In the most general sense, a kilt isn’t exactly your typical piece of running gear. When you think of a kilt, you’re probably picturing weddings, funerals and hairy, middle-aged Scottish men with bagpipes. That is, of course, unless you’re not the typical runner.
In my travels, I have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of runners, of all sorts and styles. Just like with any given group of people, you can divide runners up into several different categories. You’ve got your uber-serious runner, pounding out 100-mile weeks wearing $300 racing flats and a hard-set jaw, and your relaxed runner donning some old sweatpants and a grin. There are road runners and trail runners. Ultramarathoners and 5K’ers. And then there are the minimalist runners, wearing nothing but short-shorts, Luna Sandals and a beard, and your maximalist runners hauling around a 4-bottle hydration belt, GPS watch with heart-rate monitor, ID tag, sweatband, tie-dye calf sleeves and Hokas.
Sprinkled somewhere within the heart of all those groups is the Sport-Kilt runner (like my ultrarunner friend Jason, pictured left). It may seem outlandish for many of you to imagine that running in a kilt would ever become popular enough to warrant designing one with the word “Sport” in the title. But I assure you that it’s not outlandish at all. In fact it’s quite the opposite, at least in my experience. Of the three groups of runners that I have fallen in with at one point or another over the years (minimalists, ultramarathoners and hashers), they have all had several members who embrace the Sport Kilt as a commonplace piece of running attire.
I have always been curious about what it’s like to wear a kilt while running. I had a lot of questions, like how would a piece of pleated polyester sit on you while you’re running? Would it twist, fall, hike up or rub? How hot would it get under there? Are there pockets? And most importantly, from a traditional standpoint, am I allowed to wear underwear?*
So I reached out to the good folks over at Sport Kilt, and they were happy to send me two of their ultra-feminine UltraMini kilts to try. One of them is their basic model Ultra Mini, and the other has added belt loops and lower profile sewn-down pleats. Both kilts have a wide, adjustable Velcro waistband closure and a hidden, surprisingly secure front pocket. Both kilts fit me the same way, but I don’t really care about the belt loops, except maybe to hang keys off them or something, and I prefer the one with the sewn-down pleats because it stays pleated better (this I learned during my years as a Catholic school kid). I like the adjustable closure because it allows me to tighten the skirt while I’m running so it doesn’t fall down, and loosen it later on if I want more of a low-rise look (or a slightly longer hem).
And speaking of hem, the Ultra Mini kilt is quite, well…mini. On a hasher website, a Sport Kilt banner ad begs the question: “How short do you go?” Apparently, short enough to answer that whole underwear question with a resounding “YES”, since I have no intention of getting arrested for indecent exposure. Of the handful of times I have worn my Sport Kilts, I have paired them with compression shorts, a bikini bottom and regular underwear (hey what the hell, I am a hasher!). With compression shorts the skirt seems bulky and rather redundant. With underwear I was flashing my fellow hashers all day long (not that they minded). This I know because of the nearly constant shouts of “Pink!” from behind me as I leaned forward or climbed steep embankments… the color of my favorite Victoria’s Secret cheeky panties. That said, I much prefer wearing a less taboo pair of bikini bottoms or RunBuns under this skirt, which is more like something you’d find attached under a RunningSkirts brand skirt.
Being that I’m originally from a cold-weather state, I am pretty sensitive to the heat when I am running. I will wear a short sleeve shirt running all the way down to 45 degrees. So I was a little apprehensive about the prospect of wearing a kilt running in southern California. Surprisingly, even though it’s not my lightest piece of running clothing, I didn’t feel particularly hot in the kilt. The pleated fabric allows a lot of air circulation when you move, and the fabric is somewhat absorbent, so the bit of dampness keeps you cooler (unlike with sweat-wicking materials which dry right away, thus rendering your sweat useless in dry climates). You probably won’t catch me wearing one of these kilts on a long run through Escondido in August, but other than that it serves as a perfectly reasonable running “skirt”.
You might be asking yourself why wear a Sport Kilt rather than your usual running skirt/shorts/hiking gear? Well for one, most running skirts are made of sweat wicking materials so if you buy into Jason Robillard’s theory that absorbent cottons actually keep you cooler, then a kilt is a great alternative. And if you’re a dude who likes to keep your junk free and cool while running but aren’t into the Naked American short-shorts thing (left), then you’ll probably like wearing a Sport Kilt (although I would suggest you get a longer one). Not to mention you’ll always have something appropriate to wear to St. Patrick’s Day 5Ks, Irish weddings and sexy school-girl events.
*in case you’re unfamiliar with the underwear conundrum, there’s an old riddle that goes like this: What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt? His shoes.