Hybrid trail shoes, lifestyle-inspired apparel and multifunctional gear are becoming more popular.
Running apparel and shoes have long dictated that runners make a gear distinction between road and trail. Being an independent lot, we would often ignore convention, finding ourselves miles later with feet sore from running in knobby treads on the road or happy but with a shirt snagged beyond recognition after tearing off down a trail. Sport-specific gear is still critical, especially when setting out for a marathon or running over a rocky mountain range. But for everyday training runs on roads or trails, there’s been a shift to gear created for “going on a run,” wherever it might take you.
Running also once was once limited to, well, runners. New points of entry, from multi-discipline gym training, to group-based workout programs, to triathlon, to different types of races—like women’s only events, family fun runs, zombie runs and mud runs—are exposing new audiences to the sport. And those new audiences have more varied clothing requirements, tastes and expectations. Pushing the trend on the manufacturing side are fabric innovations, new construction methods and unique design elements. When it comes to consumers, adaptability, stylish designs, functionality, value and safety are elements that drive purchase and end-use decisions. Moisture-wicking fabric is still important, for example, but so too are full-coverage designs and a sense of style.
Scroll through some of the images below to see specific examples of these new trends.
Shoes For Every Surface
Any given run might mean covering a mix of asphalt, concrete, dirt, gravel and rocks all in the same outing. Shoe makers are incorporating versatile low-profile, multi-directional tread patterns for grip, de-coupled outsoles and deeper flex grooves for more natural motion and lightweight overlays for support and durability. The Salomon Sense Mantra 2 ($110) is an example of a shoe that has a variety of attributes runners appreciate on most surfaces. They won’t be as energetic on the asphalt as your every day road shoe, but the increased grip on a variety of surfaces is well worth the trade-off.
Any Weather, Anywhere
Fabric and fabric treatment innovations mean that, aside from being wicking and breathable, clothes now can keep you cool, help you stay warm, provide sun protection, block wind, resist snags and shed moisture to keep you comfortable running to your car in a remote parking lot during a rainstorm, running over mountain passes and everywhere in between. The Gore Running Urban Run Windstopper Soft Shell ($180) blocks wind, resists water, provides mid-layer insulation and breathes, plus has durable yet sleek urban styling with there-when-you-want-it visibility pops, magnetized collar stays and concealed zippers.
Road to Rogue
On the other end of the spectrum, many companies with a strong road running background are expanding their trail and urban exercise lines. Unique attributes like a comfortable waistband merged with a light, yet durable fabric and pockets large enough to securely hold a mobile device in the Brooks Pure Project Shorts ($75, women's pictured). Designs take into account the need for portability and increased mobility and range of motion on the trail, while looking stylish enough to go straight from a run to the coffee shop.
Hidden In Plain Sight
Split shorts and tracksuits serve their purpose, but, when it comes to live your run, run your life fitness, so does comfort, style and adaptability. The New Balance Boylston Half Zip ($85) is soft and breathable, but looks like a lifestyle piece. Clothes that you can wear throughout your day, on demand necessities like fold-over mittens, thumb-holes, subtle zippers and pockets and hoods that tuck away mean your ready to run without always looking like you were just on a run.
CamelBak has long been associated with the trail, but products like the CamelBak Arc Quick Grip ($20) combine sleek styling and maximum function thats at home wherever you run. Nathan Sports already makes hydration products that transition smoothly from road to trail and with their new BlackLight maximum reflectivity is incorporated into proven designs.
Newer brands into the running scene, like Lululemon, Lucy, Lole and Prana bridge the gap from yoga to running to active lifestyle. With performance fabrics in appealing colors and patterns and adaptable designs that consumers are able to practice their activity of choice when they want without being limited by the functionality or look of their apparel. The construction and features inherent in multi-purpose pieces can drive price higher, but value comes in having one item with several end uses. Lululemnon launced a new men’s running line this spring with bold designs, bright colors and functional features. The Surge Short 7” ($64-$68) features a boxer-brief liner and one version with a sweat-resistant pocket to safely store a smartphone.
Trail To Everywhere
Many companies, like The North Face, Patagonia, Salomon and Mountain Hardwear, are moving into trail to road designs. The North Face’s Better Than Naked Short-Sleeve ($50) utilizes fashionable (bold cut-out back, bright color with contrast stitching) and functional (stitch-free critical seams to reduce chafe and body-mapped ventilation) styling to broaden apparel adaptability and market appeal. It even has reflective pops for enhanced versatility for urban running.
Sport-specific sunglasses and watches have evolved into sleek-looking pieces with multi-sport functionality. Take, for example, the urban chic Zeal Optics Penny Lane sunglasses ($109), which have polarized lenses, flexible frames and no-slip nose grips and the style to compliment an active lifestyle.