Fashion: Discovering Natural Technical Fabric, by Pranada Devi

Among long distance runners, the prevailing opinion is that it’s unwise to run major distances in cotton – that it’s too heavy and causes chafing when you sweat in it for a long run. “Serious” runners run in clothes made of what’s known as “technical” fabric, generally a polyester blend designed to wick moisture and feel smooth on the skin. When I got back into running in 2004, I quickly built up a rotation of technical tops and shorts.

My running went on hiatus for a few years after I moved to Toronto. Before I got back to it again in the spring of 2010, I had discovered a skin sensitivity to synthetic fabrics, such that I’d purged almost all synthetics from my wardrobe – especially bras. I got by that year running relatively short distances (around 5-6km) in comfortable organic cotton jersey items from MEC and a couple of mail-ordered organic cotton/bamboo sports bras. The clothes tended to bulk or sag, leaving me to hitch things up or down repeatedly while running. I especially missed the lightness and freedom of lined running shorts.

Then one day while Googling, I discovered a Louisiana-based company that made technical fabric from organic cotton and bamboo (with a minimal amount of lycra for stretch). Then known as Thriv Natural Performance, they offered a line of men’s and women’s activewear: tops, tanks, running shorts, capris, leggings, in fresh colors, all without polyester. At that time, they had no retailers in Canada and did not ship outside the US. So the next time I travelled to the US, I had an order shipped to my hotel. I went out for a run the next day and was hooked: the fabric was soft, sleek, light and breezy. I could even get two runs out of a single top if I hung it up between times to dry out – the clothes didn’t get smelly.

Thriv has since rebranded to Tasc: Technical All-Season Comfort and has expanded its line to include headbands, jackets and the best non-synthetic running bra I’ve tried. Locally, they outfit tennis teams and their tops are part of the race kits for the Louisiana Marathon. They’ve expanded their retail footprint into Canada (though, alas, not to any of my favorite running shops) and they also ship directly to Canada. I get compliments on the items I wear to classes at the gym, and won’t wear anything else for long runs or races.

I still find it disappointing to walk into my local Running Room and only find endless arrays of polyester on the hangers, but I’m glad that Tasc is out there and hope more runners will have the epiphany that you can definitely run in this kind of cotton!

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Pranada Devi (seen here finishing a 10k race in Tasc gear) is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects. She likes to get out for a run when she can.