I've heard conflicting things about synthetics and their ability to keep me cool. What should I wear while running in this brutal heat?
The weather has been brutal lately. So the question has become more urgent: can sweat-wicking shirts keep you cooler? The short answer is no. There is no evidence that technical fabrics keep you cooler. At the same time, the reasons for wearing them are adding up.
Multiple well-designed studies in Indiana, North Carolina, and Colorado have shown that sweat-wicking shirts don’t lower skin or body temperature compared with other shirts or going shirtless (or just in a sports bra).
All that said: Don’t be a hero. Wear a shirt. Sweat-wicking really does make you more comfortable. Covering up prevents sun damage and thwarts bugs. And for guys, at least, wearing a shirt is way classier. Let the 19-year-olds looking to court skin cancer go half-naked, but for shirtless men of any other vintage, the practice tends to draw disparaging comments from locals.
So for any of the crucial reasons outlined above, here are four great hot-weather options for men and women. Our favorite picks employ a variety of materials—including wool (!), cotton, and synthetics—and they provide the sweat relief needed to makes these dog days more bearable.
- Synthetic Lululemon Swiftly Tech V Neck
- Cotton: Under Armour Men’s Tactical Charged Cotton T-Shirt
- Wool: Icebreaker Mens SS Quest Crewe
- Wool: Mountain Hardwear Way2Cool S/S T
Running Shirts to Keep You Cool: Lululemon Swiftly Tech V Neck
Some of the most comfortable hot-weather shirts for women are made by Lululemon. And now they smell better than ever. The V Neck is made with a silver fiber called Silverescent that prevents odor over the life of the garment. (It’s not the environmentally questionable silver. When we dug into the background on Silverescent we discovered that it is unrelated to the nanotechnology materials that have drawn concerns recently.) Here is your training plan: wear this shirt (or long-sleeve version), run in the hot sun, and come out smelling like roses. ($58)
Running Shirts to Keep You Cool: Under Armour Tactical Charged Cotton T-Shirt
Under Armour has mastered the tech to turn cotton into an ultra-soft, sweat-banishing fabric. Because of the shirt’s simple design, it will easily fit in at a barbeque with the family. And because it uses the company’s Charged Cotton formula, it will keep you a lot more comfortable during a workout in the heat. This model is dubbed “tactical” because it’s geared toward service people, but even if you’re not in the military, the range of muted colors make it a good choice for those of you tired of sportswear's neon color palette. ($25)
Running Shirts to Keep You Cool: Icebreaker SS Quest Crewe
Who would have believed that one of the best-performing materials for keeping cool is wool? It’s true. New Zealand-based Icebreaker uses the country’s soft Merino wool to create a running shirt that pulls sweat off your body naturally and provides sublime comfort. Wool also resists odor (a lot more than synthetics) so you can just let it air dry between sessions. Nice techie features include eyelet venting panels, an MP3 cord loophole, and a stash pocket in the back. ($56)
Running Shirts to Keep You Cool: Mountain Hardwear Way2Cool S/S T
White shirts keep your body cooler because of the color’s ability to reflect light. But plain white running shirts often look somewhat medicinal on a sweaty runner finishing a grueling mid-day tempo. The Way2Cool shirt offsets this appearance with sport splashes of color. Bright colors are good for night running, and the shirt’s reflective trim adds to the safety factor. True to all Mountain Hardwear tailoring, the flat-seam construction and mesh synthetic fabric make it comfortable when temps rise. ($58)