Seven years ago, I was 16 years old and had just moved to San Francisco. I was going to a new school where I didn’t know a single person. To make the transition easier, I joined my schools cross-country team. I joined because my sister ran in high school, so I figured maybe genetics would be on my side. That’s how I got into running. My mom always said I was like Forrest Gump because one day, “I just felt like running,” and I never stopped (Not literally, I didn’t actually run back and forth across America multiple times).
On September 30, 2007, I ran my first official road race. It was the Bridge to Bridge 12K in San Francisco, a surprisingly flat course, perfect for a first timer. I finished in 1:00:10, not too shabby for my first (and longest at that point) race ever. While the time wasn’t bad, my choice of clothing certainly was. You see, I was your average newbie runner. I ran in a long, heavy cotton t-shirt and my high school gym shorts. In the photo, you can see the transformation I’ve gone through when it comes to what I race in. On the left, you see 16-year old me in my cotton shirt and gym shorts. On the right, I’m in a singlet and split shorts at the 2013 ING New York City Marathon.
I always tell customers I help to run in whatever they feel most comfortable wearing. This can mean different things to different people as “comfortable” is a relative term.
However, one thing that should be consistent with all runners is the materials of your running clothes. Avoid cotton at all costs. Why? Cotton absorbs sweat, and a couple things happen when sweat gets absorbed into the shirt. The shirt becomes heavy and baggy which is uncomfortable to start with. In addition, chafing and blistering can occur as the shirt clings closer to your skin. The same goes for socks, perhaps even more so than shirts. The cotton socks will absorb sweat, causing chafing, blistering and hot spots. So what’s the trick to preventing this? Glad you asked.
Synthetic materials are essential when picking out your running wardrobe. Much in the same way that its beneficial to come into the store to purchase shoes to ensure you are getting a proper fit, it’s equally as important to buy your running clothes in-person. That way, you can feel the material between your fingers and try on the clothes to make sure they will be comfortable for you. Our products in the store will all prevent chafing and blistering by wicking away sweat and moisture, rather than absorbing it. Now, the shirt and shorts you wear will almost always hold at least a little sweat, especially in these warm summer months, but it will still be leaps and bounds better than cotton materials.
One of my favorite shirts we carry is the Hydralite Rev Short Sleeve from Saucony. It’s a super lightweight shirt that is perfect for the summertime. When the seasons change, you can easily throw a base layer under it as well.
The North Face Better than Naked shorts are another great summer option. The polyester woven material is light, breathable and, as the name suggests, barely even noticeable to you while running. You should never be noticing the way your clothes fit or feel on the run, so these are a perfect option for a comfortable and practical pair of running shorts.
Socks are important as well. My personal favorites we carry are the Balega Hidden Comfort socks. They are a medium thickness and offer great cushioning, especially for those long runs when you’re out on the roads for two or three hours.
If you need any help with picking out the right running clothes for you, stop by the store and see us! We’ll offer some suggestions tailored to your preferences and get you on the road to blister-free and chafing-free running!