Running in heat is hard going, of that there is no doubt. Being aware of potential problems before they arise is the essential priority.
A running top designed for hot summer conditions will help keep you cool to a point. But keep drinking water and be conscious of how you feel.
This article details the features found in the best running tops for hot weather. It also details other hard learned tips you might not have thought of before.
Consider all of the following points before you buy your next hot weather running top.
Types Of Running Hot Weather Running Tops
There are three main types of running tops to consider. I’ve added the shirtless option but as you’ll see its not an ideal option even for men.
A running t-shirt like the one shown conforms to the classic t-shirt design. The advantage of this design is its versatility. The short sleaves offer some warmth and protection slightly cooler conditions. Its disadvantage is its not the coolest design on a hot day.
If its not too hot and your out for a training run this is probably the pattern of running top you’ll grab from the draw.
A tank top is essentially a sleeveless t-shirt. Slightly less material means you’ll feel cooler but still relatively covered up. The tank top is a half way point between the t-shirt and the singlet. Can be used for training and racing.
If you are going to be racing in hot conditions the singlet is a better option.
The singlet has the least material of all making it ideal for racing in hot and cold conditions. The main difference between a singlet and a tank top is the exposed back. Singlets are designed to help you keep cool when you’re working hard.
I only ever wear one when racing but you might wear one for a hard threshold session when you want to maximise your effort.
I’m middle aged, in reasonable shape but I do feel slightly self-conscious when I put on a singlet. This is why I only wear one for racing. In race conditions I soon forget about being self-conscious as soon as I start running. 50% of other people are wearing the same sort of top so no one cares.
Women’s Crop Top
Essentially an extended sports bra with a bit cut away at the bottom. They are going for the same principal as the singlet. That being reducing the material to help heat escape.
I have no experience to draw on here. All I can say is that they get great reviews on Amazon so they appear to work well.
For me this is a no no. Not just because Id feel extremely self conscious. When you run in hot conditions you need some protection from the sun. Going shirtless leaves you exposed and more vulnerable. That said. Certainly in the US topless running is relatively popular compared to Europe. Each to their own but to me it doesn’t seem like a good idea
Running in heat? Avoid Cotton!
Cotton will hold on to sweat and keep it close to your skin. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons. Your top will start to feel heavy and will stick to your skin. You’ll also be prone to chafing problems.
If you take nothing else away from this article it is that you should never wear cotton when running in heat.
Sweat Wicking Running Top
Not just your hot weather running tops but all of them should be made of a moisture wicking breathable material. All manufacturers have a version of a polyester type material. They all have slight tweaks on the same theme which the marketing team give an interesting name.
These materials all share some core characteristics but you’ll find sweat wicking at the top of all of the lists.
The material needs to be lightweight. It should ideally feel like a second skin that you forget about when you start running. When you choose a running top check the reviews to make sure there are no negative views regarding weight of the material. Specifically how the top feels once its on and used in a run.
Tight Fit Or Loose?
A snug fitting top that feels like a part of you is the ideal. It would of course need to be made of the right materials with all the right characteristics for a hot weather running top.
A top that billows behind you as you run down the street might impress the neighbors but it wont help your running performance.
A snug fitting running top will also help prevent chafing.
Light colors reflect heat, dark colors absorb heat. For this reason choose a light colored running top.
I prefer to keep away from the major brands when it comes to running tops. The cheaper equivalents on Amazon have all the characteristics you should look for in a running top. So why pay extra.
You might want to pay extra for the aesthetic of the top. You might find a top from a big brand fits your body really well and feels more comfortable. Maybe I’m missing out! However I don’t think paying double for a running top will take any time off my marathon time (or would it…).
Other Considerations When Running In Heat
These are not running top related but will help you prepare for running in heat. Preparation is key.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Keeping hydrated when running in hot conditions is key. If your going for a long run or a race start the hydration the day before and keep it going. Better to need a toilet break than have to stop due to heat exhaustion.
Take a look at this academic research into the effects on physiological function, hydration and running in heat.
Put On Sunscreen When You Run In The Sun
Protection from the suns rays is essential. Put on sunscreen and keep putting it on if you are out running for a long time.
Cover Your Head When Running In The Sun
Keep your head protected. Keeping your head away from the direct sun will help you avoid sun stroke.
Final Thoughts: Best Running Tops For Hot Weather
If you don’t need to run on a hot day don’t do it. If you can get out for your run before the sun comes up or after it has set, do that.
If you need to train in the sun for a race that you know will take place in heat. Take the time to prepare properly and buy a nice new running top.
Running in the sun can be enjoyable if you give it a little rational thought.