What Fabrics Are best for Running? (An Expert Guide)

Running shirt fabric

When choosing garments to wear for running, you don’t have to specifically choose clothes specifically made for running. Any athletic clothing will do as long as they’re made with the right fabric. But what fabrics should running clothes be made of?

In general, running clothes should be made with moisture-wicking materials such as nylon, polyester, and spandex. The lightness and breathability of the fabric matter too. When choosing clothes for running, it is best to avoid using cotton.

Ahead, we’ll talk about the different fabrics that can be used for running and how they feel. We’ll also differentiate them and give you an idea of how to choose your running clothes.

Types of Fabrics Used for Running


Nylon clothes are one of the most common fabrics used for sports. They have good moisture-wicking abilities and great stretchability making them a popular choice for sportswear. However, since they’re made to repel water, they often aren’t as breathable as other types of fabrics.

Some compare the feeling of wearing nylon clothes to wearing plastic which is why most people don’t go to nylon as their first option for long-distance runs where comfort matter most.


Polyester fabrics are excellent for managing moisture and have great breathability which makes them a desirable option for running. Although they’re not as stretchable as nylon, they’re often combined with other elastic fabrics such as spandex.

Some of the highest-rated running tops are made entirely of polyester.


Spandex is a common fabric used in tights to prevent chafing and offer support. They’re moisture-wicking, breathable, and extremely stretchable allowing more freedom in motion.

Although they’re excellent choices for bottoms, they’re often not as great as tops as their tightness can interfere with the runner’s breathing. In addition, you want to refrain from using spandex in cold weather as they’re not that good at retaining your body’s heat.

Also read: Compression Shorts Vs. Running Shorts: Which is Better?


Although wool isn’t usually used as a running short or shirt, they’re excellent choices for running socks and underwear. Wool is highly moisture-wicking, moderately breathable, and offers great heat retention capabilities making them great for cold weather.

However, because they’re good at retaining heat, they aren’t desirable as running tops or bottoms as they can feel too hot when your body heats up as you start running.

Mix of Fabrics

Some running garments combine different fabrics to offer just the right breathability and elasticity. The most common combination I’ve seen is spandex and polyester.

Why Stay Away From Cotton?

Although cotton is soft, comfortable, and breathable as everyday wear, they often lose those qualities when you use them for athletic activities such as running.

Cotton fabrics absorb the most water than any other type of fabric. They become rough, heavy, and uncomfortable really quick if you sweat on them enough.

And because cotton traps moisture, it’s a common site for bacterial growth which can cause odor and various skin infections when worn frequently without changing clothes post-workout right away.

In addition, cotton garments also cause chafing.

Recommended read: How to Prevent Chafing When Running: 9 Simple Ways

What Fabric is Best for Running?

Choosing the right fabric for running largely depends on your personal preference. Many would consider a mix of polyester and spandex as the best fabric for running shorts since they have maximum breathability and moisture-wicking abilities while still being stretchable for longer strides.

Most of the best running tops, on the other hand, are made of 100% polyester. They excel in durability, breathability, moisture-wicking abilities, and UV protection. Polyester fabrics are also light and comfortable.

If you’re looking for the best tops to wear during summer, I made a list of my top 5 picks for the best running tops to wear on hot days. Be sure to check that out.

If you’re in a rush, the top pick on that list is the Under Armour Tech 2.0, also made of 100% polyester.

Final Thoughts

To make the most out of your run, you have to make sure that you’re wearing the right garment that supports your activity.

For running, the best fabrics for clothes are the ones that are breathable, light, wick away moisture, and stretch according to your movements. That said, garments made of polyester, or polyester-spandex blend are often the way to go.

If you want a deeper dive into choosing the right running top, I highly recommend you check out this article that I made. It goes beyond just fabric and also talks about the right fit and color of your clothing.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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