I am always amazed this time of year how the stats start bumping up at PlusRunner.  I’ve been live here for a couple of years, and without fail, every summer, there’s a mad dash to the site for people looking for plus-size triathlon apparel.

It’s not easy finding these items in your local multisport store, where most small box retailers don’t see the kind of foot traffic in “our” sizes to “justify” expanding the line.  I understand the concept of buying for the market, but it still smarts a bit when you find that you’re not quite a member of the club you know you’ve earned entry into.

So, with that in mind, welcome to the Plus Runner’s Third Annual Triathlon Apparel preview.  This is, largely, a web-based exercise.  There are rules for those of you who want to buy cute stuff in the right size, and it pays to keep them in mind:

1) Try to buy with enough time to return something if it doesn’t fit.

2) Look for technical quality if you’re going to spend some cash.  For us, that means: flat seams to reduce chafing, technical fabrics which dry quickly, and for tri shorts, silicone or similar leg grippers and multi-panel construction (multi-panel means the short is more likely to move with you – and not tear or rip if it’s overstressed.) 

3) If this is your first season, and you have a budget, buy things you will use again if you stay interested in one of the sports – but maybe not all three. That means rent a wetsuit if you can, and focus on sportsbras, shoes, and shorts which will be re-used if you’re cycling or running. 

So, for this season, a few old favorites and a few new finds.  My favorite manufacturers are, in no particular order, Danskin, Nike, and Pearl Izumi (which I actually haven’t featured here today).   Secondary favorites include Junonia and Athleta.  And finally, Aerotech Designs makes a plus-size tri short and suit which you can use, but reader feedback has been mixed (sizes are very large, and the pad can feel diaper-esque). 

Tri Shorts

Danskin makes two different shorts which tend to sell out rather quickly each year.  Offered in a Size XL and XXL, their sizing starts where Zoot ends.  Both a 5″ and 7″ inseam short are offered, and this season’s have (as always) a contrasting panel on the sides of the legs which looks super cute and coordinates with all of their other apparel.

Danskin has long been an advocate in the triathlon market for women becoming more active, and their size offerings reflect their commitment to the idea that plus-size women can use triathlon to be more fit.  They also sell a variety of shorts at Wal-Mart (though that line tends to be more “light active” with cotton, etc.)

Danskin’s Triathlon Short Blocked 5″ Print Style – compression style, flat seams, drawstring waist, mesh pockets, and silicone grippers.  Retails for $48, but some sale items at $24.    They also offer a 7″ inseam solid black style, (which is what I wear, and love).  Finally, for those who need more room than Danskin can provide, check out Aerotech’s tri shorts – up to Size 5X.

Danskin's 5" short

If you’re doing a short race and don’t need a chamois (and by short, I mean most sprint triathlons, where you will be on the bike for less than an hour) I would recommend purchasing a standard compression short.  These shorts can be used for anything you want to do that’s active – particularly walking and running – and you will wear them for years.  Moving Comfort offers, I think, the best short in this market right now for our size (even Nike only offers a longer walking short – which can be far too warm on the hottest days of summer). 

Moving Comfort for Women Compression Short – available in size 1X and 2X.  $38, flat seams, wide no elastic waistband, and 9″ length.  For larger sizes, I recommend Junonia’s compression short.


Finally, if you’re not thrilled with wearing compression shorts for an entire race, check out some of the great butt-covers on the market this year.  Athleta offers a CYA skrit in a 1X and 2X in both print and black; ($39) Terry offers its Wrapper ($50), and Danskin also offers one.


Terry Wrapper – $50, Good prints, and this stuffs in your bike bag for quick toss-on after a ride or workout. 










The top question plagues us all every year.  Working backwards from the run, many of us plus-size women can’t possibly complete a 3-26 mile run without a bra.  I mean, I like minimizing equipment, but this is one I can’t live without.  I’ve talked plenty about bras elsewhere in this site, so I’m not going to do it here, except to remind you to SKIP THE COTTON.  Oh, and BodyGlide all around for a triathlon.

But, working backwards, if you need to wear a bra, you’re likely going to have to also swim in that bra – because there’s no point in losing 10 minutes trying to delicately put it on in Transition (wet. in a hurry. Yeah, right?).  So, assume you’re going to be in a bra.  Then, if you’re going to be in a wetsuit, you need to have on the lightest tank you can get your hands on.  Typically, these are second-skin, swimsuit-type tops for the skinny and regular size girls out there. 

If you want to wear a more body-hugging tank (either alone without a wetsuit or underneath one) you can buy the Danskin top featured below.  I have never worn this only becuase I’m a bit conscious of the winter survival pack which I wear around the midsection which somehow always seems to last through the summer (see tire, spare.)  But if you’re not body-conscious, or you just don’t care (something I advocate but in this case can’t do myself), try this:

Danskin’s Tri Top $52, mesh inserts, shelf bra, flat seams, back stash pocket for your Gu.

New Balance Lightweight Tank (up to 2X)

New Balance has offered quite a selection lately because of its affiliation with the Susan G Komen and Avon 3 Day programs, and we’re better for it.  Though the sizes only cover up to a 2XL, their lightweight tank is a good option if you’re looking for something to throw on after the swim – or even wear in the water.  It’s much lighter, for example, than the Nike counterpart.  There are several more to choose from if you don’t like this style – simply do your own apparel search at New Balance in your size.

Junonia’s Quick Wick Tank – less body-fitting, very cute, and would be great for yoga. Not sure of the fabric weight – looks heavy to me. 








Nike’s Border Tennis Tank  – $45

This is a tank that will have plenty of room, wick well, and look good.  I’ve now got three of the Nike tops and I love their weight and look.  They’ll be a bit bulky on the swim, so if you’re going for this one, assume you’re swimming in just your sportsbra.  For a closer fit, check out the Dedication Long Top, which you could wear in the water.

And for now, kids, that’s it for this preview.  Let me know what you think – do you want more options? More color? More sizes?  What are you wearing this summer?  Let me know – and get moving!

See you on the path…

30 thoughts

  1. Hi Sallie! I just wanted to add something about aerotech’s tri shorts. I purchased those recently after hearing about them from you, because I am still not too comfortable squeezing into a 2x.
    I like them fine (first tri shorts I ever owned, so don’t have anything to compare them with) but I would caution people: they do NOT have a drawstring.
    I wore these on my first “Try-athlon” (yes, try, with a y, lol! It was just for fun) and the swim was only 200 yards, but I had to stop ever 25 to pull them up.
    I will be wearing these at a sprint tri this summer, but I will be sewing my own drawstring into them first. It was one problem in a swimming pool to just stop and pull them up, but I definitely don’t need my shorts falling off in the middle of a lake halfway through a 500 meter swim! 🙂

    Also, it’s true, these shorts run very big. I wish I had bought at least one size smaller, if not two sizes smaller. I went off my measurements, but since I’ve lost 80 pounds so far I’m very…squishy. I can comfortably fit in clothes a size smaller than the size charts recommend, if there’s some stretch to them. oh well! I’m waiting until next year to buy a smaller pair. For now, these will do. I loved them on the bike! 🙂

    1. Thanks Becca!!! I’m bummed to hear they were falling down but glad to hear you have a fix!!!!

      Super congrats on what sounds like an amazing journey! The question is, will you try again? 🙂

      1. Sallie, OF COURSE! I’ll totally “tri” again! ❤ I'm planning to try an olympic distance tri next summer, and I'll definitely need new shorts for that since this summer's shorts are already too big. 🙂
        This year is the year of the sprint tri, tons of 5k's, and a half marathon.
        Next year will be the olympic tri, and a full marathon.

        The sad part is, I'm only doing the runs so I can get those stickers for my car. In September I can get a 13.1 sticker, and NEXT September I can replace it with a 26.2 sticker. Then I can stop the crazy long running and go back to what I enjoy, the sprint-distance tris. ❤

  2. Sooooo….whatcha got in 3X and 4X? Whatcha got for us pear-shaped 3X women with big asses and small boobs?

    1. Darla – great question!
      For the shorts I recommend the Aerotech designs as indicated in the post…per the comments you may want to sew in a drawstring…for the tops either the Nike shirts (which run to a 3x) or the Junonia tank I highlighted (up to a 5x) stand as my recommendations…

  3. Love racer back tanks (very cute). Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find enough support in a racer back style bra. Suggestions?

    1. Ah, Marianne – the racerbacks are great, but I’ll never be someone who can wear them without another bra underneath 🙂 I was recently talking to one friend who said she had worn three different bras on race day to lock herself down. Now, I think that’s a bit extreme. I got over the bra straps a few years ago and just made sure to always buy a black bra and just deal with the straps…..it’s not ideal, but then again, what is? 🙂

      1. I hear ya, not a chance I’ll run bra-less! Three is more than I could stand, and two is too much for the summer here in Pensacola. Black is a good idea, I’m going with that and racerback tanks. Folks say black holds in heat, but me, I say hot is hot no matter what color the bra! Happy running!

  4. Sallie-

    Thank you so much for this website, just found it today! I am registered for my first triathlon in August and had been feeling a bit discouraged at my swim workshop with a superfit female coach and 2 buff male triathletes and then there’s me at 5’5″ 175 lbs. Hadn’t even figured out yet if I will wear a wetsuit b/c I wasn’t sure if I could find one to fit me. At least I can already float pretty well since my hips just bob me to the surface like a cork 🙂 You have some great links and resources to help me prepare and figure out what the heck to wear on race day. Thanks so much, keep it coming!! Kim

    1. Hey Kim sorry for the super delay here. How is training going??? Have you found something good to wear?

      The apparel issue is tough – but sometimes, getting your coaches to realize how much you’re working can be even harder! Just remember – it’s your race and you have to feel good at the finish to EVER want to do it again.

      Let me know what you’ve decided and keep us posted on the final decisions for apparel (and the race!)


  5. Hello! Thank you for all of this info! I am PANICKING. I don’t know if you will see this any time soon, but my triathlon is August 7th and the tri suit I purchased had a lot of potential, but just is not going to work. I am down to the wire. It was an XXL Louis Garneau. I could barely get it on, but in addition to that, the compression shorts were ridiculous. My legs looked like sausages. I am a size 18/20 plus… I’m noticing on Danskin there is a difference between 18/20 Women’s and Plus. When I went to their Plus page, not much was coming up. In fact, no tops came up. So I guess I’m writing to see if you can just say, “Jen, go and buy this shirt and these shorts.” Lol. I thought a suit would be better, but now I’m thinking I can do a shirt and short. I do have a moving comfort bra that I intend to wear under the tank. It’s a sprint, so I don’t think I need the padded short. I’m going to go look at your short recommendations and see if there are any that I can order today. I was just bummed that the Danskin tanks were almost gone, and I would like to buy the black one with a flower on it in XXL… but I am worried it won’t fit. Do you think the Women’s XXL is an option for me? Thanks for any help. So happy there are a few of us out there! I was feeling pretty alone there for a minute!

    1. Hi Jen!
      Okay, first things first – deep breath.
      If you are an 18/20 plus, you will fit into the Danskin shorts, and NOT the ones marketed to Plus – use the link I have here for the all black ones ($52) or do a search and order it in an XXL. It’s a compression short you can use to cycle all year, or run – it has virtually NO padding, and yet it’s good for the triathlon and everyday. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go big for the shorts,

      Second, as for tops, I would not recommend the DAnskin tank unless you’re super self-conscious. I’m more of an 18 on top, 20 on bottom, and the Danskin tops are GLUED on to me. It makes for an easy swim because there’s no drag, but you are going to want to put something on (my guess) for the bike and run and then you’ll be super hot.

      So…my recommendation: buy this short – have it Fedexed or call them directly to place the order.

      Second, on the top:
      1) Swim in the MC bra. Bodyglide up 🙂 Find a tank that works. Do a test swim in the water and see how it goes. If you like it, great. If you don’t, ask yourself if you’re okay with people seeing you coming out of the water in a bra for a couple of minutes – it’s a fair question. If you’re okay, then that’s great! No shopping required.

      2) If you want a tank top, consider the Nike Victory Top – on sale at Nordstrom right now. (You can get 2 day delivery). Also check around – price isn’t great at Nike.com ($46) but it’s on sale at Nordstrom (though only in the 1X). The size chart is here:http://www.nike.com/nikeos/p/nikewomen/en_US/commerce?p=PDP&pid=336776&pgid=429654&cid=101101#?ll=en_US&ct=US. It’s on sale in a 1x here or you can get it in regular price here. (in three colors, all sizes, $46).

      3) Alternative top option #3 – get creative with a Rash Guard from Land’s end. No, it’s proably not what you expected, but it’s made to be in the water and dry quickly, and hopefully with that high neck it won’t have too much drag. Throw it on over your bra and you’re set?

      I checked in at Target and they don’t have any shorts that will work in the C9 section.

      Finally, a lot of people like the Aqua Suit stuff by Junonia (check on the links for Junonia on the right rail of the main landing page on my blog). They run a bit big, though, and I would recommend Danskin’s shorts over Junonia’s for support and quality – but if you just want a simple swim tank, they’ll work -just order down a size.

      I’ve also looked at TeamEstrogen, Athleta, Zoot, and Aerotech Designs, and REI and there’s just nothing else out there for an XXL top, so I think this (or, frankly, another cheap, wicking tank you have in your drawer!) are your best bets…

      Let me know what you try, and good luck next week!!!!

      1. thank you so much for your help! i was worried i wouldn’t hear from you in time, so i had ordered the danskin shorts and tri tank. i just tested them in the pool this morning. both size xxl… the shorts fit better than the tank. however, they both worked surprisingly well in the pool! i’m trying the bike and run portion tomorrow in preparation for the big day next sunday. the tank is long enough, it’s just skin tight, as you had mentioned. the entire outfit is black except for a pretty blue flower on the hip/side tummy, so i can deal with it. i’m even considering not wearing the moving comfort bra i have. that’s part of what i will try tomorrow. i am a 40DD and the tank was holding things in place and with coverage for the swim today. i will try it on a practice run tomorrow to see what i think. i’ll post again in case it helps anyone else decide. thank you! i’m loving this site! 🙂

      2. Okay, Jen – so how was the bike and run portion? Sounds like you’ve got it figured out? If you’re only doing a 5k, you might be fine? I just know I’d knock myself out without a bra, but that’s me 🙂

        Good luck next weekend – if you need a checklist, do a quick search on the site – there’s a great race day checklist which might help?


  6. Sal (and your readers) – Skirt sports also has tri tops and shorts (in 2 lengths) and a tri skirt belt skirt that come in sizes up to XXL. I had their tank and tri shorts for my first sprint tri last year and I loved them. Reasonably priced too (you can find them cheaper sometimes on swimoutlet.com). I think they are good starter pieces for people just dipping their proverbial toe into triathlon. Best of luck all!

  7. Thank you. I’m much less panicky now after reading your posts. I’m doing my first sprint tri this September and was ready to quit after searching for clothes that (will never) work. Your information here is invaluable and I’m so greatful you have done all this work and shared it with us. You are amazing!

    1. Dear Miss Baker!
      First, glad to have helped avoid panic – panic sucks! Second, there are plenty of options with a little planning…just have a go at some of the links and see what works for you….sending you great thoughts!


  8. Thank you so much for this site. Last year I did 3 sprint triathlons in my bathing suit, bike shorts, and cotton tank…and that combo did everything you said they would 🙂

    Can you comment on the Junonia racer tankini top? I am having the same issues with the top for the pool. I have read your comments – the site is very helpful.

    1. Hi Katie!
      I just realized from your link that the Junonia tank I’d linked to is sold out – so thanks for redirecting me! The racer tankini top – looks good and definitely has a lot of coverage. But if it were me, I’d save my $69.00 (!) and buy something a bit smaller. Why? Well, when you’re swimming, the last thing you want to feel is that your bathing suit is floating up around you. (And Junonia’s stuff runs really big and wide). I’m 5’8″ and that top, at 27″ long, would cover well past my stomach and would be a lot of extra fabric – not all of it working to my advantage.
      If you are smaller than a 4X, I would probably order Nike’s top instead. You can get it direct from Nike here: http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/?sitesrc=uslp=l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-100701/pid-336776/pgid-429654&sitesrc=usns_share_link or, if it were me, I’d probably get the one with a bit more coverage: http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/?sitesrc=uslp=#l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-434576/pgid-362976. Why Nike? Well…I have two of their shirts and I like the look and the fabric. It’s lighter than swim fabric and dries quickly. And it doesn’t feel like I’m wearing a tent 🙂

  9. Hi Sallie! I just wanted to thank you so much for providing this resource! I’m signed up for my first triathlon in October (a sprint) and I was really not at all sure what to expect, or what I should wear. I picked up a pair of Moving Comfort compression shorts, the Nike tank, and the CYA skirt, so hopefully all of those will work out. (If not, I have six weeks, so plenty of time to try out something else.) Thank you so much!

    1. Rachel, how did it all go? I’m SOOO behind on comments – let me know – I’m particularly interested in the CYA!!!!

  10. Hi! I am training for my first sprint Triathlon in October, and have been using your site as a reference. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the awesome info. I did my first open water swim today wearing the pants and tank I got from New Balance. Everything worked out great, but I am concerned how they will hold up being wet and getting through the rest of the race. I decided to go with the New Balance running capri (
    http://www.shopnewbalance.com/women/apparel/pants-and-tights/running/WRP1133 ) because I am concerned about shorts riding up…my legs and butt are HUGE. In your opinion, do you think I should go ahead and get some shorts? Also, do what kind of underwear do you recommend? I am training with 3 “regular” sized girls, and although they try to give me suggestions, it gets embarrassing after awhile saying “they don’t have my size”. I know they just want to help me and are not passign judgement, it’s just my own insecurities.

    1. Oh Kelly – I’ve been so busy that I fear I missed you – for future reference, skip the undies on a triathlon – too much stuff. If you can find them (and depending on your size) you can try: Ex Officio XXL (look online), REI’s XLs (run big) or XXLs (order online and check, send back what doesn’t fit).

      Also, for an everyday running brief that stays up, (random) try Nordstrom’s Shimera (just not the low bikini option). Nice fabric, not wicking but not cotton, won’t roll. And in lots of Plus sizes. Not cheap, but worth it!

  11. Excellent info. Thanks! Seems silly you can’t get naked to change in the transition area. Isn’t it just an open air locker room?? I’m going to try the Danskin tri top and short. It’s just too cute to pass up. We’ll see how I feel about the sausage casing effect. I’m 16/40DD on top and 18 on bottom so ordered XL and XXL respectively. THe sprint tri is April 21. It’s my first. Shouldn’t they have an Amazon class for 200+? Athena will have to do.

    1. Thanks for the note! I think you’ll be fine in the Danskin – and YES they should have an Amazon class. Love it! Good luck on the 21st and enjoy the training!!!!!

  12. So I’m doing a sprint triathlon in a few weeks but the swim is indoors, no wetsuits. There isn’t really a changing area for transition so I need to be able to wear the same thing on the bike. Plus, it’s still going to be chilly probably. Any suggestions? I’m not sure how quickly a regular swimsuit would dry off while on the bike and afraid it being wet would get me freezing. Oh and to really make it a challenge, I’m trying not to spend too much as we’ve already gone way over budget for this race. Thanks for any help!

    1. Hi Jennifer –

      I would probably wear an old pair of compression shorts and a sports bra in the pool. I assume the bike is outside, with the run? Not sure how cold it will be where you are going to be – but would recommend a good towel off after the swim, and then a wicking top (something poly, long sleeved) and maybe a vest for the bike? Give me an idea of how cold it is there – that’s going to determine what you need to do outside? Sorry for not being more helpful!

      1. I don’t have an old pair of compression shorts and am definately not just wearing a sports bra in the pool. I need to be covered. The race is in virginia. Mornings right now have been under 50 degrees. However, since it’s a wave start it looks like I probably won’t be in the pool till around 9:30/10am, then to the bike (outside), so maybe it won’t be as much of an issue as I’m worried about. There are several downhills in the beginning, which makes me worried that the breeze will get me pretty cold, but I guess I’ll warm up shortly after that and it won’t matter too much. Do you think a wicking top would help take out the water if I just wear a swimsuit and sports bra under it? I’m also wondering if wearing the swimsuit underneath would cause any issues while riding the bike.

      2. Meant to say I do have a new pair of bike shorts though, but they are mens (only ones I could find at Dick’s that fit). They seem to fit fine, but would swimming in them be a problem? My original plan was just to swim in my swimsuit and sports bra (though not sure if that is truly necessary since I won’t really be running- what do you think? I’m a C cup), then put on the bike shorts and a shirt (or 2). Trying also to figure out the difference between compression and bike shorts. Do I need compressions shorts or will the men’s bike shorts I have work well enough?
        Thanks again.

  13. Dear Girls,
    I’m really loving this site, I’m in the UK so not sure about the sizes you are talking about. I have a month till my first tri and panicking a bit about what to wear as don’t seem to be loosing any weight. Around my girls, 45″, Waist 42″, hips 50″. Any suggestion from anyone most welcome.

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