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
On the face of it, the Inov-8 Base Elite Short Sleeve Base Layer is exactly what most people are looking for when hunting for an all-purpose trail training and racing top. It’s lightweight, boasts breathable mesh panels right across the back and under each arm, and has been treated with an anti-stink treatment to prevent the buildup of friend-losing aromas.
While the design is quite loose – allowing for plenty of freedom of movement – and feels angled more towards trail running, there are reflective flourishes that will help drivers see you if you’re running on dark lanes and roads at night (although they are very small).
And, very importantly, it’s made almost entirely with recycled polyester, with each top accounting for around eight 500ml PET bottles. While this isn’t the perfect solution to plastic pollution (with micro nasties getting released during the laundering process), it’s preferable to new synthetic products being endlessly produced.
This top is also available in a long-sleeve versions, which has thumb loops.
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
Happily, the above assessment of this T – that it appeared to be the perfect top for trail running – largely proved accurate during testing, which took place over multiple everyday training runs, and on one longish race.
Despite being made from synthetic materials, the next-to-skin comfort levels of the Inov-8 Base Elite Short Sleeve Base Layer are good, and we experienced no rubbing while testing, even when wearing it straight out the packet for a 20-mile race (usually a rookie error, but I dodged a bullet this time, as it was genuinely comfortable right from the off).
Being entirely synthetic, it dries super quickly, doesn’t get heavy when wet, and still provides some level of thermal cover even when drenched – although the amount of mesh in the design does mean that this top is far from windproof, so it can be a bit breezy while you’re waiting on the start line (once you’re running, this turns into a real positive).
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.
Writer, editor and enthusiast of anything involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories. 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 here.
By Pat Kinsella
By Julia Clarke