The best winter running tops are essential in every runner's wardrobe. It may be cold, dark and miserable outside during winter, but thanks to the latest high-tech fabrics, the appalling weather is no longer a valid excuse to skip training sessions. We've put in the miles wearing the best new running tops to see which will keep you the warmest without leaving you feeling like you're running in a duvet (in a nice way).
We also have a guide on the best running tops for summer, should you want to feel a bit less toasty, and a general guide to the best base layers for various activities. For even more running gear roundups, look at T3's best running shoes, the best running shoes for women and the best trail running shoe guides.
Best winter running tops to buy right now
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The Brooks Notch Thermal Hoodie 2.0 is the perfect solution for those intermediate days when a running jacket is too much, but t-shirts are not enough. It's warm and soft to the touch, and the notched interior wicks away sweat as well as channelling away heat. The moisture-controlling DriLayer fabric wicks sweat away to keep you comfortable, dry, and light on your feet. Even better, the Brooks Notch Thermal Hoodie is made with Bluesign-certified materials, conserving resources and minimising impact on people and the environment.
Running brand snobs should probably skip this one, but for the rest of us, this hoody offers style, warmth and innovation for less than two cocktails in a night out. Its toasty, generously cut double-layered design can make all the difference on chilly mornings, especially with a thin breathable t-shirt underneath. The high collar design protects your neck from biting winds, and the full hood proved particularly popular post-workout, and while it’s probably a bit too insulating if you tend to sweat buckets during a workout, if you only gently perspire the underarm mesh panels will do enough to keep you cool.
New England-based but Old English at heart, Tracksmith make vintage-inspired running gear using natural materials. Their ‘Chariots of Fire’ esthetic is a welcome change from the more typical super technical, pro-athlete inspired kit, but it has been designed to still perform when you need it to.
The new Fells Layer Henley top perfectly encapsulates this vintage styling, but by using a 65% Merino / 35% Polyester blend, you get the temperature-regulating, sweat-wicking, pong-minimising properties of the finest wool in a top that will survive more than a handful of wash cycles (not always the case with 100% merino layers).
It has a roomy cut with plenty of space for a t-shirt or base layer beneath and similar, albeit with more pre-war styling, to the ON Running Weather Shirt, the waffle helps circulate air, so it dries faster. And there’s no chance of zip chaffing here as they’ve been swapped out for super-smooth buttons.
At first glance, On's Climate Shirt looks like a basic long-sleeve running top. Still, the fabric is an elevated form of polyester featuring lyocell – a material made using dissolved wood pulp, which helps add vast amounts of insulation without making it bulky. Look inside, and you'll see a ribbed design that has been incorporated to trap in more air, warming you up while at the same time wicking away sweat, so you feel more comfortable for longer.
The 'Athletic' fit means it's mercifully roomy and not skin-tight like many technical tops, so we could add an extra layer when the frost bites, and the over-head design and short zip give a nice amount of ventilation without letting in the chill, and no hint of chin rub, which is always a bonus. There's a bit of reflective edging to catch the headlight's attention, but it's only an accent.
How to buy the best winter running top for you
When covering the miles over the colder months, you can just throw on a hoodie to keep warm, but if you plan on being out for a while and putting some effort in, you’ll soon suffer under the weight of sweat-soaked cotton. You’ve got two main options: synthetic polyester or natural merino wool (or a blend of the two). But which is best when it comes to warmth and performance?
Merino is one of the finest (in thickness terms) fibres in nature, which means - unless you’re particularly sensitive - it’s itch-free and super soft. It’s also excellent at absorbing water and can soak up to 35% of its weight in water, expelling it into the air to regulate your temperature. This means you stay dry and comfortable in warmer climates and insulated on colder days.
Merino is also odour resistant, and traps stink in the fibres, releasing only when the item gets washed. Due to the lanolin and keratin wax produced by the sheep, these naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial properties mean merino base layers can be worn for days without needing to be washed.
Synthetic fibres like polyester are lighter than merino and don’t absorb water, so fabrics stay dryer for longer during intense workouts, which helps with overheating. Synthetic layers can also offer impressive breathability, helping you stay cool when things heat up. Synthetic fibres are also harder to wear and, on the whole, cheaper than natural alternatives, but you won’t enjoy the same warmth.