A Guide To Running Shirtless


Shirtless Runner

On sunny days, the heat from the sun and lack of wind can cause you to become incredibly uncomfortable when running. A good solution is to run shirtless. But, being shirtless can be seen as a bit odd, especially in certain settings. So, in this article, I will explain if it’s OK to run shirtless.

As a general rule, it is OK to run shirtless. A survey of over 200 people found that the majority 61.45% thought that running shirtless is perfectly fine. Whereas, 15.66% of people said people should run shirtless. Studies also found a person can run further when their body is cooler.

Below, I will explain when and where it’s OK to run shirtless if there are any laws prohibiting it, whether it’s good to run shirtless when it’s very cold out, and the specific benefits both on performance and comfort of running with no shirt on.

Is It Ok To Run Shirtless?

Running shirtless is more comfortable in hot weather, and is good for developing a tan. Many men also like the freeing feeling of having no shirtless but women can also prefer to run with a sports bra on. But, here’s a summary of if it’s good to run shirtless.

Overall, it’s good to run shirtless. Studies have shown that a person can run further with less effort when their body is cooler. Therefore, if your goal is to maximize the distance you run you should start a run shirtless, and remain shirtless.

The cooler your body is prior to going for a run, the longer it will take for your body to warm up. So, it can be beneficial to make your body a bit cooler by wearing no shirt for 10 to 15 minutes before doing a competitive run. Here’s a quote from a study published in a Sports Physiology Journal:

“Due to an increasing decline in core heat production, the rate of change of the core temperature progressively reduces with the ambient temperature, which increases the time until the core temperature reaches the thresholds for sweating and exhaustion.” (Molkov et. al., 2016).

If you’re prone to sunburn, then it’s important to watch out for getting sunburned, and apply sunscreen. Or, you’re planning to run in direct sunlight in the middle of the day, or for a very long period. But, other than that it’s preferable to run shirtless due to its cooling effect on the body.


What Is Running Shirtless Etiquette?

It’s largely illegal to be completely naked in public in most areas. Seeing someone running shirtless can cause people to get a little bit uncomfortable depending on the setting, so here’s what’s considered proper etiquette when running shirtless.

Generally, running shirtless is polite outside, and generally anywhere except a busy central business district. In a busy central business district, people are dressed in business attire and it can seem a bit out of place, or considered rude. If you enter a store it’s polite to put a shirt on.

Some cities such as Miami are located right next to the beach. Or, would be less out of place to run through the center of the city shirtless. But, people would very likely wonder why you wouldn’t simply run on the beach or the boardwalk, where many other people are also shirtless, and there’s more room.

In general, you want to avoid crowded areas where there are other people who aren’t shirtless. Such as malls, and areas with lots of restaurants and cafes. But, these are located directly next to a beach it’s acceptable. 

Further out from the city, in the suburbs, there are typically so few people that it’s perfectly fine to run without a shirt on. The same applies to rural areas. The reason is there are so few people that no one will notice, or care.

Percentage of people who voted
It’s fine to run shirtless61.45%
Depends on the area (suburban, versus city, beach)22.89%
No, it’s kinda of strange never do it15.66%

(source: Reddit poll)

The total number of people that vote was 249, which is statistically significant. Therefore, the percentages can be claimed to be very accurate. It can clearly be seen that the majority of people are of the opinion that running shirtless is perfectly fine.

About 2 out of every 10 people think that a person should consider where they are running. In my opinion, this is reasonable. Whereas, about 1 to 2 people out of 10 think that people should not run shirtless. 

Therefore, the vast majority of people won’t really bat an eyelash provided you’re not running through a shopping mall shirtless or something similar. The number of people who do think it’s kind of strange and don’t like it are very few. And therefore, this is more their problem than yours.  

It’s kind of like saying you shouldn’t drive a certain type of car, because a small percentage of people don’t like the way it looks.


What Are the Benefits of Running Shirtless?

It’s normal for most people to wear a shirt for most activities unless it’s really hot out. Or, if doing a very physical activity. But, this is whether there are any specific benefits to running without a shirt on.

The benefits of running shirtless are you can run further before getting tired, and it’s more comfortable in hot weather. Studies have shown that the hotter the body gets the quicker exhaustion occurs. So, the cooling effect on the body running shirtless has will increase the distance you can run.

It can also increase vitamin D intake, especially for people that spend a lot of time indoors normally. Or, have a dark complexion. Not everyone requires additional vitamin D, and to know for sure you’ll need a blood test. 

Running without a shirt allows more sunlight to touch your skin which increases the amount of vitamin D you get.


Is Running Shirtless Illegal?

Overall, running shirtless is not illegal. If you need to enter a store during a run, or after a run, some stores can stop you from entering shirtless. It’s a rule to keep a professional environment for their store and to not make other customers feel uncomfortable. 

But, for fitness and recreation on the sidewalk, and in public parks and beaches, there are no laws in virtually every country for a man to run shirtless. And it’s not considered out of place.


Can I Run Shirtless in the Cold

You’ve likely noticed that if you’re playing a sport, or exercising in cold weather your body soon warms up, and you can barely feel the cold. A shirt can range from keeping you very warm, in the case of a skin-tight lycra shirt, to not providing much warmth at all, such as a regular t-shirt. So, here’s whether it’s OK to run without a shirt on in the cold.

As a general rule, you can run shirtless in the cold. However, there is a risk of hypothermia. Therefore, you should avoid running shirtless in extremely cold conditions such as in snow, or a particularly cold winter unless you’re comfortable while doing it.

Some people can tolerate very cold temperatures, especially people who grew up in very cold regions like New York, and Canada. 

As you may know, there is also what’s called the Wilhoff method where people use breathing techniques to be able to swim in ice water and stay in the snow completely naked without their body being warm from physical exercise. 

Therefore, it does depend from person to person. According to medical experts, there are a range of warning signs for hypothermia. In general, if you FEEL uncomfortably cold even after your body warms up due to the physical exertion of running, then you’re too cold and you should put a shirt on, and even some warmer clothes. 


Benefits of Running Shirtless in the Cold

Some people enjoy pushing themselves to do really difficult things such as going out shirtless in very cold weather, having cold showers, and swimming in really cold water. As you run you naturally get warm reasonably quickly, and you don’t feel the cold as much. But, are there any benefits to running in the cold?

Overall, running shirtless in the cold allows a person to run further. Studies have shown that the hotter a person’s body gets the faster a runner becomes fatigued. Therefore, running shirtless in the cold will allow a person to run further than they would if they wore a shirt.

It’s also a good way to get more vitamin D, as more of the skin’s surface is exposed to the sun. Especially the large areas of skin on the back, and chest. However, this only applies to cold days that are also sunny. 

Also, on any given day you can be a bit more fatigued than normal. And running shirtless will still allow you to cover a long distance or do your normal run without it being as much of a struggle.


Where Do Shirtless Shirts Go When Running?

When you start a run you can be in an inner-city or populated area where it’s better not t run shirtless. But, if you take your shirt off mid-run, it’s a bit annoying to hold it in your hand the whole way. So, this is what to do with your shirt when running if you take it off.

In general, tuck it into your waistband, tie it around your head, or hang it from a tree where it’s very unlikely anyone will see it. Tying it around your head can get too hot so, the best options are to tuck it into your waistband, or hang it on a tree/bush where it’s easy to find on the way back.

The hang it on a tree method may not be possible depending on how accessible a tree or bush is that’s out of sight. In some areas, there are so few people that you can leave it on a fence, or something else off the ground. 

It’s almost guaranteed no one will take it. But, for your own peace of mind, it can be a good idea to wear an old shirt. That way, if it does go missing it’s not a big deal. If you’re wearing a reasonably nice running shirt, or don’t want to risk losing it, then tucking it into your waistband is a really good option.


Final thoughts

Overall, running shirtless is a good idea because you can cover a greater distance. Or, if you’re a bit fatigued on a given day you can still complete your regular run. Running shirtless keeps the body cooler, which causes it to take longer to reach exhaustion.

Running shirtless is a bit impolite in highly populated areas. Or places where there is an expectation of regular clothing such as the inner city. But, everywhere else it’s normal to not wear a shirt. Especially near the beach. Running when it’s cold can be OK, but care needs to be taken in very cold conditions. Because it’s possible to get hypothermia. 

Links / References

Mark Norman

I've been running for over 6 years and now try to balance it with life as a dad to two young kids. I'm not super quick, I just try to run consistently, not always easy! I'm lucky enough to have run the London Marathon twice along with countless other half marathons and 10ks. I'm also one of the Run Directors at my local parkrun.

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