this thing's incredible

Nothing Keeps Me As Cool on My Runs As This Unstylish Sun-Blocking Shirt

It literally blocks the sun. Photo: Courtesy Retailer

Running outside is my favorite way to exercise, and I’ve built up a wardrobe so I can do it pretty much year-round. I have extra layers I bundle up in when its cold, and a waterproof jacket I’ll throw on when it rains — but I’ve always struggled to find a warm-weather running shirt that actually kept me cool and wicked away a lot of sweat. And not for lack of looking: I have tried at least a half-dozen different running shirts that promised to do those things — including RYU’s Tech Tee Hybrid (not flexible enough), Iffley Road’s Drirelease Track Tee (caused chafing), and the Adidas Training Essentials Tech Tee (did not hold up with regular wear and washing).

Sweating isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re a heavy sweater like me, it can certainly muck up your workout. Recently, though, my summer wardrobe received the breath of fresh air it desperately needed when I discovered Columbia’s Solar Ice shirts — which, full disclosure, I heard about from a friend who works for the brand who suggested them to me.

While the shirts are not stylish (at all), I’ve never felt cooler or more comfortable in the sun than when I’m wearing one. I have a short-sleeved and a long-sleeved version, but I run four times a week, so I’m constantly comparing their performance to other shirts. I’ve found that these shirts get less saturated with sweat, even as summer humidity has kicked into high gear. As I wind down my workouts, they help me stop sweating much faster than I would in any other shirt, too. I’ll even wear mine to mow the lawn and grill without scrambling to mop my brow like I normally would after a few minutes in direct sun.

The shirts’ ability to keep me cooler and drier apparently has a lot to do with fabrication: The exterior of each is covered in tiny white dots made of titanium dioxide, the same stuff used in many sunscreens. These dots deflect a lot of the sunlight that the shirt would otherwise absorb and pass on to the body as infrared heat, which is why the shirts are rated UPF 50 (meaning their fabric provides very strong sun protection). But the dots, which aren’t so small that you can’t see them, are spaced out enough to still allow for breathability — areas that aren’t covered by them absorb body sweat, which then evaporates quickly. Have the shirts stopped me from sweating entirely? Of course not. But they genuinely do keep me cooler longer — and because they dry fast, there’s usually always a non-soggy spot near the bottom that I can use to wipe my forehead.

Here’s a version of the author’s long-sleeved Solar Ice shirt cut for women.

Columbia doesn’t make a short-sleeved style of John’s exact shirt for gals, but this model is very similar to his, except with a lower UPF of 30.

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Nothing Keeps Me As Cool on My Runs As This Unstylish Shirt