With so many advancements in running apparel technology in recent years, it can be hard to imagine what’s on the horizon next. From what we’ve seen from our manufacturers so far, 2012 is shaping up to be a year of refinements to existing technology, rather than a revolutionary year of product innovations.
- Lighter Weight Materials: Manufacturers continue to innovate with synthetic materials that are both lightweight and durable. Of course, every ounce counts when you’re racing for a new PR, but lighter weight materials are also beneficial for keeping you comfortable and light on your feet during training days as well.
- Improved Fabric Quality: Synthetic fabrics will continue to be softer and more durable in 2012. Wicking technology is still improving, and more materials are being offered with built-in water resistance, rather than a durable water repellant (DWR) coating. As an example of fabric innovation, when Mizuno first introduced its Breath Thermo warming fabric, runners liked the thermal properties of the material, but noted that the fabric was a bit rough on the skin. A few rounds of improvements have made this fabric softer and more comfortable while retaining the innovative heat-generating properties.
- More Features Per Item: The use of lighter weight materials has another advantage: it allows manufacturers to add more features to a garment without weighing it down too much. That means extra zip pockets for storage, more reflective elements, and the strategic use of more durable, stretchable or breathable fabrics in key areas.
- Purpose-Driven Design: Many of our athletic brands have differentiated their running apparel to provide both highly technical, performance-oriented styles for race days and competitive athletes, along with selections that focus a little more on style for versatility and comfort.
- Visibility and Reflectivity: Last Fall’s Nike Vapor Flash Jacket made a big splash with its complete reflectivity. We expect to see more reflective elements on garments this Fall and Winter. We’ve also seen a lot of interest in apparel items that integrate lighting, such as the Asics Reflector Jacket.
- Sustainable Materials: Manufacturers have been incorporating recycled elements into select running garments for several years now. We’ve seen a few more pieces for Spring ’12 and Fall ’12 that use recycled or sustainable materials such as wool. Wool may be a big story this year, with the fiber appearing in socks, base layers and other garments from brands including Nike, Mizuno, Smartwool, Icebreaker and Sugoi. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that 2012 will be the year when many more runners demand more environmentally friendly features in their running garments.
Want to see some of the latest in run apparel and technology? Click on the apparel finder on the right-hand side of the Men’s or Women’s homepage, or view apparel collections by brand from the menu on the left of our site.