but it's worth it. While many brands opt for flat seams to reduce chafing, this top is free of seams altogether around the torso and smooth under the arms. Engineered mesh in high sweat areas combined with a scooped neckline and racerback made for a cool and comfortable ride and its hip length so it doesn’t ride up. Form fitting all the way down but doesn’t cling, and it’s extremely flattering – the simple styling means you could just as easily wear it with denim shorts to a café as on a long, technical run.
Under Armour UA qualifier iso-chill short sleeve
About as close as you’ll get to a tank but in T-shirt form, which is perfect if you like that extra coverage over the back and shoulders. The sleeves and back are breathable mesh and the back also has slits to allow more air flow. The iso-chill fabric (designed to draw heat away from your body) actually feels cool to the touch as you slide it on and it’s beautifully soft. The flattering fit is close without being too close.
Brooks distance tank
No chance of getting hot in this tank – its narrow racerback provides maximum ventilation and it’s lightweight to the point of being slightly sheer (you can see your sports bra through the fabric but not a problem for us given that much of a sports bra is revealed wearing any tank). Form fitting at the top but hangs loosely around the stomach area. Super soft, it gets an eco tick for being made of 88 per cent recycled polyester and we love its slashes of colour.
Berghaus women’s voyager tech tee
When you’re after running kit that’s built for adventure and hard wearing, reputable outdoor brands known for technical gear are a good place to look. Berghaus is one such brand and this tee won’t let you down. It has sun protection of 30+ and it’s made from fabric approved under the bluesign system (meaning its production has been vetted for worker safety, chemical management and environmental protection).
Form fitting without being clingy, it’s comfortable, stretchy and flattering, it kept us cool in hot temperatures and the odour-resistant fabric still doesn’t smell after several runs/washes. Also available in a tank or long sleeve version, it’s built to last and has a lifetime guarantee – if it develops a genuine fault or defect, Berghaus will replace it.
New Balance q speed jacquard tank
A high neckline and wide back make this a great option for those who like a little more coverage from their tank. Soft, lightweight and supremely comfortable, it dried quickly and didn’t stick on a hot, humid run. The fabric is slightly sheer and drapes nicely from the chest downwards with a longer hem at the back.
Helly Hansen lifa active solen long sleeve
From another trusted outdoor brand, this durable long-sleeve top is ideal for long, exposed runs – it offers premium sun protection at 50+, while being lightweight and breathable to keep you cool. It wicked sweat away quickly and effectively. A relaxed fit without a cling in sight but it’s nicely cut and moves well with your body. Also available as a tee and tank.
Hummel tech move jersey
A stylish running tee from this Danish brand – we like the bright pop of colour and slightly retro styling from the chevrons and coloured panels. Loose fitting and silky soft, its lightweight beecool fabric did what it promised and kept us dry and comfortable throughout a hot run, helped by the mesh panels under the arms.
Columbia trinity trail II tank
Designed by a great outdoor brand for the rigours of trail running but suits any kind of summer run. A stylish tank with everything you need – soft, lightweight fabric, breathability, moisture management, freedom of movement and no bulky seam under the arms. The racerback and scooped neck will keep you cool, and the fit is fairly close without being figure-hugging with a nice long length to stop it riding up.
Sundried eclipse long sleeve top
Made from a lightweight, wicking fabric, this butter soft top has a long and flattering cut, with ventilation panels down the side of the body and arms. It has flat seams and moves well with your body while running. A subtle animal print sheen adds a nice style quirk. Much of the Sundried range is made from recycled plastics and coffee grounds.
Salomon sense tee
When Salomon says that this is a super lightweight tee, it really means it. Its fabric is the thinnest of the T-shirts we tested, with a barely there feel, and it’s highly breathable. Sweat was wicked away in an instant and the fit is close without clinging. It moved nicely on a run and the seams are flat and fine.
The verdict: Women's running tops
The Lululemon swiftly tech racerback 2.0 is hard to fault on performance, comfort and looks. We haven’t chosen it because it’s the most expensive but because the price tag reflects the quality. If you like a looser fit around the middle, the Brooks distance tank is also a safe bet. If a T-shirt is more your bag, the Berghaus voyager tech tee ticks all the performance boxes with the added benefit of sun protection and the Under Armour UA qualifier iso-chill short sleeve is also a winner – its performance fabric combined with mesh and back slits perform especially well in the heat.
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