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It’s a common question among our newer customers: why is base layer important for football? Experienced players, too, often find it difficult to know what type of base layer to use for a certain type of activity. There’s even a debate about how to write it: base layer or baselayer? Don’t worry about that last one – base layer is base layer, however you write it – but the other issues are certainly worth considering, especially during winter, so let’s get into it.

What is base layer?

Base layer refers to garments worn underneath regular clothing with the aim of improving comfort and performance during physical activity.

Is base layer worth wearing?

In short: yes. It has two main benefits. First, it’s the most efficient way of regulating your body temperature. Whether that means warming you up in the winter, or cooling you down in the summer, base layer garments are engineered to keep your body temperature at an optimal level. Note though that you do need different base layers for different seasons. As things stand, there’s no true “all conditions” base layer that you can wear for absolutely everything throughout the year, so it’s a good idea to own at least two pieces – one warm, one cool. Second, it provides compression, which encourages blood circulation. More blood moving around your body means more oxygen for your muscles, helping them work harder for longer and recover faster. In a practical sense, that means increased power, speed and stamina on the pitch, on the field, on the track … wherever it is you’re doing your activity.

I can handle a bit of cold!

Maybe so, but unless you’re a Tibetan monk, you can’t control your body temperature by the power of your mind, and that’s what matters when it comes to physical performance. The colder the conditions outside, the harder your body has to work to move blood around the body and maintain its core internal temperature, which translates into sluggish performance on the pitch. Wearing base layers takes some of the thermoregulation burden away from the body, enabling you to perform at full-throttle even in the height of winter.


What type of base layer should I wear?

We categorise base layer into five main types: stay warm, stay cool, compression, recovery, and protection. There’s a little bit of crossover in what they do – pretty much all base layers will provide some degree of compression, for example – but those categories signify the chief focus of the garment. Here we’re taking a closer look at base layer designed for wintry conditions: the stay warm category.

Stay Warm

Designed for temperatures below 15°C / 60°F

The primary purpose of warm base layers is to provide lightweight insulation, retaining body heat without restricting your movement or weighing you down. At the same time, they need to be breathable – trapped sweat will cool you down, which is counterproductive, and also makes you uncomfortable when you’re producing a lot of it. Quick-dry material technologies like Nike’s Dri-FIT solve this problem, wicking sweat away from the body and allowing it to evaporate further from the skin, reducing its cooling effect. You’ll often find dedicated ventilation on these garments too, which lets heat escape in key areas prone to overheating. Remember, optimal temperature is the aim; you want to be warm, not roasting.

Other than that, it’s a question of how heavy-duty you want to go, which will largely depend on the exact conditions you’re training or playing in, and how intense the activity is going to be. Going for a gentle jog in the height of winter, you’ll want maximum insulation and coverage: thicker materials and long sleeves. Nike’s Hyperwarm range, Under Armour ColdGear, and SKINS’s Thermal collection are all good shouts here.

If it’s not so cold and you’re doing high-intensity work, a short-sleeved or vest base layer may suffice, while for extended sessions, you might actually be better off looking at the compression category. Compression-focused gear won’t retain quite as much heat, but is more focused on muscle support and blood circulation to keep you performing for longer. It really is beneficial to have more than one option available – once you find a garment you like, you’ll very quickly start wishing you had multiple versions of it.


Does it matter what colour I wear?

In training, probably not. You can wear what you want so long as your club’s happy with it. For official games though, the colour of your base layer must match the sleeve of your playing shirt to comply with the letter of the law. So, unless you’re a massive fashionista, you might as well just go for a matching base layer in the first place.

Do pro players wear base layer?

Yes they do, increasingly often, and of course the elite football players in the top leagues have absolutely every version available at a moment’s notice. Some players like wearing them more than others, but the performance benefits are undeniable. Further, from a sport science point of view, base layers help guard against injury. They stop your body going from hot to cold too quickly, which is a common trigger for all sorts of muscular problems. It’s in clubs’ interests, therefore, to invest heavily in the technology.

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