What is The Most Breathable Fabric for Runners?

“Clothes make the man” is a famous quote used to refer to being well dressed as the finishing touch on one’s personal presentation. In the running world, clothing definitely makes a difference. Luckily for runners, there are companies that create workout apparel that is both stylish and made from a breathable fabric.

This ensures that you are comfortable through your workouts but also can look darn good while doing it!

List of Breathable Fabrics


This moisture-wicking, quick-drying breathable fabric is often seen in workout apparel. Not your grandma’s polyester, today’s fabrics are cute and functional. It is durable, excels at holding shape, and keeps color well. This means that the much-coveted hot pinks, bright yellows and neon greens of the running community will last washing after washing.

Today’s polyester can be made to be lightweight and comfortable, a big change from the fabric of the 70s. Don’t shy away from this miracle fiber. It is a must-have for your workout apparel arsenal.


Many running clothes have nylon within their fabric makeup. Nylon is also moisture-wicking and quick drying. Also, nylon is a breathable fabric that will keep you comfortable while in the hot confines of the gym.

breathable fabric: nylon

A bonus of nylon is it stretches well. This is an advantage for runners who prefer form-fitting clothing during a workout. Your favorite running tights, for example, are likely to contain nylon.


Spandex has all of the amazing qualities of the other fabrics but is also the queen of stretch. Spandex is likely included in everything from sports bras to leggings.

Did you know that spandex can expand to up to 600 times its original size? That’s a lot of flexibility!


Believe it or not, this fabric is made of wood and pulp. Since it has some rayon incorporated into it, it is considered a semi-synthetic fabric known for breathability and comfort.

lyocell fabric


Most of us think about wool as a cold-weather fabric. Known for moisture-wicking and breathability, wool traps the air between layers to keep the athlete warm and toasty on those frigid winter days. However, wool is not just for winter running. Many companies now make thin wool socks that offer moisture-wicking, breathability, and comfort for all seasons.

While regular wool can be itchy and scratchy when worn next to the skin, Merino Wool is soft and comfortable.


Bamboo is quickly gaining popularity as a favored fabric in the running and workout community. Comfortable, cute, and serviceable, this fabric is also touted as being an environmentally-friendly choice.

Made from bamboo pulp, it has all of the qualities of synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon while being constructed from natural materials.

Blended Fabric

Many fabrics are created from a blend of synthetic or natural fibers. Don’t shy away from these fabrics, as manufacturers often know how to get the best of both worlds. Companies are adept at combining the perfect blend of each textile to get the most bang for your buck.

This is how you end up with an item like a sports bra that offers support while holding shape, as well as having moisture-wicking and breathable qualities. You get the best of all worlds when companies mix things up to create the perfect garment. Enter happy runner singing blissfully.


If you google breathable fabric, cotton will head up the list. I mention this for newbie runners who might fall for that and head out to run in cotton sweats and t-shirt. Please be cautioned against this because while breathable, cotton is not moisture-wicking. Heading out to run in cotton is a huge mistake.

no cotton for workout gear

You may end up with chaffing if you reach for your favorite tee instead of performance gear.

Also, cotton does not hold shape. By the end of your run, that cotton outfit will be wet, baggy, and hanging from your body. Just say no to cotton!

Benefits of Wearing the Right Workout Gear

Wearing the right workout gear is important for many reasons. The first quality to look for should be moisture-wicking and breathability. These two features will ensure that as you sweat, the sweat is removed from the surface of your body. This will keep you cool in the hot months, but also ensure that your skin stays dry as you sweat during cold-weather runs.

Workout apparel should also be durable. When you sweat, your clothes could begin to hold in odor, so apparel needs to stand up to frequent washing. Also, the clothes should be stretchy yet bounce back into shape. The last thing you want is a piece of workout gear that gets stretched out and hangs down as you’re trying to run, cycle or do yoga.

Of course, you also want comfortable workout gear. This means it should fit well and allow for a full range of motion. This ensures you are unlikely to trip, get your pant leg caught in gears on your bicycle, or end up with restricted movement.

Not All Fabrics Are Created Equally

It stands to reason that not all fabrics will provide all of the above qualities. Runners, as well as other athletes, should choose their apparel carefully to prevent spending hard-earned money on items that won’t be comfortable, last, or add to the enjoyment of the incredible sport.

Making the Perfect Choice

The long and short of it seems to be that while there are natural fabrics like cotton and linen that offer breathability, they are not the best choice for workout gear. If you are looking for breathability along with moisture-wicking qualities, synthetic is the way to go.

In the world of synthetic gear, you also get the perk of a breathable fabric that holds shape and color, withstand multiple washings, and can often be water repellant.

When choosing workout gear, after you pick your favorite color – read the label. Your comfort depends on making good choices!

To learn more about Rockay’s advanced designs of running socks and the fabrics we use, visit the page here.

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