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).
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.
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.
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…