The Distance short-sleeve tee from Brooks got a total revamp this season, and we're happy to bring you a fresh new review of a very popular garment. Unfortunately, we have a few harsh words for the designers of this shirt. But first, the good news: the Distance is undeniably comfortable. The cotton-like blend is super-soft and cozy, and we found ourselves wanting to do everything from race around the track to lounge around the house in this top. The fit was cute but, ultimately, not designed for top-notch performance. With no ventilation and thicker material, the breathability was average, and we might not recommend this shirt for serious runners who need a garment that can keep up with their output.
Brooks Distance - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Soft, quick to dry, inexpensive
Cons: Less breathable, no features
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Brooks Distance is a comfy shirt that is more at home on the couch than on the racecourse. We'd happily wear it to the gym or for short runs, but for serious missions where breathability and drying time are key, this wouldn't be our first choice.
Judging by the Distance's (shown in blue below) average overall score, it's not totally surprising that this top didn't win an award.
We here at OutdoorGearLab are all in for comfort, but when it comes to running, we've got an extra reason to believe in the importance of this metric. On long runs, a shirt that is a bit uncomfortable can cause chafing and rashes hours in. These seemingly small traits can take a toll on our overall performance, especially on race days.
The Distance is a very comfortable shirt for a wide variety of reasons. First, we love the fabric. Brooks' signature "DriLayer" coupled with polyester and lyocell (rayon) make for an incredibly soft, silky feel that we never wanted to take off. It has a very different feel than the Patagonia Airchaser, but both are top scorers in this category.
On the other hand, this shirt does have a few qualities that we aren't quite in love with. For one, the overlock seams on top of the shoulder make us worry about the potential for chafing while wearing a running vest or hydration pack. We also found the cut to be a confusing choice for running. While comfortable for everyday wear, the higher neckline and open back wasn't our favorite cut for athletic wear. That being said, this shirt's sizing is spot-on, which is a major improvement over the previous iteration of this shirt.
The other major component of long-term comfort when running is staying dry and fresh. There are two product qualities that work together to ensure this: breathability and drying time. For the former, our review team looks at how well a shirt prevents moisture and sweat buildup.
The Distance has a similar feel to the fabric of the Nike Tailwind, but we found the Tailwind to be a bit more breathable. With a perforated back panel, the Tailwind let air flow a bit more easily, despite the Distance's low back. Both have looser fits that promote good circulation, though neither compares to the exceptional breathability of the Airchaser.
As we mentioned above, there are two factors that work together to keep us dry when we're working up a sweat. Breathability, on one hand, measures how a shirt resists moisture buildup while drying time, on the other, describes how quickly a shirt dries out once that moisture is there. Synthetic materials are known for faster drying times, but our testing team found that weight was the most closely correlated statistic to drying time.
To test for this metric, we did a controlled experiment. Our reviewers dunked all nine shirts in a bucket of water, wrung them out by hand, and then hung them up to dry side-by-side. On a warm spring day in Yosemite, with a light breeze and partial sun, we waited for the results. We were surprised to find that the Distance was one of the quickest to dry, most likely because of the low weight.
Features & Versatility
In order to set these shirts away from other base layers, our testing team wanted to know what special features each product included that are designed specifically for the runner. At the same time, we realize that versatility is important to our readers.
While comfortable and quick to dry, the Distance does not have many bells and whistles. With just one small reflective logo on the sleeve, we would have liked to see more visibility on the back of the shirt for running at night. We loved the sun protection of the Arc'teryx Motus, as no such thing was found in the Distance.
However, the loose-fitting cut and soft material of this shirt make it a decent choice for a wide variety of occasions, from the gym to the trails to the grocery store. The material has a little stretch, but its loose fit makes it a solid option for activities like yoga and rock climbing.
With a quick drying time and decent breathability and comfort, the Distance was close to being in the running for one of our favorites. After months of testing, however, we just weren't in love with the fit for running, though we really did find it flattering as a casualwear piece. This shirt would make a decent purchase if you often run in mild climates and want something suitable for more low-commitment missions.
The Distance has a retail price of $34, putting it on the lower end of this review's spectrum. Unfortunately, we found much more value in the Reaxion Amp for an even less expensive cost. If soft material is paramount for you, however, the Distance is much less expensive than the top-scoring Airchaser.
As we found a few times in this review, we did like this shirt, but we just didn't like it for running. The material was comfortable but lacking in the stretch we desired. It was moderately breathable with a fast drying time, but it didn't perform nearly as well as some of our award winners. At the end of the day, the Brooks Distance is a cute shirt with some decent performance qualities that is better suited to the cafe than the track.
— Lauren DeLaunay