You can certainly wear any old running clothes for your off-road runs, but apparel built specifically for trail running will provide touches you maybe never knew you were missing. Those features, plus cuts and fabrics catered to trail running, can make your experience on everything from singletrack to fire roads, and a lunchtime run to an ultra more comfortable than ever.
With so much great apparel out there, how do you choose what’s right for you? “I always tell people that the number one thing is fit,” says veteran trail runner and freelance apparel and gear designer, Jenny Jurek. She adds that every brand’s apparel fits differently, and it’s important to try on specific items to dial in your size within that brand. “If something on a piece of clothing starts to bother you—like shorts riding up, or chafing from a seam—it’s only going to get worse throughout a run,” she adds.
After fit, Jurek says to make sure the fabrications match your needs. Do you live somewhere hot and humid? Buy super-airy, quick-drying mesh. Also important, is what features does the product have. “It’s usually in the details—laser-cut construction, pocketing, reflectivity if you’re running roads to trails at night,” Jurek explains. A final “F” to keep in mind after fit, fabrication, and features, is feel: “Does it make you look good, feel good, and/or run fast? And how do you feel about the garment’s environmental impact?” She’s a firm believer in buying things to last, and shopping for products made out of natural or recycled materials, when possible.
With all that in mind, there are some great styles being carried over from brands from previous years. But, here’s a look at some of the best new digs for spring/summer 2021.
Togs For Trails – What To Look For
- Pockets – pockets are a trail-worthy upgrade that allow you to stow snacks and trash for the long haul. Look for a combination of open and zip pockets for optimal carrying capacity
- Wider straps – if you plan on wearing a top under a hydration pack, make sure the straps are plenty of wide to avoid chafing.
- Mesh – perforated materials allow for better breathability and some sun protection. While road runners might be more likely to run shirtless, trail runners might prefer to have an ultralight layer between themselves, the sun and a hydration pack.
- Taped Seams – taped seams provide extra protection from the elements by adding an additional layer of waterproofing.
- Packability – When choosing a wind/water layer, consider the tradeoffs between waterproofness and packability.
This feather-light tank feels barely there; it’s perforated wicking material offers coverage without weight. The slim-fit cut stays out of the way of swinging arms while making it easy to layer. The four-way stretch fabric dries quickly from sweat or water, enabling this tank to become a summer staple.
Constructed out of recycled polyester jersey with a durable recycled polyester yarn technology, this tee will stand up to all your summer adventures. Runners will appreciate flat seems to avoid irritation when worn under a pack. Casual-wear styling is a bonus. Women’s style also available.
With a 5-inch inseam but made of airy, stretchy material (a mesh-like polyester and elastane blend), these shorts have trail-ready styling while allowing full mobility with every stride. Three large pockets for nutrition or other small items are built into the super-soft, antimicrobial liner. Women’s version (with a 3.5-inch inseam) available.
These crop tights are cut with a high waistband for style and function—they offer slight abdominal support, and feature a slide-through pocket on the backside. The back pocket works well for stashing a hat, gloves, or even a shirt mid-run, while two side envelope pockets carry gels or other items. Note: These work well for yoga and gym workouts, too, thanks to a lack of zippered back pocket.
For cool summer mornings or evenings, or as a lightweight layer on mountain runs, this long-sleeve tee offers just the right amount of coverage. It’s perfect worn over a tank or sports bra and ties easily around the waist when off. The super-stretchy polyester/spandex blend is perforated throughout for breathability.
From Nathan Sports’ new apparel line comes the Stealth Jacket, made of material that barely makes a sound with arm swinging (no noisy “swish-swish”). The wind shell (with a DWR finish) feels great against the skin and breathes well, and features like thumbholes and a ponytail opening on the hood make this jacket rank high. Men’s style also available.
This shell’s well thought-out features like attached waterproof mitts and a hood specially designed to aid airflow make it a winner. The Deluge meets waterproof and breathability standards required by the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc (the $189.99 Ultra Jacket exceeds those standards but has the same features as the Deluge). Women’s also available.