The first time I ran with a face mask I barely made it two blocks without gasping for air like a fish on land. What should've been a leisurely 9:00 pace turned into a strenuous 13:30 schlep across the Jersey City waterfront.
Nevertheless, I kept at it and each time I ran outdoors I donned a different mask. KN95s, cotton masks, 2-ply masks, you name it. However, with each run I'd hit the same problem — my mask would cling to my face and slowly suffocate me like one of those facehuggers from Aliens.
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Then in July I learned that Under Armour had created a face mask specifically for runners and athletes. The mask was described as being water-resistant and designed to stay off your mouth while wicking away sweat and allowing air to flow through. Even better, it claimed to provide a snug fit with glasses. I was sold! Then I saw the price: $30.
At the time, I was curating face masks for our where to buy face masks story and no mask came close to this price. So I was initially appalled at the $30 price tag and swore that I wouldn't buy it. Sure, I can spend $30 on two cocktails, but $30 for a face mask is absurd.
But the more I ran with my cotton face masks, the more I realized that I needed a better solution. So I bit the bullet and purchased the UA SportsMask. I wish I had purchased it sooner.
UA SportsMask: was $30 now $23 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
Yes, the UA SportsMask is very expensive for a face mask. However, it's not just any face mask. The UA SportsMask is designed for runners and athletes who want to workout while protecting others — and themselves — from potentially spreading virus. The water-resistant mask is adjustable, washable, and light enough to wear while running. This is the first time we see it on sale.
UA SportsMask: First impressions
The UA SportsMask comes with a soft pouch to store the mask and an instructional card that shows you how to properly wear it. It's available in various sizes and UA recommends that you measure your face before purchasing it. (As with all face mask purchases, UA doesn't accept returns of its mask). I blindly purchased the L/XL, which offers a nice fit.
The mask is made of three layers: a water-resistant outer shell; a breathable middle layer that lets air through (while blocking moisture/sweat); and an anti-microbial inside layer that feels cool against your skin. (Spoiler: it does feel cool, but only while you're sitting idle).
There's a bendable nose bridge to seal the mask against your face and stretchable ear loops. Right off the bat, I could tell the ear loops would be a problem. Not because they didn't stretch enough, but because they seemed very flimsy. Like the type of earloops that would shred after a few washes. (Note: it's been 15 washes and they have not shown signs of shredding).
Nevertheless, I donned my mask and went for my first run. I'm a mouth breather when I run — I inhale and exhale heavily through my mouth. I also tend to sweat a lot. So after running a mile, my regular cotton mask would stick to my mouth making it near-impossible to breathe properly without having to adjust it every few steps. The UA SportsMask on the other hand felt cool. That's partially due to its design. The mask juts out a bit from your nose and that extra space is designed to give your nose and mouth more space to breathe. This helps prevent the mask from sticking to your face like a normal cotton mask would.
I love the fact that mask — for the most part — stays put. Even when doing short sprints, I didn't have to stop and adjust my mask. I tried doing burpees with the mask on and again it clinged to my face without having to adjust it.
UA SportsMask: What could be better
I tend to run during the day, but on a few occasions I've found myself running on evenings, so I was initially shocked that Under Armour didn't put any reflective material on their mask. Granted, I did purchase the Black/Charcoal model, but I'd love to see more prominent reflective material on the mask for night runners.
Also, if you wear glasses be prepared to leave them at home because my glasses fogged up within minutes of hitting the pavement. Fortunately, my eyesight isn't that bad, so I'm able to run without glasses, but I was disappointed to learn the mask and my glasses don't play nice together.
However, my biggest gripe with the UA SportsMask is that it soaks up a lot of sweat. So on long runs (7+ miles), it would slip from my face and I would have to readjust it every few minutes. I also noticed that it felt heavier on long runs, due to all the sweat it absorbs. If you're a light sweater or if you're only doing short runs, you probably won't run into this problem. Otherwise, this was a major con.
Another thing I've noticed is that after about 15 runs, my mask has a very light odor to it. Like damp gym clothes that weren't properly dried. I only notice the scent when I first don my mask and it dissipates the second I'm outdoors, but that makes me worry that the mask's inner layer doesn't properly air out. (For what it's worth, I wash my mask immediately after every use and let it air dry). I've also noticed a few loose threads after only a few months with the mask, which is disappointing considering its $30 price tag. (You can see the loose threads in the above photo).
UA SportsMask: Bottom line
If you're working out at a public gym or doing short to medium runs outdoors, the UA SportsMask should be your first and only option. It's not cheap, but no cotton mask comes close to offering the air flow provided by the UA SportsMask. Just keep in mind that if you're a heavy sweater, the mask does have a few drawbacks, but none that are an absolute deal breaker.
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