PopSci Test: Sweat Without the Wet?

Nike's latest apparel innovation reinvents how you sweat. Or does it?

Photograph by John B. Carnett

Photograph by John B. Carnett

"I don't think I'll make it 16 miles," I tell Loren Myhre, senior researcher at Nike's Sports Research Lab, as we enter a 20- by 20-foot environmental chamber on the company's Beaverton, Oregon, campus. I'm holding a wad of wires connected to sensors glued to my chest, abdomen, rib, left deltoid, scapula, and lower back. They'll measure my skin temperature over the next two days as I wear-test Nike's latest apparel innovation, Sphere.

Sphere's concept is simple: Small circular indents in the fabric hold it away from the athlete's body, creating an airspace (or "personal atmosphere" in Nike-speak) that-depending on the fabric -cools, warms, dries, or protects from the elements. The tech was bred from the company's 2000 Olympics dimpled tank top, which was worn by elite runners. Can the technology help lesser athletes like me, a wanna-be marathoner who runs a 10K every other weekend?

I choose Sphere Thermal (the others are Dry, Cool, and Pro) for my tests. It's designed to prevent post-run chills in hot weather and hold warm air close in the cold. Over two days, I make four 50-minute treadmill runs, two each in 35