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. It is an original (and sometimes the links expire). If they don’t work, please try any of the “Shop Here” links on the right rail to find something similar from the manufacturers listed below. For additional guidance on fall apparel, see Plus Runner’s Guide to Fall Apparel…for “the basics”, read on! Also, for Triathlon clothing for plus-size athletes, see the Spring 2012 Guide to 2012 Apparel (including shopping advice); or the Summer 2011 Guide to Plus Size Triathlon Clothing; or the original, Plus Size Triathlon Clothing post (circa 2009) for manufacturers and ideas!
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.
Here, then is a list of recommended “getting started” clothing for new runners. These are selected after YEARS of experience (trust me, I’ve tried them all). For our purposes, I’ll refer to all of us as “Runners” – even if you’re walking, run/walking, or just think you’re a “jogger”. Our needs are the same, regardless of how fast, or how far, we go.
But before, two general tips for purchasing new clothing:
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.
(LEFT) Maia Bra $46.00 (you can find it on sale if you search the web). Click here to order from MCW.
(CENTER) Enell Bra $64.00 (again, search the web and you may find it cheaper elsewhere). Click here to order from Enell.
Okay, now you’re ready to purchase. What else do you need?
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.
Recommendations for Big Girls:
Nike Nike carries shorts up to a Size XXL, equivalent to a 20-22. I’ve worn their “Perfect Fit” Capris, Shorts, and Pants for two seasons, and the shorts are long enough to stay put, have a great small pocket in the back for your keys, and the waistband is super comfy. Great for running any distance. And, let’s be honest. Nike’s stuff is kinda cute.
DETAILS: Nike Dri-Fit Be Strong Women’s Shorts – $40.00 Click here to order. (The Be Strong Fit is designed as a mid-rise short, with flat seams so you won’t chafe, and a wide waistband to support the stomach and flatter the junk in the trunk. It replaces the previous short I featured here.)
NOTE: These are not “typical” compression shorts in that they are slightly “looser” and have a bit less spandex. If you prefer a “lock and load” feel with your shorts, order the MCW ones, below.
Other Nike XXL shorts can be found here if you’re looking for other options!
Through December 22nd, click below for FREE SHIPPING!
Moving Comfort MCW (Moving Comfort for Women) offers a kick-butt compression short that, too, looks just like the ones Little Girls wear. All of my friends wear this short, which has a subtle “hold it in place” addition along the hem to keep the legs from riding up. Great for running any distance.
DETAILS: MCW Peak Fitness Short – $15.00 (on clearance, only Size 3X left). Click here to order. (Feel free to shop around online to a variety of stores – you do not have to order direct from MCW for these!)
**Note: Moving Comfort will be reducing it’s stock of 3X apparel beginning in October 2009 - they will NOT be manufacturing anything in that size anymore. So if you see something you like, invest now! Prices are right and the clearance items can’t be beat.
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 .
DETAILS: REI’s OXT Tech Tee – Short Sleeved – $24.50 Click here to order.
**Join REI for life, for $15 (trust me, it’s worth it, and you get a dividend each year). Ship to your local REI store for free!
Training for a marathon or half marathon? Try Sugoi, who has a few offerings in an XXL. (And, with their flat-lock seams and great fabrics, are a very good choice for those training for marathons and half marathons). (Note: their website doesn’t allow you to find XXL offerings, so I’ve done the hard work and dropped in a few examples below.)
Sugoi’s Ready Short Sleeve Tee – $35.00 – Click here to order.
Sugoi’s Verve Sleevless Tee – $40.00 – Click here to order.
And if you want something with more room, I’d order from MCW, who tends to run big in the shirts.
MCW Fitness Tank – $20.00 on clearance right now. Available up to a 3X. Click here to order.
MCW Swift Cap Tee – $ 15.00 on clearance right now. Available up to a 3X. Click here to order.
New Balance Shirts
I recently bought a New Balance XXL short-sleeved shirt, and I loved it. The cut is closer to the body, but long enough that I can wear a fuel belt and still cover my stomach a bit. And the colors are great. Unlike the shirts above, from Moving Comfort, and REI, New Balance takes some of their traditional running shirts (and their cute styles) and makes them available in an XXL. Take your current measurements and compare them against the size chart to be safe, but this stuff is cute, and technically very strong.
Short Sleeve Classic Top $39.99. (at Left) Click here to order.
Lightweight Tank 2.0 $20.99 (at Right) Click here to order.
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.
New Balance (Too many cute things here!!!!)