Experience From - Brian Garcia , Norm Yarger , Rick Kelley , Dan Baglione , Anstr Davidson , Norm Yarger , Janet Whitesel , Wesley Best , Chip Marz , Ray Zirblis , Fred Vance , Rich Schick , Sarah Tynes , Ray Zirblis #2 , Ray Zirblis #3 , Norm Yarger #2 , Ian Hutcheson , Elisabeth Archambault , Larry Tabachnick , Scott Weber ,

Brian Garcia

Due to some skin cancer problems my doctor suggest that if I run I run with sun screen and/or long sleeve shirt.

Question? does any one know of a good loose fitting cool shirt and where to get it.

Norm Yarger

Jay asked if anyone had silk shirts. I have two silk turtleneck shirts that are great. They are light weight and fairly cool worn alone or warmer worn as a first layer. Can't report on chafing since I now wear duct tape on the nipples.

Rick Kelley

Subject: Duofold Coolmax, Thermax and Thermastat Shirts

Duofold puts out some very affordable and well made Coolmax shirts in both short and long sleeve and in a variety of colors. Short sleeve ones go for around $15 and the long sleeve for about $20. I get mine through Popular Sporting Goods. They put them on sale at various times for as much as 25% off. I think Campmor sells them as well. Check out their website at Duofold's website is currently under construction but they can be reached by email at

They should be able to tell you where to find their long sleeve Coolmax shirts in your area. Duofold also makes long sleeve shirts of Thermax and Thermastat. Both fabrics are vastly superior to polypropylene, IMHO and are very affordably priced as well.

Dan Baglione

Subject: Loose, White Shirt

Try a white, long sleeved, dress shirt. It could even be silk. You can button as many buttons as you feel necessary. It is also a good idea to slit the tail so that it doesn.t bind around the rear.

Anstr Davidson

How about an old white dress shirt for about $1 at the Goodwill or 50 cents at a yard sale or free out of your closet? They are cool and reflect the sun. You can also put stuff in the pocket and button or unbutton as the heat ebbs and flows. Of course, you can spend $20 to $30 on some fancy fabric if you want. Admitedly, the dress shirt won't be much good in cool weather, but you don't get much of that in Northridge.

Norm Yarger

Subject: Silk Tee Shirt

My silk shirts cost me $5.00 each on sale. That's less than any of the newer synthetic fabrics and it works as well plus it doesn't turn into a wire brush as the fibers begin to break down.

Janet Whitesel

Subject: Shirt SPFs

For what it is worth, the Summer 1997 TravelSmith catalog (1-800-950-1600), describing their Vented Shade Gear (made of QuickWick Supplex nylon) says, "... For guaranteed protection, it's been rated SPF 24 by an independent lab--ordinary cotton tees may offer no more than SPF 8. ..."
This bit about the cotton tees is a bit extreme, probably concocted by greedy advertising execs. If it were true, I would have burned to a crisp long ago. I live at altitude, and if I'm out for more than an hour or two, then an SPF 15 sunscreen on my exposed skin will leave me with a nasty sunburn. I usually opt for SPF 30 which is usually fine as long as I don't miss a spot or spread it too thin. However, I have never ever burned through my ordinary cotton tees. I had read that a typical tee shirt is SPF 30, and my experience would seem to corroborate that.

Wesley Best

In my opinion bare chested with a sunscreen that doesn't block the pores (greaseless) is the way to go. When all is said and done a light shirt offers about spf 15 protection at a huge cost of the body's ability to get rid of heat.
Wearing some type of "wickinig" material has actually been shown to keep you cooler than nothing at all. The material allows the sweat to evaporate, keeping the sweat cycle going. I don't care too much about "studies show", but it works for me.

Chip Marz

In past years I've run the PENNAR 40 miler in a short sleeved 50/50 short sleeved t-shirt...and some shorts, too, for those who may be concerned. PENNAR is the first week in June, and is run on Pensacola beach gets HOT!!! One year the heat index was 115.

Anyway, my question for techi types, is whether a light colored long sleeved polypro shirt might be a better option that the short sleeved 50/50 T? I'm thinking the long sleeve might be best to protect from the sun, and the poly pro might wick away like coolmax??

Ray Zirblis

While I fussed about it at first, I've come to run in long-sleeved shirts just about all the time. A youth spent shirtless in the sun led me to two close calls with melanoma skin cancer in 1994-5 so I try to be good, though I had always worn the least possible clothing while outdoors. I also don't care to use sun screen unless I have to, not that sunscreen would help you to keep cool.

Your question seems more aimed at staying cool than a concern with sun protection for your skin, but of course doing one more or less does the other. I have a Solumbra sun shirt that is a box cut pull over with mesh chest, back, and wrist-to-armpit bands. I like it very much. It is rugged and comfortable. The box cut does provide airflow. The wrist openings are small, so it isn't really possible to push your sleeves up, but of course the whole point of the garment is full coverage. It isn't cheap at about 69 dollars, but it will take abuse. A baggy white dress shirt with maybe some slits cut in the armpits and back would probably work as well.

For moderate days, I like the featherlight longsleeve crew by Patigonia in white--very light, very strong, and I can push up the sleeves. Again, this isn't cheap.

I wore full fig--Solumbra shirt, shorts over white silk long underwear bottoms, and full headscarf held on by sunvisor-- in the Marathon des Sables this year, and felt pretty comfortable. The important thing to note, though, is that the heat was dry. There was zero humidity. Full gear isn't as comfortable in humid heat.

Of course, Europeans are sunworshippers and I got lots of funny looks at the MdS, as I do running in long sleeves and neck-flap here in Vermont. People still view sun exposure today as cigarette smoking was viewed forty years ago: maybe that will shift.

So I think any baggie shirt type garment cut short at the waist so air can get under it, and maybe some slits for air flow, will work. A neck bandanna or high collar are also good. Light, baggy pants, too. And protect the head. I think head gear is very important. There are all kinds of fancy 'foreign legion' type hats out now, but thin cotton sheeting worn under or velcroed to a baseball hat will do.

I was very resistant to running with full body protection, but in my experience it does feel cooler, or I've gotten used to it. Hope this helps.

Fred Vance

I like Cool Max and polypro shirts for wicking away moisture and staying cool. Make sure that the weight and weave are appropriate. That may be more important than the color, although white should work best.

I've got a variety of Cool Max/Polypro shirts, most of them white. Some I never wear because they are so heavy weight and tightly woven. My ideal shirt is very loosely woven and light weight.

I think that a heavy tightly woven shirt cuts down on air flow, and prevents the material from drying out.

Given most polypro shirts that I've seen, I would almost be more inclined to wear an old, wore out, loose, white, dress shirt.

Road Runner Sports was recently selling a T-shirt with that they call Air-lite or something like that. I really like the material, and wish they sold a long sleeve version in white.

At PENNAR, the humidity is so high, that whatever you wear probably won't dry out. I think the salt from your sweat may even hinder evaporation.

Rich may have the best idea I've heard for running in high heat/humidity. If you go topless, there's nothing to hold the sweat on your body. In high heat/humidity, it is my opinion that sweat actually works against you, by holding more heat since it can't evaporate.

In low humidity like at Badwater, clothing is a definite advantage and will cool you more than you would expect.

Ray correctly pointed out the need for protection from UV to avoid skin cancer. The other advantage of wearing a shirt is that it collects the sweat that would otherwise run down in your socks.

I've done many a run where I was squishing around in my shoes after half an hour. With a shirt, you can periodically pull it off, and wring it out to keep the moisture from migrating to your shoes.

You could try a compromise. Use UV sun block, no shirt, and put some of those tennis wrist bands around your ankles. :)

BTW, I did see a topless female runner on the Stevens Creek Trail one day. There are switchbacks through the high chaparral near the middle of the reservoir, and they are so closely spaced that it is like one of those hedge mazes. You can hear someone on the other side of the chaparral talking before you see them.

Anyway, I was struggling uphill, and I hear this guy saying, "Hold your arms up above your head like this." Shortly there after, I dodged the guy as we both rounded as switchback and in front of me was a lovely bare breasted young woman running down the trail toward me. I gaped, and she smiled and we went our separate ways.

Later, I puzzled over what was going on, and concluded that the scenario went like this:

She says, "I'm so hot!", and removes her top as she runs along behind him.

He is oblivious to what is going on behind him and says, "Hold your arms up above your head like this, ... it will help you cool off."

After passing me, he was probably even more surprised when he realized later that his running partner wasn't really complaining about the heat.

I still call that section of the trail the Topless Maze. I've got to quit going back there, I know that I'll never see that again.

Rich Schick

One member stated that some of the high tech fabrics are cooler than bare skin during exercise "according to studies." What studies? I have never found, to include an extensive recent search on the net, any study to have shown this. Please don't be confused by marketing claims. There are numerous studies comparing one fabric to others, check out DuPont's site with its work on coolmax versus the competition for an example.

I fully agree with those who fear UV skin damage, however clothing is not really all that great. Cotton shirts can start at SPF's below 10, typically about 15, and then go down from there. Good old Bullfrog comes in a SPF 45 and stays on for hours. Even the best of fabrics suitable for exercise only start at SPF's in the 30's, and again will loose some of that when they get wet and cling. See below.

Sun Protective Clothing Can Be a Bright Idea

"You can't just put on any old shirt and expect it to protect you," says Dr. Julian Menter, Research Professor of Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Fabrics can differ greatly in their ability to shield you from UV radiation."

The ideal sun protective fabrics are lightweight and comfortable and protect against exposure even when wet. Sun protective clothing products that make explicit medical or health-related claims including their prevention of specific conditions such as skin cancer are considered to be medical devices by the FDA. Solumbra Clothing by Sun Precautions of Seattle, Washington, has an SPF of greater than 30 and has received FDA clearance under medical device regulations.

The risk in the United States for malignant melanoma keeps rising-from 1 in 1,500 in 1935 to a projected 1 in 75 by the year 2000. The reasons may include the increased popularity of outdoor leisure activity and the interest in acquiring a tan.

In an experiment with mice, Dr. Menter and his associates compared typical summer clothing fabric with the Solumbra fabric, a proprietary, tightly woven synthetic. With an SPF of 6.5, the cotton fabric protected mice against short-term UV effects but failed to protect against long-term skin damage. In fact, the incidence of tumors in these mice was comparable to those mice receiving no UV protection. Mice protected by the Solumbra fabric showed no sign of skin damage. For more information about sun protective clothing, call (800) 882-7860.

Sarah Tynes

Personal experience works for this hot 'n humid runner. One reason is I can't stand the feeling of the sun burning my skin, like being in an oven on broil. I do also believe, from experience, that my coolmax short-sleeve t keeps me cooler than when I run shirtless. Maybe it's just because the shirt wicks the sweat away, while when shirtless, the sweat pours down me like a faucet and just makes me 'think' I'm hotter?

Ray Zirblis #2

I like wearing silk, too. I don't think it provides high sun protection, but since I always wear long sleeves now, silk is another alternative for a 2nd layer. For instance, I ran our little 5K race in Montpelier yesterday afternoon in a longsleeve silk crew under a T-shirt in gusty 75 degree F. weather. Yes, it insulates, but it is also cool in hot weather, probably because it is so darn sheer.

It doesn't exactly wick moisture away, just soaks it up. But I find myself wearing it just because I love the feel of the stuff against my skin and the way the slightest breeze goes through it. (And I think a lot of the wicking talk is just sales hype.) Silk's very strong for it's weight: that is it's virtue. The silk long underwear bottoms I wore for the Marathon des Sables weighted 3 ounces and took up very little space in my pack.

Silk would NOT be my first choice in a high humidity situation. Better for dry to average, and for any situation where one must travel light. Hope this is of use. I don't own any stock in the silk trade. I'd like to run the Silk road though :).

Ray Zirblis #3

Rick, you make a great point about the poor sun protection of typical clothing, especially as it gets wet, which is why I mostly wear Solumbra shirts and other products in the Summer for my medium and long runs. (NFI, No financial interest!)

I have always felt odd about sunscreens, though. I wear them, but do not have a lot of confidence in the stuff as a perfect fix. I think that very heavy sweating, rubbing of one's skin against itself or branches and other clothing, incomplete initial application, and other factors, must reduce the effect. (Of course, this is my 'feeling.' I don't have studies to back it up. I've seen so many people get fried while wearing high SPF sunscreens. Maybe I just have trouble believing in something I can't see!) Thorough and complete coverage, and re-application, is very important, I'm sure you'd agree.

I see sun screen as one of several good tools--along with clothing, hats and visors, sunglasses, full examination-- to bring to bear on the problem. On the other hand, I know I've come along way from the guy who loved running wearing the least clothing possible.

For me, it comes down to taking sun protection as seriously as I take blister maintenance, proper hydration, navigation, hill training, all that 'real' running stuff. As with all of these areas, I know I'll push or break the rules of 'best practice' sometimes, but the trend for me is upward. Of course, a couple of doctors cutting chunks out of one's body has a way of getting one's attention.

By the way, the irony is that back in 1994 a doctor friend noted the possibly cancerous birthmark on my lower back while we were running together and I had my shirt off! (She saved my life.)

Norm Yarger #2

My experience with silk and wool too is that these fabrics will not hold water (similar to the synthetics) and work in much the same manner as the high tech stuff. Cotton and other plant fibers are just the opposite. They soak up water and hold it. That's why you don't want to wear cotton socks. When the feet sweat, the socks get wet and hold that wetness. Then they tend to bunch up and create "hot spots" on the feet that can lead to blisters quickly.

Ian Hutcheson

you asked for a reply on the other brand addition to patagonia "silk-WEIGHT" fabric, there are 3 other white fabrics that have passed my "no sunburn", light-weight, cool, dry test:

  1. sporthill (Eugene, OR) had, maybe still has a very light mesh, downside is durability.
  2. terramar has a fabric called "transport ec2" that seems like it might be great but I haven't completely tested it yet.
  3. sugoi is a Canadian brand name originated for cycling but they're now making runner clothes.

I think I've seen their stuff in the USA. it and patagonia are my two favourites.

I don't agree that silk and wool work like the high tech synthetics. I've never tried wool but it sure doesn't dry as fast as synthetic when it's hanging out to dry. and it's been years since I've used silk T-shirts (before the synthetics were readily available) but I preferred even the original "polypro" "lifa brand" types of synthetic fabric over silk. and I think that the newer high tech fabrics have come a long way since those original synthetics.

Elisabeth Archambault

Ray wrote:

I have always felt odd about sunscreens, though. I wear them, but do not have a lot of confidence in the stuff as a perfect fix. I think that very heavy sweating, rubbing of one's skin against itself or branches and other clothing, incomplete initial application, and other factors, must reduce the effect. (Of course, this is my 'feeling.' I don't have studies to back it up. I've seen so many people get fried while wearing high SPF sunscreens. Maybe I just have trouble believing in something I can't see!) Thorough and complete coverage, and re-application, is very important, I'm sure you'd agree.

A few years ago, when we were putting up a barb-wire fence, I was out in the sun for 12 hours straight. It was a cloudless day, right near the summer solstice when the sun was strong. I wore an old white dress shirt (long-sleeves), and long pants, and all exposed skin was well slathered with SPF 25. By the end of the day, I was sunburned right through the shirt, but the sunscreen-slathered parts were okay.

Needless to say, I use sunscreen religiously. I'm a blue-eyed blonde who burns easily, and the lotions and potions available these days have sure expanded my ability to enjoy the outdoors in summer.

Dana Roueche

I'm with Rich on this one. As soon as it's above 60, I prefer to go bare back. Do I care if it is cooler or warmer than wearing a shirt? No. Personally, I can't stand wearing a shirt when I'm sweating because it feels like a damp rag even if it is Coolmax and to say it was uncomfortable would be putting it mildly. Sure I use coolmax and polypro for their wicking properties but I use them in the winter to stay warm and to minimize the cold damp rag feel of materials like cotton. In Colorado, there isn't a whole lot of humidity so evaporation is usually pretty effective.

The problem with studies is they need to be one dimensional. They may measure the fact that you might be cooler by some amount that may be imperceptible while they ignore the fact that you may be far more uncomfortable from what is supposed to be making you cooler.

To be running in the Colorado mountains during the summer on a very blue, dry, clear day, wearing nothing more than a nylon pair of running shorts, shoes and holding a water bottle is my definition of joy and freedom. Besides, I like showing off my tan and the fact that I spend a lot of time in the weight room.

If the shirt fits...

Larry Tabachnick

After 9 operations for melanoma in the last 6 years I would just urge people to at least remember the possibilities if they are prone to sun burn. Maybe it was the years living in tampa and never using a shirt but at any rate - it has been a long struggle and talk about interrupting your training.... I too had a friend recognize a mole while I was out without a shirt and two days later I was in surgery, given six weeks to live.

Something to think about if you burn easy or have lots of moles -- remember it can take years to show up--- on a funnier note I use a spf 33 cancer guard that I buy at kmart when they have it - I get 6-8 bottles at a time- the clerks all like to ask if I am going on a long vacation and I always say yes rather than embarrass them by saying no I have cancer, run on

Scott Weber

I received a mailer today from a company called 'Solar Eclipse'. They produce sun protective clothing that has a calculated spf of 40 (pants, t-shirts, jackets and the like). They also write that the sun protective clothing they sell blocks 99% of the UVA & UVB rays. Of course, a lead suit also can claim the same...but seriously, I think a couple of racers at Badwater have used their stuff and have liked it.

Having tried a variety of products at Badwater, this looked interesting to me and thought I'd pass on their web site to anyone who might be interested in checking their line out.

I have no financial interest in this company.

Their web site: