Big shiny brands generating billions of dollars can sometimes lose their focus raking in all the green, leading to products that may not always be crafted with passion. Remember that you have options and grabbing gear from the fitness apparel giants shouldn’t be automatic because recognizable logos aren’t always synonymous with quality products, which is why we want to shine the light on some of the best boutique running brands out there. With a smaller spotlight, these lesser-known running apparel companies stay hungry and strive to always put out high-quality gear.
Searching for quality running brands outside of the companies making oceans of money is encouraged, but it can be challenging to sift through all of the smaller brands to find the golden few. It seems like every day a new running brand pops up with supposedly the latest and greatest gear to help you cross the finish line in record time. Because of all the boutique running brands flooding the market, we went ahead and compiled a list of the best running brands you should know based on our thorough research and experience in covering running products. Our picks truly construct quality gear and are led by folks passionate about the sport of running.
Started by former professional triathlete Jamie Hunt and past owner of Davenport Industries Clyde Davenport, 2XU (“Two Times You”) began as a specialist run and triathlon brand in 2005. Since then, the running brand has grown to become one of the world’s most functional sportswear companies, striving to create gear to enhance human performance. All of 2XU’s garments are tested and proven by scientific research to ensure the gear provides athletes with physiological benefits to help them crush their goals. This boutique running brand is available in over 70 countries worldwide and is used by a variety of champions and athletes in the NFL, NBA, Olympics, and even the U.S. Navy SEALs. Their apparel is made with flexible proprietary PWX compression fabric, featuring resilient high-filament nylon and elastane yarns for longevity.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Having worked extensively in the sportswear market since the ‘90s, designer Stuart Brooke has a wealth of knowledge about what works for fitness apparel. Brooke was an integral part of the Rapha team and helped to produce one of their perennial products: the softshell jacket. Brooke’s work with Rapha ended in 2010 and he set off to create Ashmei, which originally made gear solely for running. Using an anagram of his daughter’s name (Meisha), Brooke set out to create true high-performance technical gear, mixing merino wool with carbon for amazing sweat-wicking capabilities. The Ashmei company continuously aspires to outperform the best in their space with a crew carved out by 25 years of sportswear design experience. Ashmei always starts with a blank canvas and considers the ideal materials and fibers to use based on the environment it will perform in.
Location: Aldbury, U.K.
When Mike Giles and Jeremy Bresnen couldn’t find a running hat they liked, the duo set out to create one, leading to the start of Ciele Athletics. Combining style and technicality in ways other brands hadn’t quite done before, the two friends started making running hats back in January of 2014 and launched the company in August of the same year. Both live active lifestyles, as they run often and also skate and snowboard. Their running hats gained momentum in the marathon community, as they were represented at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a limited edition Ciele hat made for the race. Ciele’s hats, beanies, and headbands provide runners with moisture-wicking performance and protection along with timeless style.
Location: Montreal, Canada
District Vision got its start when Tom Daly and Max Vallot tested out sports eyewear technology with a set of runners in New York. The duo went on to combine real-life feedback and Japanese engineering to come up with their first pair of running shades dubbed the Keiichi. Their stellar sunglasses provide runners with the technology needed to focus on the route or trail and make a connection between mind and body while running. Their running sunglasses are engineered to protect and reduce strain on the eyes. Although they specialize in running eyewear, they have expanded to include other running gear, such as shoes and clothing. District Vision will also occasionally collaborate with other running brands, such as Salomon, to create products to help you perform at your highest level.
Location: New York City, New York
Founder JohnHansen is a lifelong competitive runner who has a background in fashion, so it makes sense he started Doxa Run. The running brand produces high-quality running products to cope with the ever-changing Scandinavian climate. The versatile items are technically sound, but they also have a fashionable urban design. Doxa Run provides you with gear that will protect you against rain, wind, snow, and also works for warmer weather, keeping you dry and comfy. The running company also supports Swedish NGO Global Relations, providing gear to Kenswed Academy in Nairobi, Kenya to help children realize their athletic aspirations. If you need your running gear to work as hard as you do when you go beast mode, Doxa Run makes what you need.
Iffley Road is named after the famous Oxford track where Olympian runner and neurologist Roger Bannister ran a four-minute mile when many people believed it was impossible to accomplish. The husband and wife running team (Bill and Claire) behind Iffley Road focuses on creating apparel built to last, as they were fed up with “fast fashion.” They believe running is an important part of life, which is why their apparel is made with passion. The brand produces waterproof jackets, merino tops, leggings, beanies, and much more. Iffley Road was selected as one of 150 Greatest British Brands by Country and Town House and continues to produce quality gear for runners, staying ahead of trendsetting fashion by creating technical gear with longevity.
Location: London, U.K.
Janji started out as a class project at Washington University by collegiate runners Dave Spandorfer and Michael Bernstein who believe running is a way to connect and change lives. Janji gives 5% of its revenue to fund clean water projects across the world. Spandorfer and Bernstein were inspired to give back after they participated in the 2010 NCAA DIII Track and Field Championships as they pondered about the importance of the water stations in the challenging 10K. Janji also stands out because they visit a new country every season to work with local artists to design a new line inspired by the place they’re visiting. Not only do they give back, but they provide a platform for amazing artists. In addition, they also make an effort to source their materials from the countries they visit, further making their gear original. Their brushed interior apparel is made from moisture-wicking fabric for optimal comfort and functionality.
Location: Somerville, Massachusetts
Three-time World Duathlon Champion and multiple Ironman winner Olivier Bernhard and his friends David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti started a footwear company truly catering to the soles of runners. Bernhard was inspired to start the company during his search to find the best running shoes available that would provide him with a cushioned landing, as well as a firm take-off. This led Bernhard to a Swiss engineer and the two created the first On running footwear. Today, you can grab On running shoes at more than 3,500 specialty running stores around the world. There are plenty of running shoe highlights in their catalog, including the On Cloud model from 2014, which is the world’s lightest fully-cushioned running shoe, according to On. The running brand continues to earn awards and approval from celebrities and athletes.
Location: Zürich, Switzerland
Started by Olympic runner Ron Hill who was the first Britain to win the Boston Marathon, clocking in at about 2 hours and 10 minutes, this brand continues to put out the most reliable gear for runners at any level. Hill used his expertise and experience in the sport of running to start the Ronhill running brand, providing athletes with exceptional garments to achieve the impossible. Hill pioneered revolutionary innovations in fitness apparel, including the side-split shorts and moisture-wicking textiles. In 2001, a new team was brought in to implement a novel, strong take on the design and development of running apparel. Ronhill was the best running brand winner in Athletics Weekly and they’ve taken home multiple Men’s Running awards.
Location: Hyde, Greater Manchester
Brice Partouche is an entrepreneur with a background in counter-culture that led him to create the fashion-forward running brand Satisfy. Several years before starting Satisfy, Partouche became addicted to running, yet he wasn’t into the culture of the sport nor the clothing. To celebrate the daily ritual of running solo, Partouche created Satisfy to speak to the running subculture and its connection to music and technology. All the apparel produced by Satisfy is created with in-house fabrics or ones acquired from trusted suppliers, as quality is their number one concern. According to Satisfy, every detail of each product has a purpose. It may be a highly fashionable brand for running, but functionality has been and always will be the main focus.
Location: Paris, France
Founder and creative director Tim Soar is a keen runner who always wanted to create style-driven running apparel he’d want to wear. The idea sprouted in early 2013 and developed into a full-fledged company in 2015, and Soar has been one of the most reliable boutique running brands since then. Soar realized big budget brands spend most of their money and focus on creating footwear, whereas the sports apparel development received the scraps. Soar Running is all about functionality, however, since the founder also has an extensive background in fashion and design, style is also a must with Soar garments. Soar makes running clothes for runners at the local level and takes the time to connect with their audience through events like the Soar Mile run.
Location: Glasgow, U.K.
Co-founders Matt Taylor and Luke Scheybeler are the brains behind the Tracksmith brand and their experience with sportswear is the key to their success. Taylor ran cross country and track at Yale where he fell in love with the satisfying feeling of training, and Scheybeler was the creative director and co-founder of Rapha. Founded in New England, where the Tracksmith team also races, the crew of the company has an undeniable love for the sport. The independent running brand focuses on making garments and gear to honor the amateur spirit of the non-professional competitive runners looking to achieve excellence. Tracksmith produces a variety of quality gear for running, including fitness shorts, track jackets, t-shirts, and shades. Each piece is crafted with quality workmanship and built with runners in mind. When you see the hare logo for Tracksmith, which is a symbol for survival and wit, you know you’re acquiring a piece of apparel made by runners for runners.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
How To Train For A Marathon
Now that you’re aware of the best running brands in the industry, you can focus on training for races. Check out our guide on how to train for a marathon and put your running gear and endurance to the ultimate test.