Best running tops 2021: keep your cool with the best short- and long-sleeved running shirts

No heatwave can stop you in these highly breathable and ventilated performance tops for running

best running tops
(Image credit: Under Armour)

Sure, you can go out and run in a t-shirt and some baggy jogging bottoms, but the best running tops do more than just covering your body from being completely exposed to the elements. These fine garments can keep your upper body cool and sometimes even provide some compression so your muscles feel more oxygenated.

The best running tops are often highly-breathable and sweat-wicking so you can enjoy running for longer without having to carry around a soggy, drenched top with massive wet patches under the armpits. Apart from improving comfort levels, running vests and shirts can often improve visibility as well.

Most runners also use running T-shirts all year around: during colder months, just add the best base layer to the mix and enjoy the combination of warmth and sweat-wicking features of both garments. 

The below performance apparel is not to be confused with the best winter running tops, we have a separate guide for those. We also have guides on the best running shorts, the best running socks and of course, the best running shoes. Or best trail running shoes, in case you prefer to run off the beaten track. 

How to choose the best running top for you

When choosing the best running top for you, there a few things you might want to consider before hitting the 'Order now' button.

Fit is an important factor and it can mean the difference between you feeling uneasy because your pot belly is accentuated or feeling comfortable and relaxed since nothing is on display that shouldn't be. For average-built joggers, the best option is to get a regular fit top that provides some coverage without being too tight and unflattering. For more athletic type bodies, a slim fit top might be a better option to still provide some insulation, especially at the beginning of your runs.

Fabric is also a concern: some elasticity can help your comfort levels, especially if you are in-between sizes. Most running tops are made of synthetic fabrics but as in the case of the dhb Merino Short Sleeve Base Layer, natural materials can also provide high-performance, too.

There is also design and how the running tops looks. We don't necessarily buy sporting apparel for aesthetics only but it can be the deciding factor between two similarly-specced pieces of garment. This is true both ways: if you are planning on blending in, the Nike Dri-FIT A.I.R. probably has a bit too much going on and you might want to opt in for something more plain-vanilla looking, like the Adidas 25/7 Rise Up N Run Parley T-shirt, which is still a great performance running top, albeit a bit boring to look at.

best running top

(Image credit: Nike)

T3's best running tech guides

The best running tops, in order

best running top: Adidas 25/7 Rise Up N Run Parley T-shirt

(Image credit: Adidas)

1. Adidas 25/7 Rise Up N Run Parley T-shirt

Made from recycled ocean plastic

Reasons to buy
+Appropriate ventilation+Reflective detail
Reasons to avoid
-Not much going on in the aesthetics department

• Buy the Adidas 25/7 Rise Up N Run Parley T-shirt directly from Adidas

This running t-shirt from Adidas is created with yarn that features Parley Ocean Plastic which is made from recycled waste, intercepted from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean. So, by wearing this running top, your effectively cleaning the ocean from plastic, Sort of.

Apart from being quasi-environmentally friendly, the Adidas 25/7 Rise Up N Run Parley T-shirt is also good for keeping you cool thanks to the ventilating mesh sleeve and back inserts that keep the air circulating around your skin as you run. The regular fit and the crewneck gives this t-shirt a casual look whilst providing performance breathability. Perfect for those who don't want to look like a runner but still would like to enjoy the benefits of high-tech running gear.

best running top: Sundried Dom 2.0

(Image credit: Sundried)

2. Sundried Dom 2.0

The perfect summer running top

Reasons to buy
+Made from recycled plastic+Lightweight+Great fit
Reasons to avoid
-Inseam above chest might cause some rubbing on longer runs

• Buy the Sundried Dom 2.0 for £20 directly from Sundried

The Sundried Dom 2.0 Running Vest is part of Sundried's Eco Core range and it lives up to the promise of being environmentally-friendly: the Dom 2.0 is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, making it one of the most sustainable running tops on this list.

It might be made from plastic but that doesn't mean the Sundried Dom 2.0 doesn't have performance features. The fabric is sweat-wicking as well as having a multi-way stretch for added comfort. The Sundried Dom 2.0 is also lightweight and thanks to the large armholes, it is also comfortable to wear. There won't be any chafing around the armpits running in the Dom 2.0.

The fitted, long-line design makes it ideal to wear even when you aren't running. There are three colours to choose from: White, Blue and Black, the latter being more of a dark grey than black. The logo at the back of the vest is reflective, so is the trim on the sides for added visibility.

The inseam at the top of the chest and the back can take some time getting used to but they are far from being irritating.

best running top: New Balance Transform Perfect Tank

(Image credit: New Balance)

2. New Balance Transform Perfect Tank

Flattering and feminine workout tank top

Reasons to buy
+Subtle branding+Elegant performance
Reasons to avoid
-Might need a sports bra for running

• Buy the New Balance Transform Perfect Tank directly from New Balance

The Transform Perfect Tank tries to bridge the gap between performance and elegance, offering a curved hem, racerback and peek-a-boo slit between the shoulders for both style and ventilation. The NB DRY sweat-wicking technology will keep you sweat-free so you feel more comfortable as you run or workout.

The fitted silhouette was designed to feel snug at the chest and waist but allow for full range of motion without excess fabric. The casual and comfortable crew neckline and the curved hem provides more coverage at the front and back so you can feel more secure. A sports bra might required, though, if you are working out more vigorously.

best running top: Under Armour Qualifier ISO-CHILL Short Sleeve Running Top

(Image credit: Under Armour)

3. Under Armour Qualifier ISO-CHILL Short Sleeve Running Top

The coolest running top in town

Material: 90% Polyester/10% Elastane
Reflective details: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Iso-chill temperature control technology+Close fitting+Little pocket for gels

• Buy the Under Armour Qualifier ISO-CHILL Short Sleeve Running Top directly form Under Armour

If you are after a running top that will keep you cool for sure, go for the Under Armour Qualifier ISO-CHILL Short Sleeve Running Top (longest name ever for a running top). The titanium dioxide-infused, ribbon-shaped nylon fibres disperse and pulls away heat in the same time. Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring material and used widely by the cosmetics industry. It can be found in sun creams, for example.

The Under Armour Qualifier ISO-CHILL Short Sleeve Running Top is fitted close to the skin but not muscle fit, so some air will get under the top to keep you even cooler. The fabric is also super bouncy and has a 4-way stretch construction for added freedom of movement.

Naturally, the fabric is also moisture wicking and dries really fast – as you would expect from a decent running top. As an added bonus, there is a little pocket on the right hand side for storing gels or other snacks, should you not have enough space in your running shorts. The are also reflective details to increase visibility in low-light conditions.

best running tops: Columbia Montrail Trinity Trail II Women's Vest

(Image credit: Columbia)

4. Columbia Montrail Trinity Trail II Women's Vest

Take on the trails in maximum comfort

Material: 100% polyester
Reflective details: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Highly comfortable+Print on back looks great
Reasons to avoid
-Baggy under the arms

• Buy the Columbia Montrail Trinity Trail II Womens Vest at

Although the Columbia Montrail Trinity Trail II Women's Vest is advertised as a trail running top, it works equally as well on the road and can even be used for workouts too, thanks to the stretchy fabric and Montrail's signature Omni-Vent moisture management technology: even during strenuous workouts, you won't have to worry about sweat-patches under the arm, making you all self-conscious.

The vest is low-cut under the arms further enhancing comfort and moisture management, although it is worth mentioning that the fabric is a bit loose just under the armpit. This is not an issue in itself – women come in all shapes and sizes after all – but since the rest of the vest sits close to the skin, in order for this top to perfectly fit you, you'd need a slim waist and a larger bust size, which admittedly is not the most common body type in women.

That aside, exercising in the Columbia Montrail Trinity Trail II Women's Vest is a good experience and the top is also nice to look at (we tested the pink variety). The intricate pattern on the back is particularly eye-catching and the overall look of the top is very pleasing. Better still, the fabric received antibacterial treatment so it will stay fresher for longer.

We can recommend the Columbia Montrail Trinity Trail II Women's Vest for all types of warm weather activities and outdoor sports.

best running top: dhb Merino Short Sleeve Base Layer (M_150)

(Image credit: dhb)

5. dhb Merino Short Sleeve Base Layer (M_150)

Natural performance for trail runners and hikers

Reasons to buy
+Merino wool+Odour resistant
Reasons to avoid
-Slim fit merino top can get warm

• Buy the dhb Merino Short Sleeve Base Layer (M_150) at Wiggle

Sometimes, you need a bit of extra warmth but don't feel like putting on a long-sleeved t-shirt or a jumper. The dhb Merino M_150 base layer is for those days. This lightweight superfine merino wool top has outstanding thermal regulation properties and is constructed from high-quality superfine grade (18.5 micron) merino wool for a soft, luxurious and itch-free feel, and natural anti-odour properties.

Merino is naturally breathable; moisture quickly evaporates when the fibres can’t hold any more, helping you maintain your temperature and avoid overheating on sprints, climbs and hard efforts. Perfect for trail runners and hikers alike.

best running top: Reebok Running Essentials Speedwick Singlet

(Image credit: Reebok)

6. Reebok Running Essentials Speedwick Singlet

For runners who are also keen on having nicely tanned arms

Reasons to buy
+It's called a singlet
Reasons to avoid
-Can only really be used on hot days of for treadmill runs

• Buy the Reebok Running Essentials Speedwick Singlet directly from Reebok

The Reebok Running Essentials Speedwick Singlet is really for the hottest days of the year or if you happen to be from Australia, for every day of the year. This running top is made of breathable, sweat-wicking fabric to help you stay cool and dry, a sensation further enhanced by the mesh panel at the back of the singlet.

In all honesty, I would buy this vest just because it's called a singlet but then I'm a person who finds joy in the simple things in life and who is also easily pleased. the regular fit makes the Reebok Running Essentials Speedwick Singlet even more comfortable than it already is and thanks to the aforementioned mesh panels, it really feels like you wearing nothing on the top of your body as you run. Should you prefer to feel that, it is a bonus, I think.

Better still, this singlet is made with recycled polyester to save resources and decrease emissions.

best running top: Asics W COOLING SS TOP

(Image credit: Asics)

7. Asics W Cooling SS Top

Cool design combined with excellent breathability

Reasons to buy
+Eye-catching design+Slim fit
Reasons to avoid
-Not too many features

• Buy the Asics W Cooling SS Top directly from Asics

Want to look fresh and stay cool during your summer jogs? Don't let the strange name put you off and give the Asics W Cooling SS Top a try. This short-sleeved running top a mesh fabric that feels cool on the skin and is highly breathable too. The slim-fit design accentuates the figure and keeps the fabric to catch the wind.

The Asics W Cooling SS Top looks different from all the one-coloured running apparel and if you wish to look the part when you run, this is the top for you.

best running top: TCA Men's Dynamic Short Sleeve Training Top

(Image credit: TCA)

8. TCA Men's Dynamic Short Sleeve Training Top

Run and train in style

Reasons to buy
+Reasonably priced+Sweat wicking fabric

• Buy the TCA Men's Dynamic Short Sleeve Training Top directly from TCA

The TCA Men's Dynamic Short Sleeve Training Top is part of TCA's Underground Collection and apart from looking extra sleek, the TCA D.R.Y. technology helps wicking sweat away, keeping your skin cool(er) when you run. As an added peace of mind, TCA offers a 365-day no quibble return policy on all items, including the TCA Men's Dynamic Short Sleeve Training Top. If for whatever reason you are not happy with the garment, just send TCA a message and they will provide a full return or exchange instructions. Easy.

best running top: Nike Dri-FIT A.I.R. Men's Long-Sleeve Running T-Shirt

(Image credit: Nike)

9. Nike Dri-FIT A.I.R. Men's Long-Sleeve Running T-Shirt

All the style you need on chillier summer mornings

Reasons to buy
+Impeccable style+Dri-FIT quick-drying technology

• Buy the Nike Dri-FIT A.I.R. Men's Long-Sleeve Running T-Shirt directly from Nike

Nike's A.I.R (Artist in Residence), artist A. Savage, created a colour palette inspired by national flags and costumes. The Nike Dri-FIT A.I.R. long-sleeved running top is perfect for chillier summer mornings when the weather is not as warm as it will be but just right for an easy 10k.

Thanks to the Dri-FIT technology, even if you get sweaty in the Nike Dri-FIT A.I.R. long-sleeved t-shirt, the fabric will wick the sweat away so you'll stay dry, no matter what the temperature is (to some degree). This jersey has a standard fit that is not too baggy, nor it is too snug, enabling air to move around the surface of the skin.