As with any aerobic activity, running becomes more comfortable when you have clothing that keeps you properly ventilated or—in cold and wet conditions—lightly insulated and dry.
Running clothing options include, pants, tights, shorts, shirts, vests and jackets. The weather outside determines what combination of these items you need to stay comfortable on your road and trail runs.
Warm-weather running clothes: For warm days, your running clothes should help wick away moisture, keep you cool and protect you from the sun’s rays. Shorts, a shirt and socks might be all you need on a warm day.
Winter running clothes: When the temperature drops, consider wearing pants or tights, and a vest or soft-shell jacket, but remember that you will warm up once you get moving. Insulated versions of these items are ideal for winter activities.
See also the REI Expert Advice article, Sports Bras: How to Choose.
Video: What to Wear Running
Running Clothing Features
There are several key features to look for when shopping for running clothing.
Moisture wicking: Moisture-wicking fabrics transport perspiration away from skin to keep you dry and chafe-free while you’re running.
Quick drying: Fabrics that dry quickly, such as polyester and nylon, keep you comfortable as you work up a sweat. If you’re caught in a passing rain shower, they’ll dry quickly to keep you from getting cold.
Sun protection: Items with UPF ratings provide tested protection from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. The higher the number, the better the protection. See the REI Expert Advice article, Sun Protection Clothing Basics, for details.
Thumbholes: Many long-sleeve tops for cool-weather days offer thumbholes to increase hand coverage and warmth so you can possibly skip the need for gloves. They also help to keep sleeves in place as you run. A few styles even have mittens built into the sleeves.
Inner liner: Some running shorts include an inner liner that acts as underwear. The liner wicks moisture and dries fast to prevent chafing.
Compression: Some shorts, tights, shirts and socks for running are designed with compression for a very snug fit.
Packable: Some running jackets and vests pack away into their own pocket for compact storage.
Insulated: Lightly insulated styles provide a bit more warmth with minimal weight.
Chafe-free seams: Look for flat or welded seams placed away from areas that could impede your stride or natural running motion.
Mesh vents: Many tops are augmented with cooling mesh panels for high-heat areas such as your back, underarms and sides.
Reflectivity: If you run at night or in the cool hours of dusk or dawn, you’ll want gear with reflective accents to be better seen by drivers.
Pockets: These can unobtrusively hold your ID card, debit card and keys. Common on shorts, concealed pockets are sometimes offered on shirts as well.
Running Clothing Fabrics
Polyester: Moisture-wicking, quick-drying polyester is marketed under a variety of names. Each has proprietary characteristics to enhance performance.
Merino wool: Merino wool has moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties and is also naturally antimicrobial to help fight bad odors. Merino wool is a good temperature regulator, so it will help keep you cool on warm days and warm on cool days.
Nylon: Quick-drying, moisture-wicking nylon is frequently used alone or blended with other fabrics and offers excellent durability in running shorts, pants and lightweight jackets.
Running Clothing Accessories
Don’t forget your head and extremities for overall comfort.
Hats: Your exposed head responds to changes in temperature more quickly than any other part of your body. It’s easy to carry along a fleece or wool hat for winter workouts to cover your head in cold weather. A breathable, lightweight hat can also help you stay cool in summer.
Gloves: For cold-weather exercise, a pair of moisture-wicking, breathable gloves is advisable. For cool conditions, thin liner gloves may be all that you need.
Socks: When you exercise heavily, your feet produce a lot of perspiration. This can lead to blisters unless you wear synthetic or merino wool socks that wick away moisture. In winter, this moisture can lead to cold feet. Avoid cotton socks for all but light workouts.
Our Favorite Picks for Running
Find everything you need for the ideal run in this kit. These are our favorite clothes, shoes and more for running.
Hard pavement isn’t exactly the most forgiving, so you need a shoe that is. Enter: the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21. The latest edition of the ever-popular trainer keeps the Brooks GuideRails support system to help structure your stride, while extending soft cushioning throughout the midsole. The shoe’s Air Mesh uppers are secure and breathable, holding everything together mile after mile. Supportive and snug, the Adrenalines make road runs comfortable and powerful./p>
Lightweight, breathable and flexible—Janji’s AFO fabric is ideal for all conditions. The shorts feature a stretchy shell with a 3-inch inseam for women and a 5-inch inseam for men, plus a snug waistband with drawcord to help keep you comfortable during runs of all lengths. The bonded hem seams that hold it all together minimize chafing, leaving you free to run the high mileage of your heart’s content. Inside, a front key pocket and back zipper pocket secure your stuff while you move.
With stretchable fabric that provides light compression, the Janji Groundwork 2.0 Tights are the best of both worlds: secure and durable enough to stay put during strenuous efforts, yet light and breathable enough to make you forget they’re on. The 7/8-length tights feature two deep side pockets to hold your phone, plus a back pocket that doubles as a pass-through pocket to hold layers you strip off. You’ll be reaching into your drawer to grab these go-tos for all types of runs.
The best running gear should move with you. Thanks to quick-drying, moisture-wicking, skin-hugging fabric, the Salomon Agile Tights do just that. The tights are stitched from an opaque, stretchy blend making them perfect for cooler conditions, with woven panels on the calves to provide additional protection. Zippers on the bottoms of the legs and the back pocket make the tights functional, too, whether you need to take them off for an interval workout or bring your phone with you on a long run.
You may not think much about your socks while you’re running, but all it takes is a painful blister to make you wish you’d gone with the good ones. Luckily, the Balega Ultraglide No-Show Socks have well-placed cushioning to help absorb the moisture, heat and movement that cause those blisters in the first place. Moisture management technology, microfiber mesh panels and synthetic lubricant are all part of the fabric as well, adding breathability and reducing friction. Your feet will thank you for making the switch.
Although your legs do much of the work while running, your arms and upper body are swinging back and forth just as much. You owe it to yourself to drape your torso in the soft, light fabric of rabbit’s EZ Tee. The tailored fit on the moisture-wicking shirt won’t cling to you as you sweat, leaving you free to put in the work and get the most out of your run.
A sports bra that lacks support can quickly ruin an otherwise pleasant run. Thankfully, the customizable back straps on the Brooks Drive Convertible Bra help you stay comfy and secure all the way through. In addition to the high-impact support, a brushed bottom band helps reduce friction, allowing you to stay tuned in during any type of effort.
Gusty winds can be an annoyance for any runner, pushing you around and leaving you chilly and frustrated. But dressing for the conditions can make a big difference, and this Arc’teryx jacket dishes out comfort with its wind-resistant fabric. Breathable underarm and back panels help regulate your temperature, while elastic on the cuffs and hem keep the cold out. Plus, at less than three ounces, you can easily pack the jacket down to the size of a baseball in the internal stow pocket if the wind dies down.
Runs in cold weather call for a unique balance between insulation and breathability: You need to stay warm, but you don’t want your gear to get soaked in sweat. The Polartec Power Stretch Gloves from REI Co-op strike this balance, keeping your hands comfortable and dry no matter the workout. Plus, touch-screen compatible fingertips mean you don’t have to worry about your digits freezing as you set up the GPS on your watch or pick the perfect song on your phone.
Whether on your neighborhood sidewalks or a rocky trail, night running requires a good light source. The 450 lumens of power on this Editor’s Choice Award Winner are more than enough to light the way ahead, with single-button adjustment of the several brightness levels. A rechargeable battery ramps up in just three hours and keeps the headlamp running on medium for up to eight hours. That, plus a detachable, washable headband, means that back-to-back nighttime runs are as easy as plugging in a USB charger.
A headlamp helps you see, but the Amphipod Xinglet Reflective Vest helps others see you. A light tube that wraps around your body—and front and rear reflective features—turn you into a bright green flashing beacon for cars and other nighttime running hazards. Plus, a minimalist, fully adjustable design makes sure you’re comfortable on the way. USB charging and an 8-hour battery life in flashing mode helps you rest easy as far as safety goes, even when you’re pumping out your run in the dark.
With the pandemic having shuttered most big races over the past year, it can be hard to stay motivated. Luckily, the Garmin Forerunner 245 has just about every feature to get you going. Free adaptive training plans from Garmin Coach can help get you out the door and, once you’re out, performance monitoring features on the Forerunner 245 all but guarantee you’re getting the most out of your runs. VO2 Max estimations, training load focus, recovery time and additional specs help clarify and quantify your movements. GPS monitoring and programmable routes make races—whether virtual or in person—a cinch. And perhaps most importantly, built-in safety features let you send your real-time location through a paired smartphone to your emergency contacts and alert them in case of an incident like a crash or fall.
Article by David Gleisner. David is an avid runner and hiker, and is passionate about social and environmental justice. In the past, his writing has appeared in Backpacker magazine and North by Northwestern. REI member since 2019.