Think back to your first runs, when you still huffed and puffed through a 5K, glancing at your watch every minute and wishing it would stop. You’d reach down and touch your shirt—soft, a little damp, and almost certainly made of cotton. These days low-tech, plain-Jane cotton is something of a has-been, replaced by newfangled synthetics and resurgent natural fibers like merino. But despite cotton’s drawbacks, there’s still a lot to love.
Patagonia Flying Fish Organic Cotton ($35)
Some of our favorites, like Patagonia’s Flying Fish Organic Cotton, are as simple as running itself. It’s printed with quirky, beautiful, outdoors-inspired graphics.
American Giant Premium V-Neck ($37)
If blending in is more your speed, the soft-touch, made-in-the-USA American Giant Premium V-Neck is a solid option. Its heavier fabric, double-stitched neckline, and reinforced seams help it stand up to long miles of abuse, and it won’t snag during scratchy off-trail “shortcuts.”
Jockey Classic ($49 for six)
The budget minded can always pick up a six-pack of diamond white Jockey Classic for a week’s worth of laundry-free training.
Ably Apparel Tourist ($48)
Despite poly-preferring naysayers, cotton plays well with other ingredients. Ably Apparel’s Tourist is infused with proprietary tech to repel liquid and resist stink without sacrificing softness or breathability.
Ten Thousand Essential ($48)
And the Ten Thousand Essential incorporates Polygiene to crush odor and has breezy, laser-cut holes in the armpits.