Coach Mike Mead

August 2010

Dress for Running Success

In the past few years I’ve become disappointed in the clothing options for male runners. When I look at various running apparel catalogs or running magazines, it seems that women have more options and variety with their running attire than men do.

When Henry Ford introduced the Model T, it was the most popular and affordable car of its time. Yet when asked about the variety of colors, Ford supposedly said, “You can paint it any color as long as it’s black.” That’s what I feel running apparel manufacturers have regressed to with men’s running shorts.

In the past 10 years, I have not been that impressed or pleased with men’s running shorts. During the hey-day of running in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, I recall that a guy could find a wide choice of colors and styles in running shorts. There was one company, Dolfin, who made the coolest running shorts that included ones that where striped. I never got to own a pair of these striped ones because they were a little more pricey than the other brands available at the time. I think there were even some available in polka dots -- yuk!

A guy could run in yellow shorts one run and red the next. Some shorts had a contrasting piping or trim. But most had no more than a three inch inseam unlike today’s lengthy selections. It seemed 30 years ago that most people were fast because they ran in, well, shorts!

Today’s variety and selection of shorts -- I find – limited. Guys have to hunt find shorts in colors other than blue, gray or black. Occasionally one can find red ones or maybe forest green. But to locate shorts in yellow or orange (forget about those Dolfin stripes!) takes some investigative work and a little luck.

My biggest issue with men’s shorts these days has been the lengths. I never cared for the half-split shorts with very little inseam. A team I ran for years ago issued a uniform with a very small, tight-fitting top and skimpy, full-split short that did not have anything in the way of an inseam. The short was primarily made of a liner that was more like today’s women’s bun shorts in disguise. It did not leave much to the imagination and I’m sure some ladies were thrilled seeing some guys running in these!

Today’s men’s shorts have gone the opposite way. What passes as shorts these days were called “high-water” pants when I was a kid and you did not want to be caught alive wearing high-waters! Today’s shorts are too long and too baggy! A five, six or even a seven inch inseam is much better than the short-shorts of the 70’s and 80’s.

But these so-called running shorts these days are for pedestrians! I’ve noted that these days you can judge the speed of a runner by the length of their shorts. The slower the runner, the longer the shorts while the faster the runner, the shorter the shorts!

Spandex shorts are a different animal. Fast guys – like sprinters – prefer them over traditional shorts. They have some benefits, but some slow guys wear them, too. Worse, some slow, bulky guys wear them and it’s not pretty when spandex shorts are worn without a shirt.

During the summer months, I have to go shirtless. As I’ve aged, I’ve gotten more self-conscience running without a shirt. I guess I’m more modest with age! While it cuts down on laundry, it is more practical for me to run without a shirt to keep me from rubbing my nipples raw! I never use to have a problem until a few years ago. I don’t know if it is age or new materials in the shirts, but I have more issues in warm weather than cold weather.

Many runners have trouble dressing properly when it comes to cool weather running. The tendency is to overdress. Go to the Georgia state high school cross country meet or a road race of any length and you’ll find the less experienced runners overdress, particularly those from the southern end of the state. They usually stand out because they are wearing tights when it’s 50-degrees! As I’ve stated before, factor in 20-degrees – that is, it is going to feel 20-degrees warmer after you get started.

I wish running apparel for men offered more colors. The new designs and fabrics are great, but the lack of color and excessive lengths need more variety. If anything, bright colors would help in runners’ safety when running the roads.

Just my thoughts, happy trails!