These days, the running industry has become something of a technical arms race, with more and more clothing manufacturers looking to get an edge on the “other guy” by way of some innovative new material or game-changing product features. As such, you’d be hard-pressed to go wrong with much of what’s currently on the market — it’s a pretty close race. However, if you only accept the best, if you’re looking for a podium winner rather than a pack finisher, your criteria for success become decidedly more selective.
Out of the box, lululemon’s Fast and Free line sounds like everything that’s required of a real contender. But let’s face it; there’s really only one way to know, and that’s how it performs in practice. In order to find out if the latest installment of the collection — including the Fast and Free Run Hat, the Fast and Free Run Belt, the Fast and Free Windbreaker, the Fast and Free Long Sleeve, and the Fast and Free Short — was up to the task, we tested it across a range of training runs, from short, uptempo sessions to long, slow distance days. Read on to see what we thought.
Equipping You For Success
Throughout its exhaustive range of active apparel, lululemon employs a variety of proprietary textiles to optimize each piece for its intended purpose. When it comes to the Fast and Free collection, this means that the brand has elected to use a slightly different fabric for every garment, with all of them providing pretty first-rate sweat-wicking and quick-drying performance. For instance, the Fast and Free Run Hat is made from Swift, and the Fast and Free Short is made from Swift Ultra Light. While they both offer a four-way stretch with excellent shape retention, the latter is (naturally) much lower-profile, ensuring that your legs have plenty of freedom to move uninhibited. And when combined with a 3″ cut, the result is a pair of shorts that’s so comfortable that it’s hard to notice you’re even wearing them.
In the case of the Fast and Free Long Sleeve, lululemon has opted for its Breathe Light mesh in order to make the shirt as airy as possible. However, such a breathable material would be of little help in keeping you protected from the elements, so the Fast and Free Windbreaker is instead made from SpeedWeave. In addition to moving with your body (thereby keeping you loose and relaxed), it’s also completely windproof and water-repellent, making it a prime piece of outerwear for wet or cold weather training. Rounding out the collection is the Fast and Free Run Belt, a lightweight waist pack that incorporates lululemon’s Ultralu performance blend. Because of the added elastane, it provides just enough compression to stay secure, and its pockets can stretch to accommodate a wide variety of phones, keys, and other essentials.
Optimizing Your Experience
While the materials on their own are enough to give the Fast and Free collection a leg up on the competition, the details are really what make it a cut above the rest. For starters, each piece comes with integrated reflective elements, ensuring that you stay seen and safe in low-light environments. What’s more, lululemon has specifically designed the clothing to maximize your available range of motion, with the shirt using a polyester body and some elasticated sleeves; the windbreaker offering a slim cut and a customizable cinched fit, and the shorts featuring a thin liner and a side slit at the hem.
As you’d expect from a top-notch active apparel line, the breathability is excellent across the board. Just take the run hat, for example. While the body uses Swift, the interior front panel is made from mesh, allowing the breeze to pass across the brim, around your head, and wick moisture away from the sweatband. In much the same way, you’ll find that the windbreaker’s open-body construction acts as what lululemon calls a “360-degree ventilation system.” By funneling your body heat out and drawing fresh air in, it keeps you cool and comfortable no matter how intense the workout gets. Oh, and we’d remiss if we didn’t touch on the run belt — it’s the piece that comes with all of the bells and whistles. Where others like it tend to bounce and rub over the course of a run, its buckle closure keeps it perfectly adjusted, and a set of side pockets combined with a key lanyard helps to distribute the load more evenly.
Made To Move
On the run, the Fast and Free collection never ceased to impress us with the ergonomics of its overall fit and feel. Granted, running apparel should always — at the very least — strive to promote the best form possible; however, the liner on the shorts was one of the best we’ve tried in terms of chafe avoidance, and the bit of built-in stretch on the windbreaker made it markedly more comfortable than many other running jackets on the market. Admittedly, the shirt’s hybrid design may not be for everyone — it gives us some late-90s layered nostalgia. Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it isn’t just for looks; it actually performs well too. The tee body frees up just enough extra room around your underarms, and the slightly tighter-fitting sleeves helped with heat-retention during chilly morning runs.
Above all else, though, it’s the accessory pieces that are the real stars of the show. Typically, hats can get pretty sodden once you’re well into a workout, but with its cool mesh panel and moisture-wicking sweatband, the Fast and Free run hat proved a welcome exception to the rule. By the same token, we were expecting the belt to get bouncy after just a few minutes on the move (it’s pretty much unavoidable). However, for all but the most heavily laden of runs, it stayed secure, in-place, and off our minds. When you consider how easy it is to reach for a snack or grab a gel during a session, it makes for an option that’s too good to pass up.
In the past few years, lululemon has steadily rounded out its run-ready clothing to provide an option perfect for every kind of training, whether that’s an extended marathon effort or even just a quick jog around the block. We’re excited to see the brand’s continued commitment to the sport, for the experience it’s gained making yoga garments is clearly paying dividends in other active applications. In a word (or two) the Fast and Free collection is just that: fast and free. It really shines once the pace picks up and it’ll keep you running freely all the while.
HiConsumption is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more