Brooks is a long-standing favorite in the running shoe world, and as makers of many of our award winners, we were excited to see what their apparel line would include. The Brooks Distance short sleeve shirt is a nice blend of synthetic and cotton, with a tight fit that has decent breathability. With a quick drying time but no standout running-specific features, this shirt fell short of winning an award. Our testers liked this shirt for a variety of activities, but for sweaty runs, we were much more likely to pick a different product from this lineup.
Brooks Distance - Women's Review
Cons: Less breathable, tight fit, no features
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With a decently comfortable design and moderately quick drying time, the Brooks Distance failed to set itself apart despite being fairly well-rounded. We found the cotton blend to be an interesting choice for a running-specific top, and even though it was comfortable, it hindered the product's performance in some realms. If you're in the market for a cute top to sometimes run in, this could be a good choice, though there are other shirts in this review that find that balanced even better.
Running is difficult enough, and our review team knows that nothing can stifle motivation to lace up and get out the door like an uncomfortable wardrobe. Whether you're hitting the track for a few laps or are planning on spending hours upon hours romping through the hills, a comfortable shirt is key to success. For this scoring metric, we looked at many different product characteristics, including seam location, material construction, and fit.
The Distance is one of two shirts in this review constructed of a cotton blend. Made of 85% polyester and 15% cotton, the Distance has a soft feel that is unique to cotton. Similar to the Nike Tailwind, we have our concerns about sweating in cotton, but we can't ignore how soft and comfortable it is. This shirt is a bit heavier than some of the synthetic models we tested, like the Best Buy Award-winning The North Face Reaxion Amp.
The fit of this shirt is among the tightest that we tested, with sleeves and a collar that we wish were a bit looser. While we didn't feel constricted, exactly, we did wish for a bit more airflow (which we'll discuss more below). We found the detail on the sleeves and neckline to add some nice style to our athletic wear, but without much stretch, the Distance left us looking for more.
We also can't get away without critiquing the seams. When seams are located directly on top of the shoulders, they create a potential for sore spots or chafing when wearing a pack or running vest, as opposed to most shirts in this review, like the Reaxion Amp or Patagonia Windchaser, which have the seams further down the sleeve.
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 did a decent job at resisting moisture, but the tight fit and cotton blend weren't exactly ideal. Compared to the other cotton blend we tested, the Tailwind, the tight fit of this shirt seemed to keep us a bit more sweaty. And especially when compared to the looser-fitting, fully synthetic Windchaser, the Distance didn't stand a chance.
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 seven 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
Aside from the characteristics described above, there are a few features that help make a shirt running-specific. We were on a search for the best women's running shirt, after all, not just our favorite base layer. These features include sun protection, odor prevention, reflective markings, and anything else a manufacturer may have decided to include to market specifically to runners.
With the Distance, we, unfortunately, didn't really find any of these. While we didn't notice any odor buildup, there was nothing added for this purpose. Additionally, Brooks included no sun protection, something we really appreciated in two shirts we tested, the Arc'teryx Taema and Marmot All-Around.
Running specificity is important, but we simultaneous appreciate a bit of versatility. It's always nice to be able to use our active apparel for a variety of activities, so we awarded points for versatility as well. The Distance could serve as a decent baselayer, but the sleeves are a bit tight for yoga or climbing, and the cotton blend makes for a riskier backcountry companion.
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 $35, 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.
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