A blog by runners. For runners.

How to find the best sports bra

sports bra for runners

Breast pain affects one-third of women runners of all cup sizes, forcing them to cut runs short or forgo running all together. But a correctly-fitted sports bra can alleviate the hurt.

Who is affected: A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine surveyed 1,285 female marathon runners at the 2012 London Marathon.

The study found:

  • 1/3 of the women said they experienced breast pain while running.
  • 17 percent of respondents said they sometimes cut back on mileage or intensity because of the pain.
  • 25 percent of women said they had skipped one or more training run due to pain.
  • The prevalence of breast pain increased with cup sizes. However, a significant percentage of women with smaller breasts still had breast pain. 24 percent of women with A cups or smaller experienced pain, while 51 percent of women with F cups or larger reported pain.

The researchers concluded that poorly fitting sports bras were partially to blame for breast pain. Many sports bras aren’t made for specific cup sizes and don’t offer adequate support.

How to get the best fit: Follow these tips when shopping for a sports bra and you’ll feel more comfortable on the run.

  1. Search for bras made for “high-impact” activity. Some sports bras are made for low- or medium-impact activity. Running – no matter how slow your pace – is definitely high-impact exercise, so wearing a bra specifically made for this type of activity is key. Tank tops with built-in bras are OK for lower impact activities, but they don’t offer enough support for running.
  2. Avoid thin, spaghetti strap styles. These types of bras provide less support than ones with thicker straps.
  3. Look for a bra with a thick band at the bottom of the bra. Thicker bands are more supportive.
  4. Shop for a bra based on your cup size. If you don’t know your cup size, get professionally fitted at a bra-specialty store.
    • A or B cups: Buy a compression bra in a racer-back style. These types of bras compress the breasts and limit movement. Racer-back styles are more supportive than scoop-back styles.
    • C and D cups: Choose a compression/ encapsulation bra. This combination style comes with the benefits of compression bras but offers more support.
    • For DD cups and larger: Consider an encapsulation bra. This sports bra is built like an everyday bra – it’s made with individual cups that surround and support each breast individually. This is the most supportive bra type.
  5. When trying on the bra, keep the following in mind:
    • It should fit tightly, but not tight enough that you can’t comfortably take a deep breath.
    • The straps shouldn’t dig into your shoulders.
    • Lift your hands over your head. If the band moves up, you may need a smaller size.
    • Make sure it doesn’t chafe you anywhere.
    • Run in place to check if the bra is supportive enough.
  6. Replace your bras regularly. Sports bras last about 6 months to one year. Machine wash it on a gentle cycle and hang dry it to extend its life.

Written by Jen Matz.