Yes I’m talking about boobs, and what happens when you don’t contain them properly during exercise.
A good sports bra is one of the most important pieces of workout gear for women, and one of the hardest things to shop for. While you may be tempted to shop by style and what will look awesome under your tank top at the gym, the reality is everybooby—I mean, everybody—is different, and a bra with a customized fit that keeps everything comfortably in place during your workout should be your number one priority.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to rock the super supportive beige granny bra during your workout. Thankfully, there are a few apparel companies that make sports bras that are both functional and stylish.
Not sure what brand of sports bra would be best for your cup size and the type of activities you do? Read on to hear from nine women of all shapes and cup sizes who participate in a variety of activities—from ultra marathons and triathlons to weight lifting and Jazzercise—about some of the common issues they’ve experienced and what brands and types of sports bras they recommend.
Got clementines? (A/B-cup)
Bri (That’s me! Running, strength training, triathlon, yoga – 32B)
I have to admit: When it comes to exercise, I’m thankful I have small boobs. While I still do need some support, I can pretty much wear any type of sports bra and experience no chafing, bouncing, uniboob-ing, or discomfort. The only issue I have is when the support band under my boobs is too tight, especially when I wear a heart rate monitor, which I find restricts breathing. I’ve found some Nike bras to be a bit too small across the rib cage when compared to the cup size. I like my Armor Bra from Under Armor for the adjustable straps and clasp in the back, but find the cup size to be a little too big. For running and yoga, I like these super-soft sports bras made by Oiselle.
Chrysta (Running, mountain biking, CrossFit – 36B)
Chrysta is another b-cupper who finds some sports bras to be a bit too snug around the chest. “Sometimes I find a fit for my cup size, but the rest of the bra doesn’t take into account a muscular build, so it can be too constricting and uncomfortable around back and shoulders.” Other annoyances for her are when nipples are noticeable through the fabric, and any type of stitching in the boob area. “I go for more of an elastic ‘training bra’ style for my athletics,” says Chrysta. “I have smaller boobs, so support really isn’t an issue for me—it’s mainly about comfort and style.” And, like me, Crysta feels lucky to be lacking in the chest area. “I love my small boobs, especially as an athletic female! I feel for my larger-chested friends in sports, as it seems like it would a constant struggle to find both support and comfort.” As for her favourite sports bra? “I love the Lululemon Flow sports bra—thin straps, seamless, and the perfect amount of support.”
Michelle (Running, yoga, baseball – A/B-cup)
One of the most important features Michelle looks for in a sports bra is a support band that isn’t too tight around the ribcage. “When I feel like my breathing is constricted or it’s hard to breathe in any way, my running is thrown off,” Michelle says. “I like it to feel tight enough that it isn’t just a tank top, but definitely no wiring or tight bands.” For fit and feel, Michelle prefers bras made out of some type of sweat-wicking material that come in fun colors and cute styles. She also looks for bras that fit her tall, athletic frame. “I need it to be stretchy enough to sit properly and not ride up uncomfortably.” For favorite bras, Michelle likes the Nike Pro bra “because it is just so secure and comfortable, and long enough for my tall body.” For a less costly bra, Michelle likes the C9 bra from Target. “They’re great, seamless, cheap (around $15), and come in an abundance of colors,” Michelle says. While she doesn’t have any issues with chafing, she’s not a fan of sports bras with padding in them. “I hate the pads because they always fall out or get bunched up in someway.”
Jackie (Multi-day ultra trail races – B-cup)
Though Jackie says she’s “barely a B-cup,” she finds some brands can cause the “pancake uniboob” effect, where your boobs are squished and flattened unflatteringly together. This is not something you want when running a 100-mile race in the Himalayas—a feat Jackie accomplished last year. Jackie says her favorite right now is this sports bra by Isis, “which has different, stretchier fabric for the cups so your boobs don’t get too flattened together.” For trail running and hiking in temperatures when it’s too chilly to go shirtless yet warm enough that you work up a sweat, Jackie prefers a smaller and lighter sports bra like this one by Patagonia. Other must-haves for Jackie are adjustable straps, “because the straps tend to stretch with time,” and the absence of padding, which she finds holds the sweat close to your skin instead of being wicked away. This is generally the cause of excessive “swoobs” or “swoobage” (a portmanteau of “sweaty boobs,” in case you didn’t put two and two together) in the chest region of you shirt. Not only is this uncomfortable, but also it draws more attention to your chest (which may or may not be desired when working out).
Issues: Support band under boobs too tight, cup size too big/too small when compared to fit across ribcage, too much flattening/compression.
What we want: No padding, adjustable straps, athletic fit, and comfortable, sweat-wicking fabric.
Recommended favourites: C9 Champion, Nike Pro, Patagonia Barely Everyday Bra, Isis Everyday Racerback Bra, Lululemon Flow, Oiselle Lesko Bra, Under Armor.
Got coconuts? (B/C-cup)
Ashley (Running, yoga and Pilates instructor, Jazzercise – 36C)
As a runner and Jazzercise enthusiast, Ashley needs something to keep her C-cup under control during all that jumping and bouncing. “I need something with maximum support; they need to be strapped in,” Ashley explains. She prefers a sports bra that is light yet supportive, and prevents the aforementioned uniboob effect, which is common when sports bras don’t divide and separate the girls. Unlike us A- and B-cuppers, Ashley likes the inclusion of padding in a sports bra. “I like thicker straps, and padding is a plus,” says Ashley. Her favourite bra is the Moving Comfort Rebound Racer bra, because “it has padding, adjustable straps, and a rubber ribbing around the bottom of the bra, which is my favorite feature of any bra ever because it prevents chafing.”
Jenn (Soccer, volleyball, running, yoga, weight lifting – 36C)
Like Ashley, Jenn prefers a sports bra that keeps things under control during high-impact activities such as soccer and running, yet is supportive and comfortable enough for lower impact activities, such as yoga. “I find most bras marketed towards bigger-chested girls are basically a push-up bra with more coverage,” Jenn says. “I don’t want my chest in my face, thanks.” Jenn also finds chafing to be an issue with most sports bras, especially during long runs and workouts lasting more than an hour. “I haven’t found a sports bra that doesn’t chafe. I feel like that’s something I’ll just have to deal with.” When shopping for a sports bra, Jenn looks for a racer-back style with thick straps, a clasp and no padding. “I am okay with slight wiring underneath,” Jenn says, “but the material has to be technical. No cotton.” Her favorites right now include the Armor Bra by Under Armor and the Incredible Sports Bra by Victoria Secret.
Issues: Chafing between and underneath boobs and under the armpits, not enough support.
What we want: Adjustable straps and a clasp, padding that contains and separates, thick bra straps, enough support to stop bounce, no chafing.
Recommended favourites: Victoria Secret Incredible Sport Bra, Armor Bra by Under Armor, Moving Comfort Rebound Racer.
Got cantaloupes? (D/DD-cup)
Kayla (Running and strength training – 32D)
For Kayla, the biggest problem she has had with sports bras and her D-cup is the fit. “I find that with my small ribcage and large cup size, I either have to have a loose-fitting band and correct-fitting top, or a correct-fitting band and a super-squeezed-up chest.” Because it’s hard to find one that fits everywhere, Kayla finds there is a lot of movement, which cause chaffing. “Many brands have large seams on the inside of their sports bras, which will rip up my skin because I tend to have really salty sweat.” Besides a support band and cups that actually fit (and don’t turn into sandpaper during a workout), Kayla likes a sports bra to be lightweight, extra breathable and supportive, but not suffocating. “My favorite right now is the Rebound Racer by Moving Comfort. They are sized according to cup and band size and have adjustable straps, which help to create the perfect amount of support,” Kayla says. “The fabric they are made of is substantial, and I find that they are sturdy and last.”
Debbie (Running, yoga, Jazzercise – 34D)
Besides having to deal with chafing, not enough bounce control and tightness around the ribcage, Debbie finds some sports bras can cause even more issues for larger-chested women. “Some bras squish your boobs out of the sides of the bra,” Debbie says, “and I find that racer-back styles give me neck pain and a sweatier back.” Debbie prefers soft fabrics and a snug fit, “but not so tight that my boobs spill out everywhere.” She also likes straps that sit closer to her shoulders as opposed to her neck. Her favourite? “Stuff My Bra by Lululemon, which they don’t make anymore, unfortunately. The Lululemon All Sport Bra is similar, though.”
Lizzie (Running, cycling, triathlon – Usually A-cup; right now DD while breastfeeding)
Before baby, Lizzie purchased most of her sport bras from a local designer, who made them in her basement. These days, she needs something more substantial to keep things in place during exercise. “Now that I need more support, Moving Comfort is my go-to,” Lizzie says. “With my current situation, the bouncing was originally the major issue—but now, after getting a few new bras with more support, now the major issue is chafing. I finish some runs with welts under or on my breasts.”
Issues: Chafing, back and neck pain.
What we want: Containment and support, customizable sizing similar to that of regular bras, thick shoulder straps, no chafing.
Recommended favourites: Moving Comfort Rebound Racer, Moving Comfort Juno, Lululemon All Sport Bra.
Chafing – What’s a well-endowed girl to do?
Although applying Vaseline or BodyGlide to your skin around your bra can help reduce chafing, a proper-fitting sports bra really is key. “A bra that is too big will move around the body, which can lead to chafing,” says Babs Vermeulen, a professional bra fitter in Toronto, ON. “When trying on a sports bra, I tell my clients to move around, and do some of the movements that are part of their workout,” Vermeulen says. “I ask them to run on the spot, bend over, and bring their arms forward and across the body to ensure that the fit is comfortable, the bra is not cut too high under the arm, and nothing is getting in the way.”
Bigger than a DD?
Sometimes the bigger they are, the more problems they cause. Besides more movement and chafing, many women with larger breasts experience back and neck pain during and after high-impact exercise. And it’s no wonder—a pair of D-cup breasts can weigh between 15 and 23 pounds. Now apply Newton’s second law to your chest when running or Jazzercising. Yeah, ouch.
“A lot of ladies ask me if there is a bra that will offer complete cessation of movement,” Vermeulen says. “Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to kill the bounce—but a good sport bra can certainly slow it down significantly to make activity more comfortable.”
For slimmer women with a smaller chest circumference, Vermeluen recommends the Panache Sport, which is one of the only sports bras on the market that comes in a size 28 back (the measurement in inches under your bust) with cup sizes ranging from D to H. “This bra is extremely structured—it’s practically bulletproof,” Vermeluen says, “and this makes it a great option for women who like a more padded, defined cup.”
For runners, Vermeluen likes the Ultimate Run Bra by Shock Absorber. “It’s a compression style bra, designed specifically for runners and high-impact workouts,” Vermeluen says. The Ultimate Run Bra is available in size 30-38 backs, and from B to F cups. It’s also lined with a smooth, silky microfiber fabric to help minimize chafing.
Do you have a favourite sports bra? What issues are the most common for you?
This post originally appeared on SixPackAbs.com.