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The right bra fitted correctly can make a massive difference to women’s comfort, breast health and even sports performance, according to researchers.
‘Many females just assume bras are meant to be uncomfortable, they don’t realise that this is not right,’ said Professor Julie Steele, co-author of a study on the role of sports bras done at Breast Research Australia (BRA) and Sports Medicine Australia.
Here are some of the key finding from this research and more that will help you choose the right sports bra for you.
Three main factor influence what type of sports bra you should wear:
The elasticity of skin decreases with age, reducing the support the skin can provide. So older women need more support, especially after pregnancy.
Exercises with more vertical movement of the body (e.g. horse riding and jumping have more than bike riding and walking) or movements involving rapid leg movement (running compared to weights training) cause more breast movement, so they require more support. Unsupported breasts can move up and down by as much as 4.6 inches while running, as well as moving side-to-side. In fact, breast pain is a problem for almost one in three (32%) of female marathon runners according to a study that surveyed 1285 female runners at the 2012 London Marathon. It gets worse. A recent study at University of Portsmouth led by Jenny White found that breast movement impacted women’s running considerably. The better the support, the less stressful the stride.
‘In a no-bra condition, we found that there was more force being exerted on … the inside of the foot,’ White said. “Different bra support can affect the way we run.”
According to Dr Joanna Scurr, who leads research into breast biomechanics at the University of Portsmouth’s Breast Health Research group, even A cup-sized women need appropriate breast support – a good sports bra for A cup-sized women will reduce breast movement 53% (compared to no bra). Contrary to previous research, Scurr found that compression sports bras did not prove more effective at reducing breast movement for smaller cup-size women. Instead, the encapsulation bra (one which separates the breasts) was significantly more successful. Across all women studied, Scurr found that encapsulated sports bras reduce movement by up to 73% when compared with going braless. 2XU’s High Impact Support Bra, Ultimate Endurance Bra, Contour Support Bra and Tri Bra all use a varied degree of encapsulation – they combine compression (pressing the breast firmly to the chest) and encapsulation to reduce both up-and-down and side-to-side motion, while giving superior comfort, shape and look.
VARIATIONS IN SIZING
Sports bras are not “one-size fits all”. If you are C/D cup or larger, look for a sports bra with plenty of adjustability. The 2XU High Impact Support Bra, Ultimate Endurance Bra and Contour Support Bra can all be tightened and loosened through the straps as well as through the centre back closure on the underband (3 options of hook and eye/butterfly clasp). The 2XU Tri Bra has a slip-free adjustable racer back strap as well as adjustable hook and loops on the underband at the side seam.
A non-underwire (soft-cup) bra is usually a better option, as breasts move with exercise and breast tissue is not designed to tolerate underwire digging into it. 2XU uses panelling rather than wire to ensure a more comfortable fit. This should follow the natural crease of the breast rather than resting on it or digging in. You should only be able to fit two fingers under the underband – more than this or the back of the bra rising means the bra is too big.
These should be snug, but not super-tight. Look for straps that are padded for comfort so they don’t dig into your shoulders.
Breasts MUST be completely covered – especially under your armpit – and not spill out in any direction. Puckering cups (wrinkles or gaps) are a sign you may need the next size smaller. When you run, your underarm area should touch fabric, not skin. Your bra should rest lightly on your upper bust since this is a common place for chafing. If you can lean forward and everything stays in place, then you’ve found a good fit.
Look for a strong, wide elastic material that doesn’t slip around when you move, but is not so tight that it digs in or feels uncomfortable. Larger bra sizes need wider bands. You should be able to fasten a new bra on the loosest adjustable settings so that so you can tighten it up as the bra stretches over time. For larger cup sizes, the 2XU Medium Impact Bra has a high-scoop neck for extra coverage during low/medium impact activity.
There should be no gap – this indicates you might need to go up a size. The lower edge of your bra between the cups should sit on your breast bone, but not on your breast tissue.
The material should not irritate or chafe your skin. It’s often wet fabric that creates friction on the skin, so choose materials that wick sweat away from your body, such as the 2XU Power X fabric.
Crop tops should be made of strong elastic material that can compress your breasts firmly against your chest.
While you’re in the shop fitting room, try this simple test from Joanne Scurr:
Place your feet together and squat down with your hands on the floor, then jump up while spreading your arms and legs out (like a star jump). Sounds crazy, but this causes the same breast movement you experience during running – but you can do it in a shop fitting room! Finally, check that the bands stays put when you stretch your arms above your head and wave them side-to-side.
The “jockbra” – it was two jockstraps stitched together – was an early prototype of the modern sports bra developed in 1977. The following year the Jogbra was sold by mail order before it was picked up by retailers in 1979.