What to Wear When You Walk

Updated:Jun 23,2014

Wearing the Right Walking ClothesWind, rain and sun can all affect your walking experience. But don’t let the weather derail your commitment to regular exercise. Make sure you’ve got what you need to keep you walking all year long.

Cold clothing strategies
On cold days, dress in layers to stay warm and remove layers as it warm ups.

  • The innermost layer should be made of a material that wicks moisture away from your skin, e.g., Coolmax®, Capilene® or Thermax®. Cotton t-shirts are fine until you start to sweat; then they hold moisture next to your skin and can chill your body.
     
  • In colder weather, you may need a middle layer for added insulation. Look for microfiber fleece and remember that wool stays warm even when wet.
     
  • The outermost layer should protect you from the elements. New fabrics help protect you from the wind and repel moisture while maintaining breathability. Jackets with hoods keep you dry on damp days so you don’t have to carry an umbrella.
     
  • Wear a hat or scarf to retain body heat around your head and neck. Don’t forget to keep your fingers warm! Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves. You can put them in your pockets as you warm up.
Don’t overdress. Being too warm will increase your body heat and leave you sweating inside your jacket. If you start out a little chilly, remember that you’ll warm up after the first 10 minutes. You’ll be glad you didn’t pile on the gear!

Hot weather wear
When exercising in hot weather, protect your skin by wearing sunscreen (a minimum of 15 SPF), sunglasses or a breathable hat or sun visor. Dress in light-colored clothing to reflect the sunlight. (Some fabrics such as Solumbra or Solarweave protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays.)

Remember to slow down or shorten your walk on the first few days of a heat wave. Then gradually increase your distance and pace as you adjust. Staying hydrated and walking in shady areas will help you keep going longer.

Wear breathable fabrics
Cotton absorbs moisture and dries slowly. This means wet material against your skin. Synthetic “wicking” fabrics are better choices for shirts and socks. These are found in specialty stores that sell athletic clothing and running shoes. Wicking fabrics come under many trade names. Thin, double-layered socks can also prevent friction blisters.

Chafing can happen in areas where the skin rubs against itself such as on the inner thighs and under the armpit. Wear clothes that are thin (with flat seams) and snug, but not tight. If chafing becomes a problem, use petroleum jelly or products like Body Glide® (found in athletic stores or bike shops) to reduce the friction.

Be visible
Wearing lighter colors makes you more visible to cars at dawn and dusk. You might want to wear reflective clothing. Many brands of jackets and running shoes have reflective stripes to help keep you wearer safe. Reflective tape or vests (such as the orange reflective vests worn by many motorcyclists) are also a good idea for visibility. You can also carry a glow stick or flashlight.

Sports bras
Some women need more support than a regular bra allows. Sports bras can be flattering as well as supportive. Look for a wide chest band under the breasts that is supportive yet not too tight. Shoulder straps should have minimal vertical stretch. Armholes must allow plenty of room, and clasps and seams shouldn’t be in areas that can cause irritation. Your bra should feel secure without allowing excessive breast movement when you jump or wave your arms. Although you may feel silly, you’re better off checking this while still in the dressing room!

Keep a spare pair of shoes
Get your feet measured when you buy walking shoes. Just because you’ve been a size 7 all your life doesn’t mean that you’re still exactly a size 7. Feet can swell when exercising due to increased blood flow, so it’s not unusual to need a shoe that’s half a size larger than your street shoes. Shoes last longer when you rotate them with another pair. If you keep an extra pair in your desk drawer, you’ll be ready to go anytime without having the excuse “I forgot to bring my shoes!”

Although there are lots of high-tech options, you don’t need fancy clothing to get out and walk. A supportive pair of walking shoes and appropriate weight jacket will usually do the trick.

Last reviewed 03/2014

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