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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
12 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
131 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best athletic tank tops for women

As summer heats up, athletes don’t have to thanks to the reliable and always stylish tank top. This sleeveless sports garment is easy to wear and looks great. It’s an essential element in the athletic woman’s wardrobe.

Tank tops became a mainstay for women athletes much earlier than most people think. In 1912, the US women’s swim team at the Stockholm Olympics wore an early version of the modern tank top as part of their uniform. While the design was chosen for its functionality, it was considered scandalous and daring at the time. Today, women can focus solely on the functional and fashionable aspects of the athletic tank top and not worry about causing a scandal.

The tank top is a versatile piece of clothing that keeps the wearer cool and allows for freedom of movement. But choosing an athletic tank top for women requires some time and thought. Our buying guide covers key aspects of this garment so you’ll know what to look for, which fabric and cut will work best for you, and more. Read on for details and check out our favorites.

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athletic tank tops for women
Tank tops regained popularity with women in the 1970s as more revealing fashions became acceptable, and the tops remain popular today.

Key considerations

Pros and cons

Athletic tank tops for women are a necessity on hot summer days. For runners, tank tops provide incredible breathability thanks to the loose drape around the torso. In the gym, athletic tank tops allow full freedom of movement so you can get your best workout without limitations. The benefits of tank tops include the following:

  • Tank tops allow sweat to evaporate rather than cling to the skin.
  • The tops help to manage body temperature. Many athletes feel they can work out longer because their body temperature stays lower.
  • The sleeveless design allows the arms complete freedom of movement.
  • The tops are lightweight, easy to pack into a gym bag, and easy to care for.

Because tank tops are so popular in warmer months, the market is flooded with comfortable-looking styles that may not be ideal for athletes. Plus, tank tops have a few downsides that potential buyers should be aware of:

  • Tank tops don’t do much to keep you warm in heavily air-conditioned gyms or on cooler spring and fall days. You might need to add a layer.
  • All-cotton tank tops trap sweat and can turn into a soggy mess halfway through your workout. Choose a tank top that wicks sweat away from your body so it can then evaporate.
  • Tank tops expose more of your skin to the sun. If you burn easily, you’ll need to limit your time outdoors or wear sunscreen.

If you need a new athletic tank top while vacationing internationally, ask for a vest in the UK or a singlet in Australia and New Zealand.

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Features

Sizing

Athletic tank tops commonly come in sizes small, medium, large, extra-large, XXL, and upward. When a tank top is marketed as athleisure wear, shirt sizing may be used (such as 8, 10, 12, 14) instead of general sizing.

Style

Women’s tank tops come in a variety of styles. A few of the most common athletic tank top styles include the following:

Built-in bra: This provides some support and helps reduce chafing during athletic activity.

Lined: Athletic tank tops may include a thin lining that helps wick away sweat while managing body temperature. These tops are great for outdoor activities during spring and fall.

Flared: This tank top flares at the bottom, creating a flowing, relaxed look and improving airflow beneath the garment.

Racerback: The straps on these tank tops meet in the back, just below the nape of the neck to become a single strap. This style allows for maximum ventilation while the top stays in place when exercising or playing sports.

Muscle: This tight-fitting tank top is cut more like a traditional T-shirt, with a high neckline and smaller armholes.

Halter: This tank top fastens around the back of the neck rather than relying on shoulder straps. It’s not a popular athletic style because most halter tops are not as comfortable as other styles.

Backless: The back panel of this style of tank top is cut very low, almost to the waistline. This can dramatically improve airflow and breathability but may be too loose for certain sports.

Low neckline: The neckline sits a couple of inches lower than the typical women’s tank top, allowing for better air circulation.

High neckline: This is a popular cut for tank tops worn in active sports where a loose fit would be hard to control. Women can also wear a sports bra underneath without the straps showing.

Fabric

Polyester: This is a mainstay of athletic apparel because it’s light, breathable, and wicks away sweat. Most tank tops feature a blend of polyester and other materials.

Spandex: This is added to the tank top fabric to give more structure to the garment. Fitted tank tops rely on spandex to easily conform to the body.

Mesh: Used as a liner or sewn on as a center panel, nylon mesh is the ultimate fabric for maximum airflow, but it can be quite transparent. An option called pinhole mesh improves ventilation through a garment without being as revealing.

Cotton: While it isn’t recommended for sports clothing, cotton is very comfortable. Consider a poly-cotton blend if you want breathability and comfort.

athletic tank top for women 2
DID YOU KNOW?
In the early 1900s, women spearheaded the introduction of the tank top as fashion and sports attire.
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Accessories

Eco-friendly detergent: Rockin’ Green Platinum Series Active Wear Laundry Detergent
If you sweat in your athletic gear, your clothes will get funky. This detergent uses plant-derived enzymes to break up oils and dirt and a bit of tea tree oil to disinfect clothing.

Headband: Buff Coolnet UV+ Multifunctional Headband
The original flexible microfiber band, this one-piece accessory controls sweat, keeps hair out of your face, and offers sun protection. Its cooling technology helps maintain body temperature on blazing hot days too.

Wristbands: Adidas Interval Wristbands
Tired of sweat running down to your hands just as you’re trying to grip a barbell? Adidas puts a modern twist on a low-tech solution with these forearm-gripping, sweat-trapping wristbands.

Sunscreen: EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion
Don’t play games with the sun. This SPF 50 mineral-based zinc oxide lotion protects well, absorbs quickly, and stays put when you’re working out.

Athletic tank top prices

Inexpensive: You can find a variety of lightweight, poly-cotton tank tops for just $8 to $12, perfect for those on a budget. Their performance can vary widely, however.

Mid-range: Athletes can find sweat-wicking, breathable poly-blend fabrics in the $13 to $21 range.

Expensive: Expect to pay $22 to $40 for structured tanks with cutting-edge fabric blends.

Athletic tank tops should fit loosely but not too loosely. If you must continually pull the tank top back into place during exercise, exchange it for a size down or try a different style.

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Tips

  • Take care of your tank tops. Change out of a tank top as soon as possible after exercise, rinse it in cool water, and hang it up to dry. This will help reduce odor and extend the life of the garment. Wash athletic tank tops in cold or cool water only unless the manufacturer’s instructions say otherwise. Washing in hot water can break down the fabric and lock in odors. You can spot clean oil or sunscreen stains with warm water and mild detergent, then wash the garment in cool water. Hang up athletic tank tops to dry or put them in the dryer on a no-heat setting only.
  • Match the style to the exercise. Muscle-style tank tops are a popular choice for active sports like soccer and martial arts. Racerback tank tops are seen as frequently in the gym as on the track thanks to their comfortable, breathable design and extra-wide armholes.
  • Don’t leave a damp tank top in your gym bag after a workout. The mildew odor may be impossible to get out. Empty the bag as soon as you get home and wash all athletic clothing as soon as possible.
  • Wear your top with layers. A tank top is a great choice for hiking trips in summer. You can layer on warmer clothes at higher altitudes.
athletic tank tops for women 2
Tank tops labeled as “anti-odor” are engineered to be antibacterial to reduce odor buildup in the fabric, a common problem in athletic garments made with spandex.

FAQ

Q. Why are these tops called “tanks”?

A. The best theory out there is that the modern tank top originated with Olympic swimmers, and the nickname for swimming pools back then was “tanks.” The tops resembled swimsuits (“tank” suits), so people in the United States began calling the new garments “tank tops” as they became more popular.

Q. If women started the fashion trend, why were tank tops popular only with men for so long?

A. Most likely, social mores and the ebb and flow of fashion trends kept the tank top firmly in the realm of athletic wear for women for many decades. Men wore tank tops for swimming and athletic events, and they adopted the comfortable garment as an undershirt for daily wear, replacing long johns and union suits. With the advent of the bikini and the miniskirt in the 1960s, and the rise of casual fashion, the tank top quickly became popular among women again.

Q. What’s the best athletic tank top for women to wear when lifting weights?

A. Comfort outweighs style in the gym, especially when lifting. An athletic tank top needs to stay in place during lifts while not limiting the movement of the arms or body. It also needs to wick away sweat and not get soaking wet during a hard session.

Q. Are athletic tank tops a requirement for women runners?

A. Not at all. Women runners wear a variety of athletic shirt styles depending on their personal preference and comfort. Athletic tank tops are extremely popular with runners during the summer because they are cool and expose more skin to the air, keeping body temperature down. But other runners prefer T-shirts or even long sleeves for protection from the sun. Unless they’re required to wear a team uniform, runners can wear whatever they like.

Q. Can I wear a tank top under a martial arts gi?

A. Choose a tank with a high neckline that is well fitted to the body, especially if you’re practicing a high-contact sport like judo or jiujitsu. The tank top shouldn’t slip too far out of place when your gi top is tugged on by an opponent. Your chief goal is to maintain body temperature during a workout and reduce chafing from the outer garment or the practice mat. A tank top with a higher percentage of spandex may work best.

 

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