Okay – we know what you’re thinking. “Work out in wool? Isn’t wool itchy and hot? Isn’t it clumpy and heavy? Isn’t it sweaty and stinky?” Stop. Hear us out. Wool may not seem like the most fitness-conducive fabric, but it’s actually quite the opposite. In fact, wool can be soft, water-repellent, breathable, natural, sustainable and odor-neutralizing –– which is pretty much everything that we look for in high-quality workout gear (the kind that is built to perform well and won’t need to be replaced quite as often). Wool is commonly associated with thick, clunky knitwear, but certain kinds of wool, like merino wool, can be as fine as cotton and as moisture-wicking as your favorite sportswear. Whether you enjoy running in the cold outdoors or hitting the gym in the inside with the heat blasting, merino wool is a versatile material that can totally optimize your winter workouts, helping you perform at your best while staying nice and warm in the process.
Pro tip: check out our definitive guide to wool to learn about all the different types of wool (including merino, cashmere, lambswool etc.), how to wear it, and when to wear it.
What is Merino wool?
Merino is a fine and soft (anything but itchy) wool, often used for the creation of premium sportswear. It’s produced by merino sheep, a highly-demanded wool-producing breed. These sheep hail from Australia, and if they can handle the country’s wide range of climate variation year-round, you can bet that the wool they produce –– wool that’s characterized by cool, airy and water-repellent fibers –– is just as resilient and capable of keeping you comfortable through just about any elements.
The benefits of Merino wool
While you love that your cotton sportswear is light and breathable, you’ve probably found yourself drowning in its dampness after a sweaty workout. That’s because cotton holds onto moisture. Merino wool, on the other hand, has the ability to evaporate sweat from your skin, without the moistness or cold after-effect (thanks to its thin natural fibers). Extra perk: it dries off in no time.
Light, breathable, and waterproof, you can already see why merino wool makes for an ideal sportswear fabric. But wait, there’s more. Thanks to its keratin fibers which fight off bacteria, merino wool is also odor-repellent, which is, of course, a welcome addition to any fabric that you’ll be sweating up a storm in.
Where to find it?
The three following sportswear companies specialize in making high-quality merino gear, in sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways.
Icebreaker is an apparel brand fueled by one mission: create natural performance alternatives to synthetic apparel to build a more sustainable future. Icebreaker’s best merino products include t-shirts, tops, and base layers – perfect for working out, as unlike other types of wool, merino holds its shape phenomenally.
Smart wool is also a proud producer of ethically-sourced merino wool garments. All their garments are amazing, but we specifically recommend you take a look at their sock selection. They’ll keep you warm – without all the foot sweat – on those winter morning runs!
Finisterre designs merino gear with recreationists in mind. Check out their long-sleeve shirts! they’re durable and quick to dry making them the perfect fit for hikers, and athletes. Perk: they’re super stylish too!