When it comes to running gear, what you avoid wearing is often just as important as what you choose to wear. While running is largely a fuss-free exercise (really, shoes are all you need) there’s no denying, that a little bit of comfort goes a long way in a run.

It can be a quite a dampener to have to ‘unglue’ your sweaty cotton t-shirt from your body each time you’ve crossed a lap, or fight the chafing from your track-pants after a particularly humid run. Cotton may be our go-to fabric for most occasions, but runners have long since found an alternative that doesn’t get in the way of their running. Technical running shirts or simply tech shirts refer to exercise gear made from materials that wick the sweat away from your body, unlike cotton, keeping you comfortable while working out.

CoolMax was one of the earliest such technical fabrics used in running and other athletic gear. The yarns were made up of microscopic notches that clung at the sweat and dragged it to the outer layer of the shirt, from where it could evaporate. This is the opposite of cotton which collects the sweat and only weighs you down. CoolMax fabric also dried much faster, which was added advantage. Sports gear has evolved tremendously since; names like DryFit, Thinsulate, Thermax, polypropolene, and several other such varieties are open to runners today, with numerous leading sports brands specializing in tech shirts possessing the latest technology.

Apart from the wicking, technical clothing often also comes with other performance boosting advantages—it’s usually lighter and stretchier that linen and feels far less bulky on the body. There are several types of specialized technical gear as well for adverse weather conditions, different types of running, and personal preferences. Besides features to wick sweat away from skin, some can also block ultraviolet (UV) rays, trap in body heat, and control odor.

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That’s the one big improvement most brands have begun to implement in their gear. Earlier, running shirts were infamous for their unpleasant smell because the very technology that pulled the sweat away from the skin left the odor-causing bacteria trapped in the fabric. Tech fabric these days are treated with antimicrobial agents to minimize this unpleasant situation; some products have coconut particles, silver and ceramic fibres that are known to fight sweat and odor both. Others, such as those made with polypropylene, come equipped with UV protection for those harsh days in the sun.

If you’re planning to invest in some tech gear of your own, remember to buy what suits your regular running conditions, rather than blindly chasing trends. If you’re running in humid climate or going for a monsoon run, make sure your base layer will keep you dry and comfortable—a polyester/ Lycra blend works well in such cases. You can also buy glow-in-the-dark or luminescent jackets and running pants to help keep you visible if you exercise after dark. Comfort should be key, and the clothes should give you the maximum range of motion that you seek. Ultimately, the gear you invest in should be one that makes your run a better experience,so choose wisely and always try them on—even if you’ve to do some spot running in the trial rooms to be sure.

Images: Tribe Sports

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