An introduction to smart clothing: how to find the right kit for your fitness needs

Fitness wearables are no longer just a matter of wrist straps or pieces of practical jewelry, such technology now works via our clothing.

A growing number of products allow you to track numerous parts of your exercise routine, all through the materials you're wearing. Whether it's a shirt keeping an eye on your heart rate or a pair of trousers monitoring your running form and gait, there's an item of clothing for your workout.

Best of all, setup is minimal with many items working without the need for you to regularly look at your phone or smartwatch. Like with any effective wearable technology, it's effortless, ensuring you can focus on what you're doing rather than preparing smartphone apps or devices beforehand.

For now, such flexibility comes at a premium, with many garments costing far more than regular gym or sports wear, but that doesn't mean it's not worth investing in some new garb. In some cases, it almost replaces the need for a dedicated trainer, depending on the type of workout you're embarking on.

With that in mind, we've looked at six key products for helping you get started on a path to a more intelligent workout in 2018, regardless of what kind of exercise you participate in.

Note: we've ranked these from cheapest to most expensive according to prices at time of writing.

1. Lumo Run

Run analysis every step of the way

Useful real time coaching
Works with any sport clothing
Can't track your gait
Only for runners

Running might seem like a very natural and simple exercise to perform correctly, but it's actually pretty easy to mess up your form, potentially causing yourself problems further down the line.

Lumo Run is a sensor that fits inside either running shorts or capri pants, before monitoring numerous parts of your run. Not solely looking at distance and speed, it tracks cadence, ground contact time and pelvic rotation, as well as stride length.

Real-time coaching feedback is given to you via your headphones, with Lumo Run providing recommendations on how to run more safely, thereby decreasing your chance of injury and improving your performance. Its battery provides 20 hours of running time off one charge, ensuring it's convenient to use.

2. NADI X Yoga Pants

Instructional and personalized advice one yoga move at a time

Ideal for newbies
Simple to use training app
Only suitable for yoga

Yoga is a simple and inexpensive hobby to take up, but it can also cause novices a lot of potentially dangerous issues. Perform a move incorrectly or hold a position poorly for too long, and you can cause yourself a lot of damage.

For that reason, many people start out by taking yoga classes with trained instructors, but that's no use if you want to continue at home.

NADI X Yoga Pants make home training a much easier proposition through their use of built-in haptic vibrations. Located at the hips, knees and ankles, the sensors pulse to encourage you to move or hold your position, depending on how you're doing.

In conjunction with the NADI X iOS app, you can also enjoy further instruction as you learn new moves via gentle vibrations teaching you how to position your limbs correctly.

3. Supa Powered Sports Bra

Constant and invisible heart rate monitoring

Usable for any sport
Water resistant
Only for women
Color scheme isn't for everyone

Bras are an obvious place to discreetly include a heart rate monitor, and that's exactly what the Supa Powered Sports Bra provides. A stylish looking sports bra, the garment includes a heart rate monitor and AI features to ensure you get the most out of your workout.

By monitoring your heart rate, the Supa.AI app tracks how your workout is going, pinpointing your optimal training heart rate zones and giving you some feedback on where you can improve your performance.

It's water-resistant too, with a separate Supa Reactor working as the intelligent connection between the smartphone app and the sports bra.

4. Sensoria Fitness Socks

Pressure-sensitive tracking while running

Step by step gait analysis
Perfect for avoiding injury
Requires an anklet
You may not want to wear socks

Having smart socks might not sound as cool as some of the offerings here, but the technology behind Sensoria's smart socks is pretty impressive.

Utilizing three textile pressure sensors, the socks measure the pressure placed on your foot when running. By doing so, they offer feedback such as pace, distance, time, and information on your running style. Via the companion app's AI coach, your gait is analyzed each step of the way, literally.

Think of it as a powerful running coach that's able to see exactly what you're doing wrong, right down to where your foot lands, before offering advice on how to improve your times and stamina levels.

For those keen to go all in, Sensoria also offers sports bras and t-shirts that work together to offer extensive feedback.

5. Hexoskin Smart Shirt

The smartest of smart shirts

Effective and accurate
Tracks breathing rate
Need full kit for maximum effectiveness

Offering an extensive array of sensors, the Hexoskin shirt may look like regular gym wear, but it's far smarter than anything else you've worn before. Its many sensors monitor your heart rate, activity levels, breathing and movements at all times.

With data captured in real-time and sent to its companion app (on iOS and Android), you can consistently see how intense your workout is, how many calories you've burned, and even what your current fatigue levels are like.

For those with issues such as asthma, it's particularly useful, as it also tracks breathing rate and volume, thereby providing the kind of insight you just can't get elsewhere.

6. Athos Full Body Kit

Medical grade technology for the home market

Powerful analysis of muscle groups
Like having a personal trainer with x-ray vision
Very expensive
Only compatible with iOS devices

Athos's range of smart clothing has micro-EMG sensors woven into its fabric. Besides looking very neat and stylish, it also means that Athos's vests, shorts and leggings are immensely accurate at detecting what your body is doing at all times.

Regardless of the type of exercise you're performing, Athos detects which of your muscles is currently doing all the hard work and in what way.

With the companion app, you can see the distribution of work divided up by muscle group, ensuring you can work on maintaining balance and not overworking any particular muscle too hard.

A series of graphs divides things up so it's possible to see when your glutes are doing all the hard work, or when your hamstrings are picking up the slack.

Additionally, the vest tracks heart and breathing rates, giving you an all-in-one insight into how you're performing. It's the most expensive package here, but it’s essentially a powerful and comprehensive personal trainer.

Jennifer Allen

Jennifer is a roving tech freelancer with over 10 years experience. Having graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Media and Communication Studies, and later with a diploma from Staffordshire University with a post graduate diploma in Computer Games Design, she's written for a huge number of publications, including T3, FitandWell, Top Ten Reviews, Eurogamer, NME and many more. 

Her main areas of interest are all things B2B, smart technology, wearables, speakers, headphones, and anything gaming related, and you'll find her writing everything from product reviews to buying guides. In her spare time, she enjoys the cinema, walking, and attempting to train her pet guinea pigs. She is yet to succeed.