The human desire for comfort and stasis is distinctly contrasted in the lives of runners. We grind toward our goals in several uncomfortable and painful ways, be it due to environmental factors like heat, cold, rain, or unforgiving terrain features like steep climbs or pounding descents. The running gear we choose is scrutinized and obsessed over because it’s the difference between the hurts-so-good sensation we seek versus the just plain hurts.
It stands to reason that we should give equal thought to the clothes we’re wearing before and after a run as well. We want to feel as good as possible in comfortable clothes with, ideally, a dash of style and the modesty you won’t find getting your groceries or meeting a friend while wearing two-inch split shorts or the salt-crusted shirt you just wore on your long run. I’ve personally sat in many team meetings at various companies in my career desperately trying to cover up short shorts or mask the sweat forming on my shirt after sneaking in a summer lunch run from the workplace.
Then there’s the scenario we’ve all experienced from running hard in cold weather. You finish warm and sweaty despite the frigid air outside and you need to get those wet clothes off fast. But if you’ve got errands to run or friends to see, the clothes you change into need to be breathable and fit well, or else they’re going to get sweaty and uncomfortable in a hurry.
We tapped into the favorite pre- and post-run gear items from iRunFar’s diverse editorial and gear testing team. Some of the brands and picks might surprise you, as our favorite gear for relaxing doesn’t come just from running brands. There are iconic pieces you’ll see in any outdoor-oriented community along with ones that you might normally be accustomed to seeing at fancy happy hours or dinners.
This isn’t a “best of the best” guide like you’re accustomed to seeing on iRunFar where we pit items against each other from a technical perspective; this is the gear we love and use on a regular basis. Some items are from the archives, while some are very new.
To build in some guardrails for this guide, we’re focusing on the general items associated with comfort; tops, like jackets and hoodies; bottoms, like sweats and joggers; and comfort items for the feet like socks, sandals, and slides. We also added some unexpected items, particularly from our nine-to-five office workers who have found great options to change into after a mid-work running break.
When you’re on the way to a training run or race, the Patagonia Houdini Air Jacket is the best-in-class outer layer to keep you warm. Plus, it can be worn during the run, too. Whether you’re facing rain, snow, or wind, the breathable Pertex double weave fabric offers superior protection when you may be most vulnerable to chills after a grueling event, or when you want to stay warm and dry beforehand.
Among its features is a hood that is simple to close. No more fumbling around or trying to stretch a hoodie over your hat or headlamp. The jacket easily packs down into its zippered chest pocket and can fit inside a shoe. For rainy climates, the jacket works well for running in the rain.
Tracksmith consistently looks to both the past and to track and field for inspiration in their running gear. While their running-specific pieces are made with modern fabrics and designed to be used for hard training, the leisure pieces are really made for serious lounging. The Tracksmith Trackhouse Sweatpants are heavy-duty, perhaps so much so that they’re better suited to winter and fall seasons when you curl up on the couch on a cold day after a run. Sizing is very generous, and the inseams work well for tall people who need at least a 32-inch inseam.
If you normally wouldn’t be caught dead out and about in a pair of sweatpants, these could change your mind. Like all Tracksmith pieces, these are a much more dressed-up and stylish interpretation of sweatpants than cheap ones you might pick up from a big box store or Amazon.
The Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie V2 is a classic hoodie that can be spotted in nearly any gathering of outdoor-oriented people. It’s made of the instantly recognizable grid fleece the company is known for, includes a kangaroo pocket, and has a hood. The general box shape of Melanzana hoodies means comfort, layering ability, and warmth. The hoodie is available in a variety of colors.
During the 2020 and 2021 COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor tourism grew rapidly in Colorado and micro manufacturer Melanzana, based in Leadville, experienced an inability to keep up with demand. At this point, you can only purchase Melanzana clothing by appointment in Leadville, making it a bit of a high-country couture experience. These changes said, the “Mellie” remains one of the most comfortable relax-mode pieces of gear out there.Shop the Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie V2
The On Lightweight Pants are airy, stretchy, and loose-fitting, and have a flattering tapered silhouette, making them great all-around running pants. They have an elastic drawstring waist and zippered leg opening, so they’re easy to pull on over running shorts for post-run errands, brunch, or staying warm.
They’re made with a light polyamide and elastane blend fabric that allows for plenty of movement during pre-workout stretching, drills, and strides. They also travel well — whether on a road trip or a long flight overseas. The fabric is wrinkle-resistant, though the pants can build up static in cold, dry environments.Shop the Women's On Lightweight Pants
For pre- and post-run footwear, the Teva ReEmber is comfortable, stylish, and versatile. This quilted slip-on shoe is cushioned, roomy, and warm, providing a cozy post-run experience for tired feet. If you have a habit of wearing slippers to the trailhead, the Teva ReEmber is a better option. While it feels like a slipper, it has a water-resistant upper and a rubber sole that performs like an everyday sneaker and can handle dirt, light mud, snow, gravel, and other conditions that would wreck a pair of fuzzy house slippers.
We also love the fun color offerings and the fact that these shoes are made with 100% recycled ripstop upper, polyester rib knit collar, and microfiber liner. They also incorporate recycled EVA foam in the midsole and rubber in the outsole.
Let’s be honest, the Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody can be worn anytime, anywhere. The iRunFar team has found themselves wearing it on shivery winter runs, atop mountain summits, to look nice in the office, and for some couch-lounging and meal-making after a run. The versatility of this hoody is like nothing we’ve seen in outdoor clothing in a long, long time.
A blend of wool and polyester woven with large open-air pockets — what Patagonia calls a three-dimensional weave technique with exploded yarn — means this hoody is cozy for pre- and post-run comfort. It wears best with a thin, long-sleeve base layer. And the hood — with its glorious high neck and fitted shape — makes this garment even cozier. Buyer beware, this hoody insulates far beyond what you would expect, so it’s best worn on chillier days.
Put simply, rabbit is creating outstanding pre- and post-run clothing, making some of the most comfortable loungewear we’ve ever felt. This is courtesy of the company’s rabbitRELAX fabric, which is smooth on the outside and has soft fleece with rabbit emblems on the inside.
The rabbit Sisterhood Crop 2.0 is not a full crop, as the name might make you think, rather the bottom seam lands right around the hip bones. The kangaroo pocket is great for stowing a set of keys, or for warming up your hands after a chilly run. The hood is also a welcome feature after running in the cold. The brushed fleece is incredibly soft, and we loved its feel after wearing more technical clothing for our runs.
The rabbit EZ Joggers fabric is on the thin side for loungewear, but it’s so warm and cozy that we have no complaints. They aren’t quite full-length pants, but they are long enough that you’re not left wanting on a chilly post-run night, and the tailored fit makes them stand out compared to other types of loungewear.
These items pair well together to create the perfect outfit for relaxing after a run. Neither piece is particularly tight or loose, but they sit nicely halfway in between to feel cozy without looking balloon-like.
There’s nothing exceptionally special about the Smartwool Hike Full Cushion Crew Socks. They are well-padded wool hiking socks made with some fun patterns. But, in our opinion, they are perfect in their non-revolutionariness.
The padding on the entire sock makes them extremely comfortable for walking around the house after a big run, and they keep toes, which may have been wet and cold during an all-day run, warm and happy. Made with Smartwool’s Indesructawool technology, these socks will last. And finally, the cheerful designs put a little pep in your mental step when the fatigue of a big day out has got to you. These socks are very simply comfortable.
It seemed like overnight, runners went from happily wearing Birkenstocks and Chacos as their go-to sandals before and after runs to sandals and slides from Oofos. They are everywhere, and even if you still wear other sandals, you’ve probably at least slipped on this sandal that all your friends are raving about.
The Oofos Ooaah Slides are a great recovery tool, but they don’t need to be relegated to simply post-run use. As runners, we’re always looking to maximize our recovery and keep our feet happy, and wearing these slides before a run, or around the house, can provide extra comfort and recovery. The foam technology in these slides allows them to absorb up to 37% more impact than other foam materials found in other shoes. This can minimize the impact on your feet as you walk around before or after a run.
They come in a ton of different colors and are now so widespread you don’t have to seek them out from specialty running stores.Shop the Oofos Ooahh Slides
The prAna Stretch Zion Pant II are the best travel pants around. Because of their stylish cut, you can feel equally as comfortable wearing these pants in an airport or a restaurant as you would outside or in a less formal setting. The relaxed fit through the hip and thigh area makes it easy to move in them.
These pants provide light to moderate warmth and are breathable and stretchy, making them comfortable for long travel days. Several pockets, including a zipper cargo pocket, make them perfect for storing all of the small items you need for a day.
Heck, in a pinch, they make pretty good running pants in and of themselves. The recycled nylon material is abrasion-resistant and has a durable water repellent (DWR) finish.Shop the Men's prAna Stretch Zion Pant II
For a while, Oiselle was the brand some of our women’s testers considered the poster child for running-to-real-life clothing. The Oiselle Benjamina Jumpsuit is made of Breeze Woven fabric and is incredibly comfortable. This stretchy material won’t wrinkle and is light and easily transportable. If you need to get out of your running clothes and into something that you can look great in for going out for dinner or walking into the office, this jumpsuit could be it.
This jumpsuit is also great for a run commuter. One of our testers wears it regularly after getting in her miles to the office. The button front makes it easy to throw on when you’re in a hurry, and it comes in several prints and sizes from XS to XL.Shop the Oiselle Benjamina Jumpsuit
The Athleta Eastbound Blazer is made of Ponte fabric with Tencel and is soft and stretchy. This blazer pairs just as easily with running tights as professional slacks, making it a multi-use piece of clothing.
Use it to make an outfit that is corporate approved after getting back from a mid-workday run, or to slip on after a run to both stay warm and look sharp for post-run drinks or food.Shop the Athleta Eastbound Blazer
Merino wool might be the top pre- and post-run apparel material since it naturally blocks odors and helps regulate body temperature. Clothing made from modern merino wool doesn’t feel at all like the heavy wool sweaters that so many people associate with the material.
For post-run wear especially, it’s a dream to throw on a lightweight merino piece as the comfort and cooling are second to none. The Icebreaker Cool-Lite Merino Shirt Dress is a full-body and stylish solution for pre- and post-run apparel, perfect for slipping into in the parking lot after you’ve gotten back from a run. The dress runs quite long, so be sure to check the sizing chart before ordering.Shop the Icebreaker Cool-Lite Merino Shirt Dress
Casual style with good-sized pockets for phone, keys, and a wallet, the Eddie Bauer Super Sevens Fleece Pullover Hoodie is great for doing errands after a run.
The kangaroo pocket doubles as a pouch that the hoodie can fold into so that you can stash it and go.
The fabric feels soft and warm, but is surprisingly airy at the same time, making it wearable in a greater range of temperatures than you would expect.
Thumb holes and a close hood further add to the comfort look and feel of this hoodie.
Call for Comments
- What do you absolutely love putting on after a big day out running?
- Is there any gear on this list that you also like? Leave a comment to add your experiences.
- What other items not included in this guide do you think others would enjoy when in relax mode?