In summer, it’s soft and surprisingly cool. In winter, it’s warm – even when wet. It dries quickly, has natural anti-microbial properties, is sustainable – the list goes on and on. But amongst its many features and benefits, some wonder if merino is really all that – a performance material capable of rivaling synthetics, particularly for everyday athletes who run, ride and hike often. So why the big buzz and should you choose merino for sports and daily wear, too?
First things first: what is merino?
If you’ve not discovered the joys of wearing merino, it’s time. The fibre itself comes from Merino sheep, is largely sustainable, breaks down naturally when it reaches end-of-life, layers beautifully, is naturally odour resistant, and is a natural thermoregulator. That’s a lot of natural, yes. When worn next-to-skin, this means that even when wet, you’ll stay warm, and in summer, even in heat, the fabric stays cool and wicks sweat. Win win.
One of merino’s best features is its usability: you can wear it repeatedly between washes and it stays stink free. Seriously. We’ve used simple merino t-shirts for multi-day bikepacking trips, at home for a week at a time, even running several times a week in the heat. No scent at all. Truly amazing. It’s that level of utility that also makes merino-based apparel a staple with multi-day hikers and travelers, too.
But merino for running? How does it perform?
Good question, and one we get asked often. For several winters now, we’ve been cycling, running, and just generally sweating in merino, mainly because it’s warm (especially with a heavier-weight weave like 260 grams per square metre) but also because it wicks sweat reasonably well, too. It’s not as effective as synthetic material at moisture management, sure, but where it differs as it relates to running is its thermoregulation.
If you run year-round outdoors, this last detail will interest you. Even during high tempo runs where you tend to sweat a lot, and you might be a bit wet, you still stay warm in the cold with it on. Yet almost shockingly, the opposite is true in the summer. Running in a merino blend t-shirt, for example, gives you most of the fast drying features of a synthetic material (in our experience it does hold moisture a tad longer), but arguably with an augmented level of comfort (as the fabric is very soft, particularly around sensitive areas).
Be it skiing, bikepacking, running or a multi-day hike, it’s for these reasons that merino-based apparel has rightfully earned the moniker of “all-star.” Depending on the season, if you end your run with a jump in the shower or a lake with it on, just remove excess water with a towel, hang dry, and it’s good to go first thing in the morning. All its miraculous performance features intact.
So, what’s the bottom line?
While different base layers all have individual and intended use cases, merino wool really is an all-rounder. For example, while our Concord t-shirts are generally associated with lifestyle wear – the perfect apparel for light hikes, lounging around or heading for coffee – it also stands up exceptionally well to running in high heat. Like, 25+ degrees and more. Yes, it will be drenched in effort when you’re done, but the fabric remains soft, cool, and comfortable when on. Hang dry and you’ve already laid out your shirt for tomorrow’s run, too.
Choose it because it’s natural. Or because it performs. Either way, if you’ve not given it a try, visit a store to see what we mean.
What you experience in it might just surprise you.