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The hands-down best sweat-wicking activewear for summer


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Photo: Amanda Baker by Tim Gibson for Well+Good
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There’s nothing worse than a muggy, humid summer day. Scratch that—there’s nothing worse than an outdoor workout on a muggy, humid summer day.

You know the basic rules: wear breathable fabrics, avoid black, and stay hydrated. But with so many different materials out there claiming to be sweat-wicking, sweat-resistant, moisture-wicking, or absorbent, there’s a lot of confusion about what to actually buy.

So. what should you be reaching for? “When looking for a fabric that will keep you cool in the summer, the rule is: the more natural, the better—think bamboo, cotton, and lyocell—because they are naturally hydrophilic,” explains Sarah Chase, director of design and development at Tasc Performance.

While you won’t see hydrophilic listed on the label of your favorite leggings, the term—named after the Greek word for “moisture loving”—is important in the fight against summertime stickiness because it denotes fabric that absorbs liquid off the skin, thereby allowing it to evaporate into the air. (Rather than, you know, sit and pool in that stretch of your back that turns into a Slip’n Slide by the time you’re starting your second round of burpees.)

In addition to the three stand-out materials Chase names, other hydrophilic fabrics to look out for include rayon, linen, and even wool, which the CEO of Outdoor Voices has dubbed a “miracle fabric”. (Yes, seriously: It sounds crazy, but if you skip the sweater and opt for one of the brand’s tank tops or pull on a pair of merino socks, you might be surprised by how dry you stay.)

The opposite is a hydrophobic fabric, AKA most water-resistant fabrics. They’re great for colder days and repelling any outside moisture like rain and snow, but come summer, these materials trap sweat and moisture onto your skin so it takes much longer to dry—not exactly ideal.

Chase also notes that while most activewear brands incorporate a slubbed jersey knit designed to make your clothing more breathable, not all are created equal—especially when it comes to the humid temps of summer. So, when in doubt, go au natural (with your fabrics).

Don’t want to study labels? We’ve done the searching for you.

Scroll down for activewear featuring moisture-wicking hydrophilic fabrics that will keep you looking good and dry—no matter how much you sweat.

Get Started
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Photo: Tasc Performance

Tasc Performance Core Racer Tank, $34

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Photo: Lucy

Lucy Power Train Pocket Capri Legging, $79

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Photo: Adidas by Stella McCartney

Adidas By Stella McCartney Ruched Tank, $80

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Photo: Moving Comfort

Moving Comfort Uplift Crossback Sports Bra, $48

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Photo: Outdoor Voices

Outdoor Voices Merino High Neck Tank, $65

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Photo: Reebok

Reebok Woven Short, $35

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Photo: Nike

Nike Pro Hypercool Limitless T-Shirt, $65

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Photo: L’etoile Sport

L’etoile Sport Paneled Tennis Top, $135

Now that you’ve got your outfit picked out, get moving! This six-minute do-anywhere Barry’s Bootcamp workout will having you feeling it the next day—guaranteed. Or put your sweat-wicking fabrics to the test with this outdoor core workout.