We're ridiculously fussy when it comes to kit - but these 10 workout tops for women are the best you can buy

High quality and chic? Check.

Best workout tops for women: Lillie on a run
(Image credit: Ally Head, Lillie Bleasdale, Valeza Bakolli)

If you know me, you'll know that I'm quite passionate about workout gear. Sure, a niche interest, but I know how good properly fitting workout kit can make you feel. Enter stage right, my edit of the best workout tops for women you can currently buy.

If you've recently started working out, you could probably do with adding to your gym kit , and for that you're in the right place. Team MCUK has already rounded up the best sports bras, matching gym sets, and even the best gym hoodies to take you from A to B,

As Marie Claire's Senior Health Editor, I've tried my fair share of not-so-great kit in my time. Ten years ago, when I'd just moved to London, I can vividly recall my first gym workout. Sweating in a basement studio (the cheapest membership I could find), I was wearing head-to-toe high street kit, bar my top which was a London Marathon finishers top from 1998 courtesy of my Dad. 

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with budget gym kit or recycling old t-shirts to workout in if that's all you can afford, I remember feeling frustrated. The leggings rolled down every time I moved, the top chafed my armpits when I did any intense cardio moves, and just a month after purchasing, most of the items were bobbling, saggy, and smelling a bit like old PE kit. 

Research has actually proven that what you wear can have a huge impact on how you perform in your workout sessions, with one Journal of Experimental Social Psychology study even finding that what you wear can influence how you act. I'm passionate about bringing you the top, sweat-tested picks, as know that supportive kit will enhance your workouts, boost your confidence in the gym, and improve your general wellbeing, too. 

I've roped in the help of athlete and PASSA coach Lillie Bleasdale along with MC UK's Junior Shopping Editor Valeza Bakolli and Fashion Writer Sofia Piza for their top recommendations. There's a whole load of price points in this edit and a range of coverage options, too - while I'm now comfortable working out in a tank top, I wasn't for years, so have included some of the best oversized gym t-shirts, too.

Testing process for the best workout tops for women

I'm an eight-time marathon, two-time Boston Qualifying runner and avid strength trainer. MC UK Producer Sofia is an avid runner and all-around fitness enthusiast who has also sweat-tested some designs for me in yoga classes, Pilates sessions, and on runs, and Valeza loves a low-impact Pilates class just as much as a more intense HIIT session. Last but by no means least, we roped in run coach and Championship qualifying athlete Lillie Bleasdale to share her top picks for long runs, strength training, and yoga, too. 

Every item in this round-up has been personally tested by the MC UK team over the course of at least three workouts (most are now mainstays in our workout wardrobes and have been for a good while).

Rest assured that I'd never include a brand in a round-up that we haven't tried and rated ourselves - while many options are tried and tested, only the best make the final cut. 

For more information on how we test our kit pre-inclusion, click here. When testing, we considered the following:

  • Did the top sweat-wick well and was it breathable?
  • Was the top supportive?
  • Was the top flattering and did it make us feel confident?
  • Did the top chafe or sag?
  • Did the top stand the test of time and wash well? 

Best workout tops for women: 10 top picks

1. Best workout top for coverage

Best workout tops for women: New Balance

(Image credit: New Balance)

New Balance Accelerate short sleeve top

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight 
+
Doesn't chafe
+
Sweat wicks well
+
Offers shoulder coverage for hot summer runs.

Reasons to avoid

-
Runs small - worth sizing up. 

Bleasdale reckons this is the best-fitting sports t-shirt she's tried. 

"Despite being a lightweight fabric, the Accelerate top hugs just in the right places and the cap sleeves cut at the perfect point without causing any underarm rubbing," she shares. "It's a great option for the summer months when needing to stay covered in direct sunlight, but wanting to stay cool as well."

I have several iterations of the Accelerate tops, including some of their earlier limited edition London Marathon designs and more recent releases, and can second what the coach says. They've remained a mainstay in my workout wardrobe for a reason - they sweat wick well, thanks to their trademark BB DRYx fast-drying technology, wash well, and offer just the right amount of coverage for gym sessions or long summer runs.

2. Best breathable tank

Nike Dri-FIT One Breathe Tank

(Image credit: Very)

Nike Dri-FIT One Breathe Tank

Reasons to buy

+
Loose fit
+
Breathable
+
Sweat-wicking 
+
Affordable price point.

Reasons to avoid

-
Cropped length might not be for all.

Piza is a fan of this loose-fit top as it helps her feel confident and ready to focus on her sweat session. "For the gym, I feel much more comfortable in looser tops as I often opt for tighter shorts," she explains. "It's vital that I feel comfortable when lifting weights and the fit of this Nike design makes me feel confident."

"I really rated this top option when testing - it's buttery soft, comfortable and sweat-wicks well for strength training."

This top is size-inclusive, too, with sizes ranging from an XS to an XXL.

3. Best long-sleeved workout top

Best workout tops for women: lululemon Swiftly

(Image credit: lululemon)

lululemon Swiftly Tech Long Sleeved t-shirt

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable material
+
Comfortable, high-quality fabric
+
Has thumb holes for keeping hands warm on chillier runs.

Reasons to avoid

-
Cropped design may not be for everyone
-
Higher price point.

This Swiftly top is one of lululemon's best-selling designs for a reason - it's a great all-rounder as you can wear it in all seasons, washes well, and offers a flattering fit.

It's one of Bleasdale's go-to's for keeping warm in chillier weather - that said, I've worn it for cloudy summer runs and can confirm it's not so thick you'll overheat and regret wearing it.

Bleasdale agrees, adding: "Even if working at the highest of intensities, the breathable fabric will make sure you don't feel like you're in a sauna. Plus, the shorter "race" length is perfect for tucking into your shorts without having lots of fabric in the way, and the thumb holes are great for keeping the hands warm during the cooler months." (Trust me, they're a real game-changer when you forget your gloves for outdoor colder workouts). 

4. Best form-fitting workout T-shirt

Women’s Novea Crew Neck Training Top

(Image credit: BAM)

Women’s Novea Crew Neck Training Top

Reasons to buy

+
Sustainably designed
+
Soft to the touch
+
Sweat wicking.

Reasons to avoid

-
Bright colourways might not be for everyone.

BAM workout gear is a dream to get a sweat on in. All of their kit is sustainably designed with the planet in mind, but that doesn't mean it lacks performance oomfp, either. 

This top is super soft and made from 59% Bamboo viscose, a breathable, sweat-wicking and sustainable option that'll last for years. It's slightly cropped yet designed with high intensity in mind, making it a great investment for all kinds of training. When testing, I found the cut flattering and felt the fabric had a soft yet technical feel to it. A solid yes from me.

5. Best cropped workout vest

LNDR cropped muscle tank

(Image credit: LNDR)

LNDR cropped muscle tank

Reasons to buy

+
Flattering fit
+
Soft and breathable fabric
+
Supportive in-built bra
+
Can be worn to brunch or your workout class.

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most sweat wicking
-
A higher price point.

As a Health Editor, I've tested a lot of kit in my time and can confirm that LNDR is up there with the best. All of the kit I've tried from the brand has performed well and looked good, but a particular favourite of mine is this muscle tank. 

With an in-built bra, it's designed for high intensity and you can tell. I've worn mine for strength training sessions, short runs, long runs, hikes, and Pilates, and it passed the sweat test every time, offering a supportive and long-lasting performance option. What I like the most, however, is how supportive it is without feeling restrictive - I have some sports bras and workout tops that I can't spend the day in, whereas you could wear this to brunch, workout, or even travel in (yep, it's that comfortable). 

Keep an eye out for the small LNDR logo stamped on the back of the tank which, fun fact, is made from recycled corn cobs and changes colour as your body temperature rises.

6. Best breathable workout T-shirt

Red Run Technical Sports Top - Core

(Image credit: Red Run)

Red Run Technical Sports Top - Core

Reasons to buy

+
Sweat wicking
+
Not too tight
+
Washes well
+
Breathable.

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't offer full coverage because of the mesh panel

Part of Red Run's core collection, the Technical Sports top pretty much does what it says on the tin. Valeza is a huge fan of the fit and functionality of this T-shirt, stating "it's high-performance, sweat-wicking, not too tight around the arms and has a super breathable mesh panel at the lower back. It's almost like the designers know that's exactly where I get the most sweaty."

"The mesh panel allows your sports bra to peek through for a fun design element that still provides a decent amount of coverage - I'm a fan."

7. Most affordable workout top

Best womens workout tops: HOKA tank

(Image credit: HOKA)

HOKA Glide Tank

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Sweat wicking
+
Flattering crop
+
Affordable price point
+
Available in a range of colourways.

Reasons to avoid

-
Is cropped and has a shorter back, so doesn't offer the most coverage.

Another of Bleasdale's favourites is this HOKA Glide tank, an ultra-lightweight option designed for both tempo and easy runs, not to mention gym classes, too. 

"Regular in length at the front but cropped to the hips at the back, this Hoka tank feels much more stylish than other alternatives. There's a huge range of bright and bold colourways for the upcoming summer months," she shares. "I also loved that, when I tested, it felt super lightweight and high-performance."

8. Best Lululemon workout top

Best workout tops for women: lululemon Swiftly tech

(Image credit: lululemon)

Lululemon Swiftly tech racerback tank top

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Breathable
+
Flattering cropped fit
+
Doesn't chafe or ride up. 

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs to be washed on a specific setting to avoid piling
-
Higher price point
-
Cropped, so doesn't offer the most coverage.

I've worn this lululemon design for races, gym sessions,  yoga and more - when I say I have worn this top a lot, I mean I have worn it more times than I care to admit. 

It's the best workout top you can buy, IMO - whether you're chucking it on for gym sessions or even tackling marathons in it (yep, I've worn it for a full 26.2), it's butter-soft, unbelievably good at sweat-wicking, and feels barely there, which is exactly what I look for from a workout top.

I've had mine for around a year or so now and it always washes well, never smells, and has never caused chafing, either. An investment, but a good one, IMO. Scroll our edit of all the best lululemon products, here. 

9. Best high street workout top

Best workout tops for women: H&M

(Image credit: H&M)

Dry Move Seamless Cropped sports top

Reasons to buy

+
High neck racerback design
+
Sweat-wicking
+
Affordable price point.

Reasons to avoid

-
High street so may show wear and tear after a few months.

Piza is a fan of tight-fitting, sweat-wicking workout gear for running to make sure she's both supported and comfortable for her mileage. "I'm a self-professed sweaty girl, so sweat-wicking options that actually sweat wick are a must for me - like this H&M option," she shares.

Sharing that she was surprised by the quality of the fit kit from the high street chain, she adds: "I always opt for tops that also offer adequate breast support - I don't like the washing piling up and so try to avoid tops where you have to wear a sports bra, too. For this reason and to my surprise, H&M's DryMove range has quickly become one of my absolute go-to's. This top has a higher neck racerback design that helps me feel protected and dry throughout my workouts. Plus, it comes in four different colours and is an incredible price point for the quality you receive." 

Piza has had hers a while now and believes the quality is good as new, too. 

10. Most fashion-forward workout top

Best workout tops for women: Alo Yoga

(Image credit: Alo Yoga)

Alo Yoga Elevate Tank

Reasons to buy

+
Body sculpting
+
Long lasting quality
+
In-built bra

Reasons to avoid

-
Higher price point
-
Size up for more coverage

For low intensity workouts, Piza opts for non restricting tops that stretch along the body and do not inhibit movement. "This top is my Pilates go to. I've found it to be extremely flattering as it has flexible fabric that sculpts the body beautifully," she shares.

Alo Yoga are particularly known for their classic designs that are the perfect studio-to-street options. Piza found this top to be an instant hit as a functional yet versatile style top. "I've worn this top in the studio and beyond, " she says, " However, as it does have a sharper V cut, I would advise those weary of cleavage to size up for added comfort."

Which top is best to workout in?

That'll depend on your sweat levels, what fit you prefer, and what workout you're doing - that said, it's always preferable to opt for a non-cotton option as it simply isn't designed to sweat wick. Sure, it's great for day-to-day, but start sweating in it and you're likely to feel pretty uncomfortable, fast.

Moisture-wicking fabrics, like polyester, nylon, or bamboo, are all great options that'll keep your session lightweight and as sweat-free as possible.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.