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Cool Running: Nike Unwraps Thermoregulation Textile Technology

Running sends core body temperatures shooting skyward, causing sweat glands to kick in and release that heat by evaporative cooling. So, the harder a runner works, the hotter he gets, the more he sweats—and the more difficult it can become to perform optimally.

Nike wants to help runners stay focused and sustain speed over distance without overheating. That’s why the athletic giant has stepped up to the block with AeroReact, a wearable technology that can sense performance in real time and respond to changes in temperature the same way a body would.

“The apparel industry has always been based on the concept of layering,” Brian Stewart, vice president of the Nike Explore Team’s (NXT) apparel innovation, said in a statement. “But how can we create apparel that adapts, so that as you change—as you heat up during your run—or as the weather changes around you, you don’t have to make those adjustments?”

Supporting the body’s existing thermoregulation capabilities, AeroReact’s bi-component yarn senses moisture vapor and opens its structure to maximize breathability. The responsive, lightweight fabric was developed using insights from athletes all over the world.

“In the lab, we look at athletes from three perspectives: performance, perception and protection. It’s kind of like the Goldilocks moment,” said Barry Spiering, NXT’s sport research lab’s director of applied apparel research. “And when your body’s temperature is just right, your performance is going to be better because of it.”

“Many runners were amazed, as they felt that they would either be too hot or too cold at some point during the run, but instead they got to the end and forgot that they were wearing AeroReact,” said Peter Harrison, Nike’s innovation project director for AeroReact. “That’s brilliant news for us, because we want the athlete to be able to focus on what they love doing and what they do best—not to be distracted by their clothing.”

It’s not the only textile technology Nike has designed to keep athletes feeling cool. Further NXT apparel innovations include the moisture-wicking Dri-Fit, while Pro Hyercool is an ultra-lightweight material featuring an open-hole pattern to help improve ventilation during movement.

The team also works to combat cold weather: Therma-Sphere Max, a three-layer composite material keeps wearers warm and dry; Aeroloft features an ultra-light insulating layer of down that traps heat; and Pro Hyperwarm combines multiple textures into one form-fitting core garment that can be layered or worn on its own.