Introduction to triathlon clothes and footwear

Getting the right gear and shoes for triathlon events

When you take part in a multi-discipline event like a triathlon, your kit demands will inevitably become greater. Not only do you need to ensure you have got the appropriate kit for each triathlon discipline but your clothing must also be able to stand the test of the infamous triathlon transitions.

Nevertheless, getting together the right gear for triathlon training and competing need not be such a hard task. To help you on your way, the team at have put together a basic guide covering all the triathlon clothing and footwear needs to ensure you are properly suited and booted for the three disciplines of swimming, running and cycling.

Competing in a triathlon

Triathlon swimming gear

Swimming costumes

Men. Choose swimming trunks or close-fitting cycling type shorts, rather than beach shorts which flap around. Beach shorts are less aerodynamic and less suitable for cycling and running in because the seams can chafe.

Women. Choose a ‘one piece’ costume that is designed for swimming rather than sunbathing. Again, it will be more aerodynamic and you can easily and quickly slip your cycling clothing over the top, for the second triathlon discipline.

Swimming goggles

Essential kit to protect your eyes from swimming pool chemicals. Generally inexpensive, expect to pay a few pounds for a suitable pair.

Swimming cap

Frequently a requirement for anyone swimming in a pool but they are often provided by the organisers of a triathlon to assist with color coding different race categories.

Swimming wetsuits

Almost always mandatory, particularly with safety in mind because of the additional buoyancy and insulation properties that they offer. Wetsuits can be expensive but some retailers offer very competitive hire prices, either for a single event or the entire season, which is great for your first forays into the sport.

Remember a wetsuit suitable for a triathlon will differ to those used in other water sports such as surfing or windsurfing. Triathlon wetsuits incorporate flexible panels under the arms so you get maximum range of movement for your swim.

Other swimming equipment

Goggles and swimming cap requirements for open water are the same as for pool-based events.

Triathlon cycling gear

Cycling shoes

Specialist cycling shoes (and the pedals that you have to use with them), make a significant difference to your cycling efficiency but by using running shoes, you will save time in your triathlon transition and money. As you progress, you may want to buy more specialist shoes but for your first sprint event, running shoes are fine.

Cycle shorts

Although the distances that you will be training over and racing are short, seam-free Lycra shorts will add considerably to your comfort and prevent chafing and soreness.

Cycling tops

Specialist cycling jerseys are available, but for your first event, a standard T-shirt or if the weather is warmer, a running vest is perfectly adequate.

Cycling gloves

Cyclists sometimes wear mesh-type padded gloves to help absorb road shock in the hands but when starting out and if you need to wear gloves, a standard pair that you may use for running will be perfectly adequate.

Competing in a triathlon

Triathlon running gear

Running shoes

One of the most important pieces of kit that you need to buy is a pair of proper running shoes. Good running shoes are an investment in comfort, protection and injury prevention and it is worth visiting a specialist sports footwear retailer rather than a chain store and discussing your requirements with them. And remember your shoes can ‘double up’ for use on the bike, saving you outlay on a second pair of specialist cycling footwear.

You want to be comfortable when you run — finding the correct shoe size is very important. When you shop for running shoes, always go in the afternoon because after lunch, your feet will have expanded a little. Hence a closer fit in the morning could mean a tight fit in the afternoon and blisters when training, which is certain to curb your enthusiasm!

Running socks

These can be simple white sports socks that can be picked up from most sports stores. However, if you get more serious about your training, it is wise to invest in some socks that have been specifically designed for sport. These have been designed to wick away moisture and sweat from the foot so you don’t slip and suffer so many blisters when training or racing.

Buy your socks before you buy your shoes. Socks come in a wide range of thicknesses, which can significantly affect the fit of your running shoes. Take the socks that you are going to train in along to the shoe retailer so that you get a perfect match.

Running shorts, tights and t-shirts

Shorts should be comfortable, lightweight, have the ability to wick away sweat, close fitting and comfortable. It is important to try them on before you buy because many manufacturers have different cuts to suit different styles of runner.

When the weather is colder it is advisable to wear tights to keep your legs warmer and thus reduce the chance of injury. Generally the more expensive the tight then the more comfortable they will be and the better at keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter.

Running t-shirts should be reasonably tight but not figure-hugging and likewise they shouldn’t flap around when you run in them. It is a fine balance between well-fitted and slightly baggy that you should aim for. With long sleeve t-shirts you should aim to get ones with cuffed sleeves so they stay down around your wrists. If there are no cuffs then the sleeves often ride up your arms when you run and this can be both annoying and cold.

Running gloves

These should be lightweight and comfortable. Woollen gloves are the norm because they are cheap to buy but they don’t offer the same waterproof and wind stopper capabilities of the new high tech fabrics. It is worth investing in a high tech pair as running with cold hands can ruin the experience for you, so choose carefully when you buy, especially if it is near wintertime.

Running hats

Similar to gloves — woolen ones are the norm because they are easy to get hold of and are cheap. The more high-tech versions such as fleece offer wind stopping capabilities and some are waterproof as well.

Sports bras for female runners

It is important to wear a sports bra that fits you snugly and gives adequate support for both triathlon and indeed any other form of training you may be doing. So does your sports bra fit? Follow these tips to find out:

  • Your bra should fit snugly under the bust without being uncomfortably tight.
  • All of your bust should fit in the bra without any bulges around the sides.
  • The shoulder straps should not dig in (for larger busts wider straps are more comfortable).
  • When you run there should be significantly less bounce than with a normal bra.
  • Most ladies should only need to wear one sports bra even for high impact running activities.
  • There are many excellent bras on the market, which come in a large range of sizes and colours offering every different level of support.

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