Designers’ Physio-Focus Advances Product that Moves with the Body Better.
We often think of ergonomics in terms of creating a more compatible computer keyboard or office chair so that these items fit the people who use them in the workplace. But these days ergonomics is being employed to advance development of active sportswear. Whether it’s a shirt, a sock, a short or a wetsuit, designers are physio-focused when it comes to innovation, bringing to market apparel and accessories ideally suited for this season’s hot sports of cycling, trail running, hiking and surfing.
Falke: Trail Run
This Spring Falke launched its first trail running sock. Specifically made for running on rough terrain, the new sock features a special compression zone in the ankle area that acts like a bandage to reduce the risk of twisting due to uneven surfaces, ensuring protection while running off the beaten track. The RU Trail has a close fit in the foot area for added support and a quick drying, technical synthetic fabric to keep wearers feet comfortable.
A focus on ergonomic design is nothing new for Falke. In fact the German brand has been perfecting its development process for over a century based on three key principles: “Form follows function” studies characteristic requirements that are precisely tailored and optimized; “Form follows you” determines that functional clothing meets the demands of competitive athletes and amateur athletes alike; and “Form inspires you” relies on color and form to achieve a level of aesthetics that stand out in a positive way.
“Falke is a 125-year old, fourth generation family-owned company and it shows in the brand quality, and thoughtful process of product design and development,” states Alex Dossin, a territory sales manager for the U.S. market.
Fit is central to Falke’s design and development. For example, the company offers gender-specific styles with women’s products that are made on specific machines with slightly smaller cylinders. In addition, Falke socks are designed to be anatomically-correct for the left and right foot, and socks are developed “to the foot sizing,” resulting in a more accurate fit compared to a fit based on shoe size.
“Falke is known for exceptional fit,” says Dossin. “If you don’t know that you have the product on, then the sock is doing a great job.”
With the trail run category crowded with wool socks, Falke’s 97 percent polyamide/3 percent elastane synthetic blend is unique. The material is lightweight, yet extremely durable and moves moisture efficiently. The RU Trail also serves as a good example of Falke’s ergonomic sport system that takes into consideration important functions including climate compensation, thermal insulation and injury prevention.
Pearl Izumi: Cycle On
“Ergonomics is essentially taking the function of something into consideration as you are designing it. If that’s a chair it is understanding how this person is going to be sitting in this chair, what they are doing and what position their body will be in. At Pearl Izumi this translates to thinking about how someone will utilize a garment while sitting on a bike and cycling,” explains Pearl Izumi’s Rob Pickels, who leads a team focused on Advanced Product Development at the company based in Boulder, CO.
Pearl Izumi has a wide ranging product line that consists of performance road and mountain biking garments, a line of commuter-inspired pieces called BikeStyle, and a casual t-shirt collection. Nonetheless 99.9 percent of what is offered can be worn on a performance road ride: “It doesn’t all have to be aerodynamic — but the performance is there,” Pickels confirms.
Performance products are fit on a bike with a cyclist in a cycling position, and then closely observed while the cyclist is riding the bike. The same goes for the design and development of BikeStyle. “For this line, we fit on a commuter bike, and also off the bike, because we know people are using the product in both those situations,” explains Pickels, who has a MS degree in physiology with an emphasis on biomechanics. He did a stint in the medical field and spent eight years at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine before taking his current position Pearl Izumi.
Function and comfort are always top of mind at Pearl Izumi with textiles an important tool in the design and development toolbox. Materials with moisture management and thermoregulation properties are fundamental. “That is the lowest barrier for entry,” says Pickels. “Then we do testing, and if the material passes, it goes in the toolbox.” But that’s a wide net, so the team continues to “slim down the toolbox” looking for more specific characteristics appropriate for cycling. For example a compression bottom needs stretch and recovery, a jersey needs a soft feel. “But then we’ll want a compressive, soft jersey material,” says Pickels. “We build our toolbox in an iterative fashion.”
Picture: Surf’s Up
Picture has amassed a strong following in the world of snowsports in recent years, but innovative design and development doesn’t end when the snow stops falling. For example, a key product introduction from the active-outdoor French apparel brand for the upcoming season is the EICOprene wetsuit.
The sustainable, neoprene-free EICOprene Equation 4/3 Flex Skin wetsuit is made with recycled tires and fishing nets, and offers exceptional stretch capacity for maximum mobility in the water. According to the company, the eco-material has five times the stretch compared to traditional neoprene. Comfort zones incorporated into the design of the wetsuit make for easier range of motion.
Title Nine: Hike Essential
This Spring a legacy product gets an update, and a new performance tight debuts for Fall.
Like all Title Nine products, the revamped Camber Short and new Crash Tight are made and tested by women, for women.
The Clamber 5” Short features a proprietary fabric designed to be abrasion resistant while also offering stretch and a DWR finish. With two front pockets, two secured back pockets and a comfortable elastic waist with snap closure, the Clamber 5” Shorts are the perfect wear-all-day, ready-for-adventure apparel piece.
The Crash Tight is constructed with Polartec Power Stretch fabric that is 90 percent recycled polyester. Tightly knitted on the outside and fleeced on the inside, the tights can pull double duty as a midlayer or an outer layer on cold days. Adventure-ready accents like a hidden, zippered pocket and reflective hits in the inside hem make the Crash Tight essential for when the temperatures drop.