Best running tops 2021: best workout tops for running, gym and anything in between

Don't let the heat stop you from exercising, these breathable workout and running tops will help you keep your cool in any weather

Included in this guide:

best running tops
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best running tops – also the best workout tops – are often made of highly-breathable and sweat-wicking material so you can enjoy exercising for longer without feeling uncomfortable: wearing a soggy, drenched top with massive wet patches under the armpits is a look not many people can pull off. Apart from improving comfort levels, running t-shirts and workout tank tops can often improve visibility as well thanks to the added reflective details.

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.

Savvy runners can use running t-shirts all year around, making them a good investment in health. During colder months, just add the best base layer to the mix and enjoy the combination of warmth and sweat-wicking of both garments. Boom.

The below performance tops are 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. 

Fancy going out in the heat for run? Here is how to workout in the heat safely and effectively. and when we say workout we mean run. Obviously. 

The best running tops, in order of preference

best running top: Adidas 25/7 Rise Up N Run Parley T-shirtT3 Best Buy Award badge

(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

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: New Balance Transform Perfect TankT3 Approved badge

(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

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 Iso-Chill Perforated Short Sleeve Running TopT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Under Armour)

3. Under Armour Iso-Chill Perforated Short Sleeve Running Top

Keep your iso-chill in this cooling workout top

Specifications
Material: 100% polyester
Fit: Slim
Reasons to buy
+Cool material feels cold on the skin+Reduced drag thanks to slim fit construction
Reasons to avoid
-Might be too cold when it's not sweltering hot

UA's Iso Chill cooling technology allows athletes to "perform measurably longer, feel more comfortable, and experience less physical strain during hot and humid weather", according to Under Armour. As well as being cool to the touch, the Under Armour Iso-Chill Perforated Short Sleeve Running Top also provides laser perforated air holes which provides additional breathability and ventilation.

Thanks to the slim fit construction, this workout t-shirt won't flap around the waist, creating less drag and making you look slightly more presentable. That said, it's tight around the upper arm which not might be to everyone's liking but it does make your guns look bigger, should this be an important factor when buying a new workout top.

best running tops: lululemon Fast and Free Short SleeveT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: lululemon)

4. lululemon Fast and Free Short Sleeve

Sweat-wicking, quick drying magic running t shirt

Specifications
Material: 91% Polyester, 9% Lycra elastane
Fit: Slim
Reasons to buy
+Added zinc eliminates bad odours (to some degree)+Exciting colourways
Reasons to avoid
-Fit is a bit loose for a slim fit running t-shirt

The lululemon Fast and Free Short Sleeve was designed from the ground up for runners and uses a zinc-enhanced material that's sweat-wicking and also eliminated odour. This doesn't mean you should wear the top all day after your morning 15k but at least it won't smell up the house after you hang it up to dry. And since the No-Stink Zinc technology inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria on the fabric, you can wash the top less often which is good for the environment (you'll use less water).

The Fast and Free Short Sleeve features reflective details so you can be seen when running in suboptimal lighting conditions, a.k.a. early morning or late evening.

best running top: Sundried Dom 2.0T3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Sundried)

5. 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

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 tops: Columbia Montrail Trinity Trail II Women's VestT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Columbia)

6. Columbia Montrail Trinity Trail II Women's Vest

Take on the trails in maximum comfort

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

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: Under Armour Qualifier ISO-CHILL Short Sleeve Running TopT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Under Armour)

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

The coolest running top in town

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

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 top: dhb Merino Short Sleeve Base Layer (M_150)T3 Approved badge

(Image credit: dhb)

8. 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

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 SingletT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Reebok)

9. 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

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: TCA Men's Dynamic Short Sleeve Training TopT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: TCA)

10. TCA Men's Dynamic Short Sleeve Training Top

Run and train in style

Reasons to buy
+Reasonably priced+Sweat wicking fabric

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: a group of four people running on tarmac wearing Puma running shoes

(Image credit: Puma)

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.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is a fitness fanatic (a.k.a. fitness and nutrition writer) who's been rambling on about all things health and fitness for over two years now here at T3. His achievements include a short-lived fitness podcast called Fit Mentality Podcast and being a judge on the Fit&Well Awards 2021. In his free time, he works out at home, runs, cycles and loves a good ol' walk around the city. He writes about general fitness stuff, fitness tech, workouts, workout gear/equipment, nutrition and much, much more.