The perfect sports bra
Real answers from real runners?
To help our partner Runderwear put together the 2020 Big Bra Survey, where better to look when you need real answers than real runners?
Happy to help, hundreds of you highlighted everything from colour to fit, breathability and more when it comes to that all-important piece of kit, your sports bra. And while standard findings like fit and things like breathability came out on top, it was the range of needs that proved most useful for Runderwear who will be using the findings to create new models in their already extensive range.
With more than 1600 responses, it provided an in-depth look at exactly what runners require from this vital piece of sports clothing. And the numbers make for some fascinating reading with a whopping 76 per cent surveyed using a sports bra for running. Good news there, but interestingly just 33 per cent have had fitting within the last three years, and 34 per cent of you suffered discomfort while running. Too much movement and chafing topped the charts in that department.
Hannah Lees, RunTogether Run Leader of the Year 2019 - South West Region, is just such a runner who was more than happy to help. "I started running aged 37 to get away from my children (that’s not an exaggeration - I have twins, they were 2 years old and I was desperate for some time alone)," says Hannah, describing a familiar scene for so many runners. "I'd never run before and hated it at school, but I guess it’s all about context because I discovered that it was a brilliant way to escape from two sleep-stealing toddlers. I quickly got up to 10k, entered a race, didn’t come last, and off the back of that decided to do the Bath Half Marathon. Up to that point I was running alone, but I got the confidence to join a group and admit that I was actually a runner. Fast forward a bit...and now I’m a qualified coach, mentor and mental health champion leading a team of Run Leaders, and we’ve supported over 400 people to start running.
If you had to create a perfect picture for Runderwear’s survey, Hannah pretty much ticks all the boxes!
"When I started running, I knew I would need trainers and a sports bra. Luckily, I had both from various dalliances with the gym and aerobics classes. Cost was a big issue to start with. I was a stay at home mum. Comfort was definitely important. I’d only just stopped breastfeeding my twins and my ribs had changed shape during pregnancy and were not back to normal. For me one consideration is how easy it is to get in and out of. I don't want to feel like I've done my warm-up just getting my kit on, and if you have a bra that doesn't unfasten completely and you're sweaty from running then there's going to be some very undignified contortions to get it off without dislocating a shoulder.
"For runners with larger breasts, getting the right size, a really comfortable bra and a good fit is vital. To be honest you know before you start running if getting the right bra is going to be important because in your non-running life you already have to select your bra carefully. High street underwear shops have created good sports bras in larger sizes and it's not as difficult, intimidating or expensive as it used to be.
"At the other end of the scale, those runners with small breasts will usually wear a bra or crop-top under their running vest if only to avoid nipple chafing. Having a layer that doesn't move when you run totally solves that particular issue. I've got one runner who occasionally doesn't wear a bra, but she really is in a minority of one.
"For those in the middle, well, we tend to stick with what we know is comfortable. As with trainers your bra can make or break your run so once you find the right one, you're reluctant to change."
For Sue Bennett - also RunTogether Run Leader with several groups - running provided an outlet, but for very different reasons. "I began my love of running 2012 , I love the way it keeps me young (60) and the way it has helped my MS and the way it has opened so many opportunities for me. But when I started I didn’t realise like many, how important it was, it just seemed to be part of the required kit. Starting training for marathons and longer then showed me exactly why you need a good bra, I still have some scars from the dreadful chafing I got from wearing the completely wrong bra! I look for comfort, no fastenings whatsoever, and those that slip on and off easily without feeling you are going to dislocate your shoulders! It is something I discuss with my groups as I once also asked for advice, I think it should be as essential as getting your trainers right. Smaller runners should still wear one, but it’s importance may not be as high as others."
"Let's finish with a bra related anecdote,” says Hannah.
"It happened during an interval training session on Great Pulteney Street - one of the grandest Georgian streets you can imagine. I had the group sprinting up the street between lamp posts and one woman, who was new to the group at the time, came to a very abrupt stop clutching her chest so I dashed over to see what was wrong. Her bra was one that zipped at the front and with all the speedwork it had unzipped itself in dramatic style. Preserving her dignity while re-securing her breasts took two of us. Luckily it didn't put her off running and she's booked onto the LiRF course in October. That particular model of bra now has a nifty little hook to prevent such catastrophes."
Big Bra Survey findings included these key points
- Cater for bigger women
- Include a bigger range – small back + large cup; large back + small cup
- Be aware of changing sizes/shape – pregnancy, breast-feeding, mastectomy, odd shaped boobs, getting older
- Take note of the chafing/discomfort problems
- Think about the design/fabric
- Colour is important; nude, funky, patterns
- Make sure a sports bra is quick drying (triathlon) and easy to wash
- Include older women in the testing
- Test them on long runs not just treadmill
- And don’t forget; when you’re advertising a sports bra, show real women
The Runderwear range can be found at runderwear.co.uk