Whether you’re looking for long-sleeve warmth for colder winter runs or a lightweight tee that keeps you cool and dry during hot summer sessions, a few of the best running tops for men are essential items in your kit bag – as full-time run tester Kieran Alger writes.

I’ve run thousands of miles in hundreds of the best running shorts and tops over the past decade, covering everything from boiling, blistering parkruns to cold and slow mountain ultras, so I know a good running top when I put one on. I’ve spent the past four weeks putting in hundreds of miles on the towpaths of West London, and here’s my verdict on the best running tops you can buy right now. 

What is the best running top?

Based on my extensive run-testing, the UYN Running Exceleration Aernet Short Sleeve Shirt is the best running top for men – and not just because it’s weaved by robots… I tested the top on a 100-mile ultramarathon in Italy and it kept me impressively cool despite the searing heat. It’s lightweight and, most importantly, next-level comfy.

Other running top recommendations

Best long sleeve running topThe Tracksmith Session Long Sleeve is our pick of the long sleeve tops. It’s the most stylish offering and has a certain old-school appeal with a number of colourways, but comfort and performance features are most definitely 21st century.
Best lightweight running topAll these running tops are made to be lightweight but the Asics Metarun Short Sleeve Top is incredibly light, offering that barely-there feel with no discomfort or distractions. It’s so breathable it won’t get weighed down with sweat either.
Best-value running topThe New Balance Graphic Impact Run Tee pips the Inov-8 and Castore tops to the post here. Not only is it the cheapest on test but it’s one of the lightest and, we think, comfiest too. Plus it’s made from 95% recycled materials.

These are the best running tops for men

1. UYN Running Exceleration Aernet Short Sleeve Shirt

Men’s Fitness verdict

The best running top I tested ticks all the boxes: it’s supremely lightweight and comfortable, and does a brilliant job of keeping you cool even in the heat of summer.
  • Wonderfully soft
  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Outstanding sweat and heat management
  • Expensive
Materials:100% polyester
Features:Coolvent sweat dispersion, zippered side pocket
Colours:Black, lime, lapis
Sizes:Small – 2XL

UYN Running’s short sleeve top is made from a fabric with a winning combination of low weight and excellent stretchiness and softness. It excels in hot conditions and over long distances thanks to variations in fabric thickness, offering great ventilation where you need it most. The Exceleration Aernet is an excellent running top that’ll keep you in your comfort zone, even on runs that took us out of ours.

2. Tracksmith Session Long Sleeve

Men’s Fitness verdict

Relaxed comfort meets good looks and run-specific features. This is a long sleeve that wicks sweat away well and can be worn on its own or as a thin outer layer.
  • Soft, silky comfort
  • Relaxed, comfortable fit
  • No thumb loops
  • Premium price
Materials:84% polyester, 16% spandex
Features:Antimicrobial stretch knit, perforated fabric
Colours:Navy, stone grey, crimson, beetle green
Sizes:XS – XL

The Tracksmith Session is indicative of the Boston brand’s penchant for heritage style. All its apparel harks back to the halcyon days of track running and the Session is no different. It doesn’t deviate from the company’s attention to detail or reliance on technical fabrics either; we were impressed by the Session’s superior moisture management and ventilation. Needless to say it’s versatile enough to be worn even when you’ve no intention of running.

3. Asics Metarun Short Sleeve Top

Men’s Fitness verdict

Running tops don’t get more minimal than the Asics Metarun. Its featherweight design and plethora of vet holes make it ultra-breathable but we do worry about durability.
  • Vent holes target key heat zones
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • No insulation
  • Durability could be an issue
Materials:100% polyester
Features:Body-mapped ventilation, at least 50% recycled material
Colours:Denim blue
Sizes:XS – XL

It’s been a while since we ran beneath a scorching sun, but the next time we do we’ll be wearing the Asics Metarun top. It’s got more holes than a string vest, and as such it’s ultralight and extremely breathable. These vent zones are specifically targeted (or ‘body mapped’), giving the best ventilation where you need it most. Flat, minimal cuffs also help create a running top you’ll forget you’re even wearing. A great choice for high intensity efforts.

Product shot of a NB running top

4. New Balance Graphic Impact Run Tee

Men’s Fitness verdict

This super-light running top from NB ticks all the boxes, whether you’re racing, training or tackling long endurance efforts. It dries well and is comfortable and surprisingly durable too.
  • Lightweight fabric makes it suitable for fast runs
  • Low chafe risk
  • Not much warmth for winter runs
  • Limited reflective detailing
Materials:100% polyester
Features:Reflective logos, 95% recycled materials
Colours:Navy, juniper heather, marine blue heather
Sizes:XS – 2XL

Despite its low weight, the New Balance Graphic Impact Tee feels more durable than most featherweight running tops. And for a garment almost exclusively made from recycled materials, its fit and comfort levels are impressive too. You’ll need to layer up for colder runs but if, like us, your efforts tend to be shorter and sharper, the sweat wicking properties of the Graphic Impact tee will see you right.

Product shot of an adidas running top

5. adidas Techfit Control X RHEON Long Sleeve Top

Men’s Fitness verdict

This is a top with big budget behind it and some bold claims to match. While the energy-boosting benefits aren’t immediately noticeable, it is at least a very good long sleeve option.
  • Mild, supportive compression
  • Durable fabric
  • Hard to be sure if the technology makes a difference
  • Unforgiving fit, not for the body conscious
Materials:76% recycled polyester, 24% elastane
Features:Compression benefits, antimicrobial fabric
Sizes:XS – 4XL

It’s easy to be baffled by the science but the headline tech of the adidas Techfit Control X RHEON is that it’s supposed to optimise your muscles’ movements to eke out marginal gains. We felt it was certainly supportive, with some compression benefits, without feeling restrictive. Flatlock seams help keep it comfortable even as your form starts to fade and you have an impressive choice of eight sizes for finding your perfect fit.

Product shot of Castore running top

6. Castore Light Short Sleeve T-Shirt

Men’s Fitness verdict

Though there are definitely lighter shirts out there, Castore’s Light tee is a versatile option for running and gym work alike. Soft, silky fabric means it’ll withstand longer sessions too.
  • Good run-gym versatility
  • Soft, silky and chafe-free
  • Reflective details a bit subtle
  • Might be hot and heavy outside of winter
Materials:82% polyester, 18% elastane
Features:Dropped hem, Raglan sleeves
Colours:Black, mushroom grey
Sizes:XS – 2XL

If you want a shirt that will do it all – on the road, track or in the gym – the Castore Light T-Shirt has plenty going for it. Light enough for most workouts, its Raglan sleeves ensure plenty of mobility for the gym floor while a drop hem gives you decent coverage too. But it wouldn’t be in this list if it couldn’t handle run sessions, and we think this breathable, quick drying Castore top does so with aplomb.

Product shot of an Inov-8 run top

7. Inov-8 Base Elite Long Sleeve 3.0

Men’s Fitness verdict

Made from recycled PET bottles, the Base Elite’s welded-seam design and low weight make it a comfortable long-run option. We recommend trying before you buy or going for a size up.
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Thumb hooks to secure sleeves
  • Decent insulation
  • Limited reflective detailing
  • Size comes up a bit small
Materials:100% recycled polyester
Features:Welded hem and cuffs, thumb holes
Colours:Red, blue
Sizes:Small – XL

Under-arm airflow panels and an antibacterial treatment mean the Inov-8 Base Elite top withstood longer, more intense intense efforts than we expected. That longer-lasting performance means it’s suitable for multi-day adventures too. Seamless hem and cuffs and lightweight packability underline its endurance and adventure credentials too.

Product shot of running top

8. 66North Grettir Long Sleeve Top

Men’s Fitness verdict

The Grettir is an ideal insulating mid-layer that works surprisingly well for such a lightweight top. We found it’s best worn over a base layer though flatlock seams guarded well against chafing.
  • Light and quick drying
  • Chafe-beating flatlock seams
  • No thumb loops
  • Somewhat expensive
Materials:96% polyester, 4% spandex
Features:Half-length zip, flatlock seams, repairs for life
Colours:Alpine grimmia, black
Sizes:Small – 2XL

In the 66North Grettir it’s no surprise to us that Icelandic brand 66North have made a running top that excels in lower temperatures. Impressive insulation doesn’t come at the expense of breathability, however, so you won’t stew in your own juices when you crank up your run sessions. Lightweight packability and a vent-controlling half-zip design make this a versatile single- or base-layer option for cooler excursions.

What makes a good running top?

Comfort. Comfort. Comfort. A good running top needs to fit well and feel great next to the skin. It should disappear into the background the moment you put it on, leaving you to get on with business unimpeded and definitely un-chafed.

Now, no running top will stay completely dry when you’re busting out the miles, but the best running tops regulate temperature when you’re working hard, with technical fabrics that wick sweat, move moisture away and dry fast. 

For hot summer runs, look for light fabric and airy fits. In winter, slightly thicker materials like merino can help boost warmth and protection but without overheating. Some of the very best running tops are versatile enough to be used all year round whether you’re hitting the road, trails or the track.

Other things to look for include clever extras like reflective details, thumb loops or watch windows, seamless cuffs and hems. Options that are easy to care for are great, too. I tend to look for tops that’ll survive warmish washes and even trips to the tumble dryer.   

How are running tops different from gym tops?

These days with CrossFit, Hyrox and run-lift bootcamps, there can be quite a lot of overlap between running tops and gym tops. Not least because training switches quickly from the weights rack to the treadmill or more dynamic drills. So versatility is a big benefit in any training gear, but there are some key differences. 

Running tops will always favour moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics over heavier, more durable materials like cotton. Loose-fitting gym tops may focus more on flexibility and comfort, while running tops are often more form-fitting. (Though you can find second-skin tight and loose-hanging tops for gym and running.)