When you say the word wool, most people think about the scratchy sweater their grandma made them for Christmas — definitely not the type of material you want to be wearing when you’re going for a run. Smartwool’s merino wool running gear, however, will change your mind. Merino wool is soft, comfortable and light, and is about to become your go-to material for winter and summer running.

Model is wearing Merino Sport Ultralite High Neck Tank, Merino Sport Biker Short, and Go Far, Feel Good Runner’s Cap Photo: Matt Stetson

What is merino wool?

Merino wool comes specifically from Merino sheep. It’s thinner and softer than regular wool, which makes it easy and comfortable to wear next to your skin. Because Merino sheep live in extreme environments (these animals move between areas with temperatures as low as -15 C and as high as 35 C), merino fibres have evolved to keep them comfortable no matter the temperature.

It’s a no-brainer, then, that these fibres can keep us comfortable in every season, too. Here are six reasons why all runners should consider wearing merino wool.

It helps regulate your body temperature

Merino wool is great at helping keep your body temperature stable. When the temperatures drop, the natural crimps and bends in its fibres trap air to insulate you and keep you warm. In the hot weather, it quickly whisks sweat away from your skin to keep you cool.

Model is wearing Merino Sport Ultralite Hoodie, Merino Sport Lined Short, Run Zero Cushion Low Ankle Sock and Go Far, Feel Good Runner’s Cap Photo: Matt Stetson

It keeps you dry

Unlike synthetic fabrics, merino wool fibres are inherently porous. They’re made of little plates that moisture vapour can get between and evaporate out, so you’re not left feeling wet, cold and clammy after a run. This is different from synthetic fabrics, which wick sweat away when it’s still liquid, so your body has to work to heat it up before it can evaporate. Merino wool removes a step from that process, so you can stay dry on the run.

It’s great for layering

When you wear multiple layers of merino wool, you’re providing an escape route for sweat and excess heat. By getting rid of sweat as vapour (before it becomes a liquid), you stay drier, and thus, warmer in the cold weather.

Model is wearing Merino Sport Ultralite High Neck Tank, Merino Sport Biker Short, and Go Far, Feel Good Runner’s Cap. Photo: Matt Stetson

It’s odour-resistant

Merino wool absorbs odours caused by bacteria, which traps their smells and keeps them from building up. This makes it great for multi-day runs and races when you may not have enough room to pack multiple outfits and don’t have a way of washing your clothes between uses.

It’s soft and comfortable

It’s hard to run well when your clothes are uncomfortable. Unlike regular wool, merino wool is very fine (a single fibre is one-third of the diameter of a human hair), so when it brushes up against your skin, it actually bends out of the way. It can’t stand up to the weight of itself, so it can’t be prickly like other wools.

Merino Sport Lined Short. Photo: Matt Stetson

It provides UPF protection

Merino wool fibres can block out harmful rays from the sun. Depending on how the fibres are spun and dyed, merino wool clothing can provide protection up to UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) 20 or more.