Jay Caboz
  • Sporting a face mask during exercise is mandatory, the same as walking into a business or going shopping in South Africa.
  • While wearing a mask assists in preventing transmission from person to person by keeping droplets and moisture in, some aren’t designed with exercise in mind.
  • The wrong choice can be a frustrating experience, making it hard to breath.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

Whether you are squeezing in a quick 5km run along Cape Town’s Sea Point promenade or churning out endless loops cycling around your Johannesburg neighbourhood, sporting a face mask during exercise is as mandatory as it is when walking into a business or going shopping in South Africa.

READ | Should you wear a mask while you run? Your lockdown exercise questions answered

Government wants you to wear them because they assist in preventing transmission from person to person by keeping droplets and moisture in.

Also, by using fabric masks you help reduce the demand for medical grade N95 masks, surgical masks and respirators, which health practitioners need in hospitals.

But South Africans are finding that wearing a mask during exercise can be quite a mission.

While some masks may fit perfectly fine during your average day-to-day activities, several designs are not up to more robust activities like running or cycling.

During those cool autumn mornings, designs that are not adjustable, or that hang around the ear, can be quite irritating when running or cycling. These masks tend to be either too tight, squeezing your ears to the point you look like an elf, or they are too loose and fall off your face during runs.

Other bugbears can be them directing air upward and fogging up glasses, and lacking the durability to survive a few washing cycles.

Much like underwear, due to the nature of these products, exchanging or returning them if they are duds is not an option. Which is even more reason to find designs which gives you more bang for your buck, especially important if you plan on exercising daily.

Sportspeople should be on the lookout for materials that have good moisture-wicking fabric. This means the material is quick to soak up moisture and dries rapidly so that your sweat, and in this case spit and condensate moisture from exhaled air, doesn’t oversaturate the fabric, which in turn makes it challenging to breathe through.

With price ranges from R33 per mask, to as much as R100, Business Insider rounded up a bunch of the sportier versions to help give you a good idea about what’s out there and how much you’ll have to fork out.

We also found some masks we wouldn’t recommend for exercise.

Cape Union Face Masks. Three plain black masks and filters at R99.

Jay Caboz

Cape Union’s fabric masks are not suited for exercise, in our experience. Having run with them a few times, the elasticated ear loops are too loose. This results in you spending more time readjusting your mask than running, as it tends to slip off the nose with every slight jolt, head turn, or when attempting to talk. The outer layer material, which is 100% woven Polyester, is scratchy on the face.

Jay Caboz

Their redeeming feature is their price: a cheap R33 per mask. 

Jay Caboz

Cyclist brand Enjoy’s face mask – set of 3 for R300.

Jay Caboz

While the fabric used for Cyclist brand Enjoy’s face mask is softer than Cape Union's, they are not fun to wear. The elasticated bands are too tight, which squeeze your ears into awkward positions, making you look like an elf.

Jay Caboz

There is also little in the way of give in the material over the mouth, which results in you hyperventilating like one does into a paper bag. The mask didn’t make it out of the front door thanks to this flaw.

Jay Caboz

There were some decent designs we would recommend:

First Ascent’s patriotic South African flag masks - R69.00 per mask.

Jay Caboz

First Ascent has two face masks on sale at Sportsman’s Warehouse and their own website – with their cheapest version being a plain mask for R59. For the more patriotic consumer, there is a SA flag option for just R10 more.

Jay Caboz

The face masks come with an anti-microbial inner and are made from a breathable and washable fabric. They come with adjustable dual elastic mask ties for both the upper and lower parts of the mask and is flexible to position around the mouth and nose.

Jay Caboz

Running with these masks is quite pleasant, but toward the end of the run, there is some moisture build-up.

Takealot: Marble - Triple Layer fabric face mask - Pack of four for R166 (on special)

Jay Caboz

Takealot has a wide variety of material masks on sale. We chose a polyester fabric face mask set, which is currently on special. They’re affordable and can be tied at the back with both top and bottom strings.

Also on Takealot, the Comfyzak face masks with replaceable filter slot. Four pack for R160.

Jay Caboz

Sporting a "Springbok Green", Comfyzaks’ material face masks come in at R160 for a pack of four (R40 per mask). The mask has a 3D design that fits the shape of the face better, preventing openings typically found around the cheeks and under the chin.

Ciovita Premium Printed face masks, R300 for a set of 3.

Cycling brand Ciovita has come out with their own version of the face mask.

Jay Caboz

They can be tied using normal binding ties, rather than elastic bands, which they say will make the ties last longer, as elastic tends to deteriorate after several hot washes.

Jay Caboz

Their masks come with an insert for a nose shaper, which is basically a slit for a paper clip that can be bent to fit over the bridge of your nose and keep the mask away from your mouth.

Finally, if using a mask is difficult try using a buff.

Jay Caboz

Many runners are opting to use buffs or balaclavas rather than masks. They fit snugly over your face and can be rotated if the fabric gets too wet. However, they can be much more expensive than a mask - and they do not come with three cloth layers, as recommended for masks.

Sportsman’s warehouse ADV Buff Original - R279.90 per unit

Jay Caboz

Outdoor Warehouse is also bringing in in a range of slightly cheaper buffs - R259.00 per unit.

* This article has been corrected to reflect that Cape Union's masks do not carry the K-Way brand.

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