run, rest, eat, bitch, buy things, cross-train, blog, repeat.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wicking Fabric... a discussion.

When I first starting running back in 2005, I wore cotton everything. Cotton yoga-y pants, cotton long sleeve tshirts, cotton socks. And even for my first half marathon, I wore a cotton t-shirt (I think I had finally broken down and purchased actual running shorts by that point). The point is... no matter how many crazy new fabrics athletic wear makers come up with (with crazy price tags)... you don't have to go out and buy fancy dancy running clothes.

But... because once I started running more and more, I started wanting to look cuter as I was doing so... and so I started picking up the occasional cute running top and matching shorts, etc. And over the years, I've accumulated a whole drawer full of running tops that I RARELY wear. Because, now... instead of wanting to look matchy-matchy and cute... I just want to be comfortable on my runs.

Awhile back, I posted about how much I sweat during runs (with a picture included). In the pic, I was wearing my now standard running "uniform." An oversized cotton tshirt and running shorts.
April, left this comment...

April said...'s because you love running in 100% cotton t-shirts!! You have like the biggest running wardrobe of anyone I know...wear your dri-weave shirts!! Or just don't wear shows sweat the most. White will disguise:)

And that got me thinking... Dri-weave, moisture wicking, etc... what are these fabrics REALLY supposed to do? Their purpose isn't to keep you from sweating... their purpose is to pull the sweat off your skin and into the fabric... where it is supposed to dry quickly. Right?? (I mean, I have no idea, and I tried wikipedia-ing it, and didn't come up with anything, but this is my general knowledge of the subject). Well, that's all fine and dandy if you are just out for a casual stroll on a hot day. But, if you're engaged in an activity such as running... where you are just constantly sweating more and more... the fabric doesn't have a chance to dry quickly, right? So, you just end up with a wet fabric (though, the fabric is usually lighter in weight than a cotton tshirt) hugging your body.

I decided to test out a couple of my supposed "moisture wicking shirts"

This is the shirt that I bought for the Memphis Marathon last year. It's a Nike Tech shirt. Fully synthetic, fully NASA tested or whatev (so that they can charge $35 bucks for it). I wore this a month or so ago on a long run and was so uncomfortable during the run, due to the heavy, clingy sweat saturated fabric that I was daydreaming about wearing a cotton t-shirt. It was so bad, that I took this picture when I got home to show my dissatisfaction for the fabric...

Seriously... look at that. The two lighter pink triangles around my boobs are the color that the shirt is when it's dry. I'm not sure how well you can see, but it's like I could have wringed the shirt out and 10 ozs of sweat would have came out. It's soaked with sweat. (And you can see my dis-satisfaction by my face, in case the thumbs down and pout don't do it for you). Granted, it was a hot day, probably mid-70s for the run,

This morning... it was 51 degrees and cloudy. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test out another shirt. This one is the race shirt I got from the Eugene Marathon. It's a Nike dri-fit t-shirt. I figured, sure I'd sweat some this morning.... but hopefully with the cooler temps, I could see if the dri-fit really did dry faster...

Hmmm... nope.

And, it's not just Nike. I have some Under Armour tops, too that do the same thing. I will say that I do like wearing "moisture wicking" fabrics as a base layer in the winter. They may not wick sweat, but they are usually a pretty good wind-breaker and good at keeping you warm and toasty.

Any of y'all have really good luck with any particular brand? If not, then I'm just going to stick with what I got and not spend the dough on tech-wear (unless it's just like really cool or something).


Big said...

I have found that not all Nike Dri-Fit shirts are made the same way, and therefore do not all work the same way. Of course, I can't find anything on the web right now to demonstrate the difference; but, based on the pictures, the Nike shirts you have are (imho) the lesser of the Dri-Fit shirts. When I wear them, they soak in sweat and cling.

Stephanie said...

Great post, Amy! For a new runner like me, I'm interested to see what people say since I haven't quite figured out my wardrobe yet.

Jennifer said...

I have both Nike shirts and Under Armour. My recent purchase of a Nike Fit shirt seems to be working well, but my Under Armour shirt (sleeveless) is my favorite. I'm not pretty when I run, I sweat, so none of my "wicking" shirts do a perfect job.

I'm glad that more races are now giving tech tees for shirts...

Kel said...

Can't say I sweat like you do, but I do sweat - even still, I wear cotton, I like it.

Adam said...

I like tech shirts, I've had good luck with champion and asics, but most of my tech shirts come from races. They still get wet when I run on hot days, but I find them more comfortable than cotton.

Joe said...

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A. Sayeed Asraf said...

Hey..m doin my MBA n currently doing my summer internship n working on sportswear project, wherein m trying to develop high performance activewear using various blends of 3rd generation viscose fibers...development is already under progress and v shud b cmg out wid fabrics soon which wud b much better than drifit in moisture management and at d same time give dat natural touch 2 d skin, hope it will solve ur problems, will kip u posted abt d developments

Lexi said...

Hey, just so you know, wicking fabrics doesn't mean that you don't sweat, or you won't get sweat patches. The fabric draws the sweat away from your body and into the fabric, but then (and this is what makes 'technical' clothing so special) the fabric encourages the moisture to evaporate. Cotton retains moisture.

Test the t-shirts again but this time, keep wearing it after you've finished your run and see which one dries faster, the wicking ones or the cotton ones. I'll put money on the fact that the wicking ones will beat the cotton ones.

The idea of the fabric is to prevent hypothermia after exertion. As I'm sure you know, when you wear wet clothing it reduces your body temperature leaving you vulnerable to hypothermia in cool conditions. By wearing clothes which force the moisture to evaporate faster you will be less likely to suffer ill effects from it.

Hope this helps!

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