The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Running Shirt for Women

By Paige Klugherz ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday June 25, 2020

Once we narrowed down which shirts our review would be focusing on this season, it was time to test! Our goal was to wear the shirts in as many different scenarios as possible — long runs, short runs, desert heat, cool mountain temps, underneath running vests, etc., to make sure our judgments were as well-rounded as possible. We had already determined the qualities that we think are most important in a running tee and kept those in mind with each mile. Most testing was done while running, but we also did some more controlled tests in order to get the most accurate shirt-to-shirt info. Read on as we explain the details of each metric and how we tested for it.

Full-sun runs in the desert around Bishop  CA really put the breathability of these shirts to the test!
Full-sun runs in the desert around Bishop, CA really put the breathability of these shirts to the test!

Comfort


Testing for comfort involved getting really nitpicky about how each fabric felt, the sleeve lengths, hem lengths, seam type and location, range of motion, and overall fit. After each run, we took notes about what we had noticed and also referenced customer reviews for each product to see if other wearers had the same thoughts. We also made sure to wear the shirts with other pieces of running gear, such as windbreakers and hydration vests, to make sure it would work well in your full kit.

Since we were in the midst of shelter-in-place  testing this spring involved lots of miles on the home trails! Here we took the Nike Miler out for a spin up the base of Mt. Tom on a stormy afternoon outside of Bishop.
Since we were in the midst of shelter-in-place, testing this spring involved lots of miles on the home trails! Here we took the Nike Miler out for a spin up the base of Mt. Tom on a stormy afternoon outside of Bishop.

Breathability


Breathability can feel like an abstract metric to accurately pin down. We tried to make sure we ran with each shirt in a similar amount of heat and sun exposure, and this was another case where post-run note-taking was very helpful for compiling our thoughts. If we spent the whole run wishing we were in just a sports bra, the shirt did not score well in this metric!

While not an exact correlation to breathability, we did weigh each shirt and compared our numbers to any weights listed by the manufacturers. Lastly, we looked at the physical characteristics of the fabrics — some use pinprick sized holes in a consistent pattern across the whole shirt, while others have mesh paneling in strategic locations.

Mesh  such as this panel on the lower back of the Nike Miler  is one way a shirt can have increased breathability.
Mesh, such as this panel on the lower back of the Nike Miler, is one way a shirt can have increased breathability.

Drying Speed


To determine the drying speed of the shirts, we soaked each one in a bucket of water until it was fully saturated, hand wrung them dry as much as we could, and then hung them up on a clothesline in partial sun with a timer in hand! The day of this test was 80 degrees and very windy, and we were consistently checking on each shirt. There was a twenty-minute spread between the fastest and the slowest, but a lot of the top performers felt dry within minutes of each other.

All the shirts hanging up as we tested how long it took each one to dry. (Don't worry- even though it looks like some are in the shade here  they were actually all in an equal amount of sun!)
All the shirts hanging up as we tested how long it took each one to dry. (Don't worry- even though it looks like some are in the shade here, they were actually all in an equal amount of sun!)

Features & Versatility


Assessing features meant first checking the manufacturer claims for each product, and then comparing those with our own observations. While we couldn't specifically test a shirt's UPF, we could test how much it weighs, how packable it is, how reflective any decals are, etc.

A high versatility score means that we think a shirt performs well for numerous activities, in many different weather conditions, and in conjunction with other gear. Not every aspect of versatility could be fully tested this season since we were in the midst of shelter-in-place orders, so we based our judgments on both past experiences with specific fabrics and brands along with as much testing as we were able to do.

Part of testing for versatility was making sure that our favorite shirts remained comfortable under different packs and layers.
Part of testing for versatility was making sure that our favorite shirts remained comfortable under different packs and layers.