Women's Triathlon Gear: 2021 Shopping Guide
Although triathlons have been around since the '70s, it's only in recent years that sports brands have broadened their scope of products to include women-specific triathlon gear. And as more women join the triathlon community, the technology around women's gear continues to evolve.
That's why we've put together this list of must-have women's gear. While female triathlon clothing can be like its male counterpart, there are key differences you should consider regarding fit and fabrics. From tri suits to the right bike, we'll help you get through the swim, the bike, and the run while transitioning seamlessly along the way.
We also caught up with pro athlete Skye Moench for her expert advice on choosing the right tri gear. Look out for her tips below.
Women's Triathlon Gear Shopping Guide
Best Women's Tri Suit
A tri suit is your primary garment throughout the entire race and could either be a one-piece or come in a two-piece version with tri shorts and a tri top—it's your choice which style you prefer. Tri suits are made from a thin, breathable, lightweight material, similar to swimsuits. They are stretchy, so you can move freely and moisture-wicking for drying quickly as you transition from swim to cycle.
When shopping for a tri suit, it's important to keep fit in mind. The suit should be snug but not too tight—otherwise, it can cause chafing, constricted range of motion, and circulation issues. On the other hand, if the suit is too large with bulges and gaping, it may slow you down in the water. That's why you should always try on your tri suit before buying to make sure the size is just right.
Pro athlete Skye says it's a good practice to try your gear a couple of times while training to get a feel for how it moves and works—pockets that are too difficult to access or a zipper that is too hard to do up are some things to watch out for.
"It's good to have a tri suit that functions exactly how you want it to," she says.
HUUB Aura Long Course Triathlon Suit
This tri suit is not only at the top of our list, but 220 Triathlon's too, winning its "Best on Test" award last year. Made by UK triathlon and cyclewear company HUUB, the Aura tri suit is designed for the 'female form' with a female-specific chamois. Its features are impressive too, designed for long races with heat-reflective, breathable fabric to keep you calm and cool while pushing your way to the finish line.
Best Women's Tri Kit
As mentioned earlier, instead of a one-piece tri suit, you may want to opt for a two-piece tri kit consisting of tri shorts and a tri top. The main advantage of a tri kit over a tri suit is that you can mix and match the top and shorts and undress easily for bathroom breaks.
Sugoi Women's Piston 200 Tri Pkt Shorts
If you're more interested in a tri short/top combo, look no further than Vancouver-based performance apparel company Sugoi. Sugoi designed these tri shorts specifically for the female form with micro-ventilation exactly where it's needed. An added benefit? Multiple pockets to store energy bars or gels—trust us, you'll need them.
Garneau Women's Aero Tri Sleeveless Top
One of the most popular athleticwear brands, Garneau's sleeveless tri top is built for speed, using Speed Tech fabric—one of the most aerodynamic fabrics around. While you're flying through the cycle portion of your race, the material reduces air drag and is light and breathable. And yes, this one comes with pockets too. We recommend storing ice from aid stations in the shoulder pockets to keep you cool!
Best women's wetsuit
If you are swimming in open water (temperature depending), you'll likely need a wetsuit. Wetsuits are designed for cold, open water swims. In USAT sanctioned triathlons, the water temperature has to be below 78°F for wetsuits to be deemed legal, so be sure to check with the race director. Wetsuits provide more insulation and buoyancy; however, they are not totally necessary. It's also best to practice swimming with your new wetsuit before race day.
Colting Women's Swimrun SR03
Although the price point on this wetsuit is high, it's for a good reason. Founded by triathlete Jonas Colting, Colting builds their wetsuits with triathletes in mind. What makes the Colting Swimrun SR03 impressive is the 100% Japanese Yamamoto neoprene material, which is not only super thin and flexible but also 99.7% impervious to water. The women's version of this wetsuit also features extra stretch paneling on the outer legs for mobility while swimming. Being a swim-run wetsuit, this suit would be a great choice if you fancy trying out a swim-run event too.
Best women's swimskin
While wetsuits are designed for cold water swimming, swimskins are for warmer climates. Like wetsuits, they should fit snugly—not too tight as this could restrict mobility and not too loose to prevent drag.
Roka Women's Viper Pro Swimskin
Roka is a technical apparel brand trusted by athletes. Patented by swimmers, for swimmers, Roka's Viper Pro Swimskin is made with premium Italian stretch woven fabric that's lightweight yet durable. Seams are thermobonded and constructed strategically for maximum range of mobility. All of these are just fancy ways of saying that this swimskin is designed for speed and high performance—perfect for triathletes looking for that race-day edge!
Best women's swim cap
Swim caps are designed to keep hair out of your face while swimming, reduce drag, and increase hydrodynamics. They're essential when swimming, and you should also be training with a swim cap to reduce surprises on the big day. Although swim caps may look similar, there are a few key differences, mainly the material: latex vs. silicone vs. neoprene swim caps.
Latex swim caps are usually more breathable but less durable, while silicone swim caps are more durable but less breathable. Silicone is also softer to the touch and doesn't pull on hair the way latex does. Similarly, because latex doesn't stretch as well as silicone, it may cause bumps and ripples when worn.
Although this is general advice, it's always best to try both types and see what works for you. Skye says she prefers latex swim caps because they stay in place, although they don't last as long as silicone.
For more price-conscious triathletes or those still in training, latex swim caps cost less than silicone, but serious competitors should consider spending the extra money on a silicone cap. Sure, they cost more upfront, but the amount of use you'll be getting out of it between your pool and open water swimming, matched with the added comfort, is worth it. If you are swimming in frigid temperatures, you may also want to consider a neoprene swim hat, which tends to provide the best insulation.
Speedo Solid Silicone Swim Cap
For silicone swim caps, you can't go wrong with a classic Speedo brand swim cap. They're used by swimmers-in-training and high-performance competitors alike. As mentioned earlier, silicone will not pull or tug at long hair like latex and fits snugly without wrinkles to reduce drag in the water. Rumor has it, you may be able to pick up a FORM silicone swim cap in the not too distant future too…
Orca Swim Hat
If you are swimming in frigid water, a neoprene swim hat worn under your silicone swim cap will keep you warm throughout the race. Made with 100% neoprene, this adjustable Orca swim hat is designed to fit snugly over your ears to keep you warm, and the domed shape fits easily over long hair.
Best women's goggles
Put away those high school swim-meet goggles—it's time for an upgrade! Many athletes have only one pair of goggles, but in reality, they should have multiple pairs to combat different weather, lighting conditions, and protection. Lens tint, color, and size are all factors to consider when purchasing goggles for a triathlon.
FORM Swim Smart Goggles
Named "one of the most promising pieces of swim tech in years" by 220 Triathlon, FORM's Smart Swim Goggles are a must-have for competitive and recreational fitness swimmers.
Not only can you see all your vital swim metrics as you swim, but these 'smart goggles' also live up to their claim of intelligence with more incredible features: automatic detection of when you're swimming, turning, and resting, customizable display, and smartphone integration, plus syncing with Strava and Training Peaks so you can analyze your swimming and look for ways to improve further.
And don't let the price deter you. Sure, you could spend $20 on generic goggles that will need constant replacement, or you can spend a bit of extra cash on high-quality smart goggles that last. The FORM goggles can be used for every swim, whether training in a pool or competing in open water. They not only do that all-important job of keeping water out of your eyes but allow you to see your swim performance metrics in real-time, with a display built right into the lens, delivering you information when it matters most.
Ideal for both women and men, these goggles have been worn and endorsed by Ironman champions including Sarah Crowley and Lionel Sanders and double Olympic gold medalist Ous Mellouli!
Best Women's Triathlon Shoes
The main difference between a triathlon shoe and a regular bike shoe is that they are specifically constructed for a faster transition from your swim to bike and bike to run. Usually, triathlon shoes will feature things like tongue-less design, built-in lining, drainage, and a heel loop for easy on and off.
While these may seem trivial, if you're a competitive triathlete and have ever suffered the disappointment of losing a race by a few seconds, you'll know that these tiny features can be just what you need to help propel you to the top.
Mavic Cosmic Elite Triathlon Shoes
Designed for pedaling power and efficiency, these triathlon shoes from Mavic are for high-performance female triathletes. Weighing in at just 250 grams, they're sleek and lightweight and have an Ortholite inner sole for added support and comfort.
Best Women's Triathlon Bike
If you're considering using a regular road bike for your triathlon, think again. A triathlon-specific bike is built differently from traditional road bikes for the most efficient aerodynamics. Some differences include the angle of the seat post and handlebars, more storage compartments, and materials used to increase aerodynamics.
However, the current issue for women is that most triathlon bikes are not specifically designed for a petite height or smaller frame. Some women may find that they are stretched over their bike or in a position that compromises efficiency and power. The benefits of using biking gear specifically for women can make all the difference to your comfort and race time!
Did you know that bike seats are fitted differently for men and women? It seems obvious, but it's important to not only choose the right bike that fits the female form but the right seat or saddle as well. Pro athlete Skye recommends getting your bike saddle fitted professionally and give yourself a few weeks to adapt. If you are still uncomfortable, don't be afraid to follow up with your bike fitter.
"These things are a work in progress, and crucial to being able to push hard and run well off the bike."
Liv Avow Advanced Pro 2 Triathlon Bike
Liv designs bikes and gear optimized for women. The Avow Advanced Pro 2 comes in different sizes depending on your height and was developed for female riders. The bike is built specifically for triathlons, with versatile body-position options for long rides so that you can step your game up for the rest of the race.
Fizik Transiro Mystica Carbon Bike Seat
If you've ever gone on a long bike ride with an ill-fitted seat, you'll know the pain that comes for days after. Even Skye says she has spent many uncomfortable months on her bike because of the wrong bike saddle for her body.
"Finding the right saddle matters," she says, "double nosed/wider saddles seem to be most widely used."
With that in mind, this bike seat is specifically designed for female triathletes with a carbon rail and split-nosed saddle for ultimate comfort and high performance. It's also adjustable for the perfect aero riding position so you can kiss the wrong-bike-seat soreness goodbye.
Extra triathlon gear for women
Being a woman has its perks, but a couple of, shall we say, minor inconveniences that only women can understand. Here are a few products to help combat those:
High Impact Sports Bra
Most gear does not have adequate support for high-performance activities. Even still, foregoing a sports bra may not be comfortable—especially during a long run. Lululemon's Enlite Weave-Back Bra is designed to run in, with high impact support, bonded underband that doesn't dig into your skin, and back closure for easy removal, unlike most sports bras which you have to wrestle in and out of.
Anti-chafing skin protectant
Tri suits, wetsuits, and sports bras tend to have exposed seams, which can cause blistering or chafing in sensitive areas during a run, swim, or cycle—especially if you will be swimming in saltwater.
"Anywhere your tri suit has some sort of seam, you may be subject to chafe. And saltwater chafes you ten times worse [than fresh water]," Skye says.
Stocking up on an anti-chafing skin protectant like Body Glide is a good idea. Apply it before the race or during any transitions. You may also want to test out the product during training and apply it before a training run to ensure no accidents or adverse reactions.
Some final words of advice
Skye's pro tip? Don't stress about equipment too much. "You can do a triathlon and not spend $10,000 on your equipment. Have fun doing the sport, and if you want to get more serious, then spend the money."
She also stresses how important it is for women to fuel their bodies. "Fuelling is so important. Don't fall into the trap of being skinny is better. Being fueled is always best!"
Get more triathlon gear tips
With this list of women's tri-gear, you should be able to go forth and conquer your first swim-bike-run. It's not an easy feat, but the right gear could make all the difference.
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