The running apparel industry has changed a lot in the last decade when it comes to the best running apparel brands. Shoppers are no longer limited to what’s for sale at the specialty running store in their area. The direct-to-consumer era of internet retail has meant that new companies can launch with just a website and social media, and established brands must stay on their toes and react to customer needs and trends much more quickly.
From style to materials to functionality, changes in apparel have led to runners having more choices than ever before. Companies have continued to use sponsored athletes and community leaders to showcase their gear on different types of people and bodies.
With this abundance of choice, we used the iRunFar team’s collective experience to pick out ten trail running apparel brands we regularly use from various price points and different positions in the market. In this group, you’ll find the heavy-hitter brands and smaller ones packing their unique punch.
Best Running Apparel Brands
Location: Ventura, California
Popular Models: Strider Pro Running Shorts, Endless Run Tights, Houdini Jacket, Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt
What We Like: Patagonia is one of the best brands for thoughtful details, from the external drawstring on their shorts to the integrated running vest design of the Storm Racer Jacket to their use of planet-friendly materials.
What We Don’t: The pieces can be an expensive investment, but they are built to last.
Patagonia’s trail running history has been filled with stops and starts with their footwear, sponsored teams, and apparel, but the last few seasons have shown a real commitment to the category.
The Strider Pro Running Shorts alone will put Patagonia in the running apparel brand’s hall of fame for many of us, but the company also has many other very thoughtful outerwear components like the High Endurance Kit, with its standout Storm Racer Jacket.
The lightweight Houdini Jacket is the go-to option for many runners and adventurers, especially in alpine regions. Patagonia’s commitment to environmental advocacy makes supporting the brand a no-brainer for trail runners, and the high quality of their items makes them great to use.
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Popular Models: FKT 5″, EZ Tee LS, UtiliBra-vo
What We Like: Rabbit supports many high-level runners, but their emphasis is on fun for everyone. The relatively young brand has many colorful pieces for both men and women, and purists will love the short inseam options.
What We Don’t: Some women prefer longer shorts than rabbit offers. We’d also love to see models and colorways stick around a little longer to promote sustainability.
Rabbit was founded by two women in Santa Barbara, California. Like the pacesetter their name evokes, their goal is to be out front and push limits in the historically male-oriented running business. Being out front goes beyond cutting-edge apparel for the brand; it also includes the inclusion of all people and sizes. Their shirts have proven to be useable by many women throughout their pregnancy, stretching to fit a growing belly and still being useable post-partum. You can read more about the rabbit EZ Tank top and the rabbit EZ tee LS (links?) at our best maternity workout clothes guide. The brand gained early traction with trail runners and has a distinct presence in track and field and road marathons.
RabbitRELAX fabric is a standout material, earning rave reviews from all who slip into pieces made with this buttery soft material. New collections emerge every season, but some staples include button-front shirts like the Low Tide and the cutout Vert Shirt HP, inspired by the Western States 100 and Scott Jurek. Before Hoka introduced its apparel lines, rabbit was the manufacturer of the Hoka kit used by the shoe brand’s professionals.
Location: Ashington, U.K.
Popular Models: Dart XT Thermal Zip Neck Long-Sleeved Top, Minimus Nano Pull-On Waterproof Jacket, Fireball Nano Hooded Jacket, Protium Lite Hooded Fleece Pull-On
What We Like: Excellent quality products with an endurance focus, loads of options for tops, pants, and accessories like hats and gloves, products seem to be very durable
What We Don’t: Hardly any options for running shorts
Montane is one of the few brands dedicating its entire product line to high-output endurance mountain activities. And we’re here for it. The U.K.-based brand has rapidly become one of our favorites, thanks to its high-quality and high-performing lineup. Simply put, we’ve loved every Montane product tested. The Dart XT Thermal Zip Neck Long-Sleeved Top is an excellent piece that serves as a next-to-skin base layer or a stand-alone piece. Same with the Protium Lite Hooded Fleece Pull-On, which is a bit heavier and can handle temperatures into the 40s as a stand-alone piece.
The Fireball Nano Hooded Jacket is an innovative top layer for colder runs as it features strategically placed insulation on the chest and ventilation under the arms and on the back. But perhaps one of our favorite pieces, not just in the Montane product line but of all apparel we’ve recently tested, is the Minimus Nano Pull-On Waterproof Jacket. The fully weatherproof jacket is highly waterproof, packs down into a wad most people can palm while running, and has proven to be an excellent “just in case” piece for us on mountain missions, from trail running to mountain biking to fly-fishing.
We have two notes to point out. First, Montane currently doesn’t have many — or any — serious options for running shorts. We’d love to see the brand take a dip into that category. Secondly, as a typical European brand, the cut and fit of most pieces are slim and athletic. Personally, we like that, but it won’t be as inclusive for all body types, and you should probably go up one size compared to the typical American clothing brands.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Popular Models: AFO Middle Short, 7/8 Groundwork Tight 2.0, Helio Tech Tee
What We Like: Janji is known for bold and wild prints for men and women while standing for terrific causes like global clean water access.
What We Don’t: It’s a critique you’ll see in multiple places in this guide, but slower model and colorway switches would promote a more sustainable approach to running apparel.
Janji exploded on the trail running apparel scene several years ago with extremely bold patterns and prints, finding early distribution in the massive outdoor retailer, REI Co-op. What’s behind the name? Janji means “a promise or declaration” in Indonesian, and their dedication to environmental and humanitarian causes is immense. The company donates 2% of the proceeds of every purchase to clean water projects in the specific countries they use for inspiration for their seasonal collections.
Local artists create Janji’s seasonal collections, and two particularly cool ones are designed by Arwin Hidayat and Soni Irawan, two talented artists from the island of Java. The Batik prints are used particularly effectively on the Groundwork Long Bra 2.0, 7″ Pace Short, and the Helio Tech Tank. There are many more examples of Arwin and Soni’s designs on some of Janji’s most popular styles, like the 5″ AFO Middle Short and 7/8 Groundwork Tight 2.0.
In our women’s apparel review, you can learn more about various pieces from this brand.
Location: Seattle, Washington
Popular Models: Element Shorts (classics that are no longer in line), Dare Cross-Back Run Bra, Distance Long Sleeve
What We Like: High-touch customer service and an awesome 90-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you don’t love what you bought, you can return it for free.
What We Don’t: While trail running isn’t an afterthought, Brooks is certainly most active in the road running scene.
Brooks is the self-proclaimed “Run Happy” company, and their legacy in trail running footwear is firmly established with classics like the Cascadia. In addition to their well-loved shoes, the company also has a deep and high-quality apparel collection for all types of running.
Back in 2008, iRunFar founder Bryon Powell said that the Element Shorts, the classic shorts that are no longer in line, were the best running shorts he had used in his then-15 years of running. One can longingly recall the simpler days of ultrarunning when a younger Bryon Powell would have been running in these shorts and commuting to cover races in his trademark Toyota Prius. The Adventure Prius remains, and so does Brooks’s excellent apparel.
The company has taken real leadership in high-visibility clothing meant for staying bright and noticeable in darkness. While this is certainly more of a concern with road running, the same focus on details extends to the trail. Pieces like the Sherpa 5″ 2-in-1 Short and Distance Long Sleeve are more durable than similar products from other brands, built to withstand snagging tree branches or the occasional catch-a-toe crash on hard singletrack.
Brooks has won over iRunFar’s women’s testers with its Dare sports bra collection, a collection of high-impact, encapsulation-style bras with seven different models available. You can learn more about these bras at our Dare sports bra collection review.
Location: Ziano di Fiemme, Italy
Popular Models: Freccia Short M, Drizzle Overpant M, Timing Short W
What We Like: Technical materials and innovative textiles with a broad range of apparel for both men and women highlight what this brand creates. Pieces are a good investment and can be crossed over with other sports.
What We Don’t: The fit is definitely European sizing but not as inconsistent as La Sportiva’s footwear can be. Customers should review apparel size charts before buying.
It’s a natural move for La Sportiva, which makes world-class rock climbing, hiking, and skiing products, to offer a collection of mountain running apparel that can cross over into any, or sometimes all, of those other sports. And fortunately, apparel for all sports benefits from being breathable, quick-drying, and easy to layer.
La Sportiva’s running apparel for men and women includes everything from shirts to sports bras to shorts and skirts and lightweight packable overpants for rainy runs. The fit is more European than American, with tighter lines, silhouettes, and bright and bold colors. La Sportiva is part of a dwindling group that still offers an iRunFar favorite: the half-zip running shirt with raglan sleeves — at least for men. The Limitless T-Shirt M makes it easy to regulate body temperature while running.
La Sportiva has long used the phenomenal anti-odor and -bacteria technology Polygiene, which can keep your running apparel from smelling and conserve water and energy by requiring fewer washes.
Location: Annecy, France
Popular Models: Bonatti Waterproof, S/Lab Speed Bob
What We Like: Salomon offers one of the most extensive apparel assortments in this guide, with many options for men and women.
What We Don’t: Supply chain issues hit Salomon hard the past two years and inventory has suffered.
Ever since Kilian Jornet tore around the Western States 100 course in 2010 donning a skimpy pair of white Salomon half tights (more like quarter tights) with a skin-tight top, Salomon’s trail running apparel has stood out. The S/Lab range, where Killian’s aforementioned tights came from, has continuously pushed the boundaries of technical performance and fit. A past favorite from that era was the men’s Exo S/Lab Twinskin Shorts, which were super stretchy and comfortable paired with an over-short with pockets for gels and other small items.
Salomon is now synonymous with the likes of Courtney Dauwalter and François D’Haene, two athletes at the top of the ultrarunning world. The company has used these two runners’ unique styles, including their love for long shorts, as inspiration for new pieces of apparel.
Nowadays, pieces like the technical Bonatti Waterproof and the S/Lab line pair with one of the broadest ranges of shorts and shirts of any brand in this guide. Their affordability is also excellent, with many apparel pieces ranging from $40 to $50.
Location: Seattle, Washington
Popular Models: Roga Shorts, Flyout Wool Half Zip, Super Seamless Bra, Flyout Short Sleeve
What We Like: Oiselle is truly a for-women, by-women brand that has positively grown through the input of its customers and professional athletes by regularly fielding feedback from the public.
What We Don’t: Sometimes, the sizing is inconsistent across the product lines.
Oiselle came on the scene in 2007 as a woman-founded brand producing apparel distinctly by women and for women. Many of our testers frequently remark on the durability and longevity of the pieces. Oiselle has famously tussled with big institutions in the sport, like USATF, over logo placement and allowances for its sponsored athletes. The brand won a lot of fans for daring to change the paradigm for all athletes, particularly female ones, since sponsorship wages are lean and hard to come by.
The Roga Shorts debuted in Oiselle’s first year and have stayed in the line ever since. They are everything you’d want in a pair of shorts for daily running, with bold colors and prints that make them stand out and a flat waistband, large back zip pocket, and semi-fitted style. The company continues to create pieces of clothing that are as fun to wear as they are functional.
The Flyout Wool Half Zip combines a half-zip front with a super comfortable wool blend that wicks moisture, breathes, resists odor build-up, and stays moderately warm when wet from rain or sweat. iRunFar tester Kristin Zosel says Flyout Wool is the lightest weight wool and polyester combination fabric she’s ever worn.
Location: Powder Mountain, Utah
Popular Models: Sykes PX – 5″ Short, Lynx PD – 3″ Base Liner, Cascade SS T
What We Like: The shorts use a layering system consisting of a boxer brief paired with an over-short, a combination that is one of the most comfortable running setups we’ve ever used. Sold direct-to-consumer only, Path Projects’ retail prices are highly competitive.
What We Don’t: The styling is a bit subdued and understated, so fans of bold and bright prints won’t find the options satisfying. They also only make men’s products.
Path Projects walks the line between trail running functionality and a sophisticated look better than anyone else. They make products designed for durability that still have trendy features like phone pockets. Not quite Lululemon, but similarly high-end in its product development, Path Projects has some of the best-priced running apparel on the market.
The company was founded to be direct-to-consumer, building the brand entirely online. Special collaborations with community leaders like ultrarunner and filmmaker Billy Yang and an interest in the fastest known time scene have shown that Path Projects is committed to the core of the sport.
Location: Osaka, Japan (American headquarters in Boulder, Colorado)
Popular Models: Rain Trekker Jacket, Tachyon Parka, Cool Light T
What We Like: Montbell flies a little under the radar compared to some of the flashier and hyper-marketed brands in this guide, and yet they have consistently produced class-leading running jackets as well as a full assortment of trail running products.
What We Don’t: The common running apparel pieces, like shirts and shorts, are limited to just one or two options.
Montbell is a staple among hikers and ultralight backpackers, and while it doesn’t do a lot to position itself specifically within the trail running category, the apparel offered is some of the best available for our sport. Runners who spend a lot of time tromping around the mountains in difficult weather conditions often turn to Montbell products to keep them comfortable and safe.
Several of Montbell’s jackets are top picks in our recent jacket guides, including the Rain Trekker Jacket in our best running rain jackets guide and the Tachyon Parka in our best running wind jackets guide.
Where to Buy Running Apparel
Unlike running shoes, which commonly line the walls at retail shops, running apparel tends to be easier to come by directly from brands’ websites and other outdoor specialty online retailers, like REI Co-op, Backcountry, and Running Warehouse, rather than in-person. You’ll find the bigger brands like Nike, adidas Terrex, and Brooks commonly on the retail floor, but if you’re looking for some of the smaller players like La Sportiva, you’ll want to visit their website. Other products, like those made by Path Projects, are only sold online.
Other Running Apparel Brands
Our top 10 choices for best running apparel brands barely scratch the surface of the running apparel brands available. Here are some other brands we’ve tested and enjoy using, shared alphabetically.
- Arc’teryx — read our Norvan SL Insulated Hoody review
- Black Diamond — see our apparel review
- District Vision — see our men’s apparel review
- Mountain Hardwear
- Rab — see our trail running apparel review
- Smartwool — read about the Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra in our best sports bras for running guide
- Soar Running — see our men’s apparel review
- Vuori — read our women’s performance apparel review
Call for Comments
- What are your favorite running apparel brands?
- Why do you like the brands you do? Because of the apparel made? Because of the company’s environmental and social practices? Because of your history with them? For some other reason?