Running apparel has officially made its mark as a mainstay at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in 2011. With a jump in the popularity of trail running, outdoor brands have thrown their hats in the ring with traditional running companies to vie for consumers. Attracting performance and recreation-minded running shops, the show revealed a new level of understanding for the needs of runners in terms of fit and function.

A patchwork of panels make up much of the 2011 apparel collections, offering wind resistance and breathability in the most optimal places, as well as gender-specific comfort. Asymmetrical zippers, flip-mitt cuffs, and bold earthy tones are commonalities in design among this year’s apparel. For treadmill-phobic, outdoorsy running enthusiasts, there is much to look forward to in the coming year.

Saucony has proven its ability to adapt as it competes with some of the biggest outdoor footwear and apparel companies in the world. Keeping with the times, the company is releasing its Nomad Jacket and Pants, which are comprised of a Viper Light panel in the front and a DryLete mesh back. “It’s like an exhaust system on a car; the body heat goes right out the back of the jacket,” says Sharon Barbano of Saucony. The company also worked to update their ViZi-PRO line of reflectivity wear by adding pink to the line. Barbano explains, saying, “men have accepted orange better, so Saucony came up with ViZi-pink for women in everything from vests, to half-zips, to hats and gloves.” This line also includes a blinking light, which insures nighttime running safety.

Running specialty leader Brooks, has a similar visibility line, the Night Life Collection. Already available in bright yellow, a bright green option will be available for men and women in 2011. Perhaps most talked-about, however, is the Silver Bullet Jacket. Aptly named, this jacket features a 360-degree aluminum membrane and 3M Scotchlite Retroreflectivity. “The inside layer pulls moisture away from skin, the middle layer warms and breathes, and the outer poly is rain resistant,” says Kurt Heimback, Director of Apparel. This is significant because it reduces the need for an extra layer, which means warmth and wicking without the bulk.

Utilizing silver fabric technologies, including X-Static, Polygiene, and Silver Lining, New Balance has its own mineral-inspired running line coming out in 2011, dubbed the NBx collection. The thermodynamic properties of the pieces in this line, such as the NBx Adapter Short Sleeve, make the series wearable in the summer and winter. In addition, antimicrobial properties work to eliminate odor and keep the garments fresh.

Moving Comfort returns to the scene with its usual line of performance women’s running apparel, while offering several new pieces. The latest addition, the Daphne Bra, uses airflow technology and bonded seams to fit runners of all shapes and sizes. In addition, the company is offering its popular Alexis Bra in a full tank in 2011, as well as a whole new scheme of bright and colorful designs.

Accounting for about 7% of parent company, Timberland, annual revenue, SmartWool means more than just socks these days. The company has expanded to running as it competes with other Merino-inspired favorites, such as Icebreaker and Ibex. This year they have completely revamped their running apparel to provide a “body mapping” fit. Following a two-year study, testing product on thirty different body types, Smartwool has a new awareness for what fits and what doesn’t, overhauling its silhouettes in order to make them more flattering.

“Everything is designed to be layered together,” says Mavis Fitzgerald of Backbone Media, explaining SmartWool’s Layer Up System. “One layer will have thumbholes and another will have an asymmetrical zipper so it doesn’t all overlap.”

Unique necklines, like the one featured on the new Funnel Neck Zip top, and outerlayers, such as the TML Light Full Zip Jacket, were showcased at this year’s show.

Icebreaker’s latest Icebreaker GT line offered in Ultralite, Lightweight, Midweight, and Outerwear, gives runners a wide variety of options for layering. Technical baselayers made with 97% Merino wool and 3% Lycra make for a form-fit under a shell. This layering system finds its way from the outdoor apparel category to endurance sports, giving runners an option for every temperature.

Entering into the running market in 2011, Mountain Hardwear is debuting its Dry Q Active Endurance line. “In addition to customers from our sister company, Montrail, our endurance category has been growing because trail running is becoming more popular,” explains Erin Brosterhous or Mountain Hardwear. “The running apparel is 100% waterproof and super breathable with the use of the Dry Q technology.” The company uses “biomapping” in its line of Dry Q Active jackets and tights, providing wind panels on the front and breathable fabric on the back for superior ventilation.

The North Face also finds itself in the performance running category with its new Better Than Naked Collection. Trail-worthy half zips, jackets, shorts and tights comprise this line that is custom-made for a runner. “You want zero distractions while running, so we use feather weight fabrics, bodymapping, and gender-specific venting,” explains a company spokesperson. The North Face’s Stormy Trail Jacket demonstrates the company’s know-how in creating the best performance gear. With claims of 25% more breathability than any other running jackets on the market, this piece goes to the front of the class. Not to be forgotten is the unique Ultra Onesie. To be worn like a speed suit, this one-piece, hooded baselayer provides 360-degrees of bodymapping with cooling zones and stretch for comfort. The spokesperson explains, saying, “it can be used as a baselayer for winter running or even for alpine. It’s definitely multi-functional.”

Not to be forgotten is Patagonia’s new running collection. With a big emphasis on the sport for spring and fall 2011, the company has put a major stake in the running market. The Speedwork Tights offer a different approach to traditional running tights by using a special paneling system.

“These tights have breathable panels behind the knee so you don’t get sweaty, as well as a great comfort waistband,” explains Patagonia’s Jess Clayton. A wind-resistant outer layer and a soft polyester interior wicks moisture and promotes comfort. The Speedwork line also includes pants and capris, in addition to new baselayers and cold-weather running jackets.