Why Wool in Sports

Get to know why wool is the all-natural performance fabric

For us at Core Merino, it is so obvious why we enjoy wearing wool in sports and why we create our outdoor and sports garments out of wool. However, whenever we get to meet our fellow outdoor sports enthusiasts, we very often get this question: Why should I wear wool when I do sports?

This is when it dawned on us, that it might not be so obvious to everyone.

So get ready for our answer to why you should run, bike, hike, climb or practice yoga in wool.

We perform and so do our clothes

The first element to understand when it comes to the clothes we wear when we are active outside is that garments influence how we perform. Our clothes have a direct impact on our body in regards to body temperature (are we too hot, too cold, or just right), moisture on our skin (does our skin feel dry or wet) as well as movement (can we move freely or are restricted). If any of these factors are not right, we will run slower, have to reduce the distance we can achieve, and may not reach the top of that mountain. In other words, if we want to perform well during our outdoor sports activity, then our garments need to perform as well.

Staying comfortable

When we are active two things happen in our body. 1 our body heats up and 2 we start to sweat as this is the way our body tries to cool us down. Both heat and sweat make us feel uncomfortable which influences our performance. Wool clothing worn next to skin has the ability to help us maintain a healthy body temperature and skin moisture level, in other words, wool lets us gain back that comfort we need to perform well. So let’s break things down, how wool actually regulates our body temperature and manages our skin moisture level.

Moisture and temperature management

There are two characteristics of wool fibre that play a role when it comes to regulating our body temperature and managing our sweaty skin. These are the insulation properties and breathability of wool.

Wool fibre and especially merino wool fibre has a natural crimp. This crimp offers many tiny pockets of air within each wool fibre. These pockets of air make wool a great insulator for cold weather, keeping you comfortably warm. The insulation capacity of wool is not doing the trick alone (as one could argue that with good insulation we would get eventually too hot). The secret weapon is wool’s ability to breathe. Wool can absorb large quantities of moisture vapour and then move it away to evaporate into the air. This keeps our skin dry and ensures excess heat is released away from our body. This breathing effect is also what helps us stay cooler in hot and dry climates. Wool conducts the heat as well as the moisture vapour away from our skin, which acts similar to a little air conditioning, keeping us cool and dry.

The insulation and breathability properties of wool have an additional benefit. When we stop exercising chances are high that we soon start to feel a post-exercise chill, especially when exercising in cold conditions during winter. Wool, however, releases the absorbed heat and moisture only slowly which ensures that we maintain higher skin temperature and less rapid cooling which avoids the post-exercise chill.

Wool feels drier for longer

When we talk about all the heat and moisture which wool can absorb away from the skin and then slowly release into the air, it may seem that the wool fabric would quickly feel very wet. However, wool can absorb up to 35% of its weight before feeling wet and starting to cling to our skin. This also helps us feel dry, warm, and comfortable in cold and damp weather conditions.

Odour resistance

We were talking a lot about sweating and moisture on our skin. There is one more aspect to sweating during exercising and that is the smell that comes with it. As you may know, it is not our sweat that stinks it is the bacteria that grow overtime on our skin and on the fabric where we sweated into. Wool garments, however, don’t start to smell, even if we wear our wool garments for a very long time. This is due to two things. The first one lets us return back to what we discussed earlier. Wool helps us manage our body temperature better, so we may sweat a little less. Once we do start to sweat, wool moves the moisture away from our skin, leaving our skin drier. Drier skin discourages the smelly bacteria to grow and therefore reducing the smell. Last but not least, wool can absorb and lock away odours where the bacteria cannot build up while we are wearing our wool garments. These odours are then only released when we wash or freshen up our garments in fresh air.

UV Protection

One more aspect we find important, especially when we are active outdoors, is protection from the sun. Compared to other textile fibres, wool absorbs UV-A and UV-B radiation and therefore protects our skin from the sun. Research shows that wool fabrics have a UPF factor of over 40. We still recommend protecting your skin with an additional sunscreen, but you can rest assured that your wool garments will protect your skin as well.

So these are the reasons why we think wool is an excellent fibre for our Core Merino garments. During a long run, you have enough work to do in keeping your breathing steady, keeping a good pace, watching out for any stones and roots to trip on. You should not need to worry if you are getting too hot or too cold or are beginning to annoy all your fellow running mates with your odour. When you are active in merino wool, you will stay comfortable and be able to perform at your best.

To find out more about all characteristics and benefits of merino wool click here.

The International Wool Textile Organisation has some more details about how wool improves our body’s wellness.

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