What to Wear

A note about this page, and links on this blog! This page is general advice and a snapshot of what you might wear to start running or cross training as a plus-size athlete.  

Big Girls have extra issues when it comes to running, hiking, biking, or doing anything active.

We need clothes that cover our bodies, but don’t make us look like King Tut.

We like cute colors, and a fit that makes us feel as active as we are.  We need bras that eliminate excessive staring by the opposite sex.  And we absolutely abhor Thigh Wedgies.  And Chafing.

But getting started as a new runner, or walker, can be confusing, annoying, depressing, and downright mean.   Stores typically don’t carry running clothing in our size – and when they do, it’s pretty limited in terms of style and fit.  I’ve been an advocate of online shopping for Big Girls for awhile, but when it comes to running gear, it’s really a great way to shop.

When I started this blog in 2008, there wasn’t much to be found in the way of apparel for plus-size athletes. My, how times have changed!  Today you can purchase quality plus-size running apparel from Nike, Zella, Moving Comfort, and other, less well-known names.  Athleta stocks a variety of apparel for yoga and casual wear. And SheBeast offers a full line of true, plus-sized triathlon apparel.

But if you’re new to working out, where do you start?  A few lessons:

WICKING FABRIC IS A BIG GIRL’S BEST FRIEND.

What is wicking? Simple: it is a fabric that is specially treated, or constructed, to take the sweat from your body, and to push it to the outside air, causing it to evaporate.  Wicking keeps you cool, and dry.  It keeps you from getting chafed (when two sweaty thighs rub together, for example), which may be the first, and worst, problem most Big Girls experience when they run.

How do you know if a fabric “wicks”?  Every brand (Nike, Moving Comfort, Danskin) has their own technology, named something different.  Look for anything with the word “Dri” or “Dry” or even “Active”  – you get the idea.  ALL of these fabrics are made with a type of polyester.  And, when in doubt, avoid cotton (which absorbs water, but just keeps it on your body, which doesn’t help at all.)

Does EVERYTHING have to wick? Yes.  Your bra, shirt, shorts and socks MUST NOT be made of cotton.  Panties are a personal choice – I’ve worn cotton, but find a wicking panty helps keep things cool.  (Moving Comfort offers these).

BUILD WITH THE BASICS

Spend Your Dough on Your Shoes.  Your shoes will determine if you stick it out as a runner.  They will prevent injuries (if they’re the right shoe for you), cushion your knees, correct your foot strike, and be your best friends.  If it’s available in your area, you should go to a local running store (even if you’re a walker) and find the best shoe for you.  Don’t be afraid to tell them your price limit, or your concerns.  The store folks will watch you run or walk, and will put you in a shoe that will get you moving.

I can’t say it enough: This is the most important piece of “startup” equipment you will buy.  Take it seriously!

Spend What’s Left On Your Breasts.  Yes, we like to joke about it, but running as a Big Girl has some unique constraints.  Moving Comfort and Enell are the two most common providers for Big Girls.   Personally, I recommend the Moving Comfort Maia and Fiona bras (which are not as, um “over the shoulder boulder holder” as the Enell) – but really, it’s a matter of taste.

Click here for Moving Comfort’s Bra Finder service.

 

Eliminate the excuse and order up a pair of  compression Shorts

Also known as “bike shorts”, these are typically black, lycra shorts with an inseam over 5″ which protects your legs from creating Your Personal Forrest Fire when you run.  I’ve tried to run in “regular” running shorts, but really, no one over a size 12 does that. It’s just not possible.

 

 

 

Sleeveless and Short-Sleeved Shirts

If you’re like me, you’d like to run in something that doesn’t show your bra straps, but also doesn’t feel like a tent. You’d like a little room to feel a breeze, without showing the world a roll.  And this is where personal preference really comes into play.

Searching for a simple, plus-sized sleeveless running top, that fits your shoulders and chest, that you can wear on a variety of other sports?  I like REI’s OXT (Outdoor Cross Training) line.  The clothes fit well, and come in a variety of colors.  (I have several and use them to hike AND run. )  Also, REI frequently runs sales at www.reioutlet.com .

 

Best All-Around Plus Sized Shops

Finally, if you’d like to look around, and do your own shopping (and who doesn’t?) I offer you the following links.

REI’s Extended Sizes Collection for Plus Sized, Active Women

Nike’s Plus Size Line at Macy’s

Moving Comfort for Women

Terry Bicycles’ Plus Sized Active Collection

Team Estrogen

 

29 thoughts on “What to Wear

  1. Thanks so much for this website. I am “learnng” how to run and am on the big side and it’s been a trial trying to find the perfect thing to run in. I have bookmarked your site.

    Thanks again

    • Misty –
      Glad you’re here! If you’re getting started, glad I could help! Keep us posted on your progress!
      Sallie

  2. Thanks so much for this article. I am trying to get started running and thought lack of motivation would be my first problem, but didn’t expect the clothes to be my first big issue. Thanks again for the guidance!!

    Anna

  3. LOVE your website! I love to say “I’m the fittest fat person you’ll ever meet,” and “not just skinny people run, you know.” Gear tip: Walmart (yes, you heard me right) carries amazing capri-length wicking-fabric reversable pants. In fact all the Danskin fitness wear they carry is GREAT.

    • Kathie! Thanks so much for the post – and you’re RIGHT! WalMart does offer some great wicking stuff – some of it is Danskin, and it’s absolutely affordable and cute! After your email I looked around online to Target and Kohls, and none of them come close to offering what Wal Mart does – thanks SO much for the lead!!!!

  4. Also check out some of the stuff at Target, I get Champion capris from there with the back pocket, etc for $20, I think. I also sometimes hit the men’s shirts for the tech shirts, they tend to be a bit longer then the women’s tops. not as cute, but I have been happy.. Also, JCPenny is sometimes the biggest score for me. They have decent plus sizes and not bad prices.

  5. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! I just started training for my 1st 1/2 marathon and have used all of your advice. The clothes made all the difference. Thank you for putting it all out there for us!

    • Cristina,
      Thanks for the note! I’m SO glad you’re happy with the advice – don’t forget Body Glide, too 🙂 Wishing you the best of luck in your first race!!!!

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you….
    Two days ago I started running for the first time in my life.
    I’ve got the really good shoes (reebok) and a really good bra (bought at Bravissimo, bras for big girls, brilliant store!), but I was lacking the right clothes.
    Got a tee and a capri cotton (I’m ashamed to say) thing, but I can’t find anything good in a size 20/22!
    It’s as if big people who want to loose weight or just keep fit, don’t have to exercise! And if we really have to….we can do it in our birthday suit or something!
    So thank you for this information!

    • KC –
      I hear ya – but maybe it’s me, but I don’t really like what Junonia offers – but that’s probably a fashion preference. I find their stuff isn’t really technical – and it is awfully “tent-y”…but you pay like it is really well designed…Perhaps it’s because when I started to get moving, I was doing so much “endurance” stuff, I just found that their gear wasn’t all that – no flat seams, not the best materials, etc. For triathlon gear, they’re about the only place to go, but for other apparel, I think there are far better choices out there…again, it’s a preference thing, right? I do have a link to them on the main page though..

  7. plusrunner, you are amazing. ive been running 2 years now, but never can find good gear. got an enell bra i hate cause it is torture to put on. now i’m triathloning – 2 upcoming and panicking about what to wear, your site was a godsend. i need bike shorts cause my ass hurts every time i cycle, and you have solved my problems! one note – ive ordered the XL stuff from land’s end in their performance fabric, and it fits and wicks well – and i’m between a 1x and 2x normally. thanks again!!

    • Laura,
      Thanks so much!!!! I’m SO glad the site is helpful! Trust me, I know how hard it is, and if I hadn’t been where you are (mutliple times, for many years) I wouldn’t have been able to do this! If you’re between a 1X and a 2X, I HIGHLY recommend the Danskin tri shorts – I was at a 2X last year and they worked fine for me, and they worked fine for my smaller friends as well – they’re super easy, longer inseam, PERFECT.

      I’m with you on Land’s End – I’ve tried their tops and I really like them but I haven’t found any bottoms that I like yet…I’ll have to check them out!! You’re right on, though, they’re one of the few who’s making performance tops and bottoms for plus-size women!

      Good luck with your races and let me know how they go???

      Sallie

  8. I was stoked to see your website, I have struggled to find nice looking, nice fitting exercise gear for AGES!!!!
    I have however discovered that NIKE (once I found a whole bunch of stuff I wanted on their site) only offer larger sizes in the US (the Aus site goes up to L only)!?!??!!? And of course they do not offer international shipping!!!

    So pissed off, just emailed Nike Australia to let them know how annoyed I am!!!!

    BUT great website, I will be checking in regularly!

    • Yes! I have found that the Ultimate Direction packs have a “friendlier” extender for a waist pack – you can’t wear them around your hips, but you can wear them around your waist, up to (I would guess, the sizing isn’t online) a 44″ waist. This is the pack I wear, but you can also go with a handheld for shorter (non-half marathon) distances. http://www.ultimatedirection.com/product.php?id=16&page=waistpacks

      You might also consider a camelback. I know a few women and men who’ve always run with one, and it eliminates the waist sizing issue. There are a number of really light camelbacks out there now, (look for something with a 1.5 liter or less bladder), or, again, you can always go with a handheld. The key with the handheld is you want to wrap your palm around the bottle, so it’s just an extension of you. I like the Fuel Belt 8 oz. or 10 oz. bottle with the mini pocket – but you won’t have any room for a hotel room key or anything in the pocket…

  9. Great resource Sallie! I want to throw in another bra recommendation: The Frog Bra by Title 9 (http://www.titlenine.com/). I hate to bounce and this one does the trick without making me feel like I have a thousand pounds of bra on. Love love love it. Keep running and keep writing, you rock!

  10. As a medium-sized person with plus-sized ya-yas, I want to thank you for providing the link to Moving Comfort. Bras — exercise and otherwise — are always an issue for gals like me.

  11. I see one link for underwear, but do you know of any others? The moving comfort sizing only goes up to a 16- not sure that would work for me. I generally wear underwear a size smaller than my normal clothing (I’m a 20), but am not sure that would be wise to do with the technical fabrics. I’ve used just plain cotton underwear bikini style for years with no problems, but the kind I normally get just changed their design and now I get– well I won’t go into it, but it’s not pretty. I am in the middle of training for a marathon and am dreading my long run this weekend if I can’t find something else that works. Any ideas??

    • Christy –
      You can check out REI – their XL fit up to a size 20, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the size charts. Look here.

      I think the REI style (which I picked up this fall) is essentially the same fabric Moving Comfort used to use, except a) they fit me now and b) they do stay up. They make both a bikini and a “full” brief. In my unscientific review of the sizing in December at REI, the REI size XL was larger than the Ex Officio XL.

      If you go direct to Ex Officio’s site, however, they have sizes up to a 3XL (or so the size chart says). You can find the Bikini Brief here. up to a 2XL (I’ve worn these to run in and hike in, etc. for years and they work well for me); and they also offer a boycut and a full brief.

      This is the second question I’ve had this week on underwear! Thanks for asking – full post to follow soon!!

      Finally, if you’re willing to take a chance, you might try Patagonia’s Women’s Active Brief. I bought an XL of these in December also, and though they too should, by no means fit, they are okay (though admittedly I’m not doing long runs in them). The fabric is a dream.

  12. Thank you so much! I’m training for a half marathon and just went for my first run in shorts… oh my gosh, the chafing! I’m so glad to have this resource so that I don’t have to feel that “fire” again!

    • Natalie –
      You’re welcome!!! The chafing – definitely invest in the shorts – and some Body Glide (any running store!) Body Glide around seams and on the thighs – it’s the best. invention. ever. 🙂

  13. Great info and we totally agree about heat gear–stuff that cools you down. Something I did when I was over 250 (really still do) is wear the guys under armour–I think they are changing it and it won’t work as well–but if all else fails get the guys stuff.

    I live in the deep fried south and well … I have taken to wearing wicking shorts under EVERYTHING! 😀 I enjoyed your post. Followed you over from Jenn. 😀

    • Tara –
      If you mean a plus size 28, in general that’s going to be a 4X, I think; you can try Junonia (www.junonia.com) for compression tights the recommendation for compression tights you can try Junonia (though they don’t run long); or Target Champion plus size (http://www.target.com/p/Womens-Plus-Size-C9-by-Champion-Ebony-Fitted-Pant-with-Extended-Sizes/-/A-12219548#?lnk=sc_qi_detailbutton) as an example of their yoga pant, or do a regular search on their site for plus size apparel, as they frequently offer a compression tight and a capri.

      Climbing gear – I have no idea. I’m not a climber, unfortunately. Climbing apparel? Try Junonia again.

      Hiking gear – REI stocks a whole plus size line, up to a 26; or you can check out LL Bean or Columbia, all of which stock plus size apparel for active living.

      Hope that helps…

  14. So excited to have found this site! I’ve just started “jogging” to become healthier/loose weight. I bought a pair of cute running shorts… it didn’t take long to figure out that those are not going to work for me right now, lol. Between being paranoid about them being a tad shorter than I’m used to I had the whole “Personal Forrest Fire” going on down there, then the whole thigh wedgie… it was not pretty. haha

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