Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Tracksmith Multi Tester Men's and Women's Apparel Review: Front of the Running Class in Style and Performance

Article by Don Reichelt, Renee Krusemark, Peter Stuart, Sally Reiley, and Sam Winebaum

Tracksmith Running Apparel


Sam: The Tracksmith vibe is solidly from my early running days in the 1970’s in New England, on the roads, in prep school at Phillips Exeter and at Ivy Dartmouth College where I ran varsity XC and even went to the NCAA Div 1 Championships with our great 1976 team. I ran many times at Van Cortlandt Park, the namesake of Tracksmith’s most famous pieces, a scary brutal course and home to all our big championship races.

The top right photo above is the top of the infamous “Freshman Hill” on the Dartmouth home course in a dual meet against Harvard. A gigantic steep hill followed by a short downhill.  We trained to accelerate the last part then charge as I am doing. Broke ‘em every time.  And Mount Hermon in the meet on our home course above was where Frank Shorter went to school before Yale. 

And not only the aesthetic but also in their homage upstairs at their Track House HQ on Newbury Street and in their Meter magazine to the heroes of my youth Bill Rodgers, Greg Myers, Bob Hodge and so many more. 

Even with the clearly heartfelt and sincere homage to the past, to be honest I found it all, including the gauzy catalogs and web site with super fit attractive young runners, a bit overdone and speaking to a past in running apparel which may have looked sharp and simple but which was in fact anything but comfortable or even functional. 

Except meets, where we were issued plasticky shiny white nylon shorts and very thick singlets, most of the time we ran without a shirt in nylon shorts and cotton underwear, the infamous “jock strap” and most often given those two alternatives “commando” . And socks, cotton, always produced blisters so we often ran barefoot. Needless to say if Tracksmith really got the essentials right in the spirit of the “old days” they would get the shorts really right so I was particularly interested in how the Van Cortlandt Shorts 4” I received would perform.

So when presented with the opportunity for the RTR team to test a full array of Tracksmith I was curious to see if the throwback impeccable styling met state of the art performance. And the more luxe pricey run apparel market is getting more crowded with players such as Salomon, ON, Odlo, District Vision among those I have tested all pushing the performance. style and price envelopes. 

Peter: I’ve been running in various Tracksmith gear for a few years now. It’s a great brand with a very clear aesthetic. The look is solidly 1970’s Northeastern Cross Country. I think Dartmouth and Bowdoin when I look at Tracksmith. They manage to straddle a couple of different worlds and balance them pretty well. On the one hand they are definitely geared towards the elite runner. Their Meter magazine is full of unbearably fit runners looking unbearably graceful. Somehow they also manage to make gear that your basic age group athlete would feel comfortable wearing and look good in. So it’s high end and not TOO off putting. What I like most about Tracksmith is that they are very clear on the image they present in their clothes--and that they are very comfortable to run in. I’ve run in the Van Cortland shorts and singlets for years and recently branched out to some new gear. 

Renee: I think a bonus for Tracksmith is their appeal to the non-professional yet competitive runner. Any brand that proudly displays the word “Amatuer” on their gear is cool with me. Most major running gear companies offer global community benefits and memberships, but Tracksmith has a local, more authentic feel than the “big brands.” For disclosure: I typically run in cheap running clothes and Tracksmith fits more into the niche apparel category. I completely understand the concept of asking “Is it worth the price?” My short answer is yes. If you look good and feel good, you run well. At the least, the apparel is worth the cost for looking good on race day. 

Sally: I live north of Boston and have run the past six Boston Marathons (and was training for what should have been my seventh this year, but will now be virtual). I am fortunate to be able to train on the Boston course on Saturday mornings with thousands of other Boston runners, and so I see firsthand the local running community vibe as manifested by their running gear. A Lot of Heartbreak logos (yes, I am a Heartbreaker myself, love their positivity!), a lot of charity team swag, and now more and more Tracksmith iconic sashes! I have been known to stop in often at the Tracksmith Newbury Street store and chat with the knowledgeable guys and gals, check out the latest classic gear, and peruse the almost museum quality collection of running history displays. Their gear is known to be pricey, but worth it. I was super impressed with Tracksmith as a company when they recently signed Mary Cain as an “employee.” Take that, swoosh company.


Renee: I tested the Van Cortlandt Singlet (ivory/stone color) and the Twilight Tank (charcoal heather color). They retail for $65 and $52, respectively. 

Size wise, I typically wear a women’s medium, which is the size I wore for both tops. Measurement wise, I should wear a small, but I find a women’s size small to be too tight and not long enough (in any brand). I like to make sure my tops don’t fly up and show my midriff, and I can be nerdy about tucking in my tops. The size medium fit well for me. The Twilight tank was a perfect cut in length and very breathable, which is good because I was running in 90 degree+ temperatures. The Van Cortlandt singlet is also very breathable although it does feel heavy with sweat. On the hot day runs (90-95 degrees) the top weighed down a bit. That said, the singlet has a great race-day feel and it looks good. Would I buy these again? The singlet, probably. It’s nice to have a quality race-day top. The Twilight tank is great, if you want to pay $52 for an everyday top. My takeaway is to have a few quality expensive tops. I wouldn’t wear a $50+ top every day. 

Peter: Van Cortlandt singlets: ($65) This is probably the archetypal piece of Tracksmith gear. I think I first spotted it around 2015 on their BQ qualifier singlet. It’s a great simple piece of gear. The material is breathable, it looks great and the fit is fitting, but forgiving. I’m a medium in most running gear and the Van Cortlandt singlet is a perfect fit for me in Medium. The only ding on the Van Cortlandt is that the seam on the top of the diagonal sash design can get a little irritating on the nipples. 

Twilight Singlet:($52) The Twilight singlet is new for me. Unfortunately it seems to be cut a little differently than the Van Cortlandt. It’s about the same in terms of width, but it runs longer. I’m not sure if this is unique to the Twilight or a new sizing on Tracksmith singlets in general (I haven’t bought a van cortlandt singlet in a couple of years). Either way, I might consider sizing down in the Twilight singlet. The material is lightweight and the basic look is nice. It’s fine, it’s not my favorite piece of Tracksmith gear, and there are plenty of decent singlets out there. 

Strata Tee: ($78) The Strata tee may be my favorite material of any Tracksmith top. It’s so silky smooth that I want to put it on every day. It’s better for low humidity situations as it gets pretty wet in the Texas humidity, but it’s a great fitting and soft, soft, soft shirt. 

Harrier Tee and Longsleeve: ($72, $78) The Harrier stuff is much better for winter wear. The material is pretty substantial and wears well over time, but it’s definitely not a good summer running shirt. 

Greyboy T-shirts: ($55) The Greyboy shirts are terrific t-shirts that will probably peak about 5 years after you buy them. They are thick and sturdy--and after about 100 washes they really start to come into their own. They are built to last, and last and last. 

Sam: Van Cortlandt Tee ($70). The Tee has an impeccable fitting slightly snug top of chest and neck then draping loosely below so a fit for those with just a couple pounds extra such as me appreciate. Truly a bespoke fit and look. I don’t usually like “fitted” styles and the Van Cortlandt fits where it needs to and then flows below without looking or feeling sloppy or being over snug. I was a perfect medium here with no need to size up as I sometimes do, for example in Salomon S/Lab.

It even has notches at the hem to keep things open and flowy.

The Van Cortlandt is made of Tracksmith 2:09 mesh named after Bill Rodgers American record Boston marathon victory. Bill’s mesh shirt that day is said to have come out of a dumpster. The mesh here is luxurious soft and treated with an anti microbial finish, decent but not as effective as some. It is light in weight but not particularly thin or airy in feel in big heat given the 3d nature of the mesh. More than adequate in summer heat the Van Cortandt is the ideal weight for fall runs

The name Van Cortandt comes from the famous hilly park in Yonkers, NY where for more than a hundred years cross country races from schools, to universities, to national championships have been run (see NY Times article here). I raced there many times and it has the scariest start and finish of any course. Open up with a totally flat straight almost half mile dash to a narrow gravel path named the “Cow Path”. After winding your way through hilly forests on the paths the finish features a very steep rocky climb to the top of aptly named “Cemetery Hill” followed by a steep short downhill and a few hundred yards of flat finish stretch.

The sash across the chest speaks to a Cornell tradition dating to the 1880’s  where if the athlete scored in the league championships they would earn the sash sewn across the front of their singlet. This "t-shirt" is loaded with history and symbolism.

Conclusion: A simply beautiful running shirt with a luxurious feel and impeccable fit. I call it my “dress up” run shirt and a great choice for fall running. Its performance is more than adequate but it is not the ultimate tech running shirt for summer out there or even in the Tracksmith line as their new Strata with Coldblack heat absorption reducing and sun protection finish in a Swiss Schoeller 3d grid fabric likely will likely take that prize.


Van Cortlandt Singlet - The most classic and recognizable item in their line! The size and fit of the medium are spot on for me, and it wears perfectly for a tempo or race day singlet.

My initial concerns of chafing were quickly put to rest. The material is like a beautifully executed cross between a 1980’s gym jersey, and some crazy high fashion fabric from Italy (or so I’m guessing…) 

It just feels amazing, breathes well, and does its just beautifully. My one gripe, and I’m guessing this is pretty unique to me and my use cases with this group, is that the material will pill a little bit when worn with a vest or belt. My long runs and adventures often require one or the other, and I wouldn’t recommend this singlet for anything but track days or tempo days where you don’t need a vest.

Twilight Tee - My favorite running shirt! This might be the most comfortable running shirt I own. It’s hard to describe a great running shirt, but the lightweight mirco-mesh they use has perfected the breathable and quick drying task that I’m begging for in a t shirt. And at $58, it’s one of the most affordable entry points into the Tracksmith line. 

Harrier Tee - A merino wool classic, this shirt feels like equal parts high fashion, equal parts running shirt. I must be honest, I’ve used this more as my favorite work from home shirt, and less than a running shirt. It runs a little thick for my liking, and felt a little stuffy in the hot Colorado sun. Will make for a nice fall weight t shirt on those in between days or a nice base for winter. 

Sally: I have purchased the Van Cortland sash tank (navy/white) ($65), and feel like I have joined an elite club when I wear it! It is classic old-school styling, similar as Sam said to the singlets worn by collegiate runners in my days at Dartmouth. Harvard wore tops like this in crimson, Yale blue, Dartmouth green, etc. I typically wear an XS in tops, but wear a size Small in TS tops, possibly because I don’t like clingy tight tops. They run a bit long for my liking, but bear in mind that I am a petite 5’2” runner who does not tuck tops in. The neckline is higher than many of my other singlets (such as Lululemon swiftly tech racerbacks), which is good for coverage. The mesh is soft, and fairly dense. This is not my choice of singlets for mid-summer running, as it is warmer than other brands. Perfect for those cooler mornings! 

My favorite piece from Tracksmith is the Run Bra, which I also bought at retail ($58). I first tried it at the recommendation of a runner friend of similar build who swears by this sports bra. It is made of their Allston fabric, known to be highly supportive, soft and breathable, with plenty of stretch. The chest band on mine is a classic red/white stripe set against a solid navy, totally classic.  Again I sized up to the size S for a comfortable fit (I also wear a S in Nike classic swoosh sports bras, my other go to). I would say this is best for A/B cup runners. 

The fit is longer in the torso than others, and feels sleek and smooth all over. On the run, there is no chafing, no slippage, no discomfort whatsoever. Because of the extra long coverage, it is warmer than other tops, so again not my choice for these sticky mid-summer runs.  Younger runners rock these run bras with no shirt to cover them and they look awesome! This will be my go to piece as the weather cools. I can’t recommend the TS Run Bra enough.



I tested the Twilight Split shorts (slate blue color, $52) and the Lane Five shorts (navy color, $68). I wear a size small in both shorts. Measurement wise, I wear a size small in almost all brands, and the size small fit well. The size guide on Tracksmith’s website was a good guide for me. 

Unlike running tops, which are whatever to me as long as they fit, I want my bottoms/shorts to be comfortable. Who wants to run wearing shorts that ride up? No one, that’s who. I don’t run in short tights unless they are a base layer. I simply do not feel comfortable with tight bottoms. But these Lane Five shorts are an exception. The leg openings do not ride up while running (for intervals I found myself pulling them down when I stopped, but that’s not an issue during continual running). They are tight enough to not be annoying but not too tight to be uncomfortable. 

Thankfully, the crotch area of the Lane Five shorts are mesh and are not seamed down the middle. I had no issue with the crotch riding during hilly, long runs. They are breathable but not see-through, perhaps because of the darker (navy) color. I loved running in these shorts, and these are the only tights/shorts I have ever felt comfortable running in. Total win, even at $68. My iPhone 7 in it’s protective case fit in the back zipper pocket, and it was not bouncing around back there. There are two side pockets on each outside hip. I can fit my car key fob in these pockets and a small pocket knife. My gels are a bit too long, but depending on size, you could fit gels in there. These would be a good option for a race-day short if you don’t want to wear a vest or running belt. 

The Twilight split shorts are also a big win. The split is very high, which is great for getting some air on hot days. The liner on the inside is a comfortable, almost cotton-feel, fabric. I have issues with the liners of running shorts not completely covering my back end (I am not a big person at 110-115lbs and 66.5” tall) but I have a lot going on back there that needs to be covered. The elastic of the liner is not too tight and covers everything, which is good because the liner shows because of the high split. There are three inside, open pockets in these shorts. I can fit a car key fob, a small pocket knife, and one gel in these pockets. Because the pockets are open, I’m not sure I would want to carry items back there, but it is an option. At $52, these are pricey, but worth the cost. 

For both shorts, the waist line is perfect. I don’t like a high or even mid-rise waist because they ride up (I’ve had babies so no matter how much I run, there’s a little something extra in my stomach). The waists on both shorts stay put. I don’t need to pull them down but they sit high enough off my c-section scar (I hate when shorts sit across my scar). 


Van Cortlandt Shorts: ($60) The Van Cortlandt shorts used to be my favorite running shorts (spoiler alert--the Twilight split shorts have taken the mantle). The VC’s are a great fitting, lightweight short with a mesh that doesn’t get too heavy when it gets wet and a decently comfortable mesh liner. They are a great length. The 4” inseam is not too short, not too long. There’s no impeding the legs at all. I’ve had pairs of these for over 4 years now and I’ve put a ton of miles on them. No problems. They look good and they work well. 

Van Cortlandt Grand Shorts: ($65) These have been the only fail for me in the Tracksmith lineup. The inseam is longer than on the Van Cortlandts and it’s just a bit too long. I really don’t like the feeling of having my legs restricted as I run and these are long enough that I feel them tugging during my run. On a positive note, Tracksmith has amazing customer service . When I reached out about these, they recommended the Twilight short and made a quick and easy exchange. 

Twilight Split Short:($52) These are the bomb! Everything I like about the Van Cortlandt short is here and there are a couple of things that I like much better about the Twilight. They are a little shorter than the VC’s (I think), but not veering into speedo category. The biggest improvement here is the liner. While the VC short has a mesh liner (that has sagged a bit over a few years), the Twilight has a very soft liner made of a quick drying polyester/spandex blend. It feels like a t-shirt and holds everything in place nicely. There is an internal pocket in the back that’s split into three gel sized sections. The short fits perfectly in my usual size of medium and generally speaking I don’t even have to tie them. They stay on great--not too loose not too tight. 

Reggie Lined Half tights ($72). Hands down my favorite half-tight out there. I liked the previous version (without a liner), but the new version is a great upgrade! Half-tights can be tricky. I don’t know about anyone else, but lots of half-tights cause a muffin top situation that is pretty rough (especially when running shirtless--which is pretty much mandatory in Texas Summer). The Reggie Lined Half tights fit perfectly. They are tight enough to stay on (even when soaked) without any slippage (or drawstring)--but not so tight that they make me self-conscious about the flesh getting pushed around. Now, if you look like the runners in the Tracksmith catalogue you never have to worry about this. But if you’re a mere human, you might have this issue. The other terrific thing about the Reggie is the LINER. Yup, the liner. My first few runs in various tights and half tights over the years have led to horrible chafing. I’ve done lots of underwear testing and found some underwear that fit under tights without causing too much issue. The Reggie Lined Half tight has this amazing, unobtrusive linter that’s soft, protective and makes underwear unnecessary. It’s a great, great piece of gear--supportive and functional while being really, really comfortable. 



Van Cortlandt Short ($60)

Exactly at my preferred length so not short short as in the 1970’s or baggy long as now the “fashion”. The fabric as with the Tee is the 2:09 mesh and iis vaguely reminiscent of 80’s gym shorts mesh with texture and a loose draping fit. 

Yet here the mesh is super soft, stretchy without being a cling fit and thin with many small but not see through vent holes unlike the rough stuff of the old days.  The liner is also 2:09 mesh that is bit flatter in feel and testing. My testing showed that varying the type of mesh between the two layers clearly was deliberate as there was never any stick or cling between them or anywhere no matter how humid the conditions were. And the liner with its anti stink finish, absolutely never thought about it or sensed it was even there. What would we have given for such a short and liner in the 1970’s!

The leg openings are on wide side but not baggy working well with the stretch of the mesh. The waist band is soft and easy with an adequate drawstring, white and nicely contrasting with the dark navy blue.

The shorts include two rear pockets behind the waistband good for some gels, key, cards, etc.. 

I always run with my iPhone 11 Pro (for pictures not calls) and found while it fit just in the rear pockets it tended to pull the shorts down a bit more than I liked. I have a POP Pocket stuck to the back to hold the phone but mainly to act as clip to just about any short and even with the soft barely there waist band it clipped to my hip just fine. I think a hip pocket in the mix would be a good add for phones as reaching and returning the phone to the back pockets is a bit tedious and as said not ideal for the waistband. 

The result on the run? You forget you are wearing anything truly. Wet with sweat or dry there is zero cling or stick, everything easily flowing, stretching and moving with each stride, even the liner. Late in an 8 mile run in very humid conditions I noticed a sensation of “something” at the lower hem. The shorts weren’t sticking to my legs there and on the run didn’t seem overly soaked to the touch. Taking them off later I noticed that they had gained a serious amount of weight from sweat, far more than flatter fabric shorts yet I never noticed it on the run. In less humid Utah conditions where I also ran the Twilight it seems sweat evaporated fast enough not to soak

I have likely run in 100’s of different shorts over the years, sort of an obsession after those early miseries and these are clearly the most comfortable, “frictionless”, invisible in feel I have ever worn. I would like to see a more substantial pocket arrangement to hold a phone, I know it isn’t purist to run with a phone but I take pictures.


Van Cortlandt Short - I could save myself a lot of writing and simply just say, “Take a moment and re-read what Sam wrote.” 

He hit the nail on the head with his description of these. I feel you can tell everything you need to know about a clothing brand with how they go about the liners in their shorts. The liner in the Van Cortlandt was the most invisible liner I’ve ever run in, including long mountain runs over 25 miles in them. 

I have large mountain runner quads, and next to a buttery soft liner, riding up from between the thighs is a real concern for me. These shorts laughed in the face of my concerns and performed better than anything I’ve ever worn in this department. I don’t say this, ever, in reviews, but I’m going to say it now: I’ll be buying another pair of these! 

Session Shorts 7” - These are a weird item for me. They don’t really fit like a traditional running short on me, as they are kind of tight around the crotch and not super accommodating to larger quads. These feel like more of a yoga style short to me, and have become my go-to for mobility days in the house. With the 7” inseam, they are a really solid option for "Zoom to Trail to Grocery Store", and can blend into any setting well. 

These do come in a 5” inseam, which I likely would think better of, but for now the 7” is a comfy option around the house and for shorter runs only. 


Tracksmith Merino Tube Socks ($18) Merino No Show Socks ($14)

So I took a flyer recently and decided to try a few pairs of the Tracksmith Merino wool socks . I generally prefer very thin socks. I’ve been using Stance and Swiftwick socks for the past few years. The Tracksmith socks are a little thicker than I’m used to--but they don’t feel thick underfoot. They’re soft. But WOOL? Hmm, I’m not sure how wool is going to do in Texas heat and humidity. Well, I’m pleasantly surprised. I have the crew sock and the no show and they both perform really well. I don’t notice them being wetter or hotter than other socks in my rotation. They are comfortable and they look great. I’ll be interested to see how they last--but so far so good. I’m a fan. 


Renee: Do you have money? Then consider some Tracksmith gear. If you are cheap like me, I still think a few items are worth the cost, especially the Lane Five and Twilight split shorts. As a woman runner, finding a good-fitting running short is hard. For me, the shorts are a win and worth the cost. The tops are great too, although I’m totally fine buying my cheap tops that perform just as well. 

Peter: My Tracksmith habit has been fueled by gift certificates on birthdays. It’s not cheap, but it’s very high quality gear and has lasted very well. Their customer service has been exceptional over the years and I like that they are a running brand--not a sports brand--not an athleisure brand--a running brand. Their Meter magazine is always a good read and their aesthetic from website to lookbook to clothes is consistent and appealing. 

My top recommendations for men’s gear would be 

Twilight short

Reggie Lined Half Tight

Van Cortlandt Singlet

Sam: All that careful study and homage to the running past leads to great performing gear that looks spectacular. The Van Cortlandt Shorts are clearly worth every penny and are the most comfortable shorts I have ever run in.  The Van Cortlandt Tee while not for me quite performing in dry heat at the level of my Odlo Blackcomb Pro or in humid conditions at the level of Salomon’s S/Lab billboard like branded tank and Tee makes up for that with beautiful classic styling and superior fit that will make you look Ivy sharp and run fast. 

Don: The first question every single person asks me when I tell them I’m reviewing Tracksmith is “Is it worth the money?” So I’ll just answer that right away; I feel it is. Their gear is high quality, and feels amazing. If you’d like an outfit to try, I’d recommend the Twilight Tee and any of the shorts with the 2:09 mesh. 


Read reviewers' full run bios here
Sally and Peter's Tracksmith apparel were personal purchases and gifts. 
Don, Renee, and Sam's were provided at no charge. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Anonymous said...

What are these 5-inch twilight shorts you're talking about? I don't see them on the website and never have. Also, does anyone know if a phone will fit in the pockets of the Van Cortlandt shorts?

Anonymous said...

Too bad they don´t have decent European distribution. If you order directly from their site the prizes are ridiculous with shipping and import tax. A Strata tee will cost 146 US dollars.

Mike said...

Over time I've phased out my older gear for Tracksmith which as mentioned is costly for outside US buyers (for Australia the duties and shipping add a fair bit). That said, I'm hugely satisfied with all their products. The one top I had an issue with on stitching, I sent them a photo and a week later I had a new one (I had the other repaired so now have 2).

The lined Reggies are my go to. Cooler temps I love the Harrier long sleeve. I've told a bunch of people how good the fabric feels. I haven't found anything that feels as comfortable...

Dan said...

I've lusted after this gear for a while, never biting because the high price. Would anyone care to compare the Twilight short to the rabbit Best in Show short which is my current favorite? I also have a hard time with brands that don't offer XS for men which is most (minus Patagonia, rabbit).

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the 5" twilight... haven't seen them available.