The best running tops for women reviewed (2023)

We've been testing many options to find running tops for women that perform brilliantly but are also more sustainable

women running in forest

by Kate Milsom |
Updated on

Running tops prioritise being lightweight and moisture-wicking, and are much more suited to sport activities than your everyday cotton t-shirt. The best running tops for women will also provide female-specific features to make your run more seamless and enjoyable.

These days, most running tops are made from technical fabrics which aim to regulate body temperature and keep you comfortable as you put in the effort over the trails. They should also feel good against the skin and provide a good fit and shape.

Our shortlist

Ronhill Tech Golden Hour Tee – Best in Test

Montane Dart T-Shirt– Best Value

Inov-8 Elite Base 3.0 – Best for Sustainability

Decathlon Kiprun Light – Best for hot weather running

The North Face Summit High Trail Run T-Shirt– Best for visibility

Black Diamond Lightwire Tech Tee – Best for size range

On Running Performance T – Recommended

Fohn Trail Lightweight Tech Tee – Recommended

Icebreaker ZoneKnit Merino Short Sleeve T-Shirt – Recommended

Badass Mother Runners Technical Tee – Recommended

Higher State Seamfree Long Sleeve – Best long sleeve running top

OMM Nitro Tank – Best running tank top

Some running tops on test here could also double up as running base layers, while others are made primarily for providing a cooling layer for efforts in hot conditions. All those tested are women-specific running t-shirts (don't worry, they're not all pink), while some are more tailored to the female form than a typical men's running t-shirt.

In this article, we've recommended some of our favourite running tops for women over a range of different styles and types. Whether you pair your running top with a running jacket or a mid-layer is up to you, and largely influenced by the season. There are many factors to consider when picking a running top, but here we've gathered a collection of the best.

Best running tops for women

Best in Test

The Ronhill Golden Hour Tee may look like an unassuming colourful collage of a top, but take a closer look and you’ll find an intricate webbing-like texture across the whole garment called Polartec Delta. This is a cooling fabric Ronhill has used to make the top not only breathable, but also sweat wicking.

In terms of performance, the first thing we noticed with this top is how extremely soft and gentle it feels against the skin. This has to be the comfiest running top we’ve come across. It’s not a skin-tight fit, giving a relaxed yet flattering silhouette.

On the sustainability front, the ‘odour-resistant’ material is made of 49% recycled polyester, with a further 49% Lyocell which is a synthetic fibre made from wood pulp, the final 2% is elastane giving it that necessary stretch for a comfy fit.

Pros

  • Super soft and comfortable
  • Good sustainability credentials
  • Breathable and sweat wicking

Cons

  • Colourways may not appeal to all

Best Value

The Montane Dart T-Shirt is a technical running top for all seasons. As such, it’s a touch heavier than the really lightweight options on test, but still offers some breathability. This is due to patches of mesh panelling, which is thinner under the arms for temperature regulation.

In use, the Dart is true to size with a regular Goldilocks fit - not too tight, nor too fitted - and is soft to the touch. The fabric used is 100% recycled polyester fabric called Apex Eco, with an odour control finish of Polygiene over the top.

This top would be a good pick for both running and hiking, or other outdoor pursuits. We like the range of colourways too, the allium on test is a beautiful heathered lilac hue.

Pros

  • Affordable price-point
  • Soft and comfy
  • Made from 100% recycled material

Cons

  • A touch heavier than some

Best for Sustainability

The Inov-8 Base Elite 3.0 is designed to be a running top and base layer. Made from almost 100% recycled polyester yarns, the top has a panelled design with an upper back mesh panel, two mesh side panels running under the arms, and a front panel with slightly more coverage to maintain opacity.

This results in a highly ventilated running top with a slightly tailored shape. As the Base Elite 3.0 can also be used as a base layer under your running jacket and other layers, it has quite a slim fit, so we’d recommend sizing up if you prefer a roomier running top.

The top feels good quality, with welded hems and cuffs designed to help avoid chafing, which does the job perfectly. We like the bright colours available for remaining visible on the trails, and if you’re unsure what top to choose, why not let Inov-8’s dedication to sustainability be the deciding factor.

If you have an extra few bucks to spend and sustainability is a core criteria for you (as it should be), check out our review of Icebreaker's ZoneKnit T-Shirt below.

Pros

  • Made from almost 100% recycled yarn
  • Well ventilated design
  • Feels durable and sturdy

Cons

  • Size up if you don't want a racing fit

Best for hot weather

One of the most lightweight running tops we’ve come across, the Decathlon Kiprun Light feels silky and uber-thin to touch and weighs a mere 52g (UK8). It’s designed for hot weather, and this is where it excels thanks to the thin fabric and perforations over the arms and along the back which really maximise airflow.

When on, the top has a relaxed fit which is aided by the two-inch slits at each side hem and the high stretch in the material. We were sceptical of the longevity of such a slip of a garment, but the reinforced hems feel reassuringly sturdy. Some discreet reflective detailing is the cherry on the cake of a well-designed top.

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Breathable and good airflow

Cons

  • No mention of sustainable materials
  • Sizes only go up to UK14

Best for visibility

The North Face’s Summit High Trail Run T-Shirt is part of their technical trail running range designed for high performance and challenging conditions. We like the colourways of the Summit, which also has additional reflective touches throughout - great for improving your visibility if you tend to run in low-light conditions!

On the performance side, the Summit feels feather-light and cool when on thanks to the same highly aerated mesh material used throughout. There’s also ‘FlashDry-Pro’ technology which aims to wick away sweat and moisture. 

A size S fits a UK8 well, giving a slightly fitted shape. Range of movement is great due to split hems at each side, though our one niggle would be the neck opening, which has a clean-finish bonding along it for comfort, but this does make it tighter to pull on over the head. 

In terms of sustainability, The North Face have hit the nail on the head here with their 100% recycled polyester knit mesh.

Pros

  • Highly visible
  • Breathable, lightweight and comfy

Cons

  • Less affordable than others here

Best for range of sizes

Alternative retailers
Black Diamond Equipment$33.00View offer

This Lightweight Tech Tee from Black Diamond is made from nicely aerated, recycled material that’s 88% recycled polyester and 12% elastane. 

A touch more structured than other tops here, it still feels light when on, the material offering a good amount of flex due to the four-way stretch of the fabric. It's finished with an anti-odour treatment.

Sizing runs up to XXL, which should be around a UK18, given that an XS gives a relatively fitted look for a UK8. We tested the foam green which is a delicate mint green/blue colour.

Pros

  • Sizes up to XXL
  • Primarily recycled fabric
  • Breathable

Cons

  • Material not as soft as others

Recommended

Another whisper-thin option for running in hot conditions is the On Running Performance-T. Designed to be a race top, the Performance-T prioritises breathability and freedom of movement above all else.

Made from 100% polyester, this top feels very light and thin in action. The ‘athletic fit’ translates to a decidedly tailored shape that cinches slightly at the waist and widens over the hips.

The panelled design meets at the back in a T pleat, which supposedly is to provide more space for movement across the shoulders. As for sizing, an XS provides a fitted look for UK8.

Pros

  • Lightweight and breathable

Cons

  • Less affordable than others here
  • No sustainable credentials

Recommended

Getting our hands on the Fohn Trail Lightweight Tech Tee for the first time, we were surprised at how luxurious it felt. For a top with an RRP of £40 (now sold for £20), this tech tee has plenty of run-friendly features.

In terms of design, there's a simple colour-block woven front panel which provides more opacity and coverage, though feels a little thick and less breathable than others, we'd liken the material to your classic swimming costume fabric. However, breathability increases along the rear panel, which is a more lightweight and softer waffle mesh along the arms and back.

The top has a regular fit and is true to size, the two side slits along the gently curved hem adding more space for movement. The panels have four-way stretch due to an injection of elastane, alongside polyester and nylon yarns.

Overall, we liked the versatility of this trail tech tee, which provides a good option for both running and hiking, though there's no mention of sustainable materials used.

Pros

  • Feels durable
  • Higher coverage than others
  • Affordable sale price

Cons

  • A touch long in body
  • Less breathable than others

Recommended

The Icebreaker ZoneKnit Merino T-Shirt stands out from the crowd due to its unique blend of materials. It’s made from Icebreaker’s Cool-Lite fabric, which is a mix of 40% merino wool and 60% of their vegan Tencel yarns, the latter is made from eucalyptus natural fibre. They also provide full supply chain traceability, so customers can understand more on where in New Zealand's southern alps the sheep live and the wool is spun. 

This fabric blend is designed to be moisture-wicking and odour-resistant. Though the top is heavier than most on test here, it does still manage to remain breathable due to all but the opaque front panel being made of a more aerated mesh. When on, the merino top is also sublimely soft and gentle on the skin. You could easily wear this top day to day, as well as for exercise. In terms of sizing and fit, an XS provides a regular fit for a UK8.

Pros

  • Comfortable and soft material
  • Made from sustainable materials
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Less affordable than others here

This technical running top from Badass Mother Runners is made specifically for mums who love to hit the trails. The top has a simple design with a high-wicking mesh polyester 'neoteric fabric' throughout in a female-specific fit.

The screen printed motif reads 'trail runners like it dirty' under the brand's title. When running, the technical top feels relatively light and breathable. Though the fabric has no anti-odour treatment, it does have a touch of sun protection.

The true to size top also offers a good range of sizes, from a UK8 up to a UK22.

Pros

  • Fun motif
  • Affordable price-point

Cons

  • Not as much tech as others here

Best long sleeve running top

A long-sleeved option for when runs are a touch colder, or you need that extra coverage from the sun/trail. This affordable pick from Higher State is a simple, well-fitting design made primarily from polyester and nylon, with a touch of elastane for stretch. The back and sides also feature an extra discreet injection of breathability.

The seam-free design means there's no uncomfortable chafing from the material, and we like the fit of the arms which is tight enough to move with you for movement, without being skin tight and restrictive. In terms of sizing, an XS fits a UK8 perfectly.

Pros

  • Comfortable and breathable
  • Good coverage
  • Affordable

Cons

  • No sustainable credentials
  • There's lighter and techier tops out there

Best running tank top

The OMM Nitro Tank is one of the softest and lightest vest-tops we've come across for running. Coming it at a mere 35g, the tank's made of a four-way stretch nylon material which feels very gentle against the skin.

Airflow is pretty much uninhibited due to the large arm openings and thin, wicking fabric, which also provides built-in UPF 15 sun protection. A nice touch. In terms of sizing, a S fits a UK8 perfectly.

We like the female-specific cut which translates to slightly scooped hems, being shorter in the body than men's tops, and having a relatively high neckline. There are also flatlock seams placed away from key chafe points to avoid any rubbing, which works a charm.

On the sustainability side, there's no mention of eco fabrics or practices, though OMM do have a refurb and recycle project to increase the lifespan of their products and reduce their environmental impact.

Pros

  • Incredibly lightweight and breathable
  • Soft and comfortable
  • UPF 15 protection
  • Woman-specific fit

Cons

  • Not made from sustainable materials

What to look for in a running top

woman runs through a forest

Material: Different materials have different merits. Polyester is highly breathable, while technical nylon is stronger and can have more stretch, but isn't quite as breathable. Merino is clever because it aids temperature regulation; it can therefore be suitable year-round.

Fit: Consider whether you prefer a skin tight fit, tailored, regular, or lose. Some women-specific tops will have a more of a tailored shape, while others you can play with the sizing to create the fit to suit your preferences.

Sustainability: Merino is always a favourite for many runners because of its properties and because it's a natural fibre. Synthetic materials are very popular too, but want you want to keep an eye out for is the quantity of recycled materials used. Many in this round-up are made from recycled polyester, while others have injections of Lyocell, which is a fibre made from wood pulp.

Take a look at the garment's certification, such as those from the Fair Wear Foundation and B Corp, as this demonstrates that the brand is operating responsibly and transparently.

Features: Mesh panels, sleeve length, anti-odour treatments, zipped, flat seams. There are lots of features crammed into performance running tops. Some are for comfort, some for breathability, some for warmth, and so on. Think about which are applicable to you and the conditions you're likely to be running in.

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