Reviews You Can Rely On

Brooks Distance Review

A great running shirt that is as soft as silk but far more affordable
Brooks Distance
Photo: REI Co-op
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Price:  $34 List | $23.73 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Extremely comfortable, versatile, affordable, soft material, odor resistant
Cons:  Heavy when wet
Manufacturer:   Brooks
By Jeff Colt ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 28, 2021
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 10
  • Comfort - 30% 9
  • Breathability - 30% 5
  • Drying Speed - 20% 4
  • Features & Versatility - 20% 7

Our Verdict

Brooks took a long hard look at the criticisms of reviewers and put them to good use in the most recent update of the Distance running shirt. The previously abrasive seams were smoothed out, and the fit relaxed a bit. The polyester blend fabric is exceptionally soft and had us double-checking the tag to see if there was Egyptian cotton mixed in. This super-soft shirt has large underarm gussets and shoulder panels, and smooth flatlock seams. It doesn't perform in mid-summer heat as it is heavier, less breathable, and slower to dry than some. But for shoulder season-long runs, summer hikes, and bike commuting, this shirt is sure to be a great option.

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Brooks Distance
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Price $23.73 at REI
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$30.83 at Amazon$44 List
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$16.99 at Amazon
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Pros Extremely comfortable, versatile, affordable, soft material, odor resistantComfortable, fast-drying, breathableIncredibly soft, great fit, very comfortable, UPF ratingHighly breathable, good fitInexpensive, comfortable stretch, durable, 360ยบ reflective banding
Cons Heavy when wetUnnecessary flap of fabric across the backSlow drying speed, no reflective accentsPlastic feel against the skin, perforated and seethroughHeavy, not very breathable
Bottom Line A great running shirt that is as soft as silk but far more affordableThis shirt outperforms many of the best in terms of comfort and breathability without being cost-prohibitiveThe most comfortable shirt we've worn and it has specific features for runningHighly effective for intense physical activity but see-through and lacking some quality featuresA comfortable running shirt with a full feature set for a fraction of the price
Rating Categories Brooks Distance Under Armour UA Str... Vuori Strato Tech Q Speed Fuel Jacquard Baleaf Quick Dry
Comfort (30%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
6.0
6.0
Breathability (30%)
5.0
9.0
6.0
9.0
5.0
Drying Speed (20%)
4.0
8.0
4.0
7.0
6.0
Features & Versatility (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
Specs Brooks Distance Under Armour UA Str... Vuori Strato Tech Q Speed Fuel Jacquard Baleaf Quick Dry
Weight (size Medium) 5.2 oz 4.4 oz 4.3 oz 4.5 oz 4.8 oz
Material 88% polyester, 12% lyocell 93% polyester, 7% elastarell 96% polyester, 4% elastane 73% polyester, 27% spandex 90% polyester, 10% spandex
Reflective Areas? Yes - 2 Yes - 3 No Yes - 2 Yes - 4
Seam Type Flatlock Flatlock Flatlock and Overlock Overlock Flatlock and Overlock
UPF? Not Stated Not Stated 30+ Not Stated Not Stated
Odor Control? Yes - DriLayer Burst fabric Yes - Active biocide zinc microbes Yes - undeclared No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Brooks Distance has proven itself to be as comfortable as it is affordable. Our favorite attribute, the soft cotton-esque feeling fabric, remains from the last version and rounds out the high level of comfort. While it doesn't breathe quite as well as some of the other airy shirts we tested, it does have its place when a touch of extra warmth is wanted during shoulder seasons.

Performance Comparison


Comfortable enough for a long drive, warm and soft for a chillier...
Comfortable enough for a long drive, warm and soft for a chillier morning run, and casually stylish for going out to lunch. We could live in this shirt, not just run in it.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Comfort


Comfort can be subjective and a bit elusive to rate, but some attributes are universal. We analyze fit relative to other shirts, fabric feel, how the seams are sewn, and where they are located to make our judgment. A size medium Distance fit our 5'10" 155-pound main gear tester quite well, erring on the side of being a little slender, which is better than having too much fabric and flapping like a sail.

A slender fit through the torso is balanced by gussets under the...
A slender fit through the torso is balanced by gussets under the arms, providing good mobility.
Photo: Jeff Colt

What sets the Distance apart from the rest of the field is the cotton-y feel of the fabric. The material weave is significantly tighter and less breathable but offers a bit more warmth as a trade-off. When we first put this shirt on, we would have sworn there was at least some cotton in the blend due to how soft it feels. The fabric is an awesome blend of 88% polyester and 12% lyocell, a common substitute for cotton and silk that is sourced from wood cellulose.

Long runs, farmers markets, and lounging, the comfort and casual...
Long runs, farmers markets, and lounging, the comfort and casual appearance of the Brooks Distance adds a different element of versatility - you don't look as much like a running nerd, but good luck hiding the short shorts.
Photo: Jeff Colt

This shirt is so soft that we found ourselves wearing it around the house just because it offers a sensation of coziness. The gusseted shoulder panels offset the seams, so they aren't sitting right across the shoulder bones. This aids in comfort as well, especially when wearing a running pack or backpack. We also found it increased mobility, excellent for scrambling and rock climbing. However, the heavier fabric got heavy and sweaty in conjunction with a pack, thus, it was not gifted the absolute highest score for comfort. While there are some drawbacks to this ultra-soft material, such as water retention and a slower drying speed, it is great for casual runs.

Breathability


Most of the shirts we tested had visible perforations in the fabric or at least some mesh panels in key spots to allow for greater breathability and venting. The Distance, however, forewent mesh panels and opted for a tightly woven polyester-spandex fabric blend with some mixed results. This fabric is moderately breathable but nowhere close to shirts that prioritize ventilation. But, while the Distance isn't the most breathable in the bunch, the decrease in breathability is a trade-off for a slight boost in warmth, especially for uses other than running. Ultimately, the lack of airflow ties back to comfort during higher output activities; it can't compete. All of this aside, the fabric is excellent for hiking and climbing and made for enjoyable spring bike commutes.

The tightly woven polyester was one of the heavier fabrics we...
The tightly woven polyester was one of the heavier fabrics we tested. This made it less breathable than most but significantly more comfortable than many mesh shirts.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Drying Speed


Weighing in at 5.2 ounces, this shirt is at the heavier end of the spectrum. For shirts with uniform fabric and no incorporated mesh panels, we look for effective wicking capabilities. During our standardized drying test, (washing the shirts, and then weighing them prior to an initial spin cycle and subsequent five-minute drying cycle), the Distance landed right in the middle of the group. With more fabric, it should have been capable of holding more water trapped between its fibers, thereby slowing down the drying speed, but this proved not to be the case. When wet, the Distance held 40% of its dry weight in water. After 20 minutes, the shirt was effectively dry, placing it not as the fastest drying shirt, nor the slowest. Out on the trails, we found that the shirt was less effective at drying, as a direct result of its poor breathability.

On hotter days, a lack of breathability caused sweat build up and...
On hotter days, a lack of breathability caused sweat build up and the denser fabric stored this moisture instead of wicking it.
Photo: Jeff Colt

Features & Versatility


The comfort, slightly more relaxed fit, and soft fabric make the Distance an excellent choice for a number of activities. What stood out to us in our testing was the versatility that the look and comfort introduced. After a morning run, the Distance still looked and smelled fresh enough to continue wearing. Unlike more technically fitting shirts, the casual fit and appearance had us wearing it for the rest of the day running errands around town.

Updated reflective banding on the Brooks Distance make it stand out...
Updated reflective banding on the Brooks Distance make it stand out at dusk and dawn.
Photo: Jeff Colt

The omission of vulnerable mesh fabrics adds a level of durability that we didn't expect. In this regard, the weight of the shirt actually lent to its overall versatility. The casual design and soft fabric make picnics and biking to the shops fun as you won't look too sporty. Many of the shirts tested didn't make for good casual wear as they have an obvious activewear look. Additionally, the implemented odor-control agent seems to work effectively as we got far fewer stinky looks while wearing this shirt than others in our lineup. Both shoulders feature reflective markings, which we love for cycling.

Brooks incorporates reflective banding into the sleeves in a 80's...
Brooks incorporates reflective banding into the sleeves in a 80's tracksuit stylish kind of way.
Photo: Jeff Colt

By eliminating the tag on the neck and the care-instructions tag on the interior seam, comfort really is a priority for this soft shirt. When it arrived, it was also one of two shirts that wasn't wrapped in plastic. Brooks has taken other steps with this shirt to ensure that it has less of an environmental impact, even going as far as attaining a Bluesign certification. Well done, Brooks.

Value


Unmatched comfort, reflective banding updates, and an affordable price make the Distance an excellent value. The bottom line is that we would have no hesitation in recommending this shirt to a friend at the retail price. If you're looking for a comfortable running layer that can be used for many outdoor pursuits, give this shirt a long hard look.

Conclusion


The Brooks Distance is an affordable and fairly versatile running shirt. The boost in comfort has helped it become one of our tester's personal favorites for running and climbing. The soft stitching combined with the ultra-comfortable fabric makes this a great shirt by any standards. It is a fantastic addition to your running wardrobe arsenal and we found ourselves wearing it for all types of occasions.

Jeff Colt