Any keen runner’s wardrobe should contain four different top layers. Starting from the skin and working out, you need base layers, T-shirts, mid layers and jackets if you want to run through all seasons comfortably. You can find the best base layers, T-shirts and jackets by clicking those links – this page is dedicated to the mighty mid layer.
This is the most adaptable top in your running arsenal. The mid layer can be worn over a T-shirt or base layer, or next to the skin as the only top you need when the temperature isn’t quite cold enough to double up or warm enough to just wear a T-shirt. Then, in the depths of winter, the mid layer goes over a base layer and under a jacket.
These varying uses mean the mid layer needs to be breathable and sweat-wicking while also offering some protection from the outer elements. Here are some great tops that tread that fine line perfectly.
Tribe Sports Engineered Hoodie
Lightweight, breathable and ultra-comfortable, this hoodie is ideal for spring running. It protects from a slight bite in the air without ever putting you at risk of overheating, and the antibacterial properties of the fabric mean that you can wear it on several runs before it needs washing. Well, you can do that with any hoodie, but this one won’t start to stink. The fabric is also so soft that you can wear the hoodie by itself when it’s too warm for two layers but not quite warm enough for a T-shirt. £75, buy on tribesports.com
dhb Men’s Quarter Zip Run Fleece
The fleecy lining on this top makes it a tad too snug for tempo runs or intervals sessions, but you’ll welcome the warmth during easy runs on chilly mornings and it’s also great for warming up before track sessions. It’s fair to say that the bright yellow version of the top is about as visible as running clothing gets, so you can take to city streets without any fear of being insufficiently visible. £27.98, buy on wiggle.co.uk
Asics LS Hoodie
This is a running top that resides squarely in the Goldilocks zone. The synthetic material’s thin, but soft enough to feel warm when it’s a bit nippy out and it wicks away sweat in impressive fashion when you’re on the move. The quarter-length zip also helps to cool things down when you’re working up a sweat. Yup, it’s got temperature management juuuust right. We’re also keen on the fitted hood, which will save your ears on windy days without being constantly blown off your head. £48, buy on asics.com
New Balance Heat Half Zip
The waffle fleece on the inside of this top is so absurdly cosy that, initially, you will never want to run in it for fear your sweat will tarnish it. Thankfully, having pulled ourselves together, we can confirm that you can run regularly in the top and it will shrug off your sweat without it affecting how comfortable you feel. You’ll never want to take it off, though.
The NB Heat can be worn with a base layer, but it’s at its best when worn by itself and it will keep you warm even when the temperature drops towards low single digits. There are reflective panels on the front, back and arms for extra visibility, and thumb loops hidden inside the cuff, a design that has convinced us that that’s where all thumb loops should be. £65, buy on newbalance.co.uk
Lululemon Metal Vent Tech
This stretchy, lightweight top can be worn in not one, not two, but three ways – making it an useful addition to a winter wardrobe. If it’s not too chilly, wear it by itself, or pull it on over a base layer when the weather’s a bit colder. When the temperature plummets, make it the filling in a base layer and jacket sandwich. Whatever you pair it with, the breathable, wicking fabric will keep you warm without overheating. £88, buy on lululemon.co.uk
Saucony Dash Seamless
While those who live in colder climes can pick out a hundred different types of snow, the British are experts in identifying the exact type of rain (lashing? pouring? mild mizzle?) they are about to step out in, and thus require a running top for each and every type. This long-sleeved T-shirt slips perfectly in the gap between short sleeves and a lightweight jacket, making it a fine choice for drizzly, but not too chilly, days. £60 (reduced to £36 at time of publication), buy on saucony.com
North Face Ambition 1/4 Zip
As everyone knows, the two acceptable zip lengths are ¼ zip and full zip – anything else just looks foolish. Although the zip length on this top strays perilously close to the bizarre ½ zip, it just about gets away with it, providing adequate ventilation when unzipped without the top half of the garment flapping around. Further ventilation comes from panels on the back and arms of the top, so you should have no troubles with overheating. £60 (reduced to £30 at time of publication), buy on thenorthface.co.uk
It might cost more than the rest of your running wardrobe put together, but this softshell jacket is the perfect all-round midlayer. It will keep you dry on drizzly days and warm on frosty mornings, it can be worn next to the skin or over a baselayer comfortably, and the zipped underarm vents and breathable fabric will help you avoid overheating. And it has thumb loops, which always make you feel cosier when running. £199, buy on soarrunning.com
Odlo Imperium Running Top
High-wicking, fast-drying and quite possibly all-singing, this top is at its best when keeping you cool in hot conditions, but also works very well under a mid layer when it’s cold, especially during tempo sessions when you up the pace and the sweat flows. £27, buy on odlo.com