What to wear running - from chafe-free sports bras to comfy leggings

What to wear running, whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out.

woman running
(Image credit: Getty)

Whether you’re a seasoned jogger or are taking your first tentative steps towards a 5K, we’ve broken down what to wear running.

Comfort, of course, is key. The best leggings are ones that won't inch down as your miles clock up, and the best sports bras ones that don't niggle or dig in. Anything that restricts your movement or needs to be adjusted every couple of paces just won’t do. 

Remember - whatever you're wearing, running has huge benefits for your physical and mental health. It's been proven to help people beat depression, and can even lower the risk of an early death.

What to wear running

A supportive sports bra

There are two key terms that crop up when shopping for sports bras - compression and encapsulation. Referring to the way in which the bra supports your bust, compression styles draw your breasts close to your body, while encapsulation holds them in two separate cups. The former normally looks more like a crop top, and the latter like a higher coverage take on your day-to-day bras.

Compression bras should be enough for smaller busts to enjoy running bounce-free, but if you’ve been blessed with a bigger bust you’ll need one that boasts encapsulation. Some styles mix both together, for even better support.

Reliable trainers

Not all trainers were created equal, and the type you need will depend on your running gait. In layman's terms, that’s how you move and land your feet as you run.

There are three different categories: normal pronation, under pronation or over pronation. Too much under or over pronation and you run the risk of injury, so it’s worth taking the time to get this analysed for your perfect pair of trainers. Shops like Runner’s Need offer this as an in store service.

The best running shoes for women will have a generous helping of cushioning and support, both of which will deplete as you wear them. For this reason, experts recommend you change your trainers after every 400 miles. A word of warning though - make sure you wear in any new trainers before a long run - your toe nails will thank you for it.

Technical fabrics

Figure-hugging lycra is the runner’s fabric of choice for a reason. Sitting close to the body, it works like a second skin to keep you cool when it’s hot, and warm when it’s cold. Sweat-wicking fabrics take this to the next level, helping to draw moisture away from the body, so you stay nice and dry.

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What to wear running in the summer

Running in the summer tends to be a balancing act of wearing as little clothing as possible, while steering clear of a wardrobe malfunction or pesky chafing.

It’s in warmer weather that sweat-wicking fabrics really come into their own, keeping you cool instead of uncomfortably clammy. They make light work of sweat patches too.

For a simple summer running get-up, start with a form-fitting vest top and lycra shorts that end just below above the knee. If that’s showing more skin than you're comfortable with, you can always layer an oversized t-shirt or a pair of breezy, baggy running shorts on top.

What to wear running in the winter

The weather tends to become more unpredictable during the winter months, so even if your app promises glorious sunshine, it’s good to think ahead.

Layers are key here. The one closest to your body should fit nice and snug, trapping heat and keeping your chest warm.

If you’re worried about catching a chill, add a jacket into the mix. A waterproof one with taped seams will prepare you for all eventualities. Your hood might not stay up while you're running, but you’ll be grateful for it as you wander back from your cool down.

Winter is not the time for shorts, unless you want to end up with wind-whipped legs, of course. Opt for full-length leggings tucked neatly into snuggly running socks.

It’s much darker during the winter months, so make sure you stay both safe and seen with a light reflective kit. Most running jackets and trainers feature glow-in-the-dark strips as standard, but you can always add more if need be.

How do you carry your phone while running?

While there’s no reason why you can’t simply run with your phone in your hand, it does increase the risk of a smashed screen should you take a tumble. To keep your device safe, look for a pair of sporty bottoms with a handy pocket.

Alternatively, look for a phone holder that straps onto your upper arm or waist. If you find these tend to slip and slide when you’re pounding the pavements, a specialist, elasticated vest could be the solution for you.

Go-to brands when buying running attire for beginners

H&M

Often overlooked in favour of more sports-focused brands, H&M is our go-to for affordable activewear. You might expect it to sag and bag after a couple of wears, but we can report that they not only wash well, but stand the test of time too.The collection isn’t currently available in all of their stores, so for the full range, you’re best to browse online.

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Nike

With performance at the heart of everything they do, you can rely on Nike for high-tech fabrics and thoughtful details. Take their best-selling 7/8 running leggings for example. Not content with simply using a sweat-wicking fabric, the hardworking yarns have been carefully crafted to deliver maximum breathability and airflow. 

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Sweaty Betty

For activewear that’s as fashionable as it is functional, Sweaty Betty won’t let you down. The only bad news is that because the brand is so in demand, some of their most popular patterns and prints sell out quickly. Shop everything from insulated jackets to running gloves, high-impact sports bras to stylish running skorts.

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Best running buys you can shop now

Sweaty Betty Power Leggings

(Image credit: Sweaty Betty)

1. Sweaty Betty Power Leggings

Specifications
RRP: $100/£75

With thousands of top reviews, Sweaty Betty fans adore these leggings and they certainly live up to the hype. With a super stretch that sculpts your figure, they stay put during runs and have sweat-wicking and quick-drying technology too. There’s a side pocket big enough for your phone and a back pocket for your keys. Available in an array of colours and prints, you need these in your running arsenal. 

Read our full Sweaty Betty Power Leggings review.

Nike Women’s Trail Running Midlayer

(Image credit: Nike)

2. Nike Women’s Trail Running Midlayer

Specifications
RRP: $75/£54.95

A handy layering tool on chilly days, this long-sleeved top from sports pros Nike has been designed specifically for trail running. It has Dri-FIT technology to help you stay dry and comfortable and a handy back pocket for stashing the essentials. There are thumb holes for extra coverage and warmth too. Perfect for outdoor, off-road runs.

Adidas Ultraboost 21 Shoes

(Image credit: Adidas)

3. Adidas Ultraboost 21 Shoes

Specifications
RRP: $180/£160

When it comes to running, decent trainers are key and we highly rate the Adidas Ultraboost. Available in many different colourways to suit your style, the newest addition - number 21 - has 6% more boost in the midsole for that extra spring in your step. A supportive heel and a sock-like fit, it’s also crafted from recycled materials so has the eco-credentials too.

Lululemon Swiftly Tech Racerback 2.0

(Image credit: Lululemon)

4. Lululemon Swiftly Tech Racerback 2.0

Specifications
RRP: $58/£45

Designed specifically for a sweat sesh, this clever top has everything you need for a comfy workout. Minimal seams to reduce chafing, breathable and sweat-wicking fabrics and added stretch for the perfect fit. It'll stay put during even the most intense training. There are plenty of colours to choose from so you can keep your look coordinated.

New Balance Impact Run 2 in 1 Short

(Image credit: New Balance)

5. New Balance Impact Run 2 in 1 Short

Specifications
RRP: $49.99/£40

Get more bang for your buck with this two-in-one short. It sits close to the body to avoid chafing while the extra layer gives extra coverage. Fast-drying technology, these shorts are super lightweight and sit comfortably on the hip with a drawstring waist for a snug fit. There’s a pocket for phone storage too. Win-win!

Panache Wired Sports Bra

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6. Panache Wired Sports Bra

Specifications
RRP: $70/£42

This best-selling underwired sports bra is a must for D+ cups. It has moulded cups, soft underwire and cushioned straps for a comfortable and supportive fit. It minimises bounce so ideal for high-impact sports including running. Available in lots of different colourways, you can also clip the straps together to create a racerback.

Under Armour Impasse Run 2.0 Jacket

(Image credit: Under Armour)

7. Under Armour Impasse Run 2.0 Jacket

Specifications
RRP: $130/£115

Protect yourself against the elements with this water-resistant and windproof jacket. The lightweight fabric keeps you dry without compromising on breathability. It has reflective piping details for better visibility and it folds neatly into its right sleeve with a stretchy arm band for easy carrying.

Gymshark Speed T-Shirt

(Image credit: Gymshark)

8. Gymshark Speed T-Shirt

Specifications
RRP: $30/£25

Another great top to add to your workout collection, this running-focused tee goes the extra mile. Key features include an underarm gusset for ventilation, reflective detailing and a slim shape for a comfortable fit. Perfect for long and short runs, you won’t regret buying this one. 

COS Seamless Performance Sports Bra

(Image credit: Cos)

9. COS Seamless Performance Sports Bra

Specifications
RRP: $45/£29

Cos has really pulled it out of the bag with their activewear range that’s stylish and functional. Their sports bra is super sleek and seamless too for ultimate comfort whilst exercising. Crafted from recycled fabrics it has a racerback design and added stretch. Best suited to smaller busts for decent support.

Asics Gel-Nimbus 23 Trainers

(Image credit: Asics)

10. Asics Gel-Nimbus 23 Trainers

Specifications
RRP: $150/£155

Rated highly by customers, these trainers are perfect for everyday running. They have good cushioning underfoot for a bouncy feel and on the heel, reducing the impact on the foot hitting the ground. They also have gender-specific design helping to provide the right amount of support for men and women. 

Nike Slim Waist Pack 2.0

(Image credit: Nike)

11. Nike Slim Waist Pack 2.0

Specifications
RRP: $20/£17.95

A running belt is handy if you need extra space to stash your phone, wallet or keys. This one is super slim and expandable, sitting securely on the waist with minimal movement. The strap is stretchy and adjustable allowing you to find the perfect fit too. 

Lululemon Fast and Free High Rise Crop

(Image credit: Lululemon)

12. Lululemon Fast and Free High Rise Crop

Specifications
RRP: $118/£98

Guaranteed to pass the squat test, these high-tech leggings are worth their price-tag. Petites will love the cropped length for a flattering fit. They have a four-way stretch and tick all the quick-drying and sweat-wicking boxes too. They’re long-lasting and will retain their shape after numerous wears. 

Unisex UA Run Cushion No Show Tab Running Socks

(Image credit: Under Armour)

13. Unisex UA Run Cushion No Show Tab Running Socks

Specifications
RRP: $13/£12

You may think your daily socks will do the job when pounding the pavements but proper running socks are key in keeping you comfortable and blister-free on long runs. These socks have odour-free technology and cushioning for comfort while still remaining lightweight and quick-drying.