During a run, we have many thoughts that go through our mind – “How’s my pace?”, “How far have I gone?”, “How many hills are on this course?”, “How much longer until I’m done?” and similar thoughts. We don’t give much thought to our clothing, but we should consider the importance of technical running apparel and why it matters.
As runners, we can probably all agree that running shoes are the most important piece of gear that we own. Running shoes are designed to protect the foot at the point of impact through various materials that provide cushioning. Once we get a good pair of running shoes, it’s easy to forget any other gear that could enhance your running experience, specifically technical running apparel. If you just spent anywhere from $100 – $120 on shoes, it might be difficult to consider spending an additional $100 or more on a running specific outfit. You may choose to go with a cotton t-shirt, socks, and cheap gym shorts but you won’t enjoy it as much if you spent a little more and treated yourself to running specific clothing.
We use this phrase regularly because cotton can be your worst enemy if you’re a runner or any type of athlete (yes, you are a runner and an athlete). Cotton is extremely absorbent, holding up to 25 times its weight in water. Now imagine running this summer in Atlanta in a cotton t-shirt as it absorbs all your sweat and carries that weight through your run. Cotton also takes a really long time to dry, so it’s still going to be soaked hours after your done with your run. In the winter it can lead to hypothermia as the sweat will make it difficult to stay warm. The biggest concern runners typically experience is chafing and that’s largely due to all the moisture retained in a cotton shirt. As your body sweats to keep you cool, it also releases salt crystals which over time can irritate your skin. Read the label and avoid cotton in your running clothes, including socks. The primary reason runners experience blisters on their feet is due to wearing cotton socks. Don’t forget, our socks are “Buy 3, Get 1 Free” every day. That’s 25% off 4 pairs of socks!
Cotton is a natural fiber that you want to avoid, but not all natural fibers are off limits in athletic wear. Bamboo is now produced into a rayon fiber that is soft, anti-microbial, durable and wicking. Merino wool is another great natural fiber for both cold and warm weather athletic apparel due to also being breathable, wicking and anti-microbial. Don’t think that wool is only for cold weather, because of its breathability, it allows moisture to evaporate and help cool the body. Most technical running apparel is constructed out of synthetic fabrics like polyester. While polyester got a bad reputation in the 70’s, this new generation of technical fabric is created to wick away moisture from the skin and evaporate, keeping the clothes drier and cooler. Manufacturers are now adding mesh panels in specific areas where the body generates more heat to allow for more ventilation and keeping those parts of the body cooler. While technical running apparel made of higher quality technical fabrics will cost more, if taken care of properly, they’ll last a really long time, saving you money in the long run.
Consider running clothes as an investment in your long-term enjoyment of this lifestyle. If you spend a little extra on your clothes, taking care of them will mean you can go several years without having to replace your running wardrobe (unless of course, you want to keep up on the latest styles and colors). All clothing comes with tags that explain how to wash your clothes and most of the time we don’t pay attention to them. The basic rule is to wash in cold water, air dry (or tumble dry on low heat) and never use a fabric softener. If your clothes come out of the wash and are almost dry, you know your clothes are made of high-quality fabrics. Drying with high heat can damage the fibers and any anti-microbial coatings used. Fabric softeners prevent the detergent from reaching and removing the dirt. These are the two primary reasons why running clothes retain odor and require replacement. We would also recommend using a detergent, designed specifically for technical fabrics and sold at any of our locations. This Runner’s World article goes into more detail on taking care of your running clothes if you want additional reading on the subject.
While fabrics play a great role in your comfort while running, the way the fabrics are put together also help in enhancing your running experience. The seams that join the fabric together can cause chafing. Manufacturers are now using different methods to stitch the materials together including using “Flat Seam Construction” that reduces bulk at the seams and helps to prevent chafing. Some manufacturers are using a seamless technology to eliminate seams using a smooth tape to join fabric together. Another key benefit of running specific apparel is the inclusion of reflective material. At some point, we all run in the dark or low light and the reflective material is a safety feature that allows us to be seen by drivers. Depending on the apparel piece, it may be a small strip of fabric or it could be the entire fabric. Of course, all of these new construction methods affect the cost of your running clothes. The more of these methods used the more the piece will cost.
The answer is yes. At least if you want to go without chafing and enjoy your running. You can find technical running apparel from head to toe (consider a running hat and running socks too!). While you don’t have to go out and switch out your entire closet, knowing the difference between technical running apparel and non-technical (cotton) will make you a more informed consumer when you decide to upgrade your running clothes and that doesn’t mean having to break the bank to get good quality running clothes. Our stores carry a variety of options at various price points so you can decide what makes sense for your level of commitment to the sport. Looking for great deals? Check out our outlet store, Peachy’s Final Mile, in Snellville. There you’ll find discounts from 30%-50% on high-quality technical running apparel. The only difference is that those pieces may be from last season or two.