The best breathable, sun-protective women's running gear for summer

  • Quality, sweat-wicking gear is crucial for keeping you dry, comfortable, and safe on summer runs.
  • Here are our favorite running shirts, shorts, socks, hydration belts, running sunglasses, and more.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Running is one of the cheapest, most accessible ways to boost your cardio fitness, improve your overall health, and enjoy the mental benefits of exercise. And while all you truly need is a quality pair of running shoes, having comfortable, functional gear can make running a lot more enjoyable, especially as you start to get out more regularly or for longer distances.

As a runner living in the Northeastern United States, I can attest to the importance of having the right type of gear, particularly to match the season. Staying cool during your summer runs is just as important as staying warm during those chilly winter outings. I've also found certain accessories like a hydration belt and sweat-wicking hats to be invaluable in staying comfortable in the summer.

Read more: Merino wool is a great temperature-control fabric for runners, no matter the season

At the end of this guide, I go into more detail on what to look for in warm-weather running gear. Between tons of research, favorites from the running community, and my own experience in the last decade as a runner, I've narrowed down the best pieces of running gear for women.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky Here are our top picks for the best running gear to keep you cool:

Updated on 5/3/2021 by Rachael Schultz: We're currently testing new picks for every category for the best running gear of summer 2021. Check back by the end of May for updates.

The best running top brooks running top


The super lightweight fabric of the Brooks Distance Top allows for breathability and a barely-there feel that makes it ideal for hot and humid days. 

Pros: Ultra-lightweight fabric, breathable, non-chafing, fast-drying, washes well

Cons: No UPF protection

Made from mostly recycled polyester and with proprietary DriLayer fabric, Brooks Distance Top top wicks sweat away and dries quickly, keeping you cool and dry as you run. It comes in a handful of colors and sizes range from XS to XXL.

This is my go-to running top on those hot summer days and I want some coverage from the sun, while still having a barely-there feel thanks to the lightweight fabric. On every run, it remained comfortable. There was no riding up, and no adjustments were needed. I experienced zero chafing, even after completing some very sweaty runs.

It fits close to body without being tight and I found it fits true-to-size. The only downside is it doesn't offer UPF protection.

The best running shorts under armour running short

Under Armour

The Under Armour Women's Fly-By shorts will keep you cool in hot weather thanks to the lightweight material and mesh side panels that enhance breathability.

Pros: Comfortable, flattering fit, light-weight material with mesh side panels, front pockets for extra storage, reflective details for more visibility, multiple colors to choose from

Cons: Don't offer UPF protection

The Under Armour Fly-By shorts are a favorite among runners because they check all the necessary boxes: They're comfortable, breathable, flattering, and provide extra features not found in all running shorts.

Available in sizes ranging from XS to XXL, these shorts have reflective details to keep you visible in low light and provide ample storage solutions with front hand pockets and a hidden back storage pocket in the waistband.

The wide elastic waistband doesn't dig into your skin, and its flat design will look flattering underneath your running tops. They have built-in briefs and a shaped hem also allows these shorts to have a loose and comfortable fit without looking bulky.

The best running socks rockay running socks


The Rockay Accelerate running socks are thin but durable, moisture-wicking, and keep your feet dry and blister-free on runs.

Pros: Comfortable, durable, moisture-wicking, supportive

Cons: Expensive

Danish running company Rockay makes super comfortable, high-quality running socks focused on sustainable materials. The Accelerate are made from regenerated nylon yarn that's soft on your skin and breathable in your shoe.

If you prefer cushion-ey socks, this minimal design isn't for you — but the Accelerate are thin enough to not add much bulk in your shoe, yet they're durable and will stand up to countless runs and washes. They have just the right amount of compression in the arch of the foot, delivering a snug fit without being too tight. And their moisture-wicking capabilities are great for preventing blisters.

Read more: The best running socks for marathon training, blister prevention, and cold-weather runs

The best running hydration belt Fitletic Hydra 12 V1 Hydration Belt


The Fitletic Hydration belt will keep you hydrated with easy-to-grab bottles and technology to prevent the belt from riding up or bouncing. 

Pros: Comfortable fit, doesn't bounce, bottles are easy to get in and out of holsters, zippered pocket is water-resistant, designated places for energy gels, toggles for easy race bib attachment

Cons: Bottles can leak when completely full, small range of sizes, expensive

I run with the 12 oz. Fitletic Hydration belt all summer and can attest to its comfort, durability, and ease of use. I love that it has one bottle on each side for a balanced feel and that they're easy to pull out of the holsters. 

This is also a great race day belt, thanks to the exterior energy gel loops and the integrated toggles to keep your bib number in place. The neoprene pocket is both water- and sweat-resistant. The zippered pouch is large enough to hold most smartphones, and has an interior pocket to keep other items like an ID or cash secure.

This belt has reflective details for added safety, comes in many colors, and stays securely in place while running (no bouncing).

I did notice on a few runs that if I filled the bottles to the top there was some leakage, but this was remedied by leaving a little bit of space at the top of each bottle.

The best running sunglasses smith lowdown slim 2


The Smith Lowdown Slim 2 rock a classic style with nose bridge grips for no slippage and proprietary polarized lenses that protect your eyes.

Pros: 100% UV protection, polarized lenses to reflect glare, lightweight and durable frame, comfortable fit, tons of color combo options

Cons: Expensive

It's important to pick sunglasses that will not only keep you comfortable on a run, but also protect your eyesight. The Smith Lowdown Slim 2 offer 100% UV protection and ChromaPop technology, which filters color wavelengths so you can better see the terrain you're running on.

The bio-based frames are lightweight and durable. Like all Smith active sunnies, these also have no-slip grip pads on the nose so they won't ride down as sweat runs down your face. The frames come in 10 colors and the lenses in 14, so there's a look for everyone.

While Smith offers a great array of performance glasses, we love that the classic frame of the Lowdowns makes them more versatile, looking just as good on a run as grabbing a beer with friends. This versatility also helps justify that higher price point, which derives from the superior lens technology and frame construction. The Lowdown Slim 2 in particular are a smaller frame, better for female faces.

Read our guide to the best polarized sunglasses. The best running hat running cap


The Adidas Women's Adizero II running cap will help keep your hair out of your face, provide additional protection from the sun, and help you stay cool on even the hottest days.

Pros: Comfortable and adjustable fit, sweat-wicking material with mesh paneling for breathability, UPF 50 protection, non-glare under-visor, comes in multiple colors, affordable

Cons: Ran small for some reviewers

A running hat serves a lot of purposes — holding flyaway hair strands back; shading your face and eyes from the sun, UV rays, and rain; and helping absorb sweat to keep it out of your eyes.

The Adidas Women's Adizero II, in particular, does all of these things well with UPF 50 and sweat-wicking, quick-dry material. It also features mesh paneling on both sides to maximize airflow to your hot head. 

The hook and loop closure allows you to adjust the cap so you can find your perfect fit, and the gap in the back is perfect to stick your ponytail through to help keep your hair out of your face as you run.

The Adizero II comes in a ton of fun color schemes and patterns, and the sporty design won't look bulky.

What to look for in running gear

There are a few important things to consider when seeking out the right gear to help you stay cool, comfortable, and protected. When it comes to clothing, light colors are best and breathable, synthetic fabrics or merino wool are a must. They'll help you stay cool while wicking sweat away and promoting airflow around your body.

Look for sun protection when you can. UPF protective clothing and accessories like a running cap can help prevent sunburn. The higher the UPF rating, the better the sun protection. Ideally, you'll want to look for clothing rated at 25 or above. For the best sun protection, don't forget to apply sunscreen!

Running sunglasses are also a smart purchase to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, and can make your run more comfortable. It's no fun squinting during your entire run only to end up with a headache to ruin the euphoria from those post-run endorphins.

Check out our other running gear guides epic react flyknit womens running shoe KRdA3R (6)


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[Author: [email protected] (Kylie Joyner)]

Tags: Reviews, Outdoors, Fitness, Women, Summer, Trends, Nike, Features, Running, Smith, Don, Brooks, Northeastern United States, Sun Protection, Rockay, Kylie Joyner, Insider Picks Guides, Outdoors (Reviews, Fitness (Reviews, Rachael Schultz, Insider Reviews 2021, Brooks Distance TopBest, Brooks Distance Top, Smith Lowdown Slim


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