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Best running tops for men

They might not be the most glamorous of purchases, but the best running tops can help you perform to your max. We put seven to the test

A collection of the best running tops for men

One of the greatest things about running is that it’s so accessible. Grab a pair of running shoes, a pair of running shorts and a t-shirt and away you go.

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But you’ll eventually want to expand or upgrade your running kit and adding one of the best running tops for men to your wardrobe isn’t a bad way to do it.

Below, we’ve tested, rated and reviewed a range of running tops for men (see our pick of the best women’s running tops here). For clarity, we’ve tested these based on their performance and suitability for warmer months, but we’ve also considered how they’ll perform as part of a layering system as the temperature drops.

If you want to find out what makes the best running tops for men, head to the bottom of this article for an in-depth overview, but otherwise, let’s get on with the testing…

Best running tops for men

Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Short Sleeve

  • £49.99

If you’re considering a performance garment that uses merino wool, Smartwool has to be part of the conversation, as it is here, given the brand’s expertise.

The Merino Sport Ultralite Short Sleeve is constructed from 50% merino wool and 50% Tencel, and is designed to help you stay cool and comfortable while exercising.

It’s certainly incredibly soft, and it also feels airy and lightweight. This, combined with the flatlock seams and the lack of seams on the shoulders, help deliver a comfortable running top.

However, as the brand highlights on its website, the fit runs quite large, so you’ll definitely need to size down if you want a closer fit.

Moisture management isn’t as strong as some of the other options in this test, particularly those that utilise synthetic fibres, not is the Merino Sport Ultralite the quickest to dry.

Given its use of natural fibres, its odour resistant and does a good job of thermal regulation. A range of colours and designs are available, too.

Verdict: Luxuriously soft and comfortable, but doesn’t dry or wick sweat quite as well as others.

Score: 80%

Tri-Fit Athletic SiTech Tee

  • £70

Tri-Fit is a brand we know very well at 220, as the brand consistently features highly in our group tests of the best tri-suits. The Athletic SiTech Tee featured here forms part of the brand’s new ‘athleticwear’ range and it’s fair to say it’s not cheap.

But if you are happy spending £70 on a run top, you’ll be getting a very good one if you opt for the Athletic SiTech Tee.

It fits true to size, feels luxurious against the skin and every seam is bonded, meaning no irritation whatsoever.

The material is made of 80% polyamide and 20% elastane, meaning it’s got plenty of stretch to allow an unhindered range of movement. It wicks moisture away well and dries quickly, too.

It’s really a pleasure to run in. Aside from the price, our only other potential gripe is that the thermo-welded hems may feel slightly restrictive for athletes with larger biceps than us.

Verdict: Comfortable, stylish and performs well. If you have the money, why not? If you don’t, cheaper options in this list will also do a fine job.

Score: 88%

Montane Sabre T-Shirt

  • £35

Montane’s Sabre T-Shirt is impressive, particularly when you consider it’s the second-cheapest option here and is half the price of others in this test.

Despite that more affordable cost, it’s up near the top in terms of performance. For a start, it offers good breathability and deals with moisture particularly well.

On the occasions it does get a little damp, it still feels comfortable. It’s not the quickest to dry, but is by no means a slouch, either, while a Polygiene anti-odour treatment helps keep it fresh for longer.

The Sabre T-Shirt comes in a slim fit but felt true to size for this tester. Range of movement is also good, though it perhaps doesn’t reach the liberating heights as the likes of the Tri-Fit, Artilect and Smartwool options.

It also doesn’t feel quite as luxuriously soft against the skin, but we’re admittedly being picky with that comment. Comfort is generally high and we didn’t experience any issues with the low-profile seams.

There are only two colours available and it may not be as stylish as some others on test, but we’re a big fan of the reflective detailing on the front and rear, which helps boost visibility.

Verdict: Some great features and decent performance at a reasonable price.

Score: 86%

Artilect Sprint Tee

  • £65

Artilect is a relatively new brand to the UK, but it prides itself on creating highly technical kit that fits the company’s own ‘apparel system’. Put simply, every garment has been designed to fulfil a purpose and work with other layers.

The Sprint Tee, which is part of the A/SYS-1 category, is made from a fabric called Nuyarn merino and combines 58% merino wool with 42% nylon.

Artilect says the fabric “creates a next-to-skin microclimate with unparalleled performance for moving sweat vapor away from the skin while maintaining maximum thermal efficiency”.

In testing we found the combination of synthetic and natural materials worked well, offering decent thermal regulation, impressive moisture management and a pretty good drying time for something with so much merino in it. It stays fresh for longer than most synthetic options, too.

The Sprint Tee also fits really well for this tester. It carries a good length and is slim fitting in the upper part of the torso, yet doesn’t hug too closely around the waist.

Flatlock seams and plenty of stretch ensure a comfortable experience, while a range of great colours make this a stylish choice.

Given the presence of merino wool, we’d also recommend this as a good year-round choice, particularly when layered up in winter. And that versatility is certainly welcome given the high price tag.

Verdict: High performance fabric, great range of colours and impressive versatility.

Score: 90%

Rab Sonic Ultra Tee

  • £40

Rab is a relative newcomer to the running market, but the brand has been producing high-quality outdoor clothing and equipment for years.

The Sonic Ultra Tee is designed for mountain running in warm conditions. As such the lightweight polyester fabric wicks moisture away well, dries quickly (with the Tri-Fit, it was the best on test in this regard) and uses ventilation holes under the neck and arms to help regulate your temperature.

Everything works as intended and the fabric has even been given an odour control treatment to keep you fresh for longer.

What’s more, it’s incredibly lightweight and comfortable to wear, with zero sign of irritation from the soft, low-profile seams. This is further enhanced by the lack of seams on the shoulders or bottom of the sleeves.

Rab says the Sonic Ultra is slim fitting and we reckon that’s about right, while it was also true to size. The soft material also has a built-in stretch, so movement feels unhindered at all times.

Finally, there’s also reflective detailing to help boost visibility in low-light conditions.

Verdict: Hard to fault. Lots of features and impressive performance makes this one of the best running tops on the market.

Score: 92%

Zone3 Activ Lite T-Shirt

  • £25

At £25, Zone3’s Activ Lite T-Shirt is the cheapest running top on test here, but it’s also among the lightest.

It features flatlock stitching and offset shoulder seams for added comfort, while the fabric feels lovely and soft against the skin.

Ventilation panels on the side of the running top help with temperature regulation and breathability proved to be very good.

Moisture management is also reasonable, but the Activ Lite did prove one of the slowest to dry when in competition with the other garments on test here.

Our only other issue is the fit, as it comes up a little short and small, so we’d recommend sizing up.

The addition of reflective detailing is a nice touch to help you stand out while out running in low light, while a range of colourways is always appreciated.

Verdict: Sizing runs small, but performance is decent and price is reasonable.

Score: 82%

ThruDark Force Velocity Technical Tshirt

  • £85

This t-shirt from ThruDark is designed to be useful for many various types of exercise, but the brand’s bread and butter is kit for mountain/outdoor pursuits.

The Force Velocity Technical Tshirt commands an eye-watering price, but it makes up for the cost with impressive ventilation, durability and a premium feel.

The former is thanks to the use of ventilation holes under the arms and on the back, which do a good job to help regulate your temperature.

It’s needed in the summer, too, as this isn’t the lightest garment and the three colourways (grey, khaki and black) are all quite dark, which isn’t the coolest under a beating sun. The other side of that is that this top is better equipped for running when temperatures start to drop.

Range of movement is unrestricted and moisture wicking is decent, too, but as this is a heavier fabric than other options here, it does feel a little clammier when damp.

On that note, it’s also not one of the quickest to dry and was beaten by the likes of Montane, Rab, Tri-Fit and Artilect in that regard.

Although not quite as comfortable as the latter three brands just mentioned, it still feels nice to wear, and the use of flatlock seams help too.

Fit is true to size, but it’s worth noting this is a particularly long top, being a good six inches longer than anything else on test (all size medium).

Interestingly, ThruDark have also used a specially engineered Swiss Schoeller fabric here that contains ceramic particle technology to improve abrasion resistance. So far, durability has been decent and we reckon it’ll outperform a lot of the competition in this regard.

Reflective detailing is another nice touch.

Verdict: Durable and decent ventilation, but that price is a tough pill to swallow.

Score: 82%

How to choose the best running top for your needs

The Artilect Sprint Tee gets a run out in the French Alps (Credit: Bob Brunot)

When we talk about the most important features of the best running tops, we first have to touch on style and fit.

For a start, everyone wants to look and feel good when they’re exercising, so it’s important to choose a style that suits your personality and encourages you to grab your kit and get outside.

While much of that will come down to a running top’s visuals, fit is an important component of style. If it’s too tight or too loose, you simply won’t feel good in it. So pay attention to whether the option you’re looking at is the ideal fit for you.

Looser fits can feel more comfortable and reduce any self-conscious feelings, while closer fitting running tops are likely to wick sweat better, though should still maintain a full range of movement.

Speaking of which, most running tops are made of a combination of synthetic materials that offer good moisture wicking and breathability as well as enough elasticity to ensure it’s not restrictive.

Some will also come with an anti-odour treatment, which is certainly not something to be sniffed at.

That said, some of the best running tops also utilise natural materials such as merino wool. This fabric isn’t typically quite as good as the best synthetic fibres at wicking moisture, but it is known for its anti-bacterial properties and an ability to stay warm when wet.

In truth, we like options that combine both synthetic and natural materials, as they can deliver the best of both worlds.

All that aside, the best running tops also need to be comfortable. This means as well as an uninterrupted range of movement, we also like to see flatlock or bonded seams to eliminate any irritation.

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If they have sun protection baked into the design, even better.