When it comes to performance running clothes, this year’s Olympic athletes won’t leave anything to chance. Many elite runners will be donning high-tech brands hoping it will give them the edge in races where every second, if not millisecond, counts. So what is the latest gear sports companies are offering to boost athletic performance?
At London 2012 the US Olympic athletics team are wearing a ‘TurboSpeed Suit’ from Nike. It is claimed this can knock 0.23 seconds off a 100m sprint. How well this will work is yet to be seen. At the very least, it may give the wearer a psychological advantage. Inspired by the golf ball, the suit looks like a dimply wetsuit and claims to reduce aerodynamic drag. It’s all a far cry from the Olympics in Greece where people used to compete in the nude! Some would argue at least there was no technology to give unfair advantages to anyone then.
So what other running clothes are available for those itching to improve their performance and running experience?
Skins Compression – this is a popular brand used by many top athletes including Australian triathlete Dave Matthews and Japanese trail runner Hiroki Ishikaw. The technologically advanced skin-tight clothes are based on the principle that when you apply compression to a body area it increases blood flow to that area and therefore improves performance, reduces lactic acid and speeds muscle repair.
Under Armour – this relatively new US company sponsored Olympic athletes at the last winter Olympics, and is also sponsoring swimmer Michael Phelps at 2012. They have a great range of running clothes including tops which block the heat of the sun, compression leggings which keep your muscles fresh and post-training tights which reduce muscle soreness, swelling and fatigue by up to 50%. Their Baselayers range for runners offer weather-specific clothing which help keep you cool in the heat and warmer on those cold running days.
Ronhill – Using innovative fabric technology, this UK brand’s range of clothing offers increased movement, flexibility, breathability and performance. Ron Hill himself competed in two Olympic marathons and set world records at long distance running.
K-Swiss– with its excellent running clothes and shoes it’s not surprising this summer’s ‘I Love Manchester 10K Run’ has chosen K Swiss as its official sponsor. Originally manufacturing tennis footwear this innovative company now utilizes the latest technology to offer runners clothing with great features like ‘moisture management’, breathability and SPF 40 protection.
2XU – with over 18 recently qualifying Olympians wearing 2XU gear, this company is on the way to fulfilling its aims to “advance human performance” with its “world leading technical athletics clothing”. Their compression garments including tops, tights, socks and shorts offer a multitude of benefits to athletes wanting the best performance including reduced muscle fatigue, heightened agility and improved performance.
Finally, perhaps less is more when it comes to running clothes. Many of us remember Zola Budd, the famous barefoot runner of the 1980s. While no claims have been made regarding how barefoot running can improve your speed, and it is still rare to see it in competition, there is convincing research that it reduces the risk of injury by reducing heel striking. This is unarguably an advantage for the keen runner. The Special Olympics this year actually held a special barefoot running race and there are now several successful UK companies offering barefoot running shoes including Vivbram fivefingers and VIVObarefoot. It seems this minimalist approach to running is increasingly popular. Can we expect to see more of this in the future?