Women in sport – How a good sports bra can help

2 women running in Anita sports bras

Some Survey figures to start…

In a survey conducted at the 2012 London Marathon, 32% of women indicated they experience breast pain while running.

Yet researchers estimate that, of the 12 million British women who regularly exercise, three-quarters do not wear a proper sports bra —even though they can reduce bounce by up to 74 per cent.

What does movement do to breasts?

When women are running, uncontained breasts can oscillate up to 8 inches! This movement is not only up and down, it’s also side to side and front to back. It has been proven through motion studies that the breasts actually move in a figure 8 pattern during running!

Why do you need to stop the bounce? 

Breasts contain no muscles of their own to hold them up. Rather, breasts are made of fat, glands, milk ducts, and a type of connective tissue called the “Cooper’s ligaments,” which provide some structural support. They are a bit like elastic bands.

When you are young, the Cooper’s ligaments bounce back and hold the breast tissue in its proper place – a bit like a new elastic band!  As you get older the Cooper’s ligaments get stretched and lose elasticity.

If you don’t wear a properly fitted bra day to day you risk stretching the Cooper’s ligaments further by not supporting them.

And if you don’t wear a supportive sports bra you can do more damage – without a properly fitted sports bra, breasts move too freely and may stretch the Cooper’s ligaments and lead to sagging.

The greater the force on the breasts and the more they need to be restrained – so sports that involve bouncing, running, jumping and impact need a stronger sports bra than sports like golf and yoga.

It’s not just larger cup sizes who need a properly supportive bra.  Small breasts sag just the same as large breasts – “Spaniel’s ears” are a real thing!

Once the damage has been done – it can’t be reversed.

Sports bra fit

With the fit of a sports bra you are looking for compression.  A sports bra with separate cups will provide better support, particularly if you are a larger cup size. Look for one with wide, adjustable straps and a back fastening, with the ability to tighten as the bra stretches with wear.

It should fit very snugly – most pull over the head types are not snug enough because of the stretch element.

A proper fitting for a sports bra is recommended.  As with all bras, different brands can vary in shape and sizing, so you will not necessarily be the same size across all ranges.  Also, as set out above, you will probably need a tighter fit than your everyday bra, to maximise compression and thus minimise bounce.

Sports Bra Pricing

As with any good quality product, you get what you pay for – a bra with adjustable features, sweat resistant fabrics and made up of a lot of individual pieces (so it is a better fit) will be much more expensive that the stretch cotton “tubes” that are often marketed as suitable for sports activities.  Generally, a higher price from a reputable brand reflects the better design, better research and the rigorous testing that is put into the product before it goes onto the market.

We readily spend money on our sports kit, especially our trainers, but we think that your sports bra should receive equal focus.

Sports bra care

Just like running shoes and lycra sports kit, sports bras break down over time and they will become stretched out through regular wearing and washing.

To make them last longer don’t use fabric conditioner

Once they stretch, they no longer provide the support that they once did and should be replaced. 

Regular runners are generally advised to replace their sports bra when they replace their running shoes (every 6 – 12 months).