SPORTS & LEISURE
foam joins swathes of material in the sports arena
- Benefits of foam materials have led to popularity in sports applications
- Foam a prominent material in sports-product innovations
Foam products have broad application in the sports and leisure industry. Flexible foams have a range of advantageous properties which make them suitable for numerous applications. Benefits include low density, low weight, and low heat transfer, and many polymer foams are soft and flexible, offering comfort as well as functionality.
Consumers are increasingly demanding high-quality performance wear specific to any given activity. Sports fabrics are technical materials that offer specific benefits to the user. Yoga clothing, for example, requires stretch that allows for easy movement, while performance clothing for long-distance runners demands good moisture-wicking properties to keep the wearer comfortable and free from sweat on the inside of garments. Apparel for outdoor winter sports needs breathable fabrics that are also good insulators to keep the wearer warm.
Recent years have seen innovations in sports materials, and rising demand for sports apparel is in part responsible for growth in the polymer foams market as foam joins the swathes of materials used in this area. Foam is especially popular in footwear, offering significant improvements in comfort in running shoes. Back in 1997, Nike was ahead of the curve when it launched Foamposite, a lightweight and durable material that is receiving a makeover for 2018. Other sports brands followed suit – Adidas has an entire range of its Cloudfoam running shoes, and foam materials are found in most major footwear retailers’ products. Science and innovation have been key to smart sports footwear development. In 2015, Brooks Running asked German chemical company BASF SE to invent a material that gave a little bounce when you ran. In response, BASF came back with a springy polyurethane foam – a shift away from the gel pads and air pockets that preceded it. Evidently, foam has become ubiquitous in the sports footwear market.
Aside from performance wear, foam materials can also be found in sports products such as gym and yoga mats, athletic supports, helmet liners, handlebar pads, and hand weights. Here, functionality is key, and the foam industry must respond to shifting trends in the sports sector. Sport is a multibillion, rapidly expanding global industry, and foam industry players have an opportunity to be part of this period of evolution and growth.
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