The Best Cooling Running Gear of 2021, According to a Running Coach

Devices and attire to help you beat the heat

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products, and articles are reviewed by healthcare professionals for medical accuracy. You can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Most runners agree that running outdoors beats treadmill running, but there are times when running in hot weather can be not just unpleasant, but downright dangerous. Dumping ice-cold water over your head isn’t very practical when you're pounding the pavement, but fortunately, there are other ways to stay cool on the run.

Clothes and other gear with cooling properties can help you stay more comfortable and refreshed so you can run safely and for longer. When you turn down the heat during your runs, you can skip the treadmill and stay outside.

Here, the best cooling running gear for the hottest days and climates.

Our Top Picks
You're sure to get a lot of use out of this neck gaiter, which can be worn 12 different ways, from a face mask to a headband.
If cooling apparel isn't your thing, this towel will get the job done with its ability to cool for hours.
Arctic Cool gives you more than just a classic v-neck with its moisture-wicking, odor-fighting, and sun-protective design.
While this tee can be worn daily, it works best for those staying active in the sun as it cools you down while you heat up.
A standard baseball cap can shade you from the sun, but Mission takes it a step further with a water-activated cooling hat.
Socks can make or break your running attire, especially in the heat, and Balega keeps this in mind with its moisture-wicking fit.
A substitute for a hat, this option works to keep sweat out of your eyes and hair and features an adjustable strap.
The best sports bras for running provide support without chafing or restricting, and Under Armour's option does just that.
If it's too hot for leggings or pants, Arctic Cool's shorts feature HydroFreeze X Technology so you can feel a cooling breeze.
Stay cool, and protected from the sun, with Columbia's temperature-decreasing, UV ray-blocking shorts.

Best Overall: Chill Pal 12-in-1 Multi-Style Cooling Neck Gaiter

Chill Pal 12-in-1 Multi-Style Cooling Neck Gaiter

An excellent gear item for anyone who runs in hot weather, the versatile Chill Pal cooling band can be worn as a neckband, headband, and more. The soft, breathable fabric cools when you wet it, wring it out, and snap it—and then it stays cold for up to two hours. It’s particularly effective when worn on your neck, since it’s one of your body’s quick-cooling spots. Put the gaiter on and it will bring down your body temperature. In a 2019 collection of 45 studies, external cooling of the neck, torso, and face proved to be the most beneficial for aerobic performance with a moderate to large effect.

Runners swear that it helps them feel more comfortable and prevents overheating even during very hot runs. On top of that, it’s inexpensive and comes in four different fun colors. Even if you don’t want to wear a Chill Pal band while running, you can use it to pre-cool before a race or to cool down after.

Best Budget: Frogg Toggs Chilly Mini Cooling Towel

Frogg Toggs Chilly Mini Cooling Towel

If you’re not quite convinced on the effectiveness and technology of cooling gear, these mini cooling towels are an inexpensive way to give it a try. Just wet the towel and wrap it around your neck before, during, or after a run to feel instantly cooler.

Unlike a large towel, it’s a convenient size (3 x 29 inches), so you can stash it in a running pack or tuck it in your waistband until you need to use it. It absorbs sweat and provides cooling up to 30 degrees lower than body temperature for hours. It’s also washable and reusable, making it a great value find.

Best Shirt for Women: Arctic Cool Women's Instant Cooling Performance Short Sleeve Shirt

Women's Cooling V-Neck Short Sleeve T-Shirt

As soon as you start sweating in this Arctic Cool shirt, you’ll begin to cool down. The secret is the shirt’s HydroFreeze X technology, a moisture-management system that disperses moisture and optimizes the natural evaporative cooling process.

Made from fabric that’s fast drying, soft, and cool, these shirts feature a trim athletic cut for optimum mobility and stretch. Available in a range of colors and sizes, they’re perfect for running or any outdoor activity in the heat.

Best Shirt for Men: Arctic Cool Men’s Instant Cooling Performance Short Sleeve Shirt

Arctic Cool Men’s Instant Cooling Performance Short Sleeve Shirt

Similar to the women’s Arctic Cool shirt, the men’s version features technology that reduces the fabric temperature to cool you down when you’re heating up. Beyond the cooling effect, these shirts also have a lightweight construction and UPF 50 sun protection, making them ideal shirts for hot weather running.

They even work great as a moisture-wicking undershirt. Additionally, they’re antimicrobial and machinewashable, so they’re easy to care for.

Best Hat: Mission Cooling Performance Unisex Hat

Mission Cooling Performance Unisex Hat

Keep your head cool on the run with this Mission Cooling Performance hat, made with proprietary fabric that cools instantly when wet. Just soak the hat before wearing, wring it out, and then snap it in the air to activate the cooling properties. Here's how it works—cooling zones in the hat’s sweatband and front panels absorb water and perspiration and then regulate the evaporation of moisture for a prolonged cooling effect.

The fabric also features UPF 50 protection, which helps to shield your head from the sun’s harmful rays. After a hot run, you can just toss this durable hat in the washing machine to clean, and it will retain its shape and cooling properties. Available in several different colors, it has an adjustable hook and loop closure, so one size fits most.

Best Socks: Balega Hidden Dry Moisture-Wicking Socks

Balega Hidden Dry Moisture-Wicking Socks

Wear the wrong socks on a summer run and you’ll definitely end up with hot, wet feet and most likely some blisters too. But these durable socks from Balega will keep your feet cool and dry while still giving them the protection they need. Made from a lightweight microfiber, they cool your feet by wicking away sweat.

The perfectly placed support and grippy elastic in the arch and heel provide plenty of support and help with blister prevention. And you don’t have to worry about them slipping down, as the tab design keeps them in place. You’ll pay a bit more for these socks, but Balega fans say they’re well worth the price and are the ideal go-to running sock for hot-weather runs.

Best Headband: Mission VaporActive Cooling Lockdown Headband

Mission VaporActive Cooling Lockdown Headband

If you prefer not to wear a hat when running in the heat but still want to keep your head cool, this versatile cooling headband from Mission is an excellent option. The chemical-free cooling technology attracts moisture at the vapor level, wicking away sweat to keep you cool.

This soft, absorbent headband keeps the sweat out of your eyes and your hair off your face during even the most strenuous training sessions. Once you’re finished, you can clean it in the washing machine and use it for your next run in hot conditions.

Best Sports Bra: Under Armour Women's Armour Crossback Sports Bra

Under Armour Women's Armour Crossback Sports Bra

Any runner with a bust knows how a sports bra that’s ill-fitting or made of the wrong material can make a hot run much more uncomfortable. This Under Armour sports bra is designed to keep you feeling fresh and comfortable, and well-supported of course. Its signature HeatGear fabric is lightweight and smooth to help you feel cool.

UA’s moisture transport system wicks sweat away from the body to enhance the cooling sensation. The compression provides a snug fit to reduce chafing, while the four-way stretch fabric allows for a superb range of motion. Available in several different colors, the sports bra is an excellent addition to your summer running wardrobe.

Best Shorts for Men: Arctic Cool Men’s Instant Cooling Active Shorts

Arctic Cool Men’s Instant Cooling Active Shorts

These Arctic Cool shorts go way beyond just moisture-wicking to keep you cool. Their HydroFreeze X technology channels airflow through the fabric, creating an instant cooling effect. Featuring an athletic cut and four-way stretch fabric blend, the shorts allow for excellent range of motion and have a drawstring waistband for a custom fit.

The fabric is also antimicrobial and odor fighting, keeping you feeling and smelling fresh.

Best Shorts for Women: Columbia Women’s Chill River Shorts

Columbia Women’s Chill River Shorts

The Columbia Women’s Chill River Shorts feature Omni-Freeze Zero technology, which reacts with sweat to actually lower the shorts’ temperature. The super-cooling fabric also wicks away moisture to keep you cool and dry. Durable, lightweight, and packable, the shorts feature UPF 50 protection, so they’re ideal for running and other outdoor pursuits.

Best Towel: Mission Max Plus Original Cooling Towel

Mission Max Plus Original Cooling Towel

A must-have for hot weather running, this cooling towel from Mission is extremely effective and easy to use. Simply soak it in cold water, wring it out, snap it, and it’s ready to drape around your neck. It stays cool for two hours, but once it starts to get warm, you can simply rinse and repeat.

The soft and durable microfiber towel is chemical free, reusable, machine washable, and even provides UPF 50 protection from the sun.

Best Vest: TechNiche International Adult HyperKewl Cooling Sport Vest

TechNiche HyperKewl Cooling Sport Vest

It may seem a bit counterintuitive to put on an additional layer during a hot run, but this lightweight cooling vest can actually help you feel more comfortable. Specially designed for runners and cyclists, it can provide five to 10 hours of cooling.

To use, just soak the vest with water for two to three minutes before your run and then put it on. The water slowly evaporates and takes your heat with it, while the vest’s water-resistant liner keeps you dry. The only downside of this vest is that it’s not as effective in very humid conditions, since it depends on evaporation to keep you cool. It comes in a variety of sizes, from extra-small to triple extra-large, and comes in blue or silver.

What to Look for in Cooling Running Gear

Materials

Cooling running gear should contain synthetic, moisture-wicking materials to keep you dry and cool. If sweat lingers on your body, it could lead to chafing. For scarves and hats, you should also look for soft, breathable fabric that cools when you wet it.

Fit

For cooling running gear, look for loose shirts and running shorts. If you prefer leggings, avoid black, which can absorb heat. Try lighter colors and make sure the leggings fit tight to avoid chafing.

Reflectivity

To stay safe when running outdoors, you need to make sure you’re seen. Wear clothing that has reflective elements to increase your visibility. This is especially important if you opt to run at dusk, late at night, or early in the morning to avoid strong sun and heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you stay cool when running in hot weather?

    Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing will help your body breathe and cool itself down naturally. Tight clothing restricts that process and dark colors absorb the sun's light and heat. Wear synthetic fabrics (not cotton) because they will wick moisture away from your skin so cooling evaporation can occur.

    If you want to wear something on your head to block the sun, wear a visor. Hats can be constrictive and trap heat.

  • Does cooling running gear offer protection from the sun?

    While some clothing is specially designed to block UV rays, it's important to protect exposed skin with a waterproof sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15. 

  • Will cooling running gear enhance your performance?

    Wearing cooling running gear may help enhance performance because when you feel better, you may be able to run longer and more efficiently. A 2016 study on cooling clothing has shown that it improves exercise capacity when used in a hot, humid environment.

  • How do you run safely in the heat?

    Avoid running when the sun is at its strongest, generally from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Early morning or late evening running is better. You should also run without headphones and wearing reflective gear to stay safe.

  • What are the signs of overheating during exercise?

    Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of overheating:

    • Feeling faint or dizzy
    • Disoriented
    • Skin is cool to the touch
    • Stop sweating

    These are all dangerous signs of overheating or even sun stroke, and you should immediately stop exercising.

Why Trust Verywell Fit? 

Running coach and marathoner Christine Luff avoids treadmill running at all costs, so she runs outside through all types of weather extremes. During hot and steamy runs, she wears a Mission Enduracool Cooling Performance hat to stay cool and protected from the sun, and she puts on Balega socks to keep her feet dry and comfortable.

Was this page helpful?
2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Douzi W, Dugué B, Vinches L, et al. Cooling during exercise enhances performances, but the cooled body areas matter: A systematic review with meta‐analysesScand J Med Sci Sports. 2019;29(11):1660-1676. doi:10.1111/sms.13521

  2. McFarlin BK, Henning AL, Venable AS, Williams RR, Best Sampson JN. A shirt containing multistage phase change material and active cooling components was associated with increased exercise capacity in a hot, humid environment. Ergonomics. 2016;59(8):1019-1025. doi:10.1080/00140139.2015.1108460