How to Choose Gear the Fights Runner Stank

“Does a runner stink after a workout?” is akin to the old adage “Does a bear shit in the woods?” Of course, runners stink! Clothing has come a long way since the days of running, when runners donned cotton that absorbed sweat, caused chafing and was barely breathable. But with the development of technical fabrics, like polyester, came the stench of a 20 mile.

“It’s not really the sweat that smells,” says Matt Taylor, CEO and founder of running apparel company, Tracksmith. “Synthetic fabrics like polyester are the perfect breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.”

In an effort to combat the stench of runners, companies are turning to two methods: developing gear that uses naturally odor-resistant materials like merino wool or using antimicrobial additives made from a variety of products. chemicals and compounds.

Sportswear brands often incorporate Sweden’s Polygiene technology, which uses silver chloride (silver salt) to fight odor. As with all antimicrobial additives, there are concerns about long-term health and environmental risks. (Silver nanoparticles in clothes, for example, enter the water system during washing.) Although Polygiene technology is EPA-approved, some experts say the additives need further study to exclude negative impacts.

A 2013 study published in Environmental science and technology looked at sportswear that used silver nanoparticles for their antimicrobial properties. The researchers found that although the chemicals rubbed off onto the skin, this is probably less of a concern than applying creams containing the same silver nanoparticles, such as some sunscreens. (Ingestion of particles can lead to significant DNA damage, according to research from MIT and the Harvard School of Public Health.) The problem is that when it comes to these concerns, we don’t know how much is too much.

Left to right: Hoka Merino Blend Short Sleeve, Title Nine Phoenix Pleat Back Tank Top, Smartwool Feel Good Runner’s Cap, Ibex Balance Sports Bra, Tracksmith Session Speed ​​​​Shorts.

Trevor Raab

Then there’s merino wool, which, while more expensive than synthetic fabrics, is naturally odor-resistant (and also super soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking). Because of these characteristics, merino has become the benchmark for sportswear.

“Merino doesn’t allow bacteria to colonize, thanks to the shape and texture of the yarn,” says Taylor. “It’s very different from polyester, which has a smooth surface that allows bacteria to grow.” Kind of like a petri dish.

Some brands, including Tracksmith, use both Merino and Polygiene in some items; The Brighton merino blend base layer from Tracksmith has stood the test of time in terms of durability and fresh scent thanks to the natural odor fighting properties of wool. Just note that products treated with antimicrobials like Polygiene will begin to lose their odor-fighting abilities after multiple washes.

Sportswear Care Dos and Don’ts


  • Rinse or air out your gear immediately after a run. “Jump in the shower with your shorts on. You’ll immediately deal with the sweat trapped in the fabric,” says Taylor. Associate Testing Editor Jeff Dengate swears by this practice, too.
  • For stinky clothes, wash as soon as possible with detergent. Be sure to follow the bottle instructions on how much to use; The specific detergent for sports equipment is highly concentrated, which means you don’t need to use as much as regular products.
  • Follow the care instructions on the garment label.


    • Put your gear in the dryer. “Natural fibers like merino and cotton shrink in heat,” says Taylor. “Most synthetic fabrics can withstand high heat, but it can impact anything stuck, like artwork, on your favorite running shirt.”
    • Wash your anti-odor gear after each run. Although the benefits of merino do not fade with washing, treated garments only last about 50 washes before the odor-fighting characteristics break down. (Plus, the less you wash, the less water and chemicals you use, which is good news for the environment.)
      anti-odor clothing

      Trevor Raab

      Equipment that stays fresh mile after mile

      We put these items to the test in back-to-back runs without washing them. I wore each piece of equipment for no less than three consecutive workouts, ranging from easy runs to speed work to 10 miles. Then each item is washed at least once.

      Tracksmith Session Speed ​​Shorts


      Shorts can stink, especially if you’re running the commando. The Polygiene liner in these shorts doesn’t totally prevent post-run odor, but does help tone it down, which Taylor acknowledges. And the airy fabric of the shorts keeps things airy, compared to tights or compression shorts.

      Title Nine Phoenix Pleated Back Long Sleeve Top

      new title

      Phoenix Pleated Back Long Sleeve Top

      new title


      This loose top is breathable and fights odors thanks to its StinkStopper technology, a Polygiene-based fabric. The top, which has a decorative pleat along the back, runs large. (For the warmer months, this comes in a tank style.)

      Buy Men Buy Women Full Review

      Ibex Balance Sports Bra

      Lakota Gambill

      Ladies, you can wear all the merino base layers you want, but if your sports bra isn’t merino, your stuff might still stink. This bra is designed for medium impact, but this tester’s 34A chest is supported and comfortable on long runs and during speed work. He’s done five sweaty runs, including two 10-mile runs, and still doesn’t smell.

      Full review

      Hoka Merino Blend Short Sleeve


      Short-sleeved merino blend

      Even for the stinkiest runners, this top stays fresh after multiple wears. It’s a lightweight base layer that can sit on its own or provide a layer of warmth and odor control under heavier gear, thanks to its 67% merino fabric.

      Shop Men Shop Women

      Smartwool Go Far Beanie, Feel Good Runner’s Cap


      Go Far Feel Good Runner Cap



      For $35, you’d expect the entire cap to be merino wool, but that’s just the inner band around the crown. It seems to do the trick for fighting odors and sludge though. It’s clean-only, which raises a few eyebrows for a piece of undercarriage. That said, the hat has withstood a machine wash and still smells fresh.

      anti odor heather
      Heather is wearing Tracksmith’s Brighton base layer, which is made of merino knit, and Session Speed ​​shorts.

      Trevor Raab

      anti odor heather
      The Ibex Balance bra and liner of Tracksmith’s Session Speed ​​Shorts are made with antimicrobial fibers.

      Trevor Raab

      The truth about detergent

      Finally, you need to wash your clothes (especially those that aren’t odor-proof). Your best bet for the environment is to wash your clothes in cold water. As for the detergent? Antimicrobial and antibacterial chemicals can cause health problems. For example, ammonium chloride can be found in both fabric protectants and some laundry detergents.

      The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that focuses on educating the public about toxins in cleaners, cosmetics, and other consumer products, is a helpful resource for evaluating ingredients and safety. of your detergent (

      Win Detergent


      A OG in sportswear detergents, Win is certified “Safer Choice” by the Environmental Protection Agency, which means it uses better ingredients for your health and the environment.

      Sweat X Sport Sportswear Detergent


      Detergent for sportswear

      Sweat X


      This highly concentrated formula is our go-to for stinky AF shorts. But instead of washing the entire load with it, dab a little inside the shorts, then wash with regular “free and clear” detergent, which limits exposure to known irritating additives.

      Hex Performance Air Freshener Spray


      Air freshener spray

      Hexadecimal performance


      This brand offers a range of detergents and products adjacent to detergents. The spray is basically Febreze, and while it masks the smell, it’s not really cleaning whatever. Instead, spray on and let dry if you must re-wear a pair of coarse shorts and do not have time to wash. (Note: Hex does not list its ingredients on its bottles, simply stating “water, surfactants and preservatives”.)

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