Over the past year, I’ve run more than 3,000 miles while testing more than 300 pieces of apparel from more than 50 brands. Temperatures during this testing have ranged from negative-15 to the low 90s with high humidity. I also ran regularly in rain, snow, and sleet of varying intensity. It’s fair to say that few people have recently done more widespread run-apparel testing.
One of my main focuses while testing has been value. By “value” I don’t mean “as inexpensive as possible.” Runners who skimp on apparel often pay the price in terms of unnecessary discomfort and having to frequently replace cheaply made items. I think of value as a subjective assessment of performance, quality of construction, durability, versatility, and looks in relation to price. It’s with that standard in mind that I’ve pulled together this list of some of the best current values in running apparel, from head to toe. Because my testing has mostly been for men’s apparel reviews, apologies in advance for the two items below that aren’t offered in a women’s version.
Tracksmith Prospect Beanie ($42)
I’ve gifted this hat to a few friends, all of whom have said some version of, “It’s too nice to wear running.” The thing is, you don’t have to choose. The ribbed, two-ply design feels and looks great in daily life whenever a hat is warranted. But it’s also my top headwear pick for runs in temperatures in the 30s and below. The fit is snug and cozy without feeling too tight. And thanks to its 100% merino construction, it doesn’t absorb sweat odors until after several runs, meaning that you can resume wearing it for less intense pursuits as soon as it’s dry.
Path Projects Andes AD Tank Top ($42)
The Andes is one of the best singlets I’ve ever owned, but it costs no more than ho-hum tank tops. Its 90% polyester/10% spandex fabric has an interior texture and ventilating holes that keep it breathing even when it’s saturated with sweat. The fit is close but not tight, thereby eliminating both clinging and billowing. The wide shoulder straps provide a little extra sun cover on road runs and protection from brush snags and bug bites on trail outings. (Men’s only)
Walter Sky Short Sleeve ($75)
How can a $75 short sleeve tee be a good value? Well, no other shirt I’ve tested matches this one’s combo of year-round performance, comfort, and versatility. I run in it as a standalone for almost half the year and under a pullover shell or over long sleeves in the other months. I wear it in daily life at least as much, whether on its own in the summer or under an overshirt or sweater when it is cooler. Innovative Nuyarn construction (70% merino wool/30% nylon) means more merino fibers are exposed to air than in conventionally made merino tops, leading to less moisture buildup, better wicking and breathability, greater durability, and a superior warmth-to-weight ratio. It’s also softer than any other tee I own, which is why I often sleep in it. (Men’s only)
Janji Waffleloft Long Sleeve ($88)
Here’s another top that’s great on intense runs but also looks and feels good when worn during daily life. The waffled fabric (mostly recycled polyester with spandex and eco-friendly modal) keeps you warm but breathes and wicks when you need it to. The just-right fit accommodates multiple uses—on its own in mild conditions, over a short-sleeved tee in cooler temps, or under a jacket or pullover in true wintry weather. This is a shirt you’ll pack when you want to travel light but be ready for a range of conditions and uses.
Outdoor Vitals Tern Ultralight Merino Hoodie ($85)
I’ve found more uses for this hoodie than any other gear I’ve tested over the past year. On a three-day trip to the Pacific Northwest, I wore it as an outer layer over long sleeves on a sub-freezing run, over a short sleeve tee on a hike in moist, low-50s conditions, to dinner in a pub, and as a blanket and pillow on the plane. I appreciate it on runs when I want to put up the hood and pull down the sleeves at the start but later need nothing more than a breathable long sleeve top. It’s also a great single layer on summer hikes when the bugs are biting. These many uses stem from its thin, light (115 grams per square meter) merino/nylon fabric and a close but yielding fit.
Janji Rainrunner Pack Jacket 2.0 ($198)
This jacket outperforms many other much more expensive competitors. Its 100% ripstop nylon fabric is wind- and waterproof, breathable, and light, all while being free of PFAS (aka “forever chemicals”). On one two-hour run in steady cold rain, I stayed warm up top wearing it over a short sleeve tee; when I finished, the shirt was dry except for a small section near my sternum. I also value the sensory aspects of wearing the Rainrunner—unlike many jackets with a durable water repellency treatment, this one is quiet and smooth, not crinkly, against the skin. The cuffs, which stay in place while also allowing easy watch peeking, were obviously designed by runners.
Artilect Eldorado Gloves ($55)
These have become my go-to running gloves for several reasons. At 310 grams per square meter, they keep my hands plenty warm in temperatures down to the low teens, but thanks to the Nuyarn fabric they don’t overheat on runs that start in below-freezing temps and end in the low 40s. They have a felt-like feel that’s comfortable for all the snot rocketing and mouth wiping that can accompany winter running. Perhaps best of all on the value front, they’re the most durable merino gloves or mittens I’ve ever owned. I’m so confident in their hardiness that I also wear them while chopping firewood and doing other yard work.
Pressio Elite Shorts ($55 men’s, $50 women’s)
More runners should know about Pressio, which entered the U.S. market in 2023. These 100% recycled polyester shorts are a good example of how the brand combines sustainable manufacturing, high-performance gear, and reasonable pricing. Depending on where you live, you could wear the Elites for most of the year—they breathe and ventilate well in hot, humid weather but are also sufficiently protective in cooler conditions. Seamless hems enhance comfort, while the rear zip pocket adds functionality. For $5 less than the longer versions, Pressio offers a 3”-inseam short for men and a 2”-inseam short for women.
Minus 33 Wool Flyless Running Tights ($85)
These no-nonsense leggings were one of the best values in our winter 2024 men’s running apparel guide. For less than $100, you get as much quality, comfort, and performance as you would in bottoms costing twice as much. The 85% merino wool/13% nylon/2 % spandex weave is soft but sturdy. I’ve stayed warm in them in sub-zero temperatures, yet haven’t overheated in high-40s temps when wearing them for easy runs. The fit of the men’s version is loose and comfortable, but not baggy, making the tights a good choice for winter activities other than running. The women’s version is the same cozy-but-not-stifling 235 grams per square fabric, but in a high-waisted yoga leggings style.
Pinebury Mountain Merino Socks ($34)
Pinebury debuted a small collection of made-in-the-U.S. merino tops, socks, and arm warmers in the spring of 2023. Their midweight long-sleeve tee won best layer in our most recent men’s winter running guide. Their socks are also superb, and these, their thickest offerings, might be the best. The 70% merino/27% nylon/3% Lycra yarn is plush without negating good underfoot feel on the run. They’re toasty on cold runs but breathable in milder conditions. Bottom-of-the-calf height adds to their versatility since they work as well in daily life as they do on the run, upping their value, as with many items in this roundup. Adding to the appeal is that they seem indestructible.