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Choosing the Best Running Apparel for Your Shape

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We all have that perfect pair of leggings that hug just right.  Those shorts that sit at the perfect waistline and don’t ride up while running.  Once we find them, we wear them over and over even though we have closets busting at the seams with every style of running tops and bottoms money can buy. Because, let’s face it, running gear for women is not one size fits all.   Our gear shouldn’t stand between us and a comfy, effortless run.  And we shouldn’t have to suffer through another changing room meltdown just to find leggings that stay put.  Here are some tips on finding the right running clothes for you that will help you to feel your best whether you are squeezing in a quick mile or logging a 10 miler.  (Or let’s be honest, meeting the girls for brunch.)

Pear Shaped

Personally, I fall into the pear shaped camp.  I have a hard time finding bottoms that fit both my waist and my thighs.  I oftentimes try something on in the store to find that while running I’m constantly tugging at my waistband.  It’s not a comfortable ride.  It took me quite a few runs around the block to figure out the golden rule of pear shaped gear: high rise.

Pick a pair of shorts or leggings with a waistband that hits at the belly button or above.  That way, they sit nicely above the hips, and you don’t have to constantly do the wiggle dance to get them back up.  Unless you are wearing tights with a low rise for athleisure purposes, try to stay away from them.

If your thighs rub together when you run, go for shorts with a longer inseam.  Shorts with 5-9 inch inseam should be enough to keep your shorts from bunching up between your legs.  There is nothing quite worse than constantly having to pull fabric down.  If you prefer a shorter inseam and are experiencing chafing between your thighs, try a product like BodyGlide that helps keep your skin smooth and chafe free.  In a bind?  Brush on a quick layer of deodorant where your thighs rub.

Another option is a running skort.  They have longer tights underneath a skirted layer and can help to keep you feel modestly comfortable.  Plus, you’ll definitely be the fashionista of your running group.

Bigger Bust

Finding the right breast support for running can be extremely frustrating, especially for gals with larger breasts.  Too much bounce-age during a run can really hurt.  One of the most important factors to look at is the width of the shoulder strap.  If your bras have spaghetti straps it’s time to shop for a bra that has a wider, padded strap.  A pair of D breasts can weigh up to 23 pounds.  All that weight pulling on your straps can really dig into your skin.  Also make sure that it has the right hardware.  Underwire and cup support is crucial to keeping things in place and lower your chances of the dreaded uni-boob. Cotton low impact bras aren’t going to do you any favors.

It’s also safe to assume that you probably suffer from upper back pain.  Try to look for bras that offer extra fabric in back, so you are supported on both sides. The top outer layer is important as well.  A singlet with wide straps can help provide another layer of protection against bouncing.

Recommendations: Enell makes a line of sports bras that are perfect for top heavy gals. Also make sure to check out Brooks sports bras.  They make sports bras specifically for larger sizes, like the UpLift Crossback.

Plus size

While there are options for plus size runners, it’s not nearly what it should be.  Running isn’t exclusive to athletic body types, so our gear shouldn’t be exclusive either.  Luckily, a lot of our favorite brands have expanded to include plus sizes that are both fashionable and functional.  Affordable brands like Old Navy and lines at Walmart and Target carry a wide range of plus sizes, as well as Nike, Athleta and Fabletics.  Many retailers offer a offer a larger selection of the plus sizing online.

Like pear shaped girls, curvy runners will feel most comfortable with a high rise.  Not only will you feel supported, a high rise waistband will be the most flattering rise for your shape.  A flat, wide waistband will help stop your tights from rolling down mid run.  Also, flat seams will help cut down on chafing as will synthetic fibers.

Regardless of what size and shape you are, cotton is not your friend because it does not have the ability to wick away sweat which can cause chafing.  However, if chafing seems unavoidable, there are a few products to help with healing and aid in prevention.


If you are running plus one, you will be happy to know that there are many athletic clothing lines just for you!  While maternity running clothing is obviously made to fit your growing belly, there is an additional accessory that you may want to add on.  A support belt can really help to take pressure off your bladder and hopefully cut down on pit stops.  It can also relieve lower back pain.  Once you are postpartum, there are also plenty of sports bras to choose from for breastfeeding moms.

Bottom Line

While being comfortable on a run is vital to your performance, it’s also equally important to feel confident, beautiful and strong in what you are wearing.  Just because certain articles tell you to avoid certain patterns and colors based on your body shape, doesn’t mean that it’s a hard and fast rule.  If you feel fast and sexy in horizontal stripes, then wear those stripes with pride!  Plus size women have also been accustomed to hearing that they shouldn’t wear bright colors or eye catching patterns.  I say throw these rules out the window.  If you want to wear head to toe black or head to toe neons, it is your prerogative.  Being comfortable and confident in your own skin will ultimately aid your running.

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