Running gear needs to be technical- whatever level of skill you are it in terms of your training. Typical gear you probably associate with running - stretchy lycras, high leg shorts and high visibility kit are all worn becuase they not only keep you safe and seen, but comfortable and cool too.
You should also remember to dress for the season you are running in:
You should adopt a similar layering system to the one you’d use if you were heading out onto the hills; base layer, mid layer, outer layer. By keeping to technical fabrics within this layering system you will keep the bulk down and keep warm and dry.
Base layer This layer should wick moisture off your skin to stop you getting chilly.
The best base layers are lightweight and fit snugly against your skin. Look for synthetic wicking materials rather than absorbent fabrics like cotton.
Middle layer The middle layer insulates the body even more by creating additional air-space. Although this second layer might be a bit heavier than the base layer, it should still be a loose-fitting technical top that'll wick moisture away.
Outer layer This protective shell will protect you from the cold, wind, rain or snow while still allowing sweat to evaporate. It's best to pick a jacket that sits loosely over the other layer(s) to keep your outfit's wicking and insulating efficient. It'll need efficient ventilation - a long front zipper, for example, will allow you to control your temperature. Gilets with zip-off sleeves are another useful winter item.
Your body will always prioritise keeping your brain warm, so if you get cold, heat will be drawn from other parts of your body (such as your hands and feet). To reduce the amount of body heat that escapes through your head, try wearing a hat or headband (or both). You can always slip them off if you heat up later in your run.
If your hands are still cold, mittens are perfect - the air pocket around your fingers and the shared warmth of your fingers will keep you warmer than gloves. However, light, breathable gloves are great for mild days. Either way, look for a pair made from wickable fabric.
As the nights draw in, it's worth investing in some effective reflective kit. Although fluorescent colours are perfect for getting noticed during the day, at night, white kit shows up just as well in motorists' headlights.
You lose a lot of body heat through the head, which might seem like good news in the sweltering summer sun. But if the sun’s beating down, covering up with the cap is actually the best way to avoid sunstroke and sunburn. Invest in a cap made from technical fabric that’ll wick sweat.
Cotton will soak up sweat and make your clothes heavy and uncomfortable, and might even cause nasty rubbing it’s best to stick to fabrics that are specially designed to wick perspiration away from the skin so it evaporates quickly, technical fabrics will also keep their shape rather than clinging and rubbing, preventing irritation and keeping you cool and dry. It’s also best to wear a looser-fitting top. Not only will it give you more protection from the sun, but a looser garment will also pick up any cooling breeze around. Don’t forget, the lighter the fabric, the better.
For long summer runs, leave warm winter socks in the wardrobe and slip on thinner socks to sidestep sweaty feet, blisters, athlete’s foot or worse.
A base layer is designed to sit directly in contact with your skin in order to move sweat and moisture created during activity. These differ from regular t-shirts as they are made from synthetic fabric that does not absorb moisture. A t-shirt made from a non-wicking fabric will simply soak up moisture, keeping it on the garment where bacteria can form, causing odours and stains, whilst the moisture quickly becomes cold, leaving you chilled.
Base layers do not prevent you from sweating. Sweat is a natural response that is created during activity; it is released in order to keep you cool. Base layers work as a conduit for moisture, by drawing (wicking) the moisture from your skin and passing it on to the next layer, if you are using a layering system or allowing it to be evaporated. They do this through a process called capillary action, which is the process by which liquids are drawn through fabrics and into pores found between fibres, this process ensures you maintain an optimum body temperature and stay cool and dry.
Base layers should fit like a second skin as they will only transport moisture from the skin that it is in contact with. They should not be so tight thought that they are restrictive; they need to allow freedom of movement, not chaffing your skin as it does so. For this reason, flat-locked seams are a common feature in base layer construction. These are seams that have been stitched flat in order to avoid abrasion or irritation to the skin.
Baselayers are different from garments such as t-shirts because they never use 100% natural fibres such as cotton.
Although cotton feels comfortable, and can fit close to the skin, it is unsuitable as a technical layer as it soaks up moisture and holds on to it, preventing quick evaporation, leaving the wearer cold and uncomfortable.
Baselayers are essential for any form of outdoor activity in both cold and warm conditions and many baselayers are designed with inbuilt SPF (Sun protection factor). 100% SPF indicates the baselayer can protect from UVA, UVB and UVC rays.
There are 3 main categories of running shorts detailed below:
Look for a close fit that moves like a second skin, as your running shorts shouldn’t hinder your movement.
You can pick a highly technical pair as part of a layering system by wearing them under a longer length style of short. Flat locked seams eliminate rubbing or roughness, making sure your running shorts don’t chafe as you run.
Look for inner briefs, which help you stay comfortable on longer runs.
High arches at the thigh with a traditional style running short increase flexibility, making them ideal for off roading.
Running shorts can also incorporate areas of high visibility so you can stay safe whilst road running, from reflective piping to hi vis strips.
Tights are also described as leggings, long johns or thermals and are primarily used as baselayers in cold weather conditions.
Ideal for use when running, cycling or skiing, a technical pair of tights are able to help you stay cool and dry in periods of activity, whilst simultaneously maintaining your own created body warmth so you stay warm in colder temperatures.
Tights are aptly named and are designed to fit close to the skin, so they are typically blended with a stretch capable fabric such as Spandex, Elastane, Polamide, or Lycra for increased flexibility.
This can be in a small percentage of the garment, so whilst you have the benefits of the flex of the fabric, you can also have the durability or a polyester or Nylon. This mix is referred to as a blend.
For running you need a jacket that can keep you warm, whilst simultaneously letting heat escape offering you plenty of breathability.
Breathability refers to a running jacket’s ability to keep you dry by evicting moisture and vapours to the outer layers, away from the skin. Special weaves allow increased speed of the cooling process, allowing moisture to be wicked away from the skin to the outer layer where it is the evaporated.
Similarly, if you run in all conditions including cold or wet weather you want a jacket that ensures wind and rain can’t permeate. The thicker the waterproof or windproof coating or membrane, the more efficient the running jacket will be at repelling moisture, yet the breathability will suffer.
The key to any running jacket is flexibility of motion, so your arms and waist can move freely as you run. This means many jackets have a stretch fabric creation in the arms and waist, either in the forms of panelled areas, or a blended fabric that contains Elastane or Lycra. They will also have a more athletic cut, being designed to sit either on or just above the hips, this ensures there is no restriction on your range of movement as you run uphill.
For maximum comfort many running jackets will have flat-locked seams and additional venting capabilities such a mesh panels that move moisture away from your skin, thus reduces irritation and chilling.
Key features to look for in a good running jacket:
Windproofing is important in the outdoors, particularly when you are at height or running against the wind. Increased exposure to winds means you are more at risk of being affected by cold vapours.
Windproof items typically also have waterproofing capabilities, but have the advantage that they are more breathable than a waterproof alternatives.
This means they are still fine to use when it is cold and drizzly, but not pouring with rain.
The use of softshells for active wear with the need for this extra breathability has meant advancements in how clothing is windproofed.
Remeber- a certain jacket may be both waterproof and windproof, but it's levels of breathability are therefore lower.