Made from recycled plastic bottles and intelligently designed, with excellent ventilation and a super comfortable fit, the inov-8 Elite Base Layer running T is a near-perfect running top for trail and mixed-terrain running, which breathes brilliantly, wicks moisture well and feels super-comfortable over all sorts of distances.
Made from recycled materials
Reflective details very small
Antimicrobial technology will only last so long
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Inov-8 Base Elite Short Sleeve Base Layer: first impressions
At first glance, the inov-8 Elite Base Layer looks like a pretty standard running top, but the closer you look the more you realise that there is more going on here than might appear.
This performance-orientated garment is very lightweight, and it boasts breathable mesh panels right across the back and under each arm. The T has also been treated with an anti-pong treatment to prevent the build up of the horrible aromas synthetic Ts are prone to.
The fit is pretty loose, designed to allow plenty of freedom of movement, and to me the T feels primarily intended for trail runners, but there are reflective flourishes that will help drivers see you if you’re running on dark lanes and roads at night (although, it has to said, these are very small).
And, brilliantly, it’s made almost entirely with recycled polyester, which each top accounting for around eight 500ml PET bottles, which otherwise would have ended up in landfill.
But how did it fare under test conditions for our best running tops buying guide? Read on…
• RRP: $60 (US) / £45 (UK)
• Style: T-shirt
• Weight: 138g / 4.9oz
• Sizes: XS-XL
• Materials: Main body: Recycled polyester (100%); Airflow panels: Recycled polyester (88%) and elalstane (12%)
• Colors: Red / Blue / Green
• Compatibility: Trail and road running, racing and training
Inov-8 Base Elite Short Sleeve Base Layer: on the trails
The inov-8 Elite Base Layer running T lived up to my expectations during the Grizzly, and I have worn it for countless kilometers since, during everyday training runs and a handful of smaller events.
The very first time I pulled this top on was the morning of my favourite local running event: The Grizzly, an infamous 20-mile mixed-terrain race across East Devon’s pebble beaches, along country lanes and woodland trails, over farm fields, and through some streams and deep shoe-eating bogs.
I’m aware that testing a new garment on race day is usually a really stupid thing to do, but I’d only just receive the inov-8 Elite Base Layer running T, and the Grizzly is the kind of event that throws absolutely everything at you, so I knew it would be the perfect way to test a top I had fairly high expectations of.
Standing on the start line, I thought I’d made a horrible mistake as a cool early-spring breeze whipped across the esplanade from the beach and went right through the mesh main body of the T-shirt, making me shiver. As soon as the talking was over, however, and the running started, I quickly warmed up. In fact, within the first 15 minutes, after I’d run along the pebble beach and started going up the first of many hills, I was very glad of the excellent ventilation this T offers.
And, thankfully – despite some fears about a brand new top rubbing painfully – even 15 miles in, I was well pleased with feel of this T. Despite being synthetic, the next-to-skin comfort levels are really good, even when drenched with sweat, and my nipples were safe from the horrors of chafing.
Being entirely synthetic, this T dries super quickly, doesn’t get heavy when wet, and still provides some level of thermal cover even when drenched – all of which proved useful as I was splashing through streams and battling through the bogs, before going over some more exposed hilltops and breezy sections of the South West Coast Path.
And re the anti-odor treatment – so far so good; the garment still smells like it did when I got it out the packet.
One of the elements I really appreciate on this top – besides the mesh elements, which are excellent and really do make it super breathable – is the comparatively long-cut back panel, which prevents it riding up underneath hydration packs and backpacks.
Personally, I appreciated the more relaxed design, which I prefer over a skin-tight top (I don’t have the laser-cut abs to pull those off), which I found loose enough to be super comfortable without any excess material flapping around in the wind or getting caught on brambles. A few extra, or larger, reflective flourishes would genuinely make this the perfect running top.
Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.