Run Deep regular contributor Amy Robson has been testing the colourful activewear created by Sturdy By Design to see whether it can withstand her trail running adventures.
A life lived Sturdy
You certainly can’t miss the Sturdy By Design range – it’s pretty colourful to say the least! The company was founded by UKBFF Midlands Woman’s Physique Champion, Charlene Harvey. Charlene has been in a gym environment for pretty much most of her life (or at least since her teenage years).
Charlene has had her dabbling with running, but hamstring injuries and a natural proclivity and love of strength training, has meant that the gym is her primary fitness lover. If her accomplishments are anything to go by, then the two are a match made in heaven. There was just one hiccup in their early love affair – namely the wardrobe choices.
While Charlene enjoyed working out, she was eternally frustrated with the limited and dull range of activewear on the market. Hence, she set out to bring her own sense of flare and colour to her activities, and to the athletic pursuits of people in general.
One of the things that really makes Sturdy By Design stand out is the accessibility of sizes. Whether you’re an 8 or a 24, short, tall, or in-between, Sturdy By Design has a size for you. This is pretty much unheard of among some fitness brands, and shows just how dedicated Sturdy By Design is to individuals who choose to pursue a sturdy approach to life.
I approached Sturdy By Design to review its products, but I have also been a customer in the past. I recently ran the Mad Dog 10K in its fantastically patterned canine leggings… but I digress. As part of my review I was given a pair of Wild Africa Leggings, a Wild Africa Bra, and the Winter Wild Leggings.
Sturdy By Design Leggings (Wild Africa)
All standard Sturdy By Design leggings are made from a polyester and spandex blend (28% spandex, 72% polyester) and are moisture-wicking, stretchy, supportive and quick-drying. A flat stitched seam system helps to avoid any unwanted chaffing and accentuates the form-fitting nature of the material.
Sturdy By Design leggings and capris share a supportive waistband that has a small pocket for a standard-sized phone, some cash and keys – which is an annoying way of saying that it won’t hold my Google Pixel 2 XL, but that’s what I get for getting a phone the size of a card machine.
A contentious point about this phone pouch is that it has a little fabric flap that covers the zip, keeping it away from view or feeling. Some runners will love this, because it adds to the sense of security and reduces the chance of keys and cash falling out, even if you’ve forgot to zip it up. Others (like myself) will find it to be an annoying feature that clashes with cold, mostly immobile hands and wet-weather conditions. Different folks, different strokes with this one.
When it comes to tactile appeal, these leggings feel friggin’ amazing. The material manages to keep everything in place and makes the body feel streamlined while also feeling wonderfully freeing and smooth.
In the gym this material feels great. On a run it allows for chafe-free leg motions and almost seems to augment one’s stride. In cold weather, however, the material does feel a bit thin and unforgiving, and this is where Sturdy By Design’s winter gear is a much-appreciated addition to the range.
I had absolutely no issue running with my Sturdy By Design leggings on roads and the amazing and clearly defined pattern of the leggings kept me visible and seemed to visibly brighten the day of everyone I encountered. All of this left me pretty happy with how my Sturdy leggings performed.
That is until my cat decided to thunk down on to my knee hard. The result was an unforgiving (read: devastating) hole in my leggings and blood noticeably pooling under the surface. Bummer. Mind you, these leggings aren’t made for animal encounters, and most activewear companies do warn against encounters of the clawed kind…
However, there have been times on the trails where I have had encounters with brambles, slipped on rocks, and made firm contact with nettles. If these leggings couldn’t withstand a cat landing on my lap, I was suddenly left wondering just how they’d perform out in the wild willies of Dorset.
That was strike one.
Strike two came during a Children’s Fitness qualification that I was participating in. While pretending to be 12 for one of my peer’s assessments, I skidded under a lady’s Sweaty Betty leggings and suddenly felt the familiar burn of friction as my unclawed knee met with the ground.
Taking a moment to leap up and look down at my African-inspired attire, I suddenly found that the impact of a single slide on the ground had worn the material of my legging to a noticeable degree. Curses.
One week with me and my pristine Sturdy By Design leggings had become as wild as their namesake suggested – full of tears, threadbare areas and scratches. I’ve never had this issue with any other leggings that I’ve worn and I was pretty bummed to see what would be a £34.99 pair of leggings in such a tired condition after such a short duration.
It’s because of this that I personally feel like the standard Sturdy By Design leggings are best kept for training runs, road races and light trails, rather than technical events or those where bramble and bushes are a high likelihood. They’d also have a place in the gym or during yoga and recovery sessions where you’ll feel like a comfortable and colourful trendsetter in a room of otherwise mostly black attire.
It’s a shame that this was the case, as I adored the Sturdy By Design… well… design, but alas some leggings just cannot stand the crazy adventures of this ultrarunner.
Sturdy By Design Bra (Wild Africa)
These bras are absolutely amazing, guys! Made with the same 28% spandex, 72% polyester breakdown, the Sturdy By Design bras opt for a scoop neckline and a racer-cut back. This makes them easy to put on and easy to remove.
Made to match the legging designs and available in sizes 8 to 24, the Sturdy By Design bras are probably some of the most comfortable and casual-feeling fitness bras I’ve ever worn. Despite this, my bra still managed to maintain a good amount of integrity while running, working out and sliding in between people’s legs as part of a Children’s Fitness session.
The material feels just as nice as the leggings and there was no uncomfortable chaffing or rubbing during use.
If I were to say anything against this bra it’s that it does feel a bit looser and perhaps less supportive than some of my other sports bras. This isn’t an issue for my rather humble mammary offerings, but those who are rocking a solid chest could potentially struggle with support.
These bras are also the ‘over the head’ type, which are always going to be the bane of anyone who has just had a sweaty session and/or stepped out of a shower but, hey-ho, that is what it is and isn’t a fault with Sturdy By Design bras alone. It’s more a general consideration when grappling with certain sports bra designs.
Sturdy By Design Winter Leggings (Winter Wild)
Oh my gosh, can I just take a moment to gush over the *gorgeous* design of these leggings! The striking stripes, the lightly lingering leopard print, all swimming in a sea of icy blues, subtle purples and tempting turquoise. Yes please.
There are so many different colours and charity run shirts that can pair with these leggings that it’s just impossible to recite them all from memory. My own charity vest, a blue Mind one, goes perfectly with them, and my brilliant red Bad Boy Running vest offers a complimentary contrast.
The same spandex and polyester breakdown is used for these leggings, but the material itself is made to be thicker. A slight crushed fleece inner lining is also included to add bulk and warmth to these leggings.
The result? These leggings are wonderfully protective in cold weather, if not a bit snugger in feel and a bit harder to shift up the legs and past the thighs and booty on first fitting.
The material feels just as pleasantly smooth, but you will always feel the support of this gear, as opposed to feeling like you’re running sans legwear – and I quite like this. These leggings aren’t compression gear, nor do they claim to be, but in sensation they offer a very similar sensation of ‘We got you on this run’, which is always appreciated.
Warmth-wise, these leggings got to have their debut at a day-long Outdoor Fitness assessment, where I was standing in the cold air for the best part of five hours with a torso that was chilled to the bone but legs that were snug as a bug in a rug.
They also withstood all the running, rolling, crawling, and scraping that occurred on this day, offering a more protective and durable performance than their non-winter counterparts. No matter what time of the year it is, I’ll probably be favouring the Sturdy By Design winter material for technical courses over their normal offering.
When all is said and done would I recommend Sturdy By Design as a range for runners?
There are a few logistical niggles and integrity concerns that mean Sturdy By Design aren’t my favourite leggings to wear, but its bras feel divine and its winter range offers an increased sense of protection and warmth that I have yet to find an equal for.
If you’re a road runner with crosstraining at the gym, then Sturdy By Design will almost always meet your needs, while catering for a variety of sizes and pattern choices.
If you’re more inclined to hit the trails, then there’s no reason you can’t still run Sturdy, just do be aware of the usual obstacles that trails might throw at you.
‘Sturdy’ doesn’t mean ‘invincible’ after all.