If you think that your old gym shorts and a ripped up t-shirt are acceptable gear for playing sports outdoors, think again. Technology has crept its way into every facet of sporting goods, and sports clothing has become more than just an accessory. Wearing the right material can improve your performance and help your body keep cool and dry, even when the weather turns extreme.
So rather than slapping on those dirty sweats and crusty beer label t-shirt, check out what hi-tech clothing can do for you, and find out what you should be wearing for your favorite outdoor sport.
Running is still a very popular pastime for most people, and it is something that nearly everyone can do. As you get more serious about your running, you need to get more serious about your equipment. Runners are arguably the most important piece of gear in your ensemble.
You need to spend your money here, in order to get a pair that will take the shock out of each footfall. Remember – most lifetime runners develop hip and knee problems when they are older, so you need a pair of runners that will work as impact and shock absorbers.
Runner’s World and the Running Room give very detailed explanations of the footwear they sell, and help you to determine the best shoe for your needs. These are great stores to shop at since they focus on running only, rather that try to be something for everyone.
Outerwear need not be complex. This is the place you can use your old t-shirts, shorts and sweats, but if you are truly serious, buy a quality rain suit. There is nothing worse than running in the cold rain, so make sure you spend the money to get a rain suit that is light, waterproof, and breathable.
Trail running is jogging’s dirty cousin. Essentially, it is a hybrid between hiking, walking and running. You are going to get dirty and wet, so leave your fancy and expensive rain suit at home. For this you need trail running shoes, which are made to allow water to flow through the shoe, not give you blisters, and dry quickly.
These shoes will also give you the stability you need for running up and downhill, over logs, and on rough uneven surfaces. Check out Trailrunner if you want to learn more.
Hiking has become more of an “everyman’s” sport these days, as most of us try and reconnect with nature. The key to hiking is not to wear heavy clothing, if it is cool when you start out. Layer your clothing, so you can peel off layers as you and the air start to warm up. Stability is the key when making footwear choices, so don’t be cheap when it comes to picking out hikers.
Low cut (below the ankle) hikers are designed for less strenuous hikes, or as casual wear in the city. High cut (above the ankle) hikers are made for hiking, since they protect the ankle and offer increased stability. When you are walking on uneven terrain, you can very easily twist your ankle. Get a lightweight day pack so you can store water and food, and have a place to put the clothing you remove.
Hiking or walking sticks may seem like a good idea, but definitely don’t buy them unless you are getting really serious. And if you buy two, you had better be planning a trip to the Swiss Alps!
For the last several years, golf has had a major overhaul, thanks to Tiger Woods and a renewed interest in the sport. First the equipment was the target of designers and manufacturers, and then it was the clothing. Golf shoes have become spikeless or ‘soft spiked’ to preserve green conditions and add comfort.
Shoes are now waterproof, using materials like Gore-Tex, which repel water but still allow the shoe to breathe. Another major change is in the outerwear or raingear, which has also incorporated the two most important functions – breatheability and waterproofness. A good rainsuit will have vents under the arms, and zippers on the legs – both of which increase airflow.
Spend the extra money and get a suit that will quick-dry. Another important revision is to the golf shirt. Over the last few years, collarless shirts that are button free and hemmed at the bottom have been created. This means you can wear them untucked, so you’ll look and feel cool, but the shirts still have a finished look to them.
You may not think that skateboard clothing is anything more than baggy pants and loose shirts, but snow and skateboarding trends have infiltrated mainstream fashion for years. Baggy clothing can absorb the pavement better than tight clothing, and it is less likely to rip. The key is to strike a fine balance between form and function, and to avoid flashy, ski-hill colors.
Check out Tony Hawk’s line of cool clothes if you want to see what a ‘real’ boarder wears. Skater shoes are usually flat-soled court-style, since you need to have solid contact with the board. Vans have been making them for years, and they never seem to go out of style.
There two types of non-professional rollerbladers: recreational and serious/hardcore. Most people skate for fun, so their clothing needs are less intense. Stick with loose fitting clothes, since you’ll need the freedom to move your arms and legs. If weather permits, always wear shorts. If your legs start to sweat, friction will be created between your skin and pants.
Shorts can help reduce this by providing more airflow. T-shirts are perfect for pulling sweat away from your skin, so find a cool Tee to cap off your outfit. As far as protective gear goes, the recreational skater can probably get away with wearing minimal gear – depending on their skill level.
At the very least, wrist guards will help the newbie. As your skill level and speed increases, you might actually want more protective gear, such as a helmet and knee pads. For the serious skater, Lycra is always popular – less wind resistance, less body friction, and sweat moves off the body more quickly. Skatewarehouse has every cool brand under the sun, so check them out to get some ideas.
If you are a recreational cyclist, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. First, buy a helmet that fits properly. The biggest mistake that people make when buying a helmet is choosing one that fits improperly. Try on different brands and sizes before you make your purchase. Ask the sales person for help if you are unsure.
Remember, this is the only thing that will come between your head and the asphalt in the event of a spill! And no amount of experience will help you to avoid an accident, especially if you bike on city streets. Second, avoid loose cuffed pants. Shorts are always best, or buy Lycra/Spandex bike pants with padding on the “seat” area.
As with other sports, the tighter the clothing, the less wind resistance you will have. Third, if you don’t have cycling shoes and pedals with clips on them, wear runners with cloth uppers (not leather). You don’t want to wear uncomfortable shoes, or anything that will make your feet sweat more than normal. Plus, if you hit puddles or wet pavement, you’ll need footwear that will dry quickly and not make your feet chafe.
Information is king!
As you get more serious about your favorite outdoor sport, you’ll need to get more serious about what you are wearing. Don’t be cheap! Get what you need to be successful and produce the results you’re after. After all, this clothing is an investment in your favorite activity or pastime. Not a tuxedo you’ll wear once and then stuff in the closet.
Sports clothing today is not only functional, it’s fashionable. And there’s nothing wrong with looking good while you are improving your performance. If you need more information, just do an internet search for your sport and check out the organizations that pop up. They will give you an experienced athlete’s perspective on what you should be looking for, so you don’t end up with unpractical eye-candy.