The best women’s running tops 2022: for cool and dry runs on the trails or roads

Collage of the best women's running tops
(Image credit: Future)

The best women's running tops perform an important role when you're pounding the tarmac or tearing up trails. They provide a barrier against the wind, while wicking away sweat to help you regulate your temperature. We literally sweat liters when running, so a good running top needs to be fast drying so to not weigh you down.

Just as important as warmth and temperature regulation is freedom of movement. The best women's running tops are the ones that barely feel as if they are there at all. These days, lightweight, stretchy fabrics should mean you are never impeded when striving for that illusive PB.

So, just as you wouldn't swap your best trail running shoes for a pair of normal trainers, you shouldn't swap a high performing running top for any old cotton t-shirt. The best women's running tops simply give you a much higher level of comfort and performance.

In this guide we feature the finest long-sleeved tops, perfect now fall is upon us for grabbing that hydration pack and setting out on a chilly dawn raid or a sunset escapade. We also detail the best short sleeved tees and what we think is the best vest top too. Whatever your preference, there's one of the best women's running tops waiting for you below.

Long sleeves

Black Diamond Long Sleeve Rhythm T-shirt

(Image credit: Black Diamond)
This ultra-lightweight, fast-drying top combines natural and synthetic fabric so it breathes better, dries fast and moves with you

Specifications

Style: Long sleeve crew base layer
Sizes (women's): XS-XL
Weight: 104 g / 3.6 oz
Materials: Wool Nylon Blend Single Jersey (57% Nylon, 43% Merino Wool, 95gsm)
Colors: Black, Pewter
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking, camping, skiing, snowshoeing

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra lightweight
+
Highly breathable
+
Stretchy
+
Quick drying

Reasons to avoid

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Pricey for the casual runner
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Wide neck may not be as warm for some conditions
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No thumb holes

Black Diamond claim their Long Sleeve Rhythm t-shirt is the world’s lightest ultimate high output, breathable layer, and weighing in at just 104 grams, they can’t be too far off. This high quality base layer comes in a classic design but is made using Nuyarn merino wool technology which is touted as lighter, faster drying and 35% more stretchy than standard merino.

Sure enough, this soft, featherlight top is designed for movement, with a slim-but-not-tight fit, underarm panels to aid movement and a wide crew neck. It’s thin enough to fit under any mid layer in colder weather, makes the perfect breathable trail running top for when you’re covering a lot of ground in cooler temperatures and looks and works great for everyday use too. It holds up to a lot of action without needing to be washed after every adventure, so though it comes at a premium price, you’ll barely take it off once you pull it on.

Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top

(Image credit: Icebreaker)
A super comfortable, high performing running top for cold weather

Specifications

Style: Long sleeve crew neck base layer
Sizes: XS-XL
Weight: 302 g / 10.6 oz (Large)
Materials: 100% Merino
Colors: Black, Heather, Navy, Sage, Mink, Teal, Clay, Espresso
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking, camping, winter sports

Reasons to buy

+
Super comfortable
+
High performing and odor resistant
+
Keeps working when wet

Reasons to avoid

-
Runs large
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Won’t last as long as synthetic tops
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No thumb holes
-
Heavy when wet

The Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top is entirely made with merino wool – a magic material that keeps you warm when you need it to, but which can also cool you down when conditions are hot (those sheep are smarter than they look). Merino wool maintains it warmth-giving properties when wet, but garments do become heavy if soaked through.

New Zealand company Icebreaker very early on recognized the potential of this fabric for an outdoor-active audience, and they remain way out in the lead when it comes to producing classy and quality garments made from merino, such as this base layer, which is 100% straight off the sheep’s back.

Best women’s running tops: short sleeves for mild temps

Artilect Sprint Tee

(Image credit: Artilect)
Long, stretchy and warm, the Artilect Sprint Tee is a merino-wool-and-nylon blend T-shirt that’s designed for summer but performs better in cooler weather

Specifications

Style: Crew neck T shirt
Sizes: UK 8-20
Weight: 83g / 3.5oz
Materials: Nuyarn merino
Colors: Red / Yellow / Pink / Khaki / Black
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking

Reasons to buy

+
Light
+
Stretchy
+
Long in the body
+
Soft, comfy feel next to skin
+
Reflective tape at side seams
+
Merino wool for natural anti-odour properties
+
Non-mulesed wool (sheep-welfare-friendly)

Reasons to avoid

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Hotter to run in than fully synthetic t-shirt
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Long body length increases heat retention on hot days
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Half Nylon so did still smell after a run in hot weather
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Merino wool is more fragile than synthetic yarn

The Artilect Sprint Tee is a very comfortable half merino half nylon blend known as Nuyarn Speed-Lite, combining the natural anti-odour properties of the former with the stretch and quick drying features of the second. The fit is relaxed and quite generous for a size M women’s, it’s not tight-fitting but not loose either, and it’s long in the body for both sexes so will suit taller people or those who like to tuck their t-shirts into their leggings for warmth. It’s very smooth next to the skin thanks to the superfine 18 micron non-mulesed Australian merino wool, hurrah! 

(Mulesing is a painful practice which involves cutting lambs around the tail area to create stretched scar tissue without folds and wrinkles that can attract blowflies which cause potentially fatal flystrike. The RSPC considers it unacceptable to breed sheep susceptible to flystrike and urges everyone to use non-mulesed wool.)

The stretch element means you have full freedom of movement whatever you use this t-shirt for, but be careful as merino wool does create a more delicate fabric than a fully synthetic weave. It dries very quickly after use or washing too. The reflective tape sewn into the flat-locked side seams is a final ingenious touch for use in the dark.

Read our Artilect Spring Tee review

Keela Women's Trail Short Sleeve Top

(Image credit: Keela)
This soft, breathable technical top keeps you cool and dry under sweaty conditions

Specifications

Style: Crew neck T shirt
Sizes: UK 8-20
Weight: 94 g / 3.3 oz
Materials: Polyester (91%), Spandex (9%)
Colors: Blue, Carbon, Covert, Raspberry
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking

Reasons to buy

+
Moisture wicking and quick drying
+
Reduces odor-causing bacteria
+
Stretchy and comfortable
+
Budget-friendly
+
Won't hold water
+
Maintains thermal properties when wet

Reasons to avoid

-
Made from non-natural materials

This lightweight, technical tee is made for running in cool to warm weather. The ultra soft material and active fit provide chafing-free comfort on the trails, bolstered by moisture-wicking and quick drying technology.

Keela manufactures all their clothing at their own factories in Scotland and were the first Scottish clothing manufacturer to sign up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan. Even though this tee is made using polyester rather than natural fabric, it’s been treated with an anti-bacterial component that stops the growth of odor-causing bacteria, reducing sweat smells which means you wash the garment less often and keep it out of landfills longer. 

Icebreaker Women's Cool-Lite Amplify Short Sleeve Low Crewe T-Shirt

(Image credit: Icebreaker)
This ultra-breathable top harnesses the natural performance of merino wool to keep you comfortable and dry on the trails and is stylish enough to wear around town

Specifications

Style: Crew neck T shirt
Sizes: XS-XL
Weight : 126g / 4.4oz
Materials: Front Body Merino Wool (52%), TENCEL (35%) and Nylon (13%) Back Body Merino Wool (51%), TENCEL (35%) and Nylon (14%)
Colors: Black, Pink
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking, base layer

Reasons to buy

+
Incorporates natural materials
+
Ultra-breathable
+
Lightweight
+
Flattering

Reasons to avoid

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Relatively expensive
-
Heavy when wet

This running top promises to keep you cool during high intensity movement. It is a stylish and lightweight technical tee that fits neither snug nor loose, making a great alternative to tank and long-sleeve styles. 

This top is made from Cool-Lite, a lightweight and breathable fabric blend of merino wool, TENCEL and nylon, which is designed to wick moisture away from your body and regulate body temperature, so it’s intended for hefty runs on warm days but also keeps you warm in cool weather. It features an eyelet mesh back for full ventilation, underarm gusset for mobility, and offset shoulder seams meant to prevent pack rub if you’re wearing a hydration pack.

Columbia Women's Zero Rules T-shirt

(Image credit: Columbia)
A comfortable, stylish, soft tech running top delivering cooling capacity at low cost

Specifications

Style: V neck T shirt
Sizes: XS-XXL
Materials: Polyester ZERO Interlock
Colors : Grey, salmon, orange, white, harbor blue, spring blue, poppy
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking

Reasons to buy

+
Budget friendly
+
Great cooling technology
+
Comfortable
+
Flattering

Reasons to avoid

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Cooling technology only activates when you sweat
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Made using non-recycled materials

This lightweight running top promises advanced cooling technology for warmer days on the trail wrapped up in a soft, stylish tee. It’s crafted from Columbia’s own Omni-Freeze fabric designed to react with your sweat to lower the material’s temperature when you work out.

This short-sleeve top is designed to be slim-fitting and stylish, made from super soft, stretchy fabric. It also provides moisture-wicking and odor-controlling technologies.

Best women’s running tops: light vests for warm days

Gym+Coffee Women's Activate Vest

(Image credit: Gym+Coffee)
You will love the way this silky, lightweight racer back feels against your skin on long trail run

Specifications

Style: Racer back vest
Sizes: S-XXL
Weight: 103 g / 3.6 oz
Materials: Polyamide (87%), Elastane (13%)
Colors: Black, Lilac, Baby blue, Khaki, Pastel pink
Compatibility: Trail running, summer hiking

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Stretchy fabric and designed for movement
+
Sweat-wicking
+
Budget friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
No natural or recycled materials used

This ultra-lightweight, slinky racerback makes for a versatile top that you’ll be happy to wear for long trail runs and afterwards to cool down on the yoga mat. As you’ll have guessed by the brand’s name, Gym+Coffee has lots of stylish athleisure wear and is great for gym goers, but this item definitely works as part of your trail kit too. Made from breathable fabric, it wicks away sweat on the trails and dries quickly to keep you cool and comfortable, and whatever you're doing in it, the T-shaped back means it moves with you with lots of stretch and no annoying seams or zips.

The silky synthetic fabric feels fabulous against your skin and the fit is classic racerback – high necked, slim and flattering without being skin tight. Reflective details on the left chest and low back offer protection for night runs. With a budget friendly pricing, there’s basically no reason not to add this to your running kit.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Best women's running tops comparison table
Running topPriceStyleBest use
Black Diamond LS Rhythm Tee$110 (US) / £80 (UK)Long sleeve crew base layerTrail running, hiking, camping, skiing, snowshoeing
BAM Bamboo Women’s Tregarrick base layer£44 (UK)Mid neck long sleeve base layerTrail running, hiking, camping, winter sports
Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top$95 (US) / £75 (UK)Long sleeve crew base layerTrail running, hiking, camping, winter sports
Artilect Sprint Tee£65 (UK) / $65 (USA)Crew neck T shirtTrail running, hiking
Keela Trail Short Sleeve top £29.95 (UK)Crew neck T shirtTrail running, hiking
Icebreaker Women's Cool-Lite Amplify Short Sleeve Low Crewe T-Shirt$75 (US) / £65 (UK)Crew neck T shirtTrail running, hiking, base layer
Columbia Women's Zero Rules t-shirt$40 (US) / £30 (UK) V neck T shirtTrail running, hiking
Gym+Coffee Women's Activate Vest$37 (US) / £25 (UK)Racerback vestTrail running, summer hiking

What to look for in the best women's running tops

Like any article of performance clothing in your kit, what makes for the best women's running tops is a very subjective experience and a lot of it comes down to personal preference. There are, however, certain factors to consider that will influence your choice, like the weather and the climate. 

If you tend to do most of your trail running in the summer or in a milder climate, or just don’t love having sleeves when you’re running, then you’ll be happiest in a vest style top. Of course, on chilly days you can easily layer a long sleeve base layer or running jacket on top, so your vest tops don’t have to get packed away for winter.

But if you’re looking for something that will protect you in cold weather or from the sun, then you’ll want to consider a long sleeve running top. These might cost a little more up front, but of course you can use them as a base layer for hiking, camping and winter sports too.

Finally, some of us prefer a good old fashioned t-shirt-style top. These can be a little more awkward to layer on top of, but they provide a nice mid-point between hot and cold weather attire and some sun protection for your shoulders.

The following are some factors that are worth considering whatever season and weather you’re running in to ensure adequate protection and comfort.

Comfort

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When you're already challenging yourself on the trail, the last thing you want is for your clothes to be uncomfortable. There are a lot of factors that play into comfort, from the fit of your running top to the material it’s made from. The best women's running tops are made using soft fabric that’s not too tight anywhere and don’t have annoying seams that rub.  

National Parks

The best women's running tops are made using soft fabric that’s not too tight anywhere and don’t have annoying seams that rub (Image credit: Getty)

Breathability 

You’re always going to be working up a sweat on a run, so perhaps the most important factor when it comes to running tops is whether it wicks away moisture. Good breathability means you won’t get clammy or chilled no matter how hard you run, and the best women’s running tops dry quickly on the drive home.

Stretch 

Whether you prefer a slow jog or like to spring up the side of the mountain, it’s always good to have a bit of dynamic stretch in your running top so you can move your arms with ease. Fortunately, the best women's running  are designed with freedom of movement in mind. Look for a percentage of elastane or spandex in the material make-up of your running tops – any mention of four-way stretch is a good sign. 

Odor control 

Lots of the best women’s running tops are now treated to help with odor control, which means that you can wear them a few times without having to wash them. This means your running top lasts longer and your purchase is better for the environment. 

A woman running on the trail

Lots of the best women’s running tops are now treated to help with odor control, which means that you can wear them a few times without having to wash them (Image credit: Plume Creative)

Protection

Depending on the weather, you will want protection from wild weather and sun. You can achieve this either with a long sleeved top, or by layering a running jacket over a short sleeved top. Check the Ultraviolet Protection Factor – UPF – rating of your running tops if you’re planning on being outside a lot in fair weather during the middle of the day. 

Durability

Not only do running tops have to hold up to a lot of sweating, you’re also likely to be wearing yours with a running backpack or hydration vest if you’re on a longer trail run. The best women’s running tops can withstand the rub of your pack straps and still look like new after a run. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.