Sports Bras: The Real Sport Comes in Putting Them On and Taking Them Off!
So pretty, but good luck getting it to look like the model
I am not big chested, but finding a comfortable bra to run in is almost as much work as trying to put it on without dislocating a shoulder
I admit that I never really went in for custom race gear. I wasn't all that fast and frankly my chest was so flat that I could wear any bra and be okay with it, but when I started to run distance (longer than ten miles at a stretch) I realized that things started rubbing and made running more stressful than it needed to be, so went in search of an affordable sports bra that would support my barely B breasts while not chafing them or my arm pits and not having the straps slide down my shoulders or cut into them one.
The following are my observations about sports bras and why, if I had my way, we would burn them all and just put KT tape or therabands on and be done with it.
When I first started looking for sports bras, I was amazed at how expensive they were!!!
A friend suggested I check out the sports bras at a local running store. Sure, I thought. My experience with running stores was not that good. The shorts were all too tight and too short; more like underwear with exterior leg flaps. Their shoe prices made it feel like I was buying a new set of tires for my truck. Really, who pays $175 for a pair of running shoes that are only going to last for six months tops before needing to be replaced again or barely three months for people who put in a lot of mileage.
Previously I had purchased shoes on-line when they went on sale for under $50 with free shipping, but it was always hit and miss and you don't want to try on a bra and then return it; that's just gross. I figured at the running shop I could at least hold it up and examine it.
As cheap as I am, you can imagine my shock when I saw the price tag of $68!!! What? Was it made of Gortex with high impact titanium lining? All I saw was a piece of stretchy cloth that left the nipples glaring like headlamps. I could cut out an old pair of panty hose and come out cheaper with as much coverage. I didn't even bother with it and went out and bought a $5.95 T-shirt bra from the local box store, but the straps kept sliding down and the little seam near my arm pit rubbed after an hour on the trails. It was obvious I needed something more geared to movement, but no way I was spending two weeks worth of grocery money on some spandex with a logo on it.
It took about two years to find what I thought was a perfect match
While shopping at Sam's I came across a boxload of sports bras, two to a pack for $14.99. Score!!! One bra was black the other superman blue; not a color I would normally wear, but not like I had a color choice. They had little tiny pockets on the side, about an inch long. I couldn't figure out what that was for... maybe a vent to let steam escape.
The bras were one piece with a crossed mesh back, but soft material with about an 1/8 inch padding to prevent your nipples from poking through. Outside of the blue color, they seemed perfect. Once home I tried the black one on. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me because I got my pony tail stuck in it and only one arm made it through, the other got plastered upright with my left shoulder stuck to my left ear.
There I stood, flailing my right arm about trying to reach the chest strap on the left and pull it down further without ripping my hair out. Both boobs stuck straight out with the chest band on top of them, refusing to go down further. The back band was right around shoulder blade level and I could not reach it with either hand and thought about calling emergency personnel to come cut me loose before I got stuck in that position or fell to the floor trying to free myself out of this straight jacket device. So far it was not the ease and comfort device it had touted itself to be.
After trying to catch the back strap on the back of a door knob and writhing and flailing, I finally managed to latch a thumb on the back of the band and pull it down enough to go inch by inch from left to right and pull the bra into place. Oh yeah, Uni-boob... what a lovely look. I was not impressed.
After arranging each breast on the proper side of my body I was actually pleased with the results. It felt a bit tight, like someone squeezing my chest, but it fit well enough and nothing was slipping out of place on the bra or on me, so off I went to test it on the streets underneath a T-shirt of course.
The bra did well, but the crossed shoulder straps come within an inch of my neck line, showing under my shirt which made it impractical to wear outside of running. It also flattened my chest, despite the padding and when I washed it I discovered that those one inch slits were so you could remove the padding, but I did not know this before so when I pulled the thing out the washer it came out with no padding inside and two black triangle foam things floating about by themselves which took even more of a rocket science mentality to put back in straight without lumps or folding that made me look like I was a candidate for breast surgery.
Smoothing the pads out took time and effort and to make it worse, if they jostled around in the gym bag or got caught when trying to put them on, they would refold and rumple themselves and have to be reset again. If putting it on was problematic, taking it off while sweaty was an athletic feat of endurance and often ended up in ripping the hair on my head or getting caught under my nose so it felt like I would rip the nose off my face. I felt stupid, bested by a sports bra. Surely I was not alone. All those pictures of the women in the magazines looking so smooth and smart must know some secret or did they struggle the same way I did in private and just not share it in order to look good in public?
I've tried a lot of sports bras since then and none of them lived up to the hype
Since then, I have tried several more brands with equally disappointing results. The cross back or razor back design makes putting them on and off difficult at best. If you have shoulder issues, its almost impossible to put one on without puling something out the socket. Many have stitching inside to make them look smoother outside which means the seams rub your body or under your arms and the front closure ones cut into you like a knife to the chest. There is always a challenge.
Apparently I am not alone, over 75 percent of women say they have issues with sports bras
The Journal of Sports Sciences, did a survey of women who ran in the 2012 London Marathon and found that over seventy five percent had problems with the way their sports bras fit.
Over one thousand women said they had problems with everything from shoulder straps digging in to chafing, especially under the armpits. Larger breasted women reported lack of comfort and support as well. Oddly, these are some of the same problems women have with regular bras. Underwire bras, while helping to keep breasts from sagging, tend to put pressure on the center of the chest and can even rub holes in the skin especially as the bra begins to age a bit.
While women like comfort when running, running in a bra that flattens your chest and makes it look as if you have a small inner tube wrapped around your boobs may control the bounce, but provides little comfort.
What to look for in a good sports bra
Ideally you should try on your sports bra before you buy it. Many sporting goods stores have bandeau style under-bras you can slip on before trying on the real thing and there is even a series of videos on YouTube showing you how to put on and take off a bra to minimize loss of nose, hair and damaged shoulder joints.
Front closure sports bras are an option, but if the closure fits against your skin rather than on the outer surface of the bra, there is a high probability it will rub after time. Most sports bras with padding tend to get out of shape and get lumpy or loose overtime which is not a pretty sight.
There are some new hybrid bras that do double duty as a regular bra and a sports bra. Many of these can be found at regular retail stores and while they do not hold up as well as the more expensive brands and may not work as well for larger breasted women, they are lighter, easier to get into and out of and have more attractive designs and colors.
In my experience, it is best to avoid underwire bras. If it pokes your hand through the cloth on the bra, it is going to poke into your breast bone and be miserable. Do not buy a bra with inside seams or outside seams that will make contact with any part of your body, especially under the arm area. Also look for a thick or strong elastic strap along the entire underside of the bra. While it may make putting it on more difficult, it will also not lose it's shape like the thinner chest straps that will eventually weaken and allow the bra to rise up rather than stay in place.
While razor back or crossed straps may be cooler feeling and looking, they also make it more difficult to get into and out of without help. A regular bra strap style with soft elastic material helps hold the straps on your shoulders without slipping but make it easier to slip out of as well.
Once you have found your ideal sports bra, invest in several as for some reason they are difficult to find from year to year. Since I have never invested more than $24 in a sports bra, I can not recommend a high end one that really works, but have found some pretty decent ones off the rack at Walmart and on clearance at Target, paying less than $10. The sales usually start at the end of winter and again before the start of fall.
If all else fails look for big name regular wear comfort bras and test them on your runs. If you are not planning on wearing them visible in public they may work just as well as a sports bra if you are not overly large chested. If you are smaller chested, you might want to check out swim suit tops when they go on sale, especially the mismatched ones that go for $3 or less at the end of the season.
If you have any good tips on where to find, try on or what brands are consistently the best for your style, please share with our readers below in the comments section and don't forget to take the poll on your experiences with sports bras. Do you wear them or stick to conventional bras when you work out or run?