What you wear during a triathlon can make or break your comfort and, ultimately, your race. Shorts that ride up, cause chafing or pinch in uncomfortable areas are intolerable -- especially if you're going for three or more hours in an Olympic, half Ironman or full Ironman distance. Women should look for full thigh coverage, comfortable padding for the crotch and a tight fit to keep you streamlined in the water, as well as on the bike and the run.
Multipurpose Saves Time
Triathlon shorts need to be multipurpose -- you don't want to waste precious seconds changing clothes mid-race. The best triathlon shorts fit tightly, to slide easily under your wet suit or, if you are in a non-wet suit race, to prevent drag in the water. They need padding to protect your delicate lady parts during biking, but not so much that you feel like you're wearing a diaper when your run. Many manufacturers, including Zoot and Danskin, make tri-specific shorts for women that feature a thin chamois pad that dries quickly after the swim and doesn't inhibit movement during the run.
Functional and Protective
The best triathlon shorts for women feature technical, quick-drying fabric that wicks moisture from your skin. Some upper-end brands also offer UV protection and temperature control. For many women, a longer inseam of 5 to 6 inches is preferable because the greater coverage prevents your thighs from rubbing uncomfortably during the run. Look for a thick elastic that hugs around the lower thigh, which discourages the shorts from riding up or digging into your skin as you cycle and run. The width of the elastic may not be an issue for shorter races but can be bothersome when you are wearing the shorts for several hours at a time.