Home > Health & Nutrition

Runners: stop wearing a neck gaiter as a mask

New research finds that wearing a neck gaiter as a face covering could be worse than no covering at all

New research out of Duke University suggests that wearing a neck gaiter as a mask might be worse than wearing no face covering at all. A recently published paper looked at 14 different masks, ranging from surgical masks to bandanas and fleece neck gaiters, all commonly used by people trying to stop the spread of disease. While some masks are quite effective, they found that people wearing neck gaiters in particular aren’t actually protecting themselves or anyone else. 

RELATED: A runner’s perspective: what it’s like to re-enter lockdown

Duke University professor Warren S. Warren told the Washington Post, “These neck gaiters are extremely common in a lot of places because they’re very convenient to wear. But the exact reason why they’re so convenient, which is that they don’t restrict air, is the reason why they’re not doing much of a job helping people.”

The study found that fleece neck gaiters actually produced more droplet transmission than no mask at all. Researchers claim this is due to the droplet size. “The neck fleece seemed to disperse the largest droplets into a multitude of smaller droplets, which explains the apparent increase in droplet count relative to no mask. Considering that smaller particles are airborne longer than large droplets (larger droplets sink faster), the use of such a mask might be counterproductive.”

ADVERTISEMENT

RELATED: ASICS introduces new mask made for runners

Buff had to release a statement

Buff is one of the most popular neck gaiter companies in the business. If you run enough road races, you’ll receive a Buff in your finisher’s pack at some point. While this seems like a perfectly acceptable face covering, it’s meant to keep you warm, not for COVID-19 protection. Buff said in a statement, “While our multifunctional headwear products cover the entire front of the face (nose, mouth, chin, and neck), they are not scientifically proven by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent you from: (1) contracting a virus/disease/illness or (2) passing a virus/disease/illness to someone else.”

Should runners be wearing masks?

In Canada, by-laws are currently only enforcing mask use indoors. If you’re running outside, especially if you’re able to maintain two metres of space, Vox reports that you’re extremely unlikely to get sick from a fellow runner or walker, so wearing a face mask while running is usually not necessary. Maintain your space while outdoors and you should be safe, even without a mask. 

RELATED: Should outdoor runners wear masks?