Best Running Tops for Hot Weather to Keep You Cool and Safe

Appropriate running gear can make or break a run. Summer is rapidly approaching, and there is no better time to explore the best running tops for hot weather. Choosing the best running top for a hot summer run can keep you both fast and safe!

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Anyone running in the South can vouch that choosing the right running top is essential for running anywhere that it’s toasty. Our winter lasts for about two months and the humidity is nearly always 100%.

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Why put so much thought into a running top?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised how much choosing the appropriate gear can affect your run.

Not only will selecting the right running top for hot weather help you be a more efficient runner, it can also keep you safe from a heat-related injury. It’s essential to stay cool to avoid heat-related injuries. Some heat-related injuries include:

  • Heat cramps

  • Heat exhaustion

  • Dehydration

  • Electrolyte imbalances

  • Heat stroke

Heat stroke is the most dangerous of heat-related injuries.

Dangers of heat stroke

Even the most elite runners are at risk for injury from extreme heat. Heat stroke occurs from extended exposure to extreme temperatures. Many runners train outside year-round. Training in warmer weather can prove challenging. It is this dedication and outdoor training that puts runners at an increased risk for heat stroke. This extended exposure to heat often leads to dehydration as your body's natural mechanism to cool off is to sweat. The heat combined with dehydration put runners in a potentially dangerous situation.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Body temperature of 104

  • Fainting

  • Lack of sweat

  • Muscle cramping

  • Heart rate changes

  • Changes in behavior/level of consciousness

  • Seizure

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

Heat stroke is a dangerous phenomenon and should be taken seriously! If left untreated, it can be fatal. There are many things runners can do to prevent heat stroke and wearing clothing to reduce body temperature is one.

Details to consider when shopping for a heat-friendly running top

  • Is the running top make from lightweight material?

  • Is it made from moisture-wicking material?

  • Is it the color of the top light or dark?

  • Is it loose fitted?

  • Does it prevent sunburn?

  • Is it antimicrobial?

  • Price

What are the advantages of choosing specialty running tops?

Running tops made from synthetic material wick moisture away from your skin and help keep you dry and cool. Tops made from cotton don’t do this. There are many kinds of synthetic materials, but at the end of the day, they all work the same way to keep moisture off of your skin.

An added bonus of moisture wicking-material is that it also prevents chafing.

The worst material a runner can choose is 100% cotton. Cotton may feel nice and may also be substantially cheaper, but it provides zero moisture-wicking. Running in cotton blends also puts a runner at risk for chafing.

If you have ever been to the finish line at any distance race, I am willing to bet that almost zero percent of the experienced runners are dressed in 100% cotton attire.

Even if you choose the fanciest of hot weather running tops, choosing one that is black puts you at ground zero. Darker colors attract sun rays more than lighter colors and will cause you to be warmer than with lighter colored tops.

Choosing tops that are loosely fitted allows your clothing to breath. This also allows for air exchange and aids in keeping the body cool.

Choosing a top that has added ultraviolet (UV) protection may not keep you cooler, but it will help protect you from skin cancer.

Another point of interest for top selection is choosing a tank versus a short sleeved shirt. This really comes down to personal preference as both styles can be found with all the components needed for hot weather running.

Some running tops are antimicrobial in nature and trap in bacteria and unpleasant body odor. This may not keep you cool, but sure is a nice feature. I can certainly think of a marathon or two that an antimicrobial shirt would have made the ride home a lot more pleasant.

Lastly, for those of us who are on a budget, price consideration comes into play. You might want to look for the best quality you can find within your price range that has as many features as we talked about as possible.

Let’s consider a few tops:

1.  Under Armour Women's HeatGear Armour Mesh Tank

The Under Armour Women’s Heatgear Armour Mesh Tank meets most of the important qualifications for a hot weather running top. It comes in a variety of colors so runners may choose a light color to get the most bang for hot-weather-running buck. It is made from synthetic moisture-wicking material, and it is designed to be loose fitting.

Under Armour Women's HeatGear Armour Mesh Tank

Pros

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Loose-fitted

  • Affordable

  • Many color options to choose from

Cons

  • No UV protection

  • No antimicrobial properties

2. Champion Women's Powertrain Heather Tee

Champion Women's Powertrain Heather Tee

This Champion Women’s Powertrain Tee is economical and practical. One can really appreciate its affordability. A runner could buy one in every color. It is functional as a running top for hot weather. The quality seems to be the only concern. Sometimes you get exactly what you pay for, so when purchasing this shirt, runners may have to take extra care when laundering. It’s worth mentioning that if you really had one in every color, there would be less wear and tear.

Pros

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Loose-fitted

  • Affordable

  • Many color options

  • Fits true to size

Cons

  • No UV protection

  • No antimicrobial properties

  • Colors may not be as pictured

  • Not ideal for large-busted women

  • Maybe too thin and airy

3. Tesla Men’s HyperDri Short Sleeve T-Shirt Athletic Cool Running Top

Tesla Men’s HyperDri Short Sleeve T-Shirt Athletic Cool Running Top

Just as with the Champion tee, the Tesla Men’s HyperDri Shirt is affordable and functional. The fabric is called “PlazmaSkin” and is great for all sports activities, not just running. It also offers a lot of airflow and circulation. It is an all around great lightweight running shirt for men.

Pros

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Loose-fitting

  • UPF 50

  • Affordable price tag

  • Many color options

Cons

  • No antimicrobial

  • Sizes run small

  • Handle with care or may snag easily

4. Nike Pro Cool Fitted Short-Sleeve Shirt

Nike Pro Cool Fitted Short-Sleeve Shirt

Other than not being able to match it exactly to previously purchased shorts, this seems like a good functional running top for hot weather. Nike is always top of the line and this Nike Pro Cool Fitted Shirt is no exception. If one is willing to be a bit mismatched while running, this could be your top.

Pros

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Midpoint price range

  • Many color options

Cons

  • Fitted

  • No UV protection

  • No antimicrobial

  • Sizing may run small

  • May not match same colors of NIKE in other clothing (ie shorts)

5. Mission Women’s VaporActive Stratus Short Sleeve Running T-Shirt

Mission Women’s VaporActive Stratus Short Sleeve Running T-Shirt

The Mission Women’s VaporActive Stratus shirt is a little pricier than the others, but has the extra bells and whistles of UV protection and antimicrobial properties. Product description also states it will trap stinky workout smells and release them only when laundered! How amazing does that sound! This shirt is lightweight and has moisture-wicking. The added mesh helps with cooling, and it comes in a light color option.

Pros

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Loose-fitting with added bonus of mesh material

  • UV protection

  • Antimicrobial

  • Available in tank top

  • Available in Women’s and Men’s

  • Soft

  • True to size

Cons

  • Only comes in one color

  • Higher-priced

The winner is…..

The answer here really depends on how big your wallet is? There are many suitable choices for hot weather running gear at affordable prices. The added benefit of UV protection and antimicrobial properties are nice but not essential to keeping you cool during a run.

If I had just won the lottery and price was not an option, the Mission Women’s VaporActive Stratus shirt would be my choice. Since it offers a shirt for men as well, I’d probably get one for my husband too. It has all the qualities a runner needs to stay cool and safe with the added features of UV protection and antimicrobial properties.

If I needed an average top to get me through a run day, I could easily choose any of the other tops listed.

The take home point is runners should be cautious and thoughtful when training in intense heat conditions. Dangers of heat-related illnesses are a real threat to runners and should be taken seriously. Runners can drastically reduce the chance of any heat illness by dressing appropriately for hot weather. Choose running gear that will help you keep cool so you can stay safe and optimize runs on hot summer days.

Dawn Terzulli
 

Dawn Terzulli is a wife, mom, nurse, and runner! She loves spending time with her family and obsessing about which race to run next.