Performance apparel -- CW-X, Under Armour

Clothing of the future will do much more for athletes than simply protect from the elements and regulate body temperature. Precise fit, ergonomic alignment, muscle support and other anatomical advantages will be default features in new breeds of performance-enhancing apparel.

Today, companies like Under Armour and Wacoal Sports Science Corp. promote such benefits with respective lines of athletics tights and tops. For some personal perspective, I put flagship products from both companies to the test running, cross-country skiing and biking over the past four months.

Of the two companies, Wacoal Sports Science Corp.‘s CW-X Pro Conditioning apparel (www.cw-x.com) was most impressive. Both the snug-fitting top and full-length tights incorporate a patented “Conditioning Web,” which is a crisscrossing pattern of stretchy nylon straps made to support major muscle groups.

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As Wacoal Sports literature explains it, the Conditioning Web acts as an exoskeleton of sorts to cradle, support and enhance muscle function. The Pro Conditioning Top ($55) wraps tight across the chest, upper back and ribs to support muscle groups that facilitate respiratory function, thus, according to the company, lowering overall fatigue by reducing the amount of effort it takes to breathe.

The Pro Conditioning Tights ($95), which come in men’s and women’s models, have a web that supports the hamstrings, hips and lower back. Enhanced performance and injury prevention are touted benefits.

I will say that psychologically Wacoal Sports’ products are quite motivating. The tight, springy fit and superhero look of the outfit had me raring to go. Physically, I definitely noticed something, but the advantage is hard to quantify. Compared to loose-fitting clothing, I much prefer the Pro Conditioning Top and Tights for intense aerobic activity. But compared to other athletics tights, the advantages are less obvious.

That said, I’ve come to prefer the Wacoal Sports products over all other athletic apparel in my wardrobe for its great fit, quality feel and that hard-to-define physical boost.

There are two things I dislike about the Pro Conditioning Top: First, its breathability is only mediocre and I felt a bit clammy during some workouts. Second, the top’s over-the-shoulder strap design resembles a sports bra from the back, which caused some snickers and sneers from my training buddies.

Under Armour’s performance apparel products (www.underarmour.com) lack any sort of fancy fabric engineering, relying instead on an extra-snug fit that forms to the athlete’s body. This fit — which Under Armour likes to call a “second skin” layer — compresses muscles to increase performance and transfer heat and moisture quickly away from the body, according to the company.

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In use, I found the company’s HeatGear Leggings ($40), Compression Short ($25) and T-Shirt ($25) to be good-fitting and for the most part comfortable. Under Armour likes to tout its products’ moisture transport or wicking abilities, but I found breathability to be only average when compared to a wide range of base layers and athletics tights I’ve used over the years. They do fit snug and precise, however, and good muscle compression — which can increase performance and lessen the chance of injury — is guaranteed with these products.

Posted by Gerard - 09/16/2007 06:04 AM

I have tried two under armor products and bought
at the sports authority in nyc. Both garments
developed a problem where the elastic embedded into
the polyester started to wear through the polyester
and began shedding the rubber fragments of the
broken elastic. This cause of this defect was explained
to me by my girlfriend who works in the garment
industry. The only problem I have with review processes in which the maanufacturer sends
items to be reviewed is this: the item reviewed
and tested is ‘sometimes’ a quality controlled
sample, a fake, a ringer, constructed entirely
for the purpose of being reviewed, and differs
significantly from the product that you find in the
store. I speculate, that the lesser quality brands
that do more marketing to unsophisticated
buyers would pull this kind of fraud. Sometimes
it may be worth the expense to test an item
bought from a store, rather than one delivered
from a manufacturer/marketer for the specific
purpose of garnering a great review.

Posted by Alex - 01/15/2010 04:57 PM

Don’t buy from CW-X, they are the worst company I have ever had to deal with. I put in an order and it took a month of badgering them to ship it, and they didn’t even pay the extra to make sure it was signed for so it never arrived. Also some items were backordered and they think it could be months before I see them.

Awful experience and now I have to dispute charges for the stolen shipment.

Posted by Dave Owen - 01/21/2010 10:30 AM

Try and buy some 2XU products here in the UK. It can be a long process in getting them! Skins are great to wear and order.

Posted by John - 03/03/2010 12:10 PM

I love my CW-X tights, and own Stabilyx and Pro tights. I’ve had knee and hamstring problems in the past but the support webbing on these really make a difference for me. I wear them for running as well as a base layer for skiing, and sometimes for recovery after a tough race or workout. I ordered them online and they arrived quickly, no problems, and customer service was excellent.

Posted by bruce M - 03/05/2010 02:59 PM

CW-X is the bomb! i didn’t buy their ads until i actually bought a pair, and am now a true believer. i’ve got the winter weight, insulated ones and use them for snow shoeing, skiing and running. love ‘em!!

Posted by island runner - 03/05/2010 03:04 PM

I ran the 2009 New York City Marathon in my CW-X tights, and I PR’d by 2 minutes. I am sure it was the tights!! I reccomended them to my running group buddies.

Posted by Lisa - 03/05/2010 07:29 PM

I wear the cwx tights (stabilizer?) and love them for my knee and it-band tightness, but i also recently bought one of their sports bras and it’s really supportive. i nromally need 2 bras for the support but now i wear just the cwx bra. thanks cwx!!

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