Face masks for exercise are set to go on sale in France from February 15, with two models available for running and winter sports.
Sports brand Salomon which created the masks, after 8 months of development, say they will allow people to exercise at intense levels without risk, as the material used uses top level filtration technology.
It said the mask fulfils “the health certification criteria linked to air flow, and the expulsion of Co2 produced by the athletes’ breathing.”
The World Health Organisation has previously advised against wearing masks during exercise, due to the risk of reduced breathing capacity.
Initially the masks are being aimed at high-level athletes, who need to continue training while remaining protected from Covid-19. Around 10,000 masks will be produced each month, with models retailing at €18.
Guillaume Meyzenc, a vice-president at Salomon, said they thought the ski lifts would be open this winter and they had started by thinking of making masks to be worn in the enclosed ski lifts.
"We also thought that even in an epidemic on the decline, organisers of trail runs and marathons could require competitors to wear masks," he said.
The masks include a little plastic grille between the mouth and the fabric which avoids the mask getting damp due to breathing out.
"Our tests have shown that you can run for 45 minutes at an average speed of 15km/h," he added.
More models coming for sports and workers
Salomon, based in Annecy, worked with textile designer Chamatex and the Zebra group to produce the masks.
Gilles Réguillon, president of Chamatex, said plans were in place to expand the range. He said: “We will expand this technology to other applications for all people who require performance and breathability. So for bike riding and racquet sports, but also certainly for other professions such as the restaurant industry and people who work in challenging environments.”
They plan to produce a mask for indoor gyms too.
Sporting goods retailer Decathlon announced in January it was working on a mask that could be worn during exercise, but has no release date for a product yet.
Fabric masks given high safety rating
The Salomon masks will be classed as category 1, meaning they offer the highest level of protection for fabric masks with 90% filtration.
Government ministers are now recommending that people in France only wear category 1 fabric masks to protect against the Covid-19 virus. But as fears over new, highly-contagious Covid variants, rise, people in France have reportedly been stocking up on FFP2 filter masks, which offer 94% filtration.
Sales director of pharmacy chain Lafayette, Pascal Fontain, told news source Le Figaro: “We are seeing a real transfer in mask buying. Today we hardly sell any fabric or surgical masks.
“In December we sold 3,000 FFP2 masks, and in January we sold 250,000.”
This has raised fears of stock shortages among some pharmacists. Gilles Bonnefond, president of pharmacist union USPO said: “If things continue like this, we could have a shortage. Manufacturers are not set up to supply the entire population.”
He suggested that if supplies started to run low, the State could reserve FFP2 masks for medical workers, as they did at the start of the health crisis. Due such measures FFP2 masks were only made available to the wider public from mid-July in France, four months after the first confinement began.
Prices for FFP2 masks have also fluctuated. At the height of the crisis, they were being sold for €10, but are now more commonly available for €1 or €2 each. This is still significantly more expensive than surgical masks.
Another key difference, Mr Bonnefond said, is that FFP2 masks protect the wearer, while category 1 masks protect others.