Cotton has been a long-standing fabric used in much athletic and sportswear. As strides in science and technology evolve however, our understanding of what materials and advancements work has changed. Cotton is no longer the best choice for athletes or activewear as it has no moisture-wicking abilities and tends to hold all moisture it comes in contact with. Pair cotton’s tendencies to hold onto moisture and sweat and it’s no longer a viable textile for endurance sports.
Like the evolution of sports fabrics and textiles, the world of athletic wear is changing thanks to technology. When looking for the right technology for you in athletic wear, these are the technologies we believe you should look for and look out for.
Smart clothing or clothing with built-in haptic feedback is on the rise. This high-tech addition to activewear has accelerometers and vibrating motors woven into the fabric that can give physical feedback to athletes on their positions, how they’re moving and provide tracking for goals, performance, and progression.
Some of the smart clothing being developed and released are offering built-in sensors that can collect medical-grade data without the bulk, weight, or extra of a phone, wristband or anything else. Smart fabric with a built-in ECG as well as respiration and physical activity sends to a recording module and that is sent to the cloud to access, analyze and view.
Though it is still considered the early days for wearable smart clothing, this innovative tech could change the way coaching, training, and athletes practice, bringing about new ways to perform and protect against injury.
For runners especially, even socks are getting the smart makeover. Textile pressure sensors placed in socks can be paired with an anklet that magnetically snaps to the cuff of the sock and talks to a smartphone app, gathering the steps taken, speed, calories burned, altitude and walking distance along with cadence and even foot landing technique—an absolutely brilliant advancement for serious and professional runners.
This could help identify injury-prone running styles such as heel striking and ball striking. It’s possible that the paired app could match mistakes with the right audio cues that will act as a running coach.
For those new to sports or understanding certain fabric properties, moisture-wicking fabric is wearable tech that helps keep sweat off and away from your body and lifts it to the surface of the fabric you are wearing. There, the sweat will evaporate. The process of evaporation is what makes a moisture-wicking fabric keep you cool and dry.
Capillary spaces within the material make the wicking and evaporation possible. They are tiny spaces that liquid can move through. Sweat wets a moisture-wicking fabric, the capillaries force the sweat to reach the outside of the clothes and spreads across the surface to evaporate.
This capillary action becomes especially important for athletes to be able to perform at their peak as it helps maintain and regulate internal body temperatures. Cold, wet clothes can turn out to hinder their performance especially if the clothing retains water adding weight.
Another crucial property to consider is that if the sweat is retained it can lead to a breakdown or maceration of the skin. Prolonged exposure to moisture or dampness on the skin causes the skin to become especially vulnerable to fungal, yeast, and bacterial infections.
One other thing to keep in mind, without moisture-wicking technology, wearing overly moist athletic wear can lead to a higher chance of intertrigo (intertriginous dermatitis), an inflammatory condition of skinfolds induced by too much heat, moisture, maceration, friction and lack of air circulation.So in the case of athletes that endurance performance is needed and moisture-wicking is crucial, always ensure this technology is a feature. Fabric examples that include this tech that we love:
- Contact Shell
- Dual Wick
Let’s be honest for a moment—when you play or compete hard, you tend to sweat hard. And that sweat on your uniforms or clothing can soon turn into odor. Antimicrobial clothing or athleticwear treated with an antimicrobial treatment means odor control. Occasionally uniforms and professional athletic clothing not treated or not antimicrobial can start to smell and no matter how many times washed, the scent remains.
This can lead to activewear being washed over and over again, and the more its washed, the more the material can begin to deteriorate as you’re trying to fight the microbes that cause the smell.
Antimicrobial fabrics fight the bacteria that cause that funk, leading to less heavy use of detergents and returns the investment into good quality sportswear. This feature can also reduce the transmission of infection that can happen when bacteria begin forming on the skin.
A variety of textiles that are antimicrobial include, but aren’t limited to polyester, polyester-vinyl composites, vinyl, and even acrylics.
Runners especially should be looking for the above technologies that also come with reflective detailing. A garment featuring a panel, strip or patterns that will reflect light in the darkness of morning or evening should be considered a must-have for safety.
In the medical world, compression socks and compression wear have been used for many years for people with insufficient blood circulation issues and to prevent blood clots.
Compression wear benefits to all aspects of training, workouts, and sports. Compression wear can be worn before, during and after any activity. Compression can ensure a more controlled movement to any part of the body, less strain on joints and can increase endurance.
Research has found that wearing compression garments help eliminate muscle soreness and fatigue, especially handy after a hard training session.
Cold Weather: Heat-Trapping Fabric
Traditionally, keeping warm when temperatures drop meant layering with bulky clothing. Technological advances in both nanotechnology, microfibers and weaving techniques allow the offering of more breathable, lightweight winter or cold climate athleticwear.
This lightweight technology can allow runners to layer up in the winter without the bulk. Synthetic fabrics will be the way to go to ensure that the light layer will be warm and keep sweat out. Thermo-conductive coatings are especially well suited for this and are superior when it comes to heat retention.
When it comes to future tech for athleticwear, we look forward to what the future holds along with you!