It’s not too much of a stretch to say that Sugoi has made an incredible impact on the fitness apparel industry.
In fact, the company - whose name is the Japanese word for incredible – has made exactly that kind of progress in its two decades of existence. It was founded as a cycling apparel company out of Vancouver in 1987, and gradually made inroads into the specialized worlds of triathlon and running. The company quickly established a reputation for innovation and excellence across all of its product lines, and developed something of a cult following among both elite and recreational endurance athletes.
This winter I’ve had the opportunity to test three different running pants from Sugoi’s Fall 2009 collection, which are classified according to Sugoi Comfort System ratings from S1 to S3+ based on varying degrees of moisture management and protection from the elements. Two of these products are available as part of the Screaming Deals sale from Wilderness Running Company, so if something looks good to you, follow the links below for some great bargains to get you through the winter.
Sugoi’s S1 category is primarily designed for breathability and optimal moisture transfer away from the skin. Their Piston 200 compression tights have increased pressure against the large muscle groups to improve circulation and enhance muscle efficiency during strenuous activity. Like all of Sugoi’s pants, these are built with zone construction which breaks the pants into 10 distinct panels, allowing variation of compression and/or protection in the areas that need it the most. All of the seams are flat, so comfort isn’t an issue even with all the different areas of articulation.
The Piston 200 tights are built for high-performance; they would be an outstanding choice for cold-weather racing or recovery from hard workouts, or everyday training in temperatures below 40 degrees. They have a super-snug feel that is noticeably tighter than other compressive pants I’ve worn, and they stay in place and remain comfortable even during multi-hour runs. The only drawback I found to these is that there’s no zipper on the ankles - so if you like that feature, these aren’t your best option.
Further along the Comfort System Scale are Sugoi’s MidZero tights. They have the same zone construction and flat lock seams, but provide a higher level of warmth and protection than the Piston tights. The MidZero fabric is extremely effective at wicking moisture while maintaining body heat – I’ve worn these for long runs in sub-freezing temperatures without any noticeable effect from the cold. It combines a tight, smooth surface on the outside with a softly brushed fabric against your skin. These pants also have 7” ankle zips and silicone leg grips for easy on/off and good stability during activity. They're probably the most versatile pants of this group being reviewed, and are included as part of the WRC sale – see link below.
If you live in extremely harsh conditions and need the utmost protection from the elements, Sugoi has you covered with its Firewall 220 material. I did a review of their Firewall gloves recently, and was very impressed by how much insulation they maintained in a relatively thin (compared to other gloves) fabric. The exterior surface is a soft-shell material that provides outstanding water and wind protection, and the inside is the same soft-brushed finish found on the MidZero tight. The tri-layered Firewall material is classified as S3+ on Sugoi’s Comfort Scale, providing the highest degree of protection and thermal regulation among the entire product line. Sugoi offers Firewall 220 bottoms in two styles: traditional tights, and looser-fitting pants. Both styles have 10” ankle zips, silicone leg grips, elastic waistband and back zip pocket. The tights have a bit less stretch than the MidZero material, and the pants wear slightly snug through the thighs and looser on the calves. I’ve worn the pants quite comfortably in mid-20s temperatures; hopefully I won’t have a lot of opportunity to test them much colder (I think I’ve made my position on winter weather fairly clear), but I’m confident that they’d be totally up to the task with temps into the teens and lower.
You pay a price for that kind of protection, and the Firewall stuff will typically set you back a few dollars - upwards of $150 from various retailers. The tights are on sale at a considerable discount as part of WRC’s sale: while supplies and sizes last, they’re available for $84 bucks. Use my R&R10 discount for another 10% off, and the deal looks even better. If you need a hardcore, top-of-the-line pant to dependably get you through a long, harsh winter, that’s probably an investment worth making.