Off-field Athlete Gear Goes High-tech for the World Cup in Brazil

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Cooling vests filled with ice. Compression pants for long flights. Even 3D-printed bags and a chance to chill in style at the beach. Just as teams are making use of the latest uniform and cleat technology—read about the unis here and the cleats here—on the pitch, there are 24 hours in a day. Players will go high-tech for them all.

Cooling vests

Let your freezer double as your wardrobe.

Adidas launched its new adiPower pre-cooling vest a week ahead of the World Cup. Designed for the warm climates of Brazil, the vest and available sleeves can be worn during pregame and halftime of games.

In development for a number of years, the concept includes absorbent granule zones around the lower arms and upper back—the body’s primary cooling areas. The vests and sleeves store in a freezer to maintain a temperature close to freezing for 20 minutes after removal and offer no direct contact of ice with the skin.

“The goal is to increase the margin for metabolic heat production and delay the time that it takes for a player to reach fatigue,” says Dr. Maarten Hupperets, Adidas senior researcher.

To prep the adiPower equipment, the vest or sleeves soak in water for four minutes and after a gentle squeeze go in the freezer for two hours. After use, the vest and sleeves must be kept wet.

All nine Adidas federations will have access to the non-commercial vests and sleeves.

adiPower pre-cooling vest

adiPower pre-cooling vest

Compression gear

Nike has released its Pro Combat Recovery Hypertight, designed for wear away from competition for “active recovery,” especially as some of Nike’s 10 World Cup teams will engage in four-hour flights between games.

While the body is moving, but not engaged in exercise, the graduated compression targets specific zones of the leg, aiding recovery, Nike says.

“Our research led us to conclude that graduated compression can help impact recovery,” says Eddy Harbor, Nike innovation design director.

With soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the NBA’s Lebron James involved in the testing of the Hypertight, the 18-month development project followed the thought that compression helps reduce swelling, which aids muscle recovery.

The amount of compression provided by the power grid pattern on the tight creates a transition down the leg, with the firmest point at the ankle, where swelling can be most severe.

Pro Combat Recovery Hypertight

Pro Combat Recovery Hypertight

Tech Fleece

Nike designed a special “athlete journey” collection that includes outfits specifically designed for warm-ups, anthems, training, media appearances, travel and leisure. And there’s tech there too.

“The overall goal was to create iconic and memorable pieces for the players to wear throughout their time in Brazil,” says Martin Lotti, Nike’s creative director for soccer.

For training, the high-tech top options include a perforated shell, mid-layer options and woven jackets and shorts, the staple of Nike performance gear.

Off the pitch, Nike used its Tech Fleece to design a World Cup track jacket, even coming up with special designs for each of the 10 Nike-sponsored federations, the most high-tech of the visually appealing looks we can expect to see on athletes in Brazil.

Be the Ball: The Brazuca is Adidas' High-tech New World Cup Soccer Ball

The Tech Fleece is Nike’s newest fleece creation that places foam between layers of cotton jersey for a tri-layer fabric designed for comfort and warmth. The inner foam allows for a lighter, warmer and more breathable product than its predecessors.

The new fabric led Nike to design a new silhouette too, with arms articulated for enhanced mobility and a reduction in seams.

3D-printed bag

A new 3D-printed base includes a leather upper and custom gold hardware for special bags designed for only Neymar Jr., Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The laser-sintered nylon creates an intertwined weave on the bag’s 3D section. The 3D printed hardware adds to the customization on the only three bags built for the World Cup.

On the beach

Hurley’s latest tech innovation, the Phantom boardshort, comes in national team versions for Brazil, the U.S. and France. Each short has a graphical reference to the national team uniform, while staying high-tech with four-way stretch material and welded construction.

For the eyes

Whether on the beach or not, there’s plenty of sun to be had in Brazil, and Nike Vision released a limited edition version of its Mojo sunglasses in neon yellow (officially Volt), the same color as Nike’s new Magista cleat. The Magista inspired the design and style of the Mojo and technology includes secure wrap temples and Nike Max Optics for accurate views from all angles, something that’s particularly welcome on a Brazilian beach.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.