Running Apparel - what you need to know
Running is a relatively cheap sport and in order to participate, you don't need a lot of expensive equipment. As running apparel also lasts quite a long time, a few smart buys early on should see you through a fair few seasons of happy and comfortable running.
Cotton is the enemy of all runners. It adsorbs and retains moisture making it heavy. It will stick to you like glue inhibiting movement. If you're still wearing cotton Tees, banish them to the duster cupboard!
Modern running apparel is virtually all made of synthetic materials. These ‘technical' materials are breathable and designed to wick away moisture keeping you dry and comfortable. They are lightweight, will keep you warm and the rain out. They are designed to be worn in ‘layers'.
The Layering System
Multiple layers of lightweight clothing keep you drier and more comfortable than a single heavy garment. Depending on the weather, runners will require one, two or even three layers of clothing.
A Tee shirt or a long-sleeve top. As this is closest to your skin, it must be made from a synthetic material. Your base layer can be as little as a bra or singlet and briefs or shorts, or as much as a top and tights.
Often a lightweight fleece top, this is your insulating layer. It will continue to breath as this layer is also made of synthetic material. After a run in a tech Tee and fleece, you'll notice that the fleece will glisten. This is the sweat that has been transferred from your body – amazing! The fleece will however, still keep you warm.
This layer protects you from the elements and completes moisture transfer by releasing perspiration into the atmosphere. Your weather layer could be a jacket or a complete breathable, waterproof running suit. How cold and wet is your winter weather? That's what determines your weather layer.
Quick Layering Tip
As the temperature rises or your activity level increases, remove the layers. Add layers as you get colder or the temperature drops. Take off your hat or gloves to vent quickly. As much as 70% of your body heat escapes through your extremities.
Layers for the legs
In most cases, one layer for the legs is sufficient as your legs will not get as hot as your core (torso). This layer should be made from lightweight, synthetic material. It should fit tightly yet allow full range of motion. In addition to moving moisture away from the skin, the fabric has to keep the working muscles warm to protect them from injury. A second layer should be added on extremely cold, windy or rainy days.
Now The Science Bit - The percentages on heat loss (or facts to impress / bore your friends with)
- Heat loss in wet conditions
Loss of body heat occurs up to 32 times faster in wet conditions than in dry conditions.
- Heat loss through the hands and feet- As much as 30% of your body heat escapes through your hands and feet. Wear gloves or mittens and the right socks!
- Heat loss through the head - About 40% of your body heat is lost through your head. Wear a hat!
- Heat loss fact:
A total of 70% of heat loss is through the extremities-head, hands and feet!
Basic Apparel Requirements
All shorts come with an elastic-waist and will fit comfortably. There are:
- Longer baggy shorts – look great, help hide a larger backside (!) and because of their longer length, reduce thigh chaffing.
- Traditional running shorts – these are not as long and have a side cut. You'll feel more ‘free' in these shorts. Ideal for the quicker runner or anyone running track.
All of our shorts are made from synthetic materials that dry quickly, breathe well and allow for freedom of movement. They feature built-in liners or briefs. The briefs replace your underwear and can help manage moisture.
You run a race, they give you a cotton Tee. You wear it like a badge of honour but remember one thing – it's cotton! All our T-shirts (and running vests) are made from the latest synthetic fibres. These shirts will wick away the moisture keeping you dry and more comfortable. All running brands will have their own specific brand name for the material, but they all do the same job. Once you've worn a synthetic Tee, you never go back.
Sports bras (or fitness bras) are highly recommended for women runners. They're specially designed to minimize bounce and discomfort during exercise. There are many different styles – some designed to wear as an outer layer, others more conventional that are design to be worn under a T-shirt. One thing to be mindful of is that not all sports bras are created equal. If you're on the voluptuous side, look for styles that say things like "maximum support," or "for larger busts." As usual in running, fabrics are important. You'll find a lot of cotton/Lycra® blends out there. Beware! Cotton is naturally supportive, which is nice; but it does a terrible job of keeping you dry and comfortable. Supplex/Lycra feels and looks a lot like cotton but dries much more quickly. Nylon blends tend to be the least supportive. You'll find that most fitness bras have CoolMax® liners to help wisk moisture away from your skin.
fairly new to the market, the lightweight fleece is an ideal garment on a cold day. It will keep you warm, protect you from the wind but will also keep you dry and comfortable. Some even have holes in the sleeve so you can still see your watch without pulling your sleeve up – now that's just flash!
Running wet suits
Now made from high-tech fabrics that are very breathable, allowing moisture vapor from your perspiration to escape while preventing water and wind from getting through. Choose a suit that best matches your weather conditions most of the time.
Microfiber suits feel soft and silky and do a good job of protecting you from light rains and moderate cold. They're extremely breathable and comfortable, lightweight and they dry quickly. Some have even been designed to not make so much noise when you run!
Gore-Tex® is the master of foul-weather fabrics. It's both water and windproof, breathable and extremely durable. It's less ‘pliable' so doesn't move as freely as Microfibre.
Made from a combination of lycra with performance fabric. This ensures that the tights will not inhibit movement in anyway but will still retain the performance benefits of the technical material. Although they will keep your muscles warm, they will also breath so your legs will remain dry and will not overheat.
Short tights (or sprinter shorts) are made out of the exact same material and cut for performance.
Features include that all-important key pocket, drawstring as well as elastic waists, zips at the bottom for easy on / off, and a rubberized gripping material around the bottom to stop the tights riding up.