The running apparel industry has changed a lot in the last decade. 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 10 trail running apparel brands we use regularly from various price points and different positions in the market. In this group, you’ll find the heavy-hitter brands as well as smaller ones packing their own unique punch.
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 extremely 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 perfectly threads the needle between core trail running sensibilities and a more grown-up look. They make products designed for durability that still have trendy features like phone pockets. Not quite Lululemon, but similarly high-end and sophisticated in its product development, Path Projects manages to have 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: 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 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 environmental advocacy makes supporting the brand a no-brainer for trail runners.
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 a huge variety of colorful pieces for both men and women, and purists will love the short inseam options.
What We Don’t: Some women would prefer longer shorts options than what 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 pushing 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. The brand gained early traction with trail runners but also has a distinct presence in track and field and road marathons.
RabbitRELAX fabric is a standout material, earning rave reviews by all who slip into pieces made with this buttery soft material. New collections emerge every season, but some of the 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 own apparel lines, rabbit was the manufacturer for the Hoka kit used by the shoe brand’s professionals.
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 and 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. A commitment to clean water is at the core of the promise, and 2% of proceeds from every Janji purchase go to clean water projects in the countries that inspire their seasonal collections.
Janji’s seasonal collections are created by local artists, 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 and 7” Pace Short as well as 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.
You can find out more about various pieces from this brand in our women’s apparel review.
Location: Denver, Colorado
Popular Models: Flight Lightriser FUTURELIGHT Jacket, Flight Stridelight Shorts, Flight Weightless Short-Sleeve Shirt
What We Like: The brand offers highly technical and very comfortable running apparel in line with the needs of other outdoor sports like rock climbing and alpinism.
What We Don’t: The pieces are refreshed so often that there is a bit of disconnect with sustainability.
The North Face was one of the earlier modern outdoor brands to embrace the trail running category. In the late 1990s, industry stalwart Topher Donahue came over to lead the brand and brought along Dean Karnazes, the “ultramarathon man” whose exceptional storytelling and mythology planted the ultra seed with many to-be trail runners.
From a collection standpoint, the hugely popular Flight Series is the basis for all The North Face running apparel. Using moisture-wicking FlashDry fabric technology, these pieces help keep an athlete dry and cool. We love the combination of the Flight Stridelight Shorts and Flight Weightless Short-Sleeve Shirt for a very light and streamlined top and bottom combination.
The most technical piece, and a real classic among mountain runners, is the Flight Lightriser FUTURELIGHT Jacket. This lightweight jacket has a full-length zipper and a durable water repellent (DWR) finish to protect against wind and rain. The jacket packs into its own pocket for a small storage footprint, but when the elements get nasty, it protects with the holy grail combination of waterproofness and breathability.
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. Complementing their deep shoe collection, for both road and trail, is an equally impressive apparel collection, though it’s not necessarily trail-specific.
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 some 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 that currently has 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 that which is created by this brand. 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 products for rock climbing, hiking, and skiing, to offer a collection of mountain running apparel that can cross over into any one, or sometimes all, of those other sports. And fortunately, apparel for all the 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 and silhouettes and colors that are bright and bold. 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 out on a run.
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 biggest apparel assortments in this guide with many, 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 personal favorite from that same 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.
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 we find the sizing 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, but 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 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: 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. This is particularly true if your interpretation of trail running includes lots of time in the mountains, in poor conditions, in all seasons.
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 a bit 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 brands in this guide barely scratch the surface of the running apparel brands available. Here are some other brands we’ve tested and enjoy using, shared in alphabetical order.
- 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?