A regular cotton t-shirt will feel like a clammy dishrag stuck to your back if you attempt any serious exercise. Real athletes opt for shirts made of natural or synthetic fibers that regulate body temp and transport sweat away from your skin. These shirts, tested by both male and female runners, feature smooth seams to prevent chafing, antibacterial treatments that fight odor, and tailoring that accommodates especially heavy perspiration areas like pits and the upper back. —Kate Siber
What to Look for
Antimicrobials: Odor-causing bacteria love synthetic fabrics. So choose garments that incorporate silver ions, which kill germs and reduce reek. Or try a shirt infused with an amino acid derived from crab shells—debuting from Patagonia this fall.
Wool: Merino's crimped, naturally antimicrobial fibers suck up moisture to keep you cool.
Weight: Sleeve length is a personal preference, but shirts should be sleek and lightweight under multiple layers. That way you can remove garments to stay comfortable all day.
Construction: To avoid chafing, select seamless bodies and flatlocked seams—fabric is layered, not folded, and then stitched.
Brooks HVAC Seamless Long Sleeve
This shirt has an uncanny ability to cool you when you're hot and warm you when you're cold. The secret? Body mapping. Polyester, nylon, spandex, and silver-fused threads are woven in varying weights, depending on where the fabric touches the body. (Densely woven material covers the front and lower back; a looser weave covers the armpits and upper back.) The odor-eating, heat-conducting silver also draws sweat away from skin. Add a smooth, pleasant feel and a seamless trunk and the result is a versatile layer worth every cent of its shocking sticker price.
WIRED: Plastic-baggie-like pockets on sleeves warm hands during cold runs. Snug fit works well under layers. No body seams or irritating tags equals no chafing.
TIRED: Silky fabric rides up. No XS or XL sizes. Short-sleeved version not out till January. $98 www.brooksrunning.com
Icebreaker Superfine GT Elite T
WIRED: Merino wool so light and soft it feels like cotton. Tiny pockets in the fabric trap air to regulate your temperature in variable conditions. Naturally breathable, wicking, and antimicrobial. Sexy color options.
TIRED: Lots of clams for a bunch of sheep fur. Woven fabric catches on, well, everything. Possible moth bait. $89 www.icebreaker.com
Helly Hansen Versa Trailwizard Short Sleeve
WIRED: Soft, stretchy waffled polypropylene on back and sides. Thicker fabric on front and sleeves provides lightweight wind protection.
TIRED: Stank after first use. Available only in embarrassingly bright or deadly boring colors. $45 www.hellyhansen.com
Nike Sphere Macro React Short Sleeve
WIRED: Body mapped with three different polyester fabrics. Itty-bitty vents in the cloth on the back open when you sweat and close when you dry off. Some flatlocked seams.
TIRED: Patchwork of materials makes shirt feel heavy. Hot for layering. No bacteria-proofing. $65 www.niketown.com
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