The Softer Side of Tech Fabrics
Run tops and shorts from Rabbit's EZ collection.
Whether training on a treadmill, doing laps around a high school track, or hitting the trail, odds are the estimated 50 million people in the United States defined as new, casual or recreational runners are not going for gold.

“I am a better version of myself when I am running frequently!” says Katie Brennan, who dips in and out of running as life dictates. “Being able to lace up my shoes and knock out a very slow walk/run for five miles is a huge part of my well-being.”  

Community is a primary motivator for rookie runner Cassidy Chassagne, a twenty-something who also enjoys cycling and recently purchased an e-bike. “I run with my running club and my partner. A lot of times, the only reason I get out the door is because they are holding me accountable to do so,” explains Chassagne, who got serious about running in September of last year.

Leslie Aguilar, a three-times-per-week trail runner, originally from Los Angeles who works at the Department of Energy in DC, defines her goals as “stress relief and health/fitness.” Reading online reviews is Aguilar’s go-to for educating herself on run products.

These women are representative of many mainstream running consumers — they have a modern, healthy outlook on running that is reflected in their product purchases and fabric choices. “I’ve run races, casually, where my clothes feel uncomfortable and that is all I can think about,” comments Chassagne, a member of the Pacers Running Club in DC, who hit her goal of running a 5K.

Brennan, who is in her early thirties, tells us, “When the fabrics used in garments feel good, it helps me run better. And it’s hugely motivating to get out the door when I like my running outfit too.” In the winter her running wardrobe of choice includes leggings, merino layering pieces and a jacket with big pockets. In the summer, biker shorts and a t-shirt are her go-to running apparel item of choice.

Cassagne, Brennan and Aguilar namechecked Athleta, Tracksmith (for its focus on natural fibers), Outdoor Voices, Under Armour (joggers) and Brooks as current favorite apparel brands.

Champion Eco Future Reverse Weave sweatshirts

Get Out & Run

Kickstarted by lifestyle changes during Covid, the past few years have ushered in a tidal wave of new runners, eager to get outside and exercise. At the same time, comfort clothes became the new uniform for people stuck at home, giving way to a surge in sales of sweatpants, loungewear and all things categorized as athleisure. Indeed, “jogger” emerged as a style statement.

Catherine Adams, a sales associate at Marathon Sports in Branford, CT, tells us she experienced this trend firsthand. “Customers would ask, ‘I’m not a runner. What should I wear?’” Attributes most important to these rookie runners, according to Adams, were the fit and feel of the garment. “Wearing clothing that felt soft and fit comfortably, gave them a confidence boost,” Adams explains. “Being athletic and healthy in a relaxed way was the appeal, versus aspiring to run a half marathon.”

During our recent visit to the Marathon Sports store in Branford, spring season apparel by Rabbit, Vouri, Patagonia and Lululemon featured prominently, alongside a selection of New Balance and Brooks, and a smattering of hats by Ciele. Adams notes that these days runners are more often shopping with their values. She offers the brand Rabbit as an example — a women-owned brand that resonates with consumers. And she says that customers are attracted to Patagonia’s stance on sustainability.  

Outdoor Research Shadow Wind Hoodie

Soft & Comfy Steps Up

Material-wise, polyester rules today’s recreational running wear. It makes sense; the sport of running, like polyester fiber, is all about accessibility. “The softness, and the versatility of the fiber, is the road this trend is traveling on,” remarks Adrienne Mercante, a technical apparel designer, who has held a variety of high-level design positions for clients specializing in performance lifestyle and active apparel, modern and sustainable outdoor apparel, and technical outerwear. She adds, “Polyester fiber is more affordable and lends itself to a bigger and broader availability of treatments, than nylon, for instance. Also, the fiber takes color well so you can print on polyester successfully.”

The lightweight, knit polyester used by brands popular today is brushed to enhance the “hand feel” of the fabric. “This look and feel is more accessible, especially to an entry level consumer,” observes Mercante, who draws parallels between the fit and feel of apparel with what’s happening with footwear in the run space. “People are walking into run specialty looking for On and Hoka to wear for everyday comfort, not because they are runners. Running footwear has transitioned into the realm of comfy, and that pairs well with garments made with these super-soft, brushed polyester fabrics.”

Rabbit men’s and women’s EZ shorts, tees and tank tops.

Sustainable Sweats

Awareness of material content and manufacturing methods is increasingly on runners’ radar. From her viewpoint as a consumer, Brennan explains, “this is a recent development, but I now pay attention to fabric content in all of my clothing and prefer natural fibers when I can.”

A new collection of sweatshirts and joggers from Champion is a prime example of how athletic wear makers are elevating the sustainability factor in a big way. Champion’s Eco Future Reverse Weave apparel features CiCLO, a science-based additive that is mixed into the making of the clothing. The innovative technology helps polyester and nylon behave more like natural fibers, so that materials can break down over time and go back to nature.

Expanding the use of recycled polyester for garments and exploring recyclable packaging are other ways running brands are promoting to advance sustainability to appeal to eco-savvy everyday runners.

Roark men’s Run Amok shorts & shirts