Girl’s Guide to Sports Bras

After finishing a 22 mile training run last week, and discovering the most horrific chafing I have ever experienced, I decided it was time to find out a little bit more about the sports bras that I rely on heavily to keep ‘things’ in place.

Did you know that 44% of women don’t work out in a sports bra?

And your boobs can bounce up to 14cm when unsupported during exercise? (source)

Talking to many of you on Twitter, I realised that a lot of women are equally stumped when it comes to life span, sizing, chafing and washing. I contacted a few of the leading sports bra makers, as well as Boobydoo for some answers.

What’s the life span of a Sports Bra

This obviously differs between people and bras, it depends on how often you use it, wash it and what you use it for. Running is one of the most strenuous activities you can put your bra through (especially those of us that are ‘blessed’ with larger chest friends) and therefore decreases the life span of the sports bras you run in most often.

Shockingly to me, Carol at Boobydoo, and Sophie at Moving Comfort told me that ‘a sports bra should never live to see its first birthday’– WOW that means a lot of my bras need to be retired!

Washing

Your sports bra should probably be replaced after aprox 30-40 washes, as this damages the fabric’s properties. Dependant on which manufacturer’s bra you wear, they will have washing instructions. Some of the bras are machine washable, some are hand wash (especially if they have an underwire). I would never recommend tumble drying as this will shorten the life of the bra even more. (Carol, Boobydoo)

In the past, I’ve had people recommend that you handwash your bras whilst wearing them! This is a little much for me, but I do understand the need to be gentle with them.

Chafing

During training for my first marathon, I did experience some under-boob chafing but since I was fairly new to running, I thought this was part and parcel of the sport as a larger chested lady. I’ve also spoken to friends who have chafed so badly that they’ve bled.

Apparently the main reason for chafing is that your sports bra is too big! As your run progresses and sweat builds, there will be movement and chafing!! Hence why a bra that doesn’t chafe on a 3 mile run becomes unbearable after 13 miles!

‘To try and avoid chafing it’s worth tightening up the bra if possible. If the cups are too big as well, then the movement of the breasts will also cause additional movement adding to the chafing issue.
If the bra isn’t replaced regularly then the fabric stretches and you won’t get the same amount of support, and this again can lead to chafing.Our breast size can fluctuate throughout the month, so you might need a couple of sizes to accommodate the changes.’ (Carol, Boobydoo)

Carol told me that even using Bodyglide or vaseline won’t help if the bra doesn’t fit correctly.

So, turns out I may need to replace a LOT of my sports bras. I took to twitter once again to find out what runners recommend, and asked some of them to tell me a bit about their favourite sports bras to help your choice (and mine) become a little easier!

Shock Absorber

These are my go-to sports bra, and I have a multitude of them in my sports wear drawer. I highly recommend these for runners with boobs of all sizes. I regularly wear the Ultimate Run Bra which, with two industrial sized clips, and adjustable straps, is the most secure bra I’ve ever worn. Your two chest friends are not going anywhere- infact, these bras have won awards for being the most secure on the market. They are made of quick drying, breathable material, however, they are a little hard to put on and take off alone. The other Shock Absorber bra that I can’t live without is the Multi Sports Support bra– fewer clips, a little less structure but a similar level of support. I also appreciate the padded straps on both bras. These are great for running, gyming, jumping around in. I would not recommend either of these bras for yoga or pilates though- the multiple clips will dig into your back!

Adidas

 

Jess uses Supernova Race Bras.Comfortable and supportive through out long runs and BRILLIANT in the summer. It features a CLIMACOOL® function which basically makes sure that all your sweat and tears are kept at bay. Super moisture management! They come in a variation of colours and cost around £30.00. Again crop top style with racer straps at the back. They have the perfect amount of padding and I never find myself having to adjust or fiddle around during a high intensity workout. It genuinely feels as if you are not wearing a bra which is just what you want.

Moving Comfort

A friend at work recommended I try our Moving Comfort a while ago, and it wasn’t until recently that I actually got around to it. I’ve tried the Juno Bra, which I love- even though it goes over the head which I’m not usually such a fan of. I love the colours, style (love a racer back) and the support, plus it’s moisture wicking. I have also tried the Jubralee Bra which I wasn’t such a fan of- with velcro adjustable straps, and a low back stap, I just didn’t feel as supported as I do in other sports bras. I did however, find it perfectly good for lower impact sports, or for running when worn in conjunction with a ‘shelf bra’ top (those inbuilt bras are never enough support for me!) I’d be interested to try the Endurance Racer as it looks like it would be super supportive and is a little cheaper than the others. (I was sent the Moving Comfort sports bras to try out)

Anne Marie is a  devotee of Triumph Tri-Action Extreme bras, as ‘they are the only ones I have found that are the right combination of proper support – nothing moves in these babies, or at least not at 34C – and ease of access. I’ve tried other brands, including Shock Absorber and Sportjock, but found that the only ones supportive enough for running are impossible for me to remove without assistance. Which is not ideal on a run commute unless you’re extremely close with work colleagues!
They’re not naturally chafe-free on long runs, but are fine if you remember the bodyglide or vaseline.
The only negatives against them are the boring colours (black or white with black/red trim) and the fact that Triumph don’t seem to want to market them or sell many, as they have limited stockists and are never on offer!
I love Nike workout wear, however their sports bras, I find, are just not supportive enough if you’re above a D cup. Laura, however, LOVES their sports bras, ‘I have a drawer full of sports bras but the one I keep going for when it’s clean (and often when it’s not) is my Nike X-Back. It’s my perfect bra because it has enough support for running and gives me enough definition to not look like a vertical pancake when out on a run. I like it more than my Shock Absorber ones because there is less going on on the front of it, it’s smooth and looks good under all my tops. Also the x-back sits lower so you don’t have the annoying plastic clasp hanging out above the neckline of your top.’
I wear the Sweaty Betty Stamina sports bra all the time… for yoga and pilates. As with lots of other sports bras, there just isn’t enough support for me to run in them. They are really comfortable (one of my friends wears hers to sleep in as they don’t have clips on them), stylish, colourful and perfect for medium/low impact. They recently brought out their Ultra Run Bra, which to be honest, I found very similar to the Shock Absorber Run bra, just with a slightly-annoying-to-do-up back clip.  I do like that you have the option of a race back or normal back, and the pink and purple bra is quite attractive! It’s a sturdy, supportive bra to run in, and  with mesh panels at the side, it’s well ventilated and sweat wicking.
Bec’s sent me a raving review of the Freya Active Bra; ‘With two moulded cups, a thick back and ring hook fastening at the top to create that racerback look, this bra actually made my boobs look like boobs rather than compressing them into a sausage shape. It also felt incredibly comfortable, thanks to the seam free underwiring. The product description describes the bra as having “inner slings inside the cups for maximum support”. I experienced no uncomfortable chafing at all during my Ultra Marathon and there was adequate room in the cups for me to stuff liquorice and my iPod. In fact, my clothing on the day allowed me to concentrate on the main aim – to get to the finish line!’
Their bras are Jess’s favourite. They range from 9.99 to £15.00 so are great value for money but don’t compromise in comfort or style. Their bras are crop top which works better for her. Nice and simple and easy to throw on in the dark winter months. The material is functional and fast drying. They also come in gorgeous bright prints which makes them fun 🙂 She recently ran a half marathon in a H&M bra and it caused no problems at all.

Lululemon

I recently tried out their Ta ta Tamer after being recommended it by a friend. I couldn’t believe how pert my boobs looked in it- not the squashed, shelf look that so many other sports bras give. I felt secure in the bra, and didn’t feel like there was too much padding (I usually can’t stand padding, although it does still annoy me that the cups can get folded over inside the bra!). At a 32 DD I did get the biggest size available, so not a great one for the larger chested ladies. I’ve actually recently gone down from an E to a DD thanks to losing a bit of weight!!

USA PRO

Chelsea emailed me about the USA Pro Hi Bra Top, she said that ‘as a bigger bosomed lady I think it’s hard to find a sports bra that gives me the comfort and security I need, but the USA pro sports bras give me both and are a great fit which is another annoyance when looking for sports bras! I work out 3/4 times a week, PT sessions, Zumba, Body Pump..etc and I always feel secure and comfortable wearing it.’ Plus it looks like they’re super cheap at the moment!!

Panache

Listening to Jillian Michael’s podcast this morning, she was saying that these are the go-to sports bras for the female Biggest Loser contestants (so obviously I’m going to have to try them soon, I LOVE the Biggest Loser!) Jen emailed me to say that she loved her Panache sports bras, made exclusively for those with D+ cups (finally), it’s the brand she comes back to time and time again. ‘The bra has an underwire, is made from a strong, breathable material which provides maximum support as well as the ability to keep me dry while working out. The straps are wider than usual which adds to the comfort of this bra and I’m also able to transform it into a racerback with the attached clip. The shape is a bonus too as it doesn’t squash my chest in an unflattering way. The cups accommodate the breasts quite nicely allowing a feminine curve and keeps everything in place. All in all this bra makes my fitness life a little bit easier. I can work out in comfort and that’s what is most important to me.’

This is not a comprehensive list of all sports bra makers, just a round up of the most popular on my twitter feed!

The lovely people at Boobydoo have offered Runnerbeans readers 10% off your next purchase- simply enter the code RB13 for the next month!!

This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own or my friends/strangers from Twitter unless otherwise stated.

9 Comments

  1. October 17, 2013 / 9:06 am

    Shock Absorber is definitely my favourite! They’re on sale at Sweatshop at the moment so I might have to get another one- I’ve definitely had some of mine longer than a year! Ooops. X

  2. October 17, 2013 / 1:39 pm

    I have one amazing sports bra…. my anniversary gift for Year two “cotton” although technically I don’t know if it is made of cotton. I thought this was the best gift ever by the way 🙂 it was awesome but now that its “birthday” is coming up i’m starting to chafe and its losing its form. Although it is time to invest in a new one, and really I need to get more then one, I can tell huge difference in the quality of a sports bra. I tried some crappy cheap ones when I somehow misplaced the good one and I could feel myself bouncing every where which made me uncomfortable, my back hurt and especially after sweating it just lost all form and I might have well not worn anything! Even though they are pricey I cant stress how important an good sports bra is!

    Melissa

    http://www.theredheadedrunner.com

  3. October 17, 2013 / 9:39 pm

    Enell for sure! Jillian mentioned them on her podcast as well. Up to a 52G in size, so great for both big cup sizes and larger band sizes.

    • October 18, 2013 / 9:39 am

      Thanks for sharing! I remember her saying that she started the contestants out with those!

  4. October 18, 2013 / 2:44 pm

    Brilliant post! I am always SO curious what other people recommend in sports bras. I fell in love with the shock absorber bra when I lived in Scotland but sadly it’s not as easily found in the US. Good thing there is amazon! 😀

    • October 22, 2013 / 4:26 pm

      I’m surprised they don’t sell Shock Absorber in the US! Seems like they would have a huge market!

  5. October 19, 2013 / 11:58 am

    Shock Absorber girl here! I’ve always thought the Nike ones never look too supportive also, more like a crop top. I first started out with m&s ones which are quite good for beginners as they are cheap so not too big an investment.

    • October 22, 2013 / 4:26 pm

      I’ve never tried M and S I don’t think!

  6. steph
    January 22, 2015 / 10:45 pm

    I’ve got swingy 36gg boobs. I used to use a shock absorber with an enell over the top of it. Only way to keep ’em still. They were squashed nearly up to my chin, but for me it was practicality over looks.

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