July 27, 2007
July 27, 2007 - During a recent meeting of a running group in Boulder, about
one-third of the runners who showed up for the 60-minute trail run were wearing
The temperature was in the upper 80s. Were they out
of their minds?
Apparently not. Wearing ultra-thin wool T-shirts in warm
weather is a growing trend among runners, hikers and climbers. Once thought of
as only an insulating material for cold conditions, wool also has significant
performance values - namely breathability and the ability to pull moisture away
from the skin and speed its evaporation - that apply to warm-weather
applications as well.
And unlike synthetic fabrics, wool also acts as an
antimicrobial to block the bacteria that causes foul odors.
"I wear wool
in the summer all the time," said Jenny Taylor, an avid trail runner and
mountain biker from Boulder. "It doesn't stick to my skin when I sweat and I
think it dries faster than a synthetic shirt. And I just like the way it feels."
Wool fiber has thousands of tiny air pockets that act as a buffer to
cool skin amid the heat of a midday run, ride or hike. And wool fabrics are
semiporous and can absorb more moisture than petroleum-based synthetic
materials, which have to wait until moisture condenses into liquid before the
wicking process can begin, said Adam Stosak, supervisor of the apparel
department at the REI store in Lakewood.
"Synthetics have always been
popular, but I would say wool is the ideal fabric," he said. "First, because
it's the best at wicking moisture away from the skin and secondly because of the
comfort factor. It's made from a soft, comfortable fabric that feels soft
against the skin."
Wearing a wool shirt in the heat of summer might seem
counterintuitive, but it shouldn't be, said Gardner Flanigan, marketing director
at Steamboat Springs-based SmartWool, which has seen rapid growth of its
short-sleeve shirt business since its started making summer-oriented apparel in
"The majority of people are still looking to wool for winter
apparel and layering," Flanigan said. "It's definitely growing in the summer
because the versatility of the fabric, and the fiber is really amazing. We're
still trying to get that message out. It's funny because nobody, I mean nobody,
questions it in socks. But then when you come out with a shirt and they say, 'No
way.' So I think people have to feel it and wear it to believe it."
There are eco-friendly reasons to wear wool, too: wool is a natural,
renewable resource, and its production doesn't increase greenhouse gasses.
Reprinted in part from Rocky Mountain News, Colo.