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Over the last 11 years, we've tested almost 50 unique women's running shirts, with the top 16 compiled in this review. This year we tried out new brands, explored different styles, featured a wider range of price points, and really put these shirts through the wringer. From roads and trails to off-trail adventures, spin classes, and workouts, we tested these tees to the max and put them in as many different scenarios as we could manage. When it came time to rate them, we looked at comfort, breathability, drying speed, features, and versatility. Read on as we dive into the specifics and share our recommendations for the best women's running shirt for your needs and budget.
The right running shirt can make or break your run based on comfort and its propensity to chafe or retain moisture. This is especially true if you get out on the trail for long or multi-day adventures in a hydration vest or daypack. Much like finding your perfect pair of running socks, a well-fitting and moisture-wicking shirt can help you stay cool and comfy as the miles add up. We have tested running gear at length, including running jackets and shorts. So grab your GPS watch and get to running!
The Outdoor Research Echo provides everything we want in a running shirt, from comfort to features. Weighing in at only 1.9 ounces for a women's size XS, the Echo is ultra-breathable and thin with one of the fastest drying shirts in our lineup. The underarm gusset adds an extra layer of comfort and reinforcement and the flatlock seams ensure that none of the panels chafe your body as you run. The sleeve length is protective enough to prevent chafing but short enough to offer a flattering aesthetic, and the gentle V-neck further adds to the flattering fit. In addition to providing sun protection, Outdoor Research's ActiveFresh odor control is woven into the perfectly-stretchy fabric, which cuts down on the amount of stink this shirt retains. As an added bonus, the Echo is comprised of 100% recycled polyester, so your eco-friendly conscious can rest assured that purchasing this running shirt is a good decision.
The most notable downside of the OR Echo is that the thin material is more susceptible to snags than tees with slightly more robust fabrics. That said, though we actively tried to snag the breast panel of this shirt, only a few threads emerged. Overall, the Echo is a shirt that can take a beating, though it is mildly more delicate than heartier options. We had to reach to find another downside to this otherwise stellar shirt. The lighter colors provide a UPF of 15, while the darker colors provide a UPF of 20. In no way is a UPF 15 shirt a letdown, but if you are in the market for maximized sun protect and a light color, you'll have to decide which aspect matters to you more. Bottom line, if you are in the market for a versatile, breathable, moisture-wicking, and well-featured running shirt, this one is a great choice.
Throughout testing, we found ourselves gravitating towards one shirt over and over again for our long-distance trail runs. The Salomon XA Tee provides slightly more protection by way of thicker fabric than others, making it great for days on the trail. With a super comfortable and flattering fit, highly breathable fabric, and extreme durability, the XA tee can be a staple for years to come. It is comprised mostly of polyester, but the elastane adds a certain type of loft to the fabric. The construction of this shirt includes Polygiene odor control, which is incredibly useful when you're breaking a sweat day after day.
While some ultralight running tees tend to snag, this one does not. You can feel confident taking it on tight singletrack or even backpacking, climbing, or biking without a worry. However, this toughness comes at the cost of weight, with a women's size S weighing in at 2.86 ounces. To be clear, this is still incredibly lightweight, though some of the competition weighs in significantly lower. We wouldn't mind another reflective decal for a bit more visibility, but thanks to its all-around performance, the XA Tee is still one we'll be recommending to our friends. If you are looking for a versatile, comfortable, and all-around high-performing running shirt, look no further because we are confident you'll love this Salmon tee as much as we do.
When the hottest days of summer descend upon us, there's one shirt we want to be hitting the trails in above all the rest — the Patagonia Capilene Cool. Ultralight, ultra-breathable, and fast-drying, this shirt is built to keep you comfortable in the most extreme temps, all at a very fair price. We love the double-knit polyester that creates impressive stretchiness, and the fit is just right. Aptly named, this shirt definitely prioritizes breathability and will keep you cool above all else. Though many of the shirts we tested boast exceptionally fast drying times, the Capilene Cool was one of the standouts in our drying speed metric. The scoop neck fit also creates a more feminine aesthetic than a standard t-shirt, a small detail we enjoyed.
There are a few drawbacks that come with this fabric, though. The first is that, as with a lot of ultralight gear, it's just not quite as durable. The fabric can snag, and the lighter colors are pretty see-through. Despite its susceptibility to snag, this tee is well-made and will serve you well for years when worn on short and long-distance runs. Although it's comfortable to wear with a running vest or hydration pack while mountain biking, we would be careful wearing the Capilene Cool for sports such as rock climbing since the body of the shirt can be so easily snagged. The drop hem in the back is specifically made to stay in place beneath a harness, though granite might still be a bit too abrasive for this fabric. All in all, this is an amazing piece of running gear, and if you run in serious summer heat, you're sure to love this one.
The Under Armour UA Tech V-Neck is worth mentioning because it offers many of the bells and whistles of a more technical shirt but costs quite a bit less. For an affordable price, you can run in style and comfort with this tee. It offers a roomy fit, and though this shirt is stitched with plain seams, we never had any trouble with them rubbing or chafing while we ran. This shirt is on the heavier side, so if you are looking for a lightweight option, this isn't going to be it. However, we found that the extra toughness of the weave created a more durable shirt overall.
Unsurprisingly, the UA Tech V-neck is less well-featured than its pricier counterparts. Even so, it offers a few reflective areas for visibility. While it is not the fastest drying option out there, it has a pretty speedy drying time compared to a few of the heavier shirts we reviewed. If you are looking for a durable running shirt on a budget, we recommend trying out this V-neck by Under Armour.
If you are planning on getting ultra-sweaty and don't want your shirt to feel drenched as you run, reach for the HOKA Glide running shirt. At times it felt like we weren't wearing anything at all while testing this shirt due to how lightweight and unintrusive it is. This featherweight running tee is incredibly breathable and lends itself well to being worn under a sweat-trapping hydration pack. When it came to our timed drying test, the Glide prevailed as the most moisture-wicking, traditionally-shaped running shirt. The checkerboard-like pattern of the fabric is also naturally antibacterial, which reduces odors that can get trapped within the fibers.
The HOKA Glide lacks the sun protection of many of its competitors, which is unfortunate as it is fairly well-featured otherwise. This shirt is also significantly shorter in length than most of the other running shirts we tested, so it might not comfortably fit all runners' bodies. And, while the Glide is impressively less than 2 ounces (for a women's size XS) the fabric is a bit see-through. This did not deter us from wearing the Glide on steamy runs, though it is something to take note of. Overall, if you are looking for the best of the best when it comes to a lightweight, sweat-wicking running shirt, the Glide might just be your perfect match.
The Oiselle Flyout Short Sleeve is a standout thanks to its universally flattering fit and unique fabric. The cut of the shirt is slightly tailored without being tight or restrictive. It hits at the perfect length, nips in at the right spots, and we felt cute and comfy every time we ran in it. This is definitely the shirt we reach for if we want to look semi-presentable after a run. The HoverFit fabric has lots of stretch and a honeycomb-like pattern that provides ample breathability no matter the weather. This weave almost gives the shirt a mesh-like countenance, though it does so without adding too much stretch. We love that the Flyout has a UPF of 15 and, when looked at in tandem with the flatlock seams, it becomes a great running shirt to wear beneath a pack. Because the fabric is less silky smooth than other shirts, the Flyout is less susceptible to abrasions and ultimately more durable than many other options.
The Oiselle Flyout is above average when it comes to drying speed, and is notable breathable. It gains versatility points in our eyes for its year-round wearability and comfort underneath running vests, insulating layers, and shells. There aren't any reflective decals, but if you spend most of your time running trails while it's light out, this likely isn't a feature that you're too concerned with. The cut beneath the arms is higher than other shirts, though this wasn't something that we found to be bothersome. Our main negative observation is that the textile of the Flyout simply is not as soft to the touch as other shirts. Once we put it on, though, the comfort shines. Ready to move with you on both your easy runs and max effort races, this super cute shirt is definitely one to consider.
If you're looking for a shirt with outstanding versatility, the Smartwool Merino 150 is calling your name. Made from a Merino and nylon blend, you get the natural odor-control and body temperature regulating effects of wool paired with increased durability and comfort. Thanks to the structure of the Merino fibers, you'll stay cool in the heat and warm in the cold, even if you're caught in a rainstorm. This shirt is slim-fitting but not too tight and is comfortable enough that you'll easily find yourself wearing it in your day-to-day life, not just on your daily miles.
While this wouldn't be what we'd wear in super hot weather, it can't be beaten for variable temperatures. It layers well with shells and worked with every vest and pack we tried it with. We also love that it functions well for a lot of different activities, including rock climbing, backpacking, winter sports, and traveling. If we're going to be living out of a backpack for a few weeks, we're without a doubt bringing this shirt along. If you've never experienced the wonders of Merino wool, give this one a try.
Paige Klugherz and Ally Arcuri tackle the testing of women's running shirts season after season. A recent transplant to Salt Lake City from the Eastern Sierra, Paige has been exploring new-to-her trails in the Wasatch and the deserts of Southern Utah. As a trail runner, fast packer, and climber, she puts her gear through the wringer and needs it to withstand backcountry travel.
Ally is a South Lake Tahoe local who splits her time between the mountains and the beaches of Central California. She can often be found chasing sunny days and sunsets by which to enjoy long runs and yoga sessions. Ally is an ultramarathon runner, a spin instructor, personal trainer, and yoga teacher. Because she has been living the mobile life, Ally has been able to test gear in different climates, elevations, and extreme weather patterns while doing her favorite activities. Durability, versatility, and, of course, comfort, are some of Ally and Paige's favorite attributes to analyze when testing gear. With access to diverse weather and environments thanks to the mountains and the high desert, they have definitely learned what to look for when testing outstanding running apparel.
When deciding which shirts to include in this review, we looked at what was most popular across a number of different sources. We set out to dig deep, test product claims for ourselves, and delve into new clothing lines from pillars in the running world community. Our testing took us around Utah on roads, trails, and even a few ridges. We ran through the dense forests of Washington state, through the fog of San Luis Obispo, and under the heat of summer in the Sierra Nevada. Thanks to some impressively diverse summer and fall weather, the shirts in this review got put to the test in the most extreme of ways.
Analysis and Test Results
For our testing metrics, we identified what we believe to be the four most important characteristics of a running shirt: comfort, breathability, drying speed, and features/versatility. We took copious amounts of notes while out in the field, and at the end of our testing period, we awarded each shirt a score of 1-10 in each of the four categories. These scores are relative to the other shirts in the review. Since we did our research ahead of time and picked the best and most popular shirts out there, we had to get nitpicky and really break down the differences. This includes easy-to-bypass details such as seam types and hem lengths. Hopefully, the hours we spent wearing these shirts and the conclusions we drew prove useful to you in your decision-making process. We're confident in our recommendations and excited for you to check out this impressive lineup so that you can find the perfect garment for all of your running needs.
Below, we describe each testing metric in more detail. We gave weighted percentages to our chosen metrics to help us determine each product's final score. Comfort and breathability were each designated 30% of a shirt's final score while drying speed and versatility were each given 20%. If you're in need of a reliable daily running shirt, comfort might be the main metric you want to look at. If you're on the hunt for something a bit more well-rounded or technical, focus on the features and versatility section. If heat is a big issue, pay the closest attention to the breathability ratings as that is going to be a gamechanger for you when your runs heat up. If you're going to be using your shirt in the winter, pay attention to drying speed and weight, as both of those elements are directly tied to winter running comfort.
For such a seemingly simple piece of gear, running shirts can get shockingly pricey, so we made sure that the shirts we tested covered a wide range of price points. When it comes to value, we want to make sure that you're getting your money's worth in terms of quality, durability, and performance. Sometimes we discover that the expensive shirts are absolutely worth their cost if their features fit in with your running conditions and goals, and sometimes we find less expensive options that perform far better than expected. In general, though, we have found that the less expensive options offer less versatility and tend to be less well-featured. While the price of a shirt isn't one of our rating metrics, we do assess their value at the end of every review to help guide you into getting the most bang for your buck.
Value is impacted by many factors, one being the quality of the fabric and construction. A good way to determine this is to look at seams. Low-profile flatlock seams, such as the ones on the Salomon XA Tee and Outdoor Research Echo, are more expensive to produce but are more durable and more comfortable over long miles than the plain seams on many cheaper options. More and more manufacturers are incorporating flatlock seams, which drives the prices of these garments up but rewards you with durability and comfort. We didn't have any issues with chafing while running in the shirts that have plain seams, but as the miles add up, this can become a concern, especially if you are wearing a shirt with plain seams beneath a hydration pack.
The taped seams of the ON Performance-T are top of the line for comfort and come with a high price tag. That said, if you're looking for a perfect race day shirt, even a higher price tag could spell a great value for you. Currently, the Performance-T is the only one that utilizes taped seams and ultimately, they are the gold standard when it comes to non-chafing seams.
Better durability means you won't need to replace your shirt as often, increasing the value. As a general rule, we have found that the silkier a shirt is to the touch, the easier it is to snag. Some of the heavier shirts, such as the Janji Runterra Bio, the Under Armour UA V-neck, and the Vuori Lux Performance Tank are more durable simply because their textiles are a bit thicker.
The value of getting better breathability for a tiny jump up in price, as with the Rabbit EZ Tee, Outdoor Research Echo, HOKA Glide, and Patagonia Capilene Cool, might be worth it to you. We feel the Capilene offers one of the best balances of price and performance, especially if you live in a hot climate. The Echo and the Glide tees are tied with the Capilene in terms of breathability, making each of these shirts a great value for warm weather running.
Finally, if you find yourself running in low-light environments, the value of purchasing a running shirt that has reflectivity might end up keeping you safe. If you run in the early morning or at dusk, we believe it to be very worth shelling out a few more dollars for a shirt with multiple reflective logos or patches.
The most reflective shirt in our lineup this time around is the New Balance Impact Run Tank. Not only does this running tank have reflective logos, but the piping around the edges of the shirt is also reflective. The HOKA Glide, the Salomon XA, and the ON Performance-T all have visible areas of reflectivity as well.
Before all else, comfort is the first thing you should look at when buying a running shirt. Running is a sport of repetitive movement, so when you have fabric and seams rubbing over the same spots on your body thousands of times, you want to be sure that they are as minimally irritating as possible. Lucky for you, we are incredibly particular about how our running gear touches us. This gives us a keen eye for detail when assessing the comfort of each shirt. We notice the way seams rub our skin and have tasked friends and family members with running in the gear and noting their comfort observations. While all of these shirts seemed comfortable enough at first, we started to notice features that we really liked and others that we disliked after hours and miles of moving in them. The shirts that score the highest in this category are the ones we practically forgot we had on by the end of our long runs.
One component of comfort is the fabric itself. Some of the shirts in this review are 100% polyester, others are a polyester blend, and one is a Merino wool blend. They all have very different feels against the skin, with some feeling more like traditional athletic wear such as the HOKA Glide and the Outdoor Research Echoand others being so soft they feel like shirts meant for lounging on the couch, such as the Brooks Distance, the Janji Runterra Bio, and the Vuori Lux Performance Tank. Additionally, the shirts utilize different weave patterns in order to increase breathability, like the gridded polyester knit of the Patagonia Capilene Cool which has a lot of stretch but ends up being pretty see-through.
The Oiselle Flyout has one of the more unique fabric patterns, with its texture looking and feeling more like a honeycomb shape than anything else. Holding the Flyout in your hands might lead you to believe that it won't be as soft on your skin as other options. But every single time we ran in this shirt, we found it to be one of the most comfortable and breathable, mile after mile.
Next, we look at fit and how it relates to our range of motion. While some of this will come down to personal preference and how each shirt fits your specific body, we noted things like stretchiness, gussets around the sleeves, and the length of the sleeves and body. We have found that we feel the most comfortable in shirts that skim our hips, without providing too much extra fabric.
Since all bodies are different, it is important to ask yourself what qualities you look for when assessing the comfort of your gear. While all of our testers and friends unanimously agreed that the Smartwool Merino 150 is an outstanding layer and running shirt, it fit each body type completely differently.
The Under Armour UA Tech V-Neck has the longest overall body with a relaxed fit, whereas the HOKA Glide is notably shorter. The Vuori and New Balance tanks both offer longer, more relaxed fits, which will serve runners with longer torsos.
The Nike Pro Dri-FIT Cropped Tank offers a totally different profile than the other shirts in our lineup. This crop top rides close to your skin with a high neckline for added coverage. We felt fast and free in this crop since we didn't have to worry about readjusting as we upped our paces.
Our favorite fit is the not too tight, not too loose silhouette of the Salomon XA Tee, with its slight scoop neck and sleeves that hit at just the right length and lay flat against the arm. While the Outdoor Research Echo is slightly shorter, the body of this shirt combined with the cool, soft touch of the fabric allows it to stand leagues above most of our other shirts in the comfort department. The flatlock seams are smooth and the gentle V-neck provides great coverage, a flattering fit, and an athletic range of motion.
Not only did we evaluate the seams used, but we also look at how many seams each shirt had and where they were located. Our lineup of shirts features flatlock, taped, and plain seams, with flatlock and taped being both the most expensive to produce and the most preferable to wear. Found on numerous shirts, including the Patagonia Capilene Cool and the Oiselle Flyout, the low profile of flatlock seams is comfortable and the least likely to cause any chafing. We were sure to evaluate this independently, but also beneath lightweight running jackets and hydration vests.
In this roundup of running shirts, the only one with taped seams is the ON Performance-T, and the indistinguishable seams make these the pinnacle of comfort. Though we deducted a few comfort points from the ON tee because we found the scoop neck to be a bit too large, the taped seams are undetectable. More points were awarded to shirts whose seaming avoided the tops of the shoulders since that is a prime location for potential rubbing underneath running vests or packs. Tops that include gussets underneath the arms, such as the Outdoor Research Echo, also gain additional points here for increased range of motion.
Style is the last component of this metric. Although it's obviously not as important as how a shirt feels after twenty miles, it's still nice to like how you look when sweaty and breathing hard. The Oiselle Flyout has our favorite, slightly tailored fit. The ON Performance-T is also nicely styled with a breezy back panel, though the overall frame is a bit boxier. The more slender profile of the Rabbit Bunny Hop Tank is extremely comfortable and well-fitted, though the slimmer shape might not suit all runners' bodies. The Capeliene Cool felt virtually weightless and made us feel like we looked like really fast runners, and that has to count for something.
Finally, the Janji Runterra Bio fits like the tee you reach for day in and day out. We loved pairing this shirt with our favorite running shorts and pants, but also found that it lends itself well to looking unlike a running shirt when paired with jeans. The sleeves are dainty enough to make the Runterra look feminine and stylish, but the overall cut is comfortable, functional, and flattering.
Whether it's hot or cold outside, running is pretty much synonymous with sweating, and how breathable your clothing is will play a huge role in how comfortable you will be throughout your miles. Breathability describes how well a shirt allows air to pass through it, and while we don't have as controlled of a test for breathability as we do for drying speed, we tested this metric by running in as many different weather conditions as we could and taking notes on how we felt each time. If we got through a hot, full-sun run in the desert without wanting to strip down to just a sports bra, that was a win. We awarded bonus points to shirts that performed well beneath some of our favorite hydration vests, as well. If you run with a pack then you likely know how uncomfortable the sensation of removing your pack to reveal a saturated shirt is. The shirts that allowed our backs to breathe beneath a pack became our superstars in this metric.
One of the first things we did was weigh each shirt. This doesn't perfectly correlate to how breathable a shirt is, but it does give a good starting point. It also gave us a bit of insight as to each shirt's potential drying speed, though this is a metric that we systematically tested later. We also looked at any features incorporated into the fabric, such as the pinprick-sized holes in the Salomon XA Tee that let air move through more efficiently. Some shirts rely on an overall looser fit to create breathability, like the ON Performance-T with its flowy back panel.
One of the most breathable shirts is the Patagonia Capilene Cool, which utilizes an all-over gridded pattern in double knit polyester, allowing air to flow through the thinner fabric of the grid lines. The Glide and Echo also have fabric with minuscule holes that help them to breathe easily and readily. The Oiselle Flyout impressed us by utilizing a durable mesh-like textile throughout the entire body, much like the Rabbit Bunny Hop Tank. In addition to the Bunny Hop being a stylish tank top, the rabbit-shaped mesh spanning this shirt makes it an exceptionally cool choice. We also found that the Impact Run Tank by New Balance married breathable poly knit mesh with polyester and a loose fit for prime breathability.
The Smartwool Merino 150 relies on the nature of the wool fibers themselves to achieve this quality. Even though the shirt is slightly heavier than others, it effectively wicks sweat away from the body and keeps you comfortable in a variety of different temperatures. We found ourselves reaching for this layer on sweltering days, cool windy days, and even on ones where we expected to encounter a bit of drizzle. This is one of our favorites to wear as a base on cooler runs, making it the most versatile running shirt we tested.
Drying speed is another important factor in your overall comfort while running. In hotter weather, quicker drying times mean more efficient and effective evaporative cooling effects, and in cooler weather, a faster drying time can be a safety component, making sure you don't get too chilled. This is another metric where you can look at the weight of the shirt to get a general sense of how fast a shirt will dry, even though it's not an exact parallel.
To test this metric, we started by washing all of the running shirts in our washing machine. We put them through a standard wash-and-spin cycle and removed them immediately following the spin cycle. We then assessed each shirt's moisture content before tossing them into the dryer. Even before putting the shirts in the dryer, the HOKA Glide and Nike Pro Dri-FIT felt only mildly damp to the touch. Even still, we put all of the shirts into the dryer and set a timer for 5 minutes. We removed the shirts and again assessed the dampness of each garment. In addition to the Glide and Dri-FIT, the Echo and the Impact Run Tank were all completely dry.
We repeated a 5-minute dry cycle and were pleased to discover that the Capilene, XA, Lux Performance, and ON tee were all dry. We continued this process until all of the shirts were completely dry, a process that maxed out at a mere 25 minutes.
Then we ran all of the shirts through a wash-and-spin cycle again before hanging them to dry. We checked in every 5-minutes and were delighted when this test yielded the same results.
We also paid attention to drying speed during our real-world testing, especially noting how shirts saturated with sweat felt underneath a running vest, since wet conditions are more likely to cause chafing. We were pleased to see that the results here correlated with our less-precise testing, and we assigned ratings accordingly.
Features and Versatility
Like you, we often use our running shirts for a lot more than just running. We love multi-sport days and changing up our activities according to the seasons, and we often find ourselves traveling while living out of just a backpack. This is where versatility comes into play, and if we found that a shirt was usable all year long for a variety of purposes, it scored higher in this metric.
The Merino 150 does really well in this category because of the natural odor-fighting properties of the fabric and how well it performs across changing temperatures, making it a great travel shirt. The XA Tee is another standout because it works well for so many sports, fights odors, and is more durable than some other lightweight tees. Superb packability, like you get with Performance-T, and durability also factor into how likely we are to stuff a shirt into the crevices of our packs repeatedly. After running so hard over so many miles, often without deodorant for our testing, we would hesitate to buy a running tee that does not have odor-resistant properties in the future. Of course, this addition can cause the price to creep up and that might not work for you. But for us, odor-blocking has started to feel more like a necessity than a fancy add-on. To be clear, we do usually wear deodorant when we run. We ditched it throughout our testing to give each shirt a fair shake.
Running shirts are pretty straightforward, so the features we look for are small but can be very valuable depending on the conditions you run in. These include the level of sun protection, reflective elements, and odor-fighting properties in the fabric. An additional feature that we saw on some of the new shirts this year was an integrated hanging tab, which can be handy in locker rooms and while traveling.
If you frequently run at night in an urban environment, you will appreciate the reflective logos found on many of the shirts we tested. We have alsonbecome increasingly concerned about sun protection as we have gotten older, so this feature is starting to feel like more of an essential than an add-on as well. The Merino 150 has an impressive UPF 20 rating, while the Echo has a UPF of 15 or 20, depending on the color.
Odor control can be achieved in a few ways, with one being the use of natural fibers like merino wool and another being specific treatments on polyester fabrics such as Polygiene. Both fight the growth of bacteria that cause lasting smells, so if you're going to be in scenarios where opportunities to wash are limited, such as backpacking, this feature will be very appreciated both by you and the people around you!
Picking out your next running shirt may not be as complicated as finding your next pair of skis, but there is still a surprising amount to consider before investing, especially when you are considering pricier options. The shirts we chose this season were some of the best-reviewed and most popular according to a number of different sources, so each one is already a step above many others, even if it scored lower in our review. We hope our thorough testing and explanations help you narrow down your decision. Remember that the best running shirt for you is the one that fits your specific running needs, be it long miles or short, heat or cold, or something that works for everything. Identify what really matters to you and let our ratings serve as a guide. We'll see you out there — happy trails!
After researching over 20 pairs of women's running shorts...
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