What’s our purpose for exploring the world of leg hair? The list is long — but we want to know whether or not that forest of hair that can be the bane of any woman’s or man’s existence is actually “much ado about nothing” in the Shakespearean sense as we search for a definitive answer to the question: Does leg hair impact running performance?
Our research efforts proved to be — well, hairy. But because lots of people have written about the benefits of shaving leg hair to improve speed, we dug out our extra special sleuthing credentials to unearth the truth. If you, your razor(s), depilatories and shaving gear are on the line, keep reading while your hair grows!
To shave or not to shave, that is the question for women
There’s no doubt that this subject can be touchy for women who were raised to believe that shaving isn’t just necessary but required if a girl is to move about in public without being compared to a primate.
Did the invention of the straight razor influence the underarm, body and leg hair removal trend? Not really.
The practice originated around 1915 when sleeveless dresses first made the fashion scene, rendering underarm hair persona non grata. Any U.S. girl without a razor could be subjected to ridicule despite the fact that her European and Asian sisters didn’t shave.
It wasn’t long before fashion dictated shaving legs as women started wearing nylon stockings. Have you seen what leg hair looks like when squashed into pantyhose? It’s not a pretty picture.
Have you met my caveman? This is a guy’s story
Keeping up with facial hair trends can be a daunting experience for guys. Beards are in. Clean shaving is out. Mustaches are all the rage. A barely-there 5-o’clock shadow is sexy. Shave it off or keep it on, guys are getting to be as finicky as women about their body hair — but it wasn’t until competitors seeking to win cycling titles came on the scene that dudes started shaving their legs to increase their speed.
Some runners bought into the myth and said, “If it works for cyclists, why not us?” Enter a new era of men fussing over their body hair in the belief that medals and titles would come their way if only they joined the shaved leg crowd.
So, where can the truth be found?
We’ve looked far and wide for actual numbers and statistics that prove men who shave their legs perform better on the fly, and frankly, we’re not convinced there’s enough evidence to recommend that guys enjoy all of the same “benefits” women have received over time: infected hair follicles, unsightly stubble and putting calves at risk for infection because there is no hair to act as a natural barrier.
Says Olympic coach Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D., ask a cyclist why he shaves and he’ll reply: Because if I crash, hair grabs more asphalt than a shaved calf.
Does this make sense? Not so much. But we did unearth plenty of advantages for runners who skip the razor:
- You’ll have more time to do what you love if you’re not always working to tackle the ongoing stubble on your body in the name of possibly picking up speed on the track.
- Nobody wears stockings or pantyhose anymore, so what’s the point of following this ancient fashion advice when stylish leggings won’t reveal the truth?
- Your significant other will fall in love with you all over again once there’s no more shaved hair clogging up sinks, tubs and drains. You might even save some money on drain cleaner and see less of your plumber.
- You’ll feel free, independent and perhaps the trailblazer in your crowd if you declare your independence from shaving and dare everyone to join you.
- Expect to save money on razors, blades and creams the shaving industry insists that you must buy or else!
- You can celebrate “No Shave November,” a fundraising campaign first organized by the American Cancer Society to pay tribute to those who fought their battle against the disease, lost their hair but won back their lives.
- Lower your risk of infections that can attack skin when close shaving leaves your follicles receptive to picking up bacteria and germs when you run in the great outdoors and especially on trails where there are more chances of falling.
- Dispel the myth that shaving makes one run faster! 90-percent of an athlete’s performance is conquering wind resistance – how can a bunch of leg hairs keep you from running your best race? After all, those little hairs are amazingly aerodynamic!
- Free yourself from the unfounded proposition that hairless legs equal faster runs, when in fact, says physiotherapist and ultra-marathoner Mark Green, 90-percent of all men who “shave for speed” are actually driven by vanity.
- Kiss razor burn goodbye once and for all. If your significant other can’t deal with your all-natural self, maybe you need a new love who’s totally turned on by body hair and seeking a free spirit who isn’t trying be anything but his or her authentic self!
Guys: What would you do if your honey said that she was going to stop shaving her legs?
Girls: What reaction would get from your guy if you made this announcement?