Running Shirt Recon: Try These 9 Cool Runner-Tested Tees

Looking for a running shirt that fits right, manages moisture, and looks cool?

🏃‍♀️WeeViews Ambassador Brynn Cunningham did some running shirt recon to find the best shirts for runners and multi-sport athletes. 

😮FYI...some of these running shirts are so cool, you might even wear them when you're not running.

👕Check out these 9 cool runner-tested tees...

👋Buh-bye oversized cotton running T-shirts

The plain ole running shirt is one staple in a runner’s closet that can top off any runner’s comfort level, no matter the distance or duration of the run. 

Perhaps the running shirt doesn’t seem as important as:

But it can definitely enhance the running experience. 

Just ask any runner who spent years running in oversized cotton t-shirts or cheap tech tees from races. 

👕A quality high-tech running shirt can:

  • Prevent armpit chafing
  • Wick moisture from the body
  • Stay dry for extended periods of time
  • Enhance comfort over the long (and short, fast!) haul
  • Move in tune with the body’s rhythm
  • Feel weightless, as if wearing nothing (my personal favorite)
  • Offer some sun protection 
  • Be hung up to dry for the next day’s run, vital for fastpacking, traveling or multi-day running excursions
  • Resist odor
  • Possibly look good enough to go from office to trail to meeting to track 

The running-shirt recon...

The running shirts on this list were tested mostly on:

  • The trails of southwestern Pennsylvania
  • 3.5 mile uphill challenges
  • Fastest Known Time speed records 
  • Sub-ultra trail races

Interestingly, I’ve never worn a T-shirt for a 50k trail ultra, always one of these tank tops, but I’ve run sub-ultras.

However, I’ve logged plenty of miles training for ultras and triathlons in these running shirts. 

For assistance in determining your own size, here are the female wear tester’s measurements:

  • Height: 5’ 3 ¾”
  • Weight: 120-125 pounds
  • Chest/bust: 34 inches
  • Waist: 27.75 inches
  • Hips: 34 inches
  • Shirt size: XS
  • Bra size: S
  • Pant size: 2

The Running Shirts Line-Up

  1. Cutest Cotton-like Feel: Brooks Distance T-shirt
  2. Best Office-to-Trail: Ibex Women’s Merino Tencel Pocket Short Sleeve Tee
  3. Best Collared Button-up: Mountain Hardwear Shade Lite Short Sleeve Shirt
  4. Best for Layering: Oiselle Flyte Short Sleeve
  5. Best for Heat and Humidity: Oiselle Flyout Short Sleeve
  6. Most Detailed Design: On Performance-T
  7. Best Multisport: Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt
  8. Most Buttery Soft: rabbit EZ Tee
  9. Most Relaxed Fit: Smartwool Merino Sport 120 V-Neck SS Tee 
1. Cutest Cotton-like Feel: Brooks Distance T-shirt (Photo/ Eric Harder)

1. Cutest Cotton-like Feel

The Brooks Distance T-shirt, which I wear in size small, boasts a classic cotton T-shirt look and feel with a shorter length than most t-shirts, which I prefer. 

  • (I do not like the fabric-on-top-of-fabric sensation, when shirts are long and sitting on top of running shorts.)

Because of its simplicity, the Brooks Distance T-shirt can transition from the streets to the trails, making getting dressed for your day easy. 

However, if you don’t like anything touching your throat, this might deter you from the shirt. I never notice it, even when running.

Author Brynn Cunningham wearing the Brooks Distance T-shirt while winning third overall female in the 2022 15k Green Monster Trail Challenge (Photo/ Eric Harder)

The Brooks Distance T-shirt runs small:

  • In all other shirts, I wear an extra small, and this one fits like an extra small in any other brand on this list.
  • The soft neckline hugs the throat but doesn’t feel tight. 
  • If in doubt, size up, particularly if you’re concerned about hemline length, which exposes the midriff a bit when mid-run. Like I said, I like a slightly cropped shirt, so this is a bonus for me. 

💲I would definitely purchase this affordable shirt (I snagged it for $21.73 during an online sale) in other solid colors like navy to serve as a never-fail staple not only in my running wardrobe but also for everyday use.

I mostly use the Distance T-shirt not exactly for the longest distances, contrary to its name, but for shorter runs. 

  • The longest miles I’ve covered in this shirt is 9.3-ish miles, during this 15k trail race.  
2. Best Office to Trail: Ibex Women’s Merino Tencel Pocket Short Sleeve Tee (Photo/ Eric Harder)

2. Best Office-to-Trail

The Ibex Women’s Merino Tencel Pocket Short Sleeve Tee, which I wear in size extra small, is:

  • Exactly the cropped length that I prefer
  • Sitting just above the hip bones
  • With a loose, flowy waist, not quite boxy
  • With (thank heavens) no useless, overly long draping covering the butt.

I love the pocket for the mere classic look of it, though it has hardly served a functional purpose. Sometimes I stash my keys in it for a few seconds when I’m hurrying out the door.

This t-shirt is:

  • 45 percent Merino Wool
  • 45 percent Tencel
  • 10 percent Nylon...
  • Making it the perfect combination of durable + odor and wrinkle-free + stretchy. 

💲If it weren’t for the high price tag, I would own the Ibex Merino Tencel Tee in every single beautiful color it has to offer (as of March 2023, those colors are black, midnight navy, gold and dusty amethyst). 

😍Hands down, I would wear this shirt everywhere for everything, everyday… well, almost.

  • There are lighter-weight shirts that perform better in heat and humidity on this list, but the Ibex Merino Tencel Pocket Short Sleeve Tee is worth the investment. 
3. Best Collared Button-Up: Mountain Hardwear Shade Lite Short Sleeve Shirt (Photo/ Eric Harder)

3. Best Collared Button-Up

There is a lot to love about relaxed, lightweight, button-up collared shirts, especially ones in the  subdued, fun Pale Rose Flora print of the Mountain Hardwear Shade Lite Short Sleeve Shirt, which I wear in extra small. 

After all, I love wearing an oversized men's button down, so when I saw this hit the market, I had to have it. 

FOUR words to describe the Shade Lite? 

  • Easy
  • Breezy
  • Cool
  • Versatile

Here's a few examples, I can...

  • Throw this relaxed fit, slightly boxy cut shirt over a bikini top in the summer
  • Unbutton it part way mid-run for max airflow and cooling or pre-run while lounging by the river. 
  • After a sweaty activity, I can hang it in the hot sun to dry so it’s ready for an evening of music and socializing at the local pub. 
4. Best for Layering: Oiselle Flyte Short Sleeve (Photo/ Eric Harder)

4. Best for Layering

👕Oiselle Flyte Short Sleeve:

Oiselle accurately describes the Oiselle Flyte Short Sleeve as “iconic,” and it is in fact one of the first running-specific shirts that I bought (in 2015), loved, and still love.

That’s saying a lot, because I’ve been running since 1994, when I was 11 years old. Even though it wasn’t until I began running ultras in my late 20s that I got serious about what I wore, because, well, it mattered. 

I credit the Oiselle Flyte Short Sleeve for inspiring me to select smart, high-tech running t-shirts. This running shirt has:

  • A seamless design
  • Smooth fabric
  • Fitted upper body
  • High armpits (I hate when the armpits rub in a low-hanging sleeve)

Truth: After wearing this running shirt, I became dedicated to the true, made-for-running T-shirt, never to look back at those old, ragged cotton numbers again. 

Author Brynn Cunningham wearing the Oiselle Flyte Short Sleeve while winning first overall female in the 2019 Mount Summit Challenge (Photo/ Ed Cope)

A few more things about the Oiselle Flyte Short Sleeve running shirt:

  • Moisture-wicking. It wicks moisture well, but I prefer other t-shirts for the hottest and most humid days. 
  • Layering. For this reason, and also for its longer hemline, I prefer to use this shirt for layering under a long sleeve or with a windbreaker, or for shorter, single-digit, easy runs in milder weather, preferably 60-70 degrees. 
  • Racing. Still, I have raced in it, though only 3.5 miles, and was very satisfied (see photo above) with how it took on the 1,200-foot uphill course. 

A note about sizing: I purchased the Oiselle Flyte Short Sleeve in size small before the bird print became the standard for this shirt. I’m not sure if the sizing has changed over the years , but I wear an extra small or size two in other Oiselle shirts. 

5. Best for Heat and Humidity: Oiselle Flyout Short Sleeve (Photo/ Eric Harder)

5. Best for Heat and Humidity

👕Oiselle Flyout Short Sleeve

The moment I put on the Oiselle Flyout Short Sleeve, which I wear in size 2, it became a favorite for hot, hard running.

😍The incredibly lightweight HoverFit fabric does indeed hover over the body, giving it a weightless, nearly-naked feel, just like the Oiselle Flyout Tank Top, reviewed here.

🥵When the heat is soaring in the 80s and 90s with 100 percent humidity, THIS is the only running shirt I want. It wicks moisture in a superior way and dries quickly. 

If you like the Oiselle Flyout Tank Top, you’ll LOVE this one. 

It’s my go-to for:

  • Long summer runs
  • Fastest Known Time attempts
  • Speedwork
  • And self-made duathlons consisting of mountain biking and trail running
6. Most Detailed Design: On Performance-T (front) (Photo/ Eric Harder)
On Performance-T (back) (Photo/ Eric Harder)

6. Most Detailed Design

On really knows how to turn a running shirt into something of a technical masterpiece. 

  • The fabric of the On Performance-T, size small, feels smooth and durable
  • The hemlines are beautifully crafted, seamless wonders created to prevent chafing

From the photos, you can see the obvious difference between the front and the back: 

  • The colors, which I chose for its bright orange, one key element to running safety during hunting season
  • Up close, the front-side fabric is a perfect balance of tear-proof, lightweight-ness
  • The back has a more relaxed bounce to it with tapering between the shoulder blades and a moisture wicking mesh-like fabric for optimal cooling

This is a perfect race and speed work running shirt.

7. Best Multisport: Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt (Photo/ Eric Harder)

7. Best Multisport

👕 Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt

The Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt, which I wear in size extra small, is an absolute staple for trail running and all outdoor sports.

It’s one of my go-tos for trips that involve:

  • Trail running
  • Mountain biking
  • Rock climbing
  • And other outdoor sports

🔥Like the Oiselle Flyout, it handles heat and humidity exceptionally well.

It is a bit longer than the Flyout, which is the only reason I did not choose it as the “Best” for those conditions. 

I prefer the inch and a half or two shorter hemline of the Flyout, a minor point, but one that is important to me. 

Author Brynn Cunningham wearing the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt and winning first female Sport Division in the nine-mile Month of Mud Mountain Bike Race in Ohiopyle, Pa. (Photo/ Mike Briggs)

More about the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt...

I also have this shirt in a high-visibility bright yellow for road and gravel runs and bike rides. 

When I need a running shirt for...

  • Solid no-fail races
  • Self-made off-road duathlons
  • Speed workouts
  • Fastpacking
  • And generally getting dirty while playing hard outside

THIS one always lives up to the high standards Patagonia infuses into its every item.

8. Most Buttery Soft: rabbit EZ Tee (Photo/Eric Harder)

8. Most Buttery Soft

The rabbit EZ Tee, which I wear in size extra small, is one of those oh-so-buttery soft t-shirts that exude comfort and, well, ease, as the name implies.

It’s so soft and snuggly I think I could take a post-run nap in it.  

  • The length is longer than the other t-shirts reviewed here, and so are the sleeves. 
  • I like this shirt when I want a drapey feel and when I’m running without my hydration vest, because I prefer a more fitted style under vests. 

Usually I’m not a fan of large emblems or brand names printed on shirts

  • In fact, I won’t buy a shirt with any such thing.
  • But the subtle silver rabbit on the upper left chest area is cute, barely noticeable, and non-cringe-worthy. 

I like this one for “EZ” easy zone-one runs.  

9. Most Relaxed Fit: Smartwool Merino Sport 120 V-Neck SS Tee (Photo/ Eric Harder)

9. Most Relaxed Fit

👕Smartwool Merino Sport 120 V-Neck SS Tee

I love all things Smartwool. In fact, Smartwool has made my best-of-the-best running lists for: 

Thus, when I wanted to add a v-neck to my short-sleeve running shirt quiver...

When you’re in the mood for a loose fit, this shirt is wonderful. 

  • The fabric (53 percent Merino Wool, 47 percent Lyocell) has that perfect Smartwool Merino Sport soft, lightness
  • The armpits run high, so your underarms and armpits aren’t rubbing together. In fact, the high armpits are one of the things that prevented me from sending it back. 

Sizing

Based on reviews, I chose the extra small. 

But as you can see in the photo, it runs large, particularly larger than the other extra smalls and definitely larger than the Brooks small reviewed in this article. 

  • Unfortunately, Smartwool’s smallest available size is extra small, otherwise I would have exchanged it for an XXS.
  • The shoulders are large on the top (see how they bunch up)
  • The waist is wide - perhaps it will flatter other body shapes better. Fortunately, the armpits don’t sag, otherwise I would have sadly returned it. 

Nonetheless, I love it for short, easy runs and can even pull off wearing it as everyday wear before or after a run thanks to its odor resistance. 

👕What's your favorite performance running shirt?

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...

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