The Deal with 'Dri-fit'

Owning dri-fit or other name brand moisture wicking clothing is not a luxury for runners but rather an absolute necessity!

Dri-fit, which is a name brand of Nike, is a commonly used term that runners use to refer to any technical fabric. While there are actually many different manufacturers, versions and applications of technical clothing for running, they all serve the same basic purpose: to provide light, comfortable and most importantly functional clothing for athletes. You can find everything from dri-fit socks and underwear to hats and waste packs.

If you plan to run in comfort and free of friction for any length of time, it’s essential to build a good dri-fit wardrobe. Just ask the guy wearing the cotton t-shirt with the bloody nipples crossing the finish line at a marathon !

As most veteran runners will attest to, cotton race tees are a great piece of running memorabilia, but beyond kicking back in them or making a quilt, they aren’t functional running wear. Fortunately, more and more running events are switching to providing technical tees as a part of the event registration package. This is great news, since you simply can’t have enough tech shirts stocked in your drawer.

So what makes technical clothing so special? The main function of technical clothing is to wick moisture away from your skin outwards as you sweat. This wicking action is the key to keeping the layer of material touching your skin as dry as possible while you’re running and therefore minimizes the possibility of chafing from wet material rubbing against your skin. There are various types and weights of tech fabric designed for varying weather conditions but all are also quite breathable. Since they are moisture wicking and breathable, they allow your body’s natural temperature regulation mechanisms to work, particularly in hotter running conditions.

Finally, the way that technical clothing is woven it typically creates a strong but light material. Since sweat moves through the fabric and is allowed to evaporate, it stays relatively lighter than cotton or other non-technical material when wet. While they are excellent at what they are designed to do, technical clothing does have its limitations. Extreme moisture from sweat or weather can exceed the wicking capabilities of your garments or poorly placed seams can still cause unwanted friction. So, despite wearing technical clothes it’s still a great idea to grease up any areas on your body that have given you trouble in the past; particularly for longer events such as marathons and ultras.

A few other minor challenges you might experience is that many technical fabrics particularly light ones have a high ‘snag’ factor and hold body odour even after several washes. There are a few specialty soaps on the market specifically for these garments, however reviews are mixed.

The key to running comfortably using dri-fit in colder climates is by properly layering the fabrics so that the moisture wicking capabilities are not hindered. Read more about technical clothing and the art of layering in the cold weather running page!

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