Coming in a close second behind shoes, your sports bra is the second most important piece of equipment you need to consider if you’re going to run pain free.
There’s a huge amount of hype and money going into marketing to active women these days, and it’s important not to get caught up in it. Like anything else, finding the right sports bra for you is both important AND personal. First – the facts;
According to Susan Morris, writing for Suite101 in her article Breast Pain While Exercising, a woman’s breast can weigh between 200 and 300 grams and running without proper support can damage the outer skin and tissue (called Cooper’s ligaments) REGARDLESS of breast size. Such damage can cause permanent sagging of the breasts and yes, quite a bit of pain. Running, whether on a treadmill, road or trail causes breasts to move in a “figure 8”-like motion; up and down, side to side and in and out, (ouch),
There are basically two types of running bras on the planet; compression bras that pull over your head, and encapsulation bras that clasp in the back and separate your breasts. Encapsulated styles tend to work better for larger-breasted women, but statistics show that many women wear the wrong-size bra; so your best policy is to go to your local specialty running store for a professional fitting to find the style and size that’s right for you.
Coach Jenny, writing for runnersworld.com suggests that when trying on a sports bra that you:
Try on different styles to find out what you like best. Your sports bra should feel comfortable on, stay in place, and not chafe. The straps should not dig into the shoulders and the band around the lower chest should not shift or bind.
Do jumping jacks, run in place, and swing your arms side to side to make sure what feels good on is comfortable and supportive when you're in motion. A sports bra should fit more snugly than a lingerie bra to provide you with support, but should not be uncomfortable or restrict movement or breathing. If your breasts are all over the place, find another bra or another size.
Eschew cotton and instead, look for synthetic fabrics like Cool-max that wick moisture away from the skin and have a gentle supportive stretch. These fabrics also help to minimize chaffing.
Stay away from any sports bra with a zipper and rough seams;, they can chafe and come unzipped [not good- though I know women who swear by the zipper-in-front styles].
There’s a great bra-finder tool on runnersworld.com that can help too.
Large-breasted women (who for years, have been discouraged from our sport because of their breast size), are particularly challenged in terms of finding the right bra. Thankfully, a number of companies have emerged to help. Here are recommendations from women runners themselves on the best sports bras, especially for larger breasted women:
Good sports bras are not cheap, so educate yourself first, then go the personal fitting route at a good running store before you engage in trial and error by buying various bras on the web.
Image: Courtesy of Enell