by Pauline Six
Finding the right sports bra is an important decision for all women runners, though it can sometimes feel like searching for holy grail. The top consideration is to find something with the perfect balance of comfort and fit. Next on the list – it’s gotta look and feel great. Bottom line: wear something that will provide maximum support to help you get the most out of your run.
Breasts and running
During physical activity such as running, the breast moves horizontally and vertically. This movement causes pressure that leads to discomfort. Runners with larger breasts often experience more discomfort than those with smaller breasts. Regardless of size, we all want to find the best sports bra possible with the adequate support.
Fortunately, running is not a high risk sport for breast injury (unless you aren’t paying attention and run into a mailbox or something). And while that is true, during any type of exercise our breasts are more susceptible to direct trauma. The most common type of breast trauma is bruising or chafing.
In the event of any kind of injury to your breasts, consult a doctor to receive a proper examination.
In the meantime let’s put our energy where it belongs, into making sure we do everything we can to prevent injury.
Let’s talk about breast pain
It happens all the time, to a lot of women. Somewhere between 44-77% of all women complain about breast pain.
In addition, running was highlighted in a recent study as the second worst sport for breast pain after jumping sports.(1)
How to Choose the Right Sports Bra
Choosing the right sports bra involves consideration of many issues. Sweat management, support, comfort; so finding balance is the goal.
Here we’ll help you make an informed decision when you choose a sports bra for running. You need something that will absorb the shock caused by running, while still serving as the most comfortable sports bra possible.
Understanding Bra Design
Center panel (bridge):
This is the most important element of a supportive sports bra. It should be comfortable without being loose.
Should cover the entirety of the breasts without cutting them off (if the breasts are cut off or squeezed in too tight, consider moving up a cup size). The cups should also not leave a gap, in which case you should consider moving down a cup size.
Give preference to straps that are wide and comfortable, but also firm enough so that they do not stretch more than 2.5 cm (1 in) if you pull on them.
Underwire for sports bras must be soft, well-protected, and in line with the contour of the breasts, never cutting into them or squeezing the flesh at either end.
5 Tips to Protect Your Breasts
It’s always a good idea to try on sports bras before making a purchase, but it’s not always so simple. If you’re not completely sure about your size when shopping online, try buying sister sizes and returning those that don’t fit.
Running is a high impact sport and many brands are now producing high-support bras, so keep an eye out for those. Go with the strongest support possible, even if you have a smaller bust.
- For increased comfort, look for straps cut in an X or Y shape. These will be less restrictive for your arms, and they will stay in place during your run.
- Change your running sports bras a couple times a year. Fabric has a limited lifespan. Wear and tear from use and washing causes them to lose their main function: support.
- Material plays a key role when it comes to perspiration. The more material, the more friction there will be, leading to perspiration. Look for designs that incorporate a flat seam, and opt for models that use elastane (spandex).
- Avoid exposing your material to temps above 50°C (122°F) and don’t put them in the dryer. Try handwashing, or using a gentle washing cycle that runs at a low temperature with minimal spin.
- Wash your running sports bras after every workout. They tend to accumulate a lot of sweat, salt, and bacteria with each use.
For runners, sports bra choice is as important for women as choosing the right pair of shoes. Seek out excellent sports bras and don’t settle for anything less. Wearing the right bra is important for all breasts of any size or shape.
Pauline Six is a sports medicine physician for Running Care. She specializes in the rehabilitation of athletes (from initial diagnosis to re-training). Pauline is a passionate runner; she competes in long distance trail running and triathlons.