The Insider Running Brands To Know
It may seem like the sportswear market is dominated by a few big names, but there’s more choice than you think
Whether you’re training for a sub-three-hour marathon, gearing up for your first 5K or just trying to be more active, it’s worth giving a little thought to the contents of your gym bag. The right running gear won’t make you much faster or fitter, but it will make the experience a great deal more comfortable and it can even boost your confidence.
Of course, we’re not suggesting for a moment that looking good while working out should be top on your list of priorities, but it’s likely that you’ll be more inclined to exercise if you’re wearing something aesthetically pleasing (as opposed to, say, a grubby old T-shirt and a pair of jersey shorts that you haven’t worn since college). And seeing as the hardest part of running is convincing yourself to get up, get dressed and do it, any form of motivation is surely to be welcomed.
Which brings us to the vital question of what to wear. The sportswear market is dominated by a handful of big household names, but what if you don’t want to have the same logo on your shirt, shorts and shoes as everyone else on the start line? The following five labels, which have all sprung up in the past 10 years, should provide a point of difference.
Founded in Switzerland in 2010 by three hardened endurance athletes, Messrs Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti, On began as a dream to revolutionise the running shoe. The distinctive sole of the Cloudswift, which looks like you’re standing on a series of tiny trampolines, was designed to give runners the sensation of “running on clouds” by compressing on impact to absorb downward forces and then springing back on release. Since the company released its first shoe in 2012, the technology has also been applied to shoes made for trail running and hiking, while the brand has also branched out into activewear. Its shorts and T-shirts have a distinctly outdoorsy feel, with ripstop and weatherproof fabrics featuring heavily, which is entirely to be expected of a brand that was founded in the Swiss Alps.
A hallowed place in the history of distance running, Iffley Road in the English city of Oxford is home to the track where, in 1954, Sir Roger Bannister ran the first ever sub-four-minute mile. The fact that the record of 3:59.4 has been lowered by 16 seconds in the years since does nothing to diminish his achievement. If anything, it enhances it, because it serves to remind us that it was won in the era of amateur athletics, not by a professional athlete, but by a man who was also a practising medical student at the time.
Founded in 2012 by the British husband-and-wife team of Ms Claire Kent and Mr Bill Byrne, Iffley Road is a running brand inspired not only by the look and feel, but by the spirit of the amateur era: a time when it was still possible for ordinary people to do extraordinary things. The brand channels a retro aesthetic, but it’s not so caught up in dewy-eyed nostalgia that it eschews all things modern. The shirts and shorts are cut from premium technical materials such as drirelease piqué cotton, lightweight shell and sweat-wicking merino wool, ensuring that you feel as good as you look.
With mesh vests and short shorts in collegiate shades of crimson, plum and gold, New England’s Tracksmith has a distinctly old-school flavour. The brand may have been around only since 2014, but everything about them already seems heavy with tradition, from the location of its first HQ on the halfway mark of the Boston Marathon to the logo, a hare named Eliot after the Eliot Lounge, an iconic Boston runners’ bar. Its Van Cortlandt range of diagonally striped vests and T-shirts is a particular highlight, and sure to earn you a few admiring glances on your next Parkrun – especially if you wear them with the matching shorts, which, to allow for greater flexibility and leg movement, are cut with a four-inch inseam measurement (that is to say, they’re very short).
Before they founded Castore in 2016, Messrs Tom and Phil Beahon were both talented athletes: Tom a footballer for Tranmere Rovers and Phil a county-level cricketer. As the brothers put it when they spoke to MR PORTER last year, “we’d been living in sportswear for our entire lives. We had an athlete’s perspective on it.” That perspective translates to a slick, high-tech range packed with smart details that are designed to improve performance by saving weight, preventing chafing or helping the body to stay warm or cool down. “If we can make a change that leads to a positive difference, no matter how small, we’ll make it,” said the brothers, who recently signed an exclusive tennis kit contract with the three-time Grand Slam champion Sir Andy Murray.
With a background in fashion and a passion for running, it was perhaps inevitable that Mr Tim Soar would eventually set up his own sportswear brand. Soar Running’s clothes boast cutting-edge fabric technology, with bonded seams to prevent chafing, and lightweight sweat-wicking materials to assist the body’s natural thermoregulation. The minimalist design aesthetic – lots of greys and blacks, with a few block colours thrown in for good measure – mean that you’ll feel comfortable wearing them while you grab a coffee after your workout, too.