Ever since many governments around the world made wearing face masks mandatory in outdoor public places, avid runners have found it a challenge to work out. The excessive heat and humidity in the summer pose an additional risk to sports aficionados. Experts have warned people that exercising vigorously with a mask on could place extra strain on the lungs and heart. Those sentiments were echoed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which said: “People should not wear masks when exercising, as masks may reduce the ability to breathe comfortably. Sweat can make the mask become wet more quickly, which makes it difficult to breathe and promotes the growth of microorganisms.” Such concerns have inspired the running community to explore new solutions and alternatives to what is likely to be a long-term problem. View this post on Instagram Rest Week Fit ♂️ A post shared by Jason Lam (@jasonlamjasonlam) on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:33am PDT “I started running with a mask a few weeks before the government mandate. Initially I would use a buff or neck gaiter, which existed long before Covid and that is used by runners while in harsh conditions or dusty trails etc …,” says daily runner Jason Lam, who is based in Hong Kong. “Essentially, it is a sports fabric that you wear as a covering and several brands make them.” How face masks became a fashion statement – in stylish circles Dervla Musgrave, another fitness fanatic and the co-founder of Compare Retreats, a travel agency in Hong Kong, has found that most running masks are for altitude training, so they make it more difficult to run in. “I keep it simple and use the regular Korean black cloth masks I wear normally. I have yet to try the one designed specifically for sports,” she says. A quick search online and in stores reveals that there are limited options when it comes to face masks that are designed specifically for active sports. Hong Kong-based retailer Escapade Sports previously stocked masks from a brand called OTSO Think Sport which are not specifically designed for use during exercise. Giga Sports, another Hong Kong retailer, stocks face coverings from German brand P.A.C. Meanwhile sports giants such as Adidas and Reebok offer simple face coverings that have no additional features. At time of publication, Nike still hadn’t launched a face mask product for consumers. Keen , which is known for its outdoor footwear, offers a mask that is popular with consumers, although it’s not designed for exercise. Fortunately, there are some brands, such as Asics and Under Armour, that have developed sports masks, but they tend to sell out quickly or have yet to hit the consumer market. In the meantime, the running community has come up with their own hacks to make their workouts that much more comfortable and efficient. “There is this plastic face cover/mount that costs a few Hong Kong dollars that you can buy on Taobao,” says Lam. “It’s designed to be worn under a regular face mask and it creates a space between your nose and mouth, allowing you to breathe better. It also creates less condensation, so you don’t end up with a wet face mask or covering either. “All the runners are using them and it’s easy to wear under a surgical mask.” Masks worth trying out for runners 1. UA Sportsmask (HK$199) from Under Armour This face mask (patent pending) has a mouldable nose bridge to help secure it in place and prevent glasses from fogging . It is made from a special fabric that not only feels cool against the skin but is treated with PROTX2™, a non-metal antimicrobial technology which inhibits growth of bacteria. It’s also reusable and washable, making it an eco-friendly option. 2. Runners Face Cover from Asics Designed specifically for runners and due to launch in September, this easily adjustable style has some nifty features. for example, it allows wearers to drink water right through it. Other highlights include air vents to increase airflow while preventing the spread of droplets. It is made from a water-repellent, quick-drying fabric that is also antibacterial. 3. Face Mask V3 (US$24.99) from New Balance Although not technically made for running, this medical-grade, three-layer style is popular thanks to features such as a mouldable nose piece and lightweight and breathable fabric. The company is said to be developing a sports mask, which should be launched later this year. 4. The Performance X Mask (US$14) from Boco Gear This lightweight mask is made from a durable knit performance fabric, with the option of adding a filter for additional protection. It comes in a range of prints and different colours for those who are after a more stylish look while working out. It is available in two versions – one for adults and the other for kids.