Sports apparel, footwear and accessories can not only enhance your performance, but also hinder you in your efforts to excel on the court, track, field or in the gym. Manufacturers spend millions researching human biomechanics to make apparel and footwear that work with the human body, and researchers recommend wearing certain items only during part of the year, depending on the weather.
Wearing 100-percent cotton shirts during hot, sunny weather can raise your body temperature and cause you to overheat and begin losing your ability to move at a high level. The skin is the largest organ of the body and helps dissipate heat through your pores. When you sweat, some fabrics stick to your body, inhibiting its natural cooling process by not allowing the moisture to evaporate. Clothes that absorb water also become heavy. Dark colors absorb heat, adding to your problems.
Wear light-colored clothing made of a breathable material that helps keeps water away from your skin if you're playing outdoors in hot weather. Check the label to see if the material has been treated to "wick" sweat away from your skin. Wear a light-colored hat that lets heat escape to prevent the sun from beating down on your head and to let heat leave your head. Sweatbands can also be critical on your wrists to prevent your hands from slipping on a bat, ball or racket, and around your head to keep sweat out of your eyes.
Wearing multiple layers of clothing helps trap heat between each layer, keeping you warm during outdoor sports. While gloves give you a better grip than mittens, mittens keep your fingers closer together, generating more heat. Wear a hat to prevent important body heat from escaping and a scarf to prevent cold air from chafing your throat.
A shirt that's too tight restricts your movement. Even if it doesn't prevent you from making swings, dunks, spikes or other movements, if you're aware of the tightness, it might affect your shots. Make sure any shorts, warmups or pants you wear won't ride up when you run or slip down when you jump. If you're going to wear a cap or visor, make sure it's not too tight but doesn't slip or fall off easily. A sports bra, jock or cup helps prevent discomfort during games and matches and can help prevent short- or long-term injuries.
Some sports, such as track, require you to move in only one direction or use other minimal footwork, while most others require aggressive forward, backward and lateral movements. A running or aerobics shoe might not offer you the lateral stability, flexion and traction you need for other sports. The right shoe and the right fit are crucial to prevent blisters, slipping and cramps. Have your feet measured for both length and width. Not all manufacturers offer their shoes in your choice of size and width. If you have weak ankles, high-tops might be appropriate. Your arches might also dictate what type of shoe you need, or if you need to insert orthotics.