Living Large in a Medium World

You can tell by the tan lines that these shorts are not my normal length.

Not all female runners are a size xs, and that’s okay. At any size, we should be able to find running clothes that fit comfortably and are functional, if not fun, pretty, or stylish. So, I’m presenting you with a guide to products that are more intentionally designed for real women, big and small. If you’re not used to shopping for larger clothes, you might not realize that it’s not enough to just scale things up (or down). There is an art to making clothes fit just right for all sizes!

But, first, a little note about running stores: I love you. I do. I love when you start carrying bigger sizes. But please… XL is not the same as 1X. If you carry XS, S, M, L, 1X, and 2X, I still can’t buy anything. Carry XL. And the others.

Hats and visors

Here’s the one place I have the small problem — I have a tiny head. Headsweats visors tend to fit, and the full elastic back ones can accommodate a variety of head sizes. Visors are also a good choice if you rock a ponytail. Most non-gendered hats seem to be better suited for Mr. Anise (who has a Charlie Brown head). I’ve also been loving Ponya headbands for collecting sweat while I run because they are wide and have sweatband material on the inside.

Sunglasses

Yep, even these can be an issue. I am still in the “small” problem category here. Finding appropriate sports sunglasses that aren’t too big for my little face or too wide to be sitting correctly over my ears can be tough. I have found that “Asian fit” glasses (Tifosi also has a category “Good Fit for Women”) or Performance Bike seem to do the job.

Pro tip: If you’ve got a really small noggin, some companies have youth lines that’ll work. For instance, there are performance sunglasses targeting youth baseball players — Chicory wears a pair of Oakley Quarter Jacket frames. Or, visors for youth tennis players from Nike. Bonus: youth items are usually cheaper!

Bras

Companies often assume a larger band size means a larger cup size, too. But I’m here to tell you, bigger doesn’t always mean busty. I can rock the sports bra you wore in middle school if not for the chafing as the mileage goes up. I have been wearing Brooks Moving Comfort Fine Form A/B for more than a year and love that it moves from work to run/bike flawlessly. My friends who are endowed in the chest department swear by Enell. Either way, it is important that the band doesn’t dig, the straps aren’t digging into your flesh, and nothing rubs.

Shirts

Let’s be real here… chicks with a lot of upper arm skin just can’t be comfortable in baby doll sleeves. Not only do they look awful, but the chafing and twisting is the real problem. I haven’t yet found a company that makes a baby doll sleeve that is scaled appropriately for arm width on bigger sizes. But even long sleeve shirts can have the problem of a too narrow arm width.

Length is another issue — if it’s too short on me, even with a smaller bust, it hasn’t been scaled up appropriately. I’m not looking for a belly shirt, here. Some tank brands are also cut so that you have to have enough to fill the top. You’ll just have to try them on to find what works for you! If you’re shopping for tri gear, be aware that there’s a difference between “race cut” and “club cut” (sometimes called “performance cut” and “comfort cut”). Club/comfort cuts are generally looser through the trunk, have slightly bigger arms, and are often longer than their counterparts. Many swear by Betty Designs and Coeur among the plus-sized crowd. I like Soas Racing. Watch the size charts carefully — a lot of tri companies have European sizing.

So much better!

Arm sleeves

Most arm sleeves are one-size, but here’s the thing… not everyone has the same size arms! And while they are supposed to be tight, they need to come all the way up, stay up, and not cut off blood supply. They also don’t work great if you have small arms and can’t keep them up. Gender-specific ones are a good start, but Sleefs, 2XU, and Performance Bike actually make sleeves in sizes S-XL. Amazing difference.

Shorts/pants

Many women wear capri (or longer) bottoms because they are afraid of the jiggle or showing too much. But that is WAY too hot for me! I wear capris when normal people wear tights and tights when normal people run inside. Shorts are one item where just making it bigger definitely doesn’t work. I don’t care how big you make the waist, even if you get the rise right, I am not going to wear 3″ (or shorter) inseams. I have thighs. They are strong and powerful, but I don’t need to show that much of them. Shorts need 5″+ inseams to be comfortable. Split shorts ride up and chafe (or look awful and make you feel like you look awful).

I love compression-style shorts with a 5-6″ inseam and quad pockets. That way I don’t need a fuel belt of any type. The rise is also important depending on where you carry weight. I carry a lot of weight between my pubic area and belly button. I can’t wear pants that fall in the middle there because they’ll slide down and eventually fall off. So they need a significant rise and to be able to live at my belly button. If they have grippers at the bottom of the leg holes, that’s even better.

Don’t make the mistake (I have already done it for you) of buying men’s shorts thinking they’ll fit better! Instead, try Lucy for a short with a 5″ inseam (and Lucy has extended sizes too). Saucony Bullet shorts would be absolutely perfect IF the inseam were longer (they are a favorite of quite a few Saltines), but I do love the capri version.

Remember, ill-fitting clothes may work for short distances, but don’t subject yourself to uncomfortable clothes or potential chafing. Finding the right clothes makes all things possible. And there is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices.

What are your favorite clothing brands that are designed women of all sizes?

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10 comments

  1. Oh I’m totally going to check out those Ponya headbands. I’ve been on the hunt for some new non-slip ones.

    I’m a big Saucony fan through and though (hand raised, bullet lover here too..shorts, capris…and the tights are fantastic too and helpful in the winter obviously). I would recommend trying the Saucony Scoot shorts….they don’t have the pockets on the side that make the bullets so amazing, but they are good fitted, longer inseam shorts and they have a zip pocket on the back (5″ inseam ones http://amzn.to/2kn2yvJ), (I also found they carry an 8″ version too http://amzn.to/2ynYt0q).

    1. I like the Scoot shorts, but I think that they run small. Mediums from Old Navy and Brooks fit comfortably, but the medium of my Scoot shorts is snug.

  2. I love that I can get tall sizes at Old Navy for a decent price! I feel like they have held up well too!

    1. Yes! It’s nice that my Old Navy tall running tights actually go all the way to my ankles…most other brands look like weird not-quite-capris on me.

  3. I’ve got some JUICY thighs, and I found the Under Armour Play Up shorts actually accomodate, don’t chafe, and are long enough that no booty’s hanging out…even though they’re 3″ inseam (of course, I am short). Bonus, there are ones reasonably on sale for $12 or so…

  4. Hey, just wanted to say hi and welcome you to the spice rack. I have a HUGE noggin. Between the two of us, we’re perfectly average. 😀

  5. These Belcorva shorts are a DREAM!!! https://belcorva.com/products/runners-dream-5-pocket-short-black
    I am usually solidly in a large and the large in these fits GREAT. I wore them for 8 miles Saturday as their maiden voyage and they were perfect! I didn’t need a fuel belt and I didn’t worry that I was showing too much. Belcorva’s tights seem a bit cheap and maybe i should have sized up….but these shorts are AMAZING.

  6. I love Skirt Sports! They make capris and shorts along with skirts, but they all have at least 5″ compression shorts that don’t budge. Lots of pockets too! Pretty much all I wear now.

  7. Totally agree with so much of what you said! I’ve got beefier legs and LOVE Saucony’s Impulse Shorts, which are a split style. They are so comfortable and literally feel like you have nothing on (but totally cover my butt and then some). I’m always cringing when I see photos of myself in them (they’re my race short of choice) because my legs just GO EVVVERYWHERE, but MAN they’re too comfortable to pass up!