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.
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
Nike Therma-Sphere Element
With a close fit around the shoulders and arms, and a slightly looser fit around the hem, this top allows for enviable freedom of movement when on the run. There’s a handy zippered front pocket on the chest that fits a card, keys and phone (at a push, phablet owners might struggle), and along with thumbholes Nike has added extra fabric on the sleeves to act as built-in mittens. Mittens! £67.95, buy on nike.com
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, 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, buy on thenorthface.co.uk
dhb Run Hoodie
This hoodie’s muted styling and relaxed fit means it can be worn anywhere, but naturally it’s at its best for running on fresh mornings and chilly evenings when the thought of heading out in a T-shirt alone is unappealing. It’s a little toastier than some of the other options on this list, so it’s best saved for low-tempo runs or warming up before track sessions. £17.99, buy on wiggle.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