When getting ready for a Spartan Race, training and nutrition should be your first priorities. What you wear, though, is most definitely third on that list (or should be). And for female competitors, you want to ensure that you’re comfortable from head to toe so that it’s your winner’s medal — not your underwire bra — that’s at the forefront of your mind as you trek across the Spartan course. To help you, we spoke to female racers and sportswear designers for tips on how to select the best race gear for the big day.
4 Race Gear Tips for Women
Tip #1: Make sure you’re comfortable.
“Comfort, comfort, comfort,” exclaims Nicole DeBoom, endurance racer and CEO of the fitness apparel company Skirt Sports. Clothing that feels or fits badly will distract you — as will chafing, which DeBoom claims is one of the biggest pain points women face on a muddy OCR course.
“When chafing begins,” she says. “it is often the beginning of the end — at least the end of a positive attitude.”
To avoid thigh chafing DeBoom suggests investing in shorts or tights that cover the largest part of your thigh. Her own signature product sports skirts have built-in flyweight shorties that rule out skin rubbing and stay in place. They’re finished with outer, snag-resistant layers in different lengths. DeBoom calls it a meeting of comfort and cuteness, and adds, “When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you perform better.”
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Tip #2: Dress for the weather.
Of course, being comfortable also means taking the weather into account. During winter races, Daniel Högling, product and marketing director of Spartan’s Sweden-based performance apparel partner, Craft Sportswear, suggests wearing layers — but with special attention to the first layer (i.e. the one closest to the body).
“With a proper first layer the comfort becomes so much better no matter what you wear as a second or even third layer,” Högling says. “For female athletes, that focuses on their sports bra, underwear, and socks. All of these products must be able to transport sweat away from the body for comfort and better performance.”
“The best sports bras for all cup sizes will also have separated, encapsulated cups,” adds DeBoom. “It may look like an underwire inside but it usually isn’t actual wire. But it does add to comfort by keeping everything in place.”
For the Spartan races in the summer, Högling recommends women wear thin layers with lighter fabrics. Opt for a light, tight-fitting singlet and separate arm sleeves, he suggests. “This gives women the possibility to get some protection for their arms while taking on the obstacles, but they can roll them off while running if they like.”
Tip #3: You want your gear to be durable.
Petra Blevins, a regular Spartan racer and ambassador for the OCR and rugby brand LegendBorne, suggests investing in a tough and durable sports bra, a pair of shorts or tights, and a tank top.
“You don’t want them to tear or stretch,” Blevins says. Not only can that potentially be embarrassing, but competing with ripped clothing is also hazardous.
“The fabric has to be able to stand up to the rigors of the sport,” says LegendBorne CEO David Bryant, who also echoes Högling. “The clothing has to stay tight to the body. The last thing you want to do is get snagged on an obstacle, causing you precious time and energy!”
Tip #4: Your race gear should be water-resistant and fast-drying.
Finally, everyone agrees – race gear, whether donned by women or men, must be fast-drying and water-resistant.
“Material needs to shed water quickly so that it won’t slow down the athlete,” says Bryant. “It can’t retain the water because that would cause the garment to sag and create more issues while going through obstacles.”
The same goes for socks and shoes. “Make sure your socks aren’t cotton,” warns Blevins. Wool, she says, absorbs moisture and traps it against your skin, which can cause chafing and keep you damp — and miserable — throughout an already arduous race.
“Use low running socks,” she adds, “and always make sure your shoes have good traction and drain water.”