We believe that a truly great innovation is that which uses technology to solve an everyday problem and, ultimately, enable a better experience. It’s what we strive to achieve through our clothing designs – and what sports technologist Ross Weir has successfully accomplished with his FLUX glove.
Ross Weir in FLUX gloves; and as seen through the lens of a thermal imaging device.
FLUX is a climate-control running glove that actually regulates body temperature by way of Ross's own patented mesh, a design made possible by 3D seamless knitting (it’s the same technology we use to create our body-mapped Atmos tee and Atlas socks). Ross’s design has us completely enamored, and not just because we’re avid runners. He’s honed in on this problem – the fact that running gloves make one's hands uncomfortably hot and sweaty – that so many of us encounter on cold-weather runs, and then takes such a smart, research-driven approach to eradicating that problem with purposeful design.
We caught up with Ross to talk more about his inspiration, process, and why research is fundamental to truly great design. And to see the FLUX glove in action, be sure to check out Ross’s newly launched Kickstarter campaign here.
"I’ve always loved to run. I run for fitness, not so much for times, and enjoy the freedom and calm it brings into my life. The kit one needs for running is ultimately quite simple; and if it works well, it won’t distract you from the pure enjoyment of the pursuit. For me, comfort is defined not by sensing the clothes or gear you wear, but by a quiet fading away out of your awareness, clearing the way for a fuller and purer experience.
"I have some pretty nice mainstream sneakers, shorts, and tees, but I wouldn’t say I am 'unaware' of that gear when I run. It can distract, and those distractions can add up. There are the usual suspects: the compression sock that rolls down, the shoelace that unties, the key in my short pocket bouncing, the shiver of cold from a sweat-soaked T-shirt. All of these we will solve and improve upon at [Ross's company] HY athletic. In winter, we add the necessary kit to embrace the elements: the beanie, the jacket and finally, the running gloves.
"In our experience, old running gloves quickly made our hands hot and sweaty, and the gloves were heavy and bulky, making stowing in a pocket or running belt a pain. But with a unique FLUX glove design, HY athletic has solved these issues.
"Just like the team at MoS, we believe that research is key; it often helps distill the insights that come from our own sporting experiences. The FLUX concept begins with a unique approach to thermal comfort. In relation to this, we wanted to better understand the role the hand plays in both overall thermal comfort and in heat flux during physical activity. There is a great thesis by Zhang from UC Berkeley in which the researcher breaks down the body segments and investigates their thermal sensitivities and contributions to sensations of overall thermal comfort. This work inspired us to experiment with the ideas we had for the runner’s glove.
"The hand is highly sensitive to changes in temperature in a number of ways – firstly, the sense of temperature itself, and secondly, in how quickly the body shunts blood away from the hand if the temperature of the hand drops too much. Since the hand is such a good radiator of heat, the body protects core temperature by effectively shutting down blood flow to the hand and preventing a rapid loss of heat. So when it’s cold outside, even though I am exercising, my hands may still get cold and shut down, effectively limiting my ability to cool my core temperature as I exercise. On the other hand, if I exercise and wear gloves, then the hand continues to act as a radiator, but now in an insulated glove. In this case the glove does not adapt, so the building heat doesn’t get released quickly – resulting in overheating, sweaty hands, discomfort, and distraction. The optimum glove solution requires the insulation level to be altered to cope with the ever-changing thermal flux and varying environmental conditions.
"Our first prototypes were crude, cut n’ shut in 5 minutes from standard running gloves. As you can imagine, the first thing we did was cut holes in palms and fingers; it was from there we iterated and developed. We came around to the mesh design to maintain a robust construction and sleek, aerodynamic silhouette in the glove. We discovered it was useful to have some fabric over the palm side to manage sweating better when evaporation is limited. To examine hand temperatures at rest and during activity, we used thermal imaging and wireless thermistors to monitor both the skin temperature and glove microclimate humidity.
"In early trials, we noticed a broad range of temperature control was achievable due to the adaptive function the FLUX gloves provides. We were also able to experiment with garment weight, fiber thickness, and resulting insulation levels. This ensured that the lightest glove design would provide comfort at our target lower temperature of zero degrees Celsius. To achieve the desired design, we experimented with different methods of construction, from cut and sew to flatbed knitting, finally settling on warp knitting techniques that enable the creation of the robust open mesh in the fabric of the glove, while providing the advantages of seamless construction and flexibility in the design and development process."
"Testing of the gloves has mainly been in the field. The thermal effect FLUX achieves is very strong. This means we have been able to easily measure the effect in the field and have not required the fine control offered by the laboratory setting with this product. We continue to test new versions and iterations which we'll be adding to the FLUX range soon. We have already developed the FLUX zeros which we suggest be worn for running from zero degrees Celsius up; these are the gloves we will be shipping to our backers on Kickstarter.
"For next winter, we will release the FLUX sub-zeros – they use a higher insulation value to take you comfortably into the negative degrees. For this glove, we will be going into the climate control chambers at Loughborough University to create temperatures much colder than available to us locally, so we can accurately refine the design for sub-zero pursuits."