Smart Fabrics

You’ve probably heard one of these excuses or even used it yourself: “Can’t train today, it’s raining!” Or “It’s so cold I’ll probably suffer a muscle tear.” Or “It’s too hot out there, I’ll melt.” Advances in fabric technology are starting to remove the opportunity for these excuses.

There are smart fabrics on the market that will keep you dry, insulate you from cold or keep you cool in the heat.


Under Armour’s Storm Armour® products are a perfect example of the high-tech fabrics now being introduced into activewear and sportswear by major brands, a development making training clothes even more functional.

Despite our skepticism, the Under Armour representative was insistent: the Storm Hoodie really was rainproof. So when rain began to come down one recent weekend we put one on and went for a run.

At first, the hoodie didn’t seem that rainproof — the water appeared to accumulate on it in the form of thousands of little beads.

But then, magic: a shake of the arm and the beads flew off as in a centrifuge. As we took shelter under a tree, and shook all the water off, the hoodie became miraculously dry.

Under Armour’s Storm waterproof technology uses a durable water repellant (DWR) finish on fabric that repels water. But the superstar material that’s been licensed by many makers of rainproof training clothes is GORE-TEX®, basically a complex, multilayered breathable fabric with a DWR coating which repels water but lets the skin breathe.

The company that owns GORE-TEX also makes sports gear, including the GORE BIKE WEAR® and GORE RUNNING WEAR® collections of waterproof cycling and running clothing.

GORE-TEX is so versatile it’s also used in medical applications such as sutures, vascular grafts, heart patches and synthetic knee ligaments because it’s largely inert inside the body, and the body’s own tissue can grow through the material!

For the feet, look for shoes that have an upper GORE-TEX lining, like the Brooks Ghost 8 GTX or the all-terrain Adrenaline™ ASR™ 12 GTX®. The Climashield™ lining in the Salomon Speedcross 3 CS uses a different technology (AquaBan) which captures moisture rather than repels it, transporting it out and away from the body.


When the temperature drops, the secret of staying warm outdoors is often in the layering. Zoot is making a point of standing out in this functional sportswear space — its MEGAHEAT® technology incorporates several innovative fabrics and boasts moisture controlling capabilities, keeping you warmer by simply keeping you drier.

Through a chemical process, the sweat wicked away from the body is used to generate heat back to you, and the fiber in the fabric can also amplify the sun’s ultraviolet rays into readily available heat, boosting the skin’s thermal warmth.

Nike’s Aeroloft technology attempts to keep exercisers warm without overheating them. Debuting in the Nike Aeroloft 800 Vest, it involves an ultra-light insulating layer composed of perforated down.

Combined with moisture-wicking Dri-FIT fabric inside and shoulder panels for breathability, movement by wearers of the vest also activates ventilation, which allows heat to escape from minute holes between the down chambers.


For performance wear, Adidas has developed the Adidas climachill™ range, which uses fabric with a special “SubZero” flat yarn that contains titanium to maximize the fabric’s surface contact with the skin.

In addition to the yarn drawing heat away from the body, tiny aluminum cooling spheres are strategically located on the garment to correspond to where the body needs to be cooled down most. You definitely feel the spheres when they make contact with the skin.

Nike’s Dri-FIT microfiber polyester fabric wicks moisture away from the body so it can evaporate, as does Reebok’s PlayDry technology that uses ventilation, moisture management and fabric construction to help aid the release of heat.

Yoga wear giant Lululemon has created many tops and bottoms in its range, including Luxtreme® and COOLMAX® fabrics that are both lightweight and are composed of sweat-wicking properties.


Not everything has to be space-age tech. Sports gear made from Merino wool reduces the opportunity for odors to develop by quickly absorbing sweat (wool can absorb up to 35 percent of its own weight in liquid) and keeping it away from the skin and, therefore, odor-causing bacteria.

Studies also show that bacteria are more attracted to the smooth and positively-charged surface of synthetic fibers than the scaly merino wool fibers.

New Zealand, a land famous for its sheep farming, has produced the Icebreaker brand, with a range of icebreaker® MERINO fitness wear including tights, tops, socks, gloves and coats.