Monthly Archives: November 2012

Effect of Breast Support on our gait pattern

Now accustomed to analysing the female running kinematics I can’t help but giggle when I see women run down the stairs or across the road, noting that each and every time they clutch their elbows against their sides and press their forearms against their breasts as if it is an instinctive reaction. Which led me to explore this in much greater detail. To come to my very own, not-quite-scientifically-proven point that it is in fact ‘instinctive’.

It’s well documented in the literature, and very much so noted in my biomechanical breast assessments that women contract their pectorial muscles and limit their arm swing when running ‘unsupported’, which results in unnatural upper body mechanics. This is apparent with women running bare chested, and can also be noted for women running in bras with less support eg every day and low motion control Sports Bras.

Naturally, the Podiatrist in me is itching to talk lower limb, so here I go… In Boschma’s. (1994) 113 page report on Breast Support for the active woman it is stated that women with a larger bust naturally decreased their stride length with a reduction in breast support. This follows everything we know in the footwear industry about ground reaction forces, stride length and foot strike pattern.

When we extend our stride length and land on our heel, there is an increased ground reaction force when compared to if we decrease our stride length and land on our forefoot/midfoot.

Think back to the last time you ran to cross the road. How did your gait change? I’ll tell you. You propped up on your toes, clutched your arms against your sides and compressed your breasts against your chest wall. All for a very good reason. By striking on your forefoot instead of your heel, the forces that travel up your leg to your torso decrease, which is thought to then reduce the vertical displacement of the breast.

What does this all mean? Most of us are habitual heel strikers, so if we alter our gait to protect our breasts from pain caused by excessive motion (or velocity of displacement) then we better be doing so SLOWLY to allow for conditioning of our lower limb musculature. If we don’t allow both the bone and soft tissue in our lower limb time to adapt to a change in load then pretty quickly your deficient “Sports Bra” could result in a metatarsal stress fracture. Sounds a bit farfetched? And maybe it is. But my point is one that should be noted. There are enough factors out there that will contribute to the long list of lower limb stress related running injuries. Don’t let your Sports Bra become another one.

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How to prevent Breast Sag?

Breast Sag, or in the scientific world Breast Ptsosis is a natural part of aging. Breast Sag will occur when the two support structures of the breast, the skin and the coopers ligaments become irreversibly damaged.

The size and shape of our breasts change as we go through different phases of life. Good examples of these are during puberty, pregnancy, periods of lactation, menopause and most certainly when we lose or gain wait. All these things having an effect on the skin overlying our breasts.

So on their own the aforementioned stages of life that we pass through will contribute significantly to our breasts sagging.

There is no evidence to prove that exercising in no or an unsupportive bra will contribute to the development of Breast Ptsosis, as long term research studies have not been able to exclude variables such as ageing etc.

However the industry still believes that there is a significant chance that damage to the skin and coopers ligaments does occur during physical activity, made much worse by having unsupported breasts.

So right now, the only way I believe you may be able to slow down the rate of Breast Ptsosis is maintain the integrity and elasticity of the skin by not smoking, and to ensure you are exercising in functionally supportive Sports Bra.

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Beating Bra Burn

3 years ago every one of my long runs was tainted by the dreaded bra burn. In fact every step I took past the 12km mark would elicit that horrific chinese-burn type pain, and that wasn’t even the worst of it. Hitting the shower post work out had me squealing in agony! Not to mention the laughs that I would get from my Spray tanner… it wasn’t a pretty site!

I was reminded about all this on my run yesterday morning. As I approached the 8km point I felt the heat build around my bra band and realised pretty quickly why. I was running in a bra that I purchased over 2 years ago, I hadn’t used it recently but decided to stick it on so I could review it. What I didn’t think carefully about was the fact that I had lost a few kilo’s since I had it fitted, and it was no longer sitting firmly around my ribcage.

Bra burn, or chaffing around the bra band region is caused by a combination of moisture and friction. Obviously when working out it can be difficult to regulate the sweat and subsequent moisture build up, but friction is fairly easy to control around this area.

Here are my top tips to prevent bra burn:

1. Have your Sports Bra fitted professionally. The band that runs around your ribcage must be firm. If it is not tight enough then it will shift easily while you are moving and result in friction.

2. Choose a bra with moisture wicking materials. Most quality Sports Bras will use material fibres that draw moisture away from the skin. Be mindful that these capabilities only last a certain number of washes, current standards for this in apparel is roughly 40-80 washes varying from brand to brand. I’m not aware of any everyday bras that use these technical fabrics, so another reminder not to attempt to train in your everyday bra.

3. Make sure you skin in completely dry before putting on a Sports Bra. Along with this, never be tempted to put on a damp or not-quite-dry Sports Bra, it is a recipe for disaster.

4. Apply anti-chaffing solutions pre work out if you are prone to any sort of chaffing. I have had good experiences with Body Glide, Healed Anti-Chaffing Balm ( or an easy to find option is always Bepanthen.

Just to reiterate point 1above the most common mistake that people make when dealing with this issue is buying a bra that is looser to reduce the pressure on the affected area, or loosening the bra band. This is only going to exacerbate the problem.

Good luck!

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Is it ok to wear a Sports Bra everyday? Read on…

Most women I’ve met and fitted enjoy the security of being in a Sports Bra, so it’s no surprise that I am often asked if it’s ok to wear a Sports Bra all day.

I suppose it depends on the bra….

Breast tissue is often referred to as delicate tissue. The female breast has no superficial musculature. It really is just made up of fatty tissue, fibrous connection tissue and glandular tissue (the milk ducts & lobules), along with of course, skin. All being soft and malleable.

Sports Bras nearly always use compression to control breast motion. It’s not been confirmed from a scientific point of view, but the general consensus is that 8, 10, 15 hours of compression on breast tissue is not just unnecessary, but may break down the delicate tissue fibres and lead to both bruising and pain.

Noting aswell that we already know that upward of 75% of women are not in the right size bra (most of these being in bras that are too small!). So an incorrectly fitted bra, with underwire already sitting against breast tissue instead of the rib cage, coupled with 10 hours of compressive force, repeated day-in-day-out would be a cause for worry.

On the flip side, I have one or two Sports Bras that I have road tested and deemed not controlling enough for high impact activity. I use these for every day living. They very much so mimic the design of an everyday Sports Bra, but with a technical / exercise appropriate material.

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What you never knew about bra sizing…. and cup volume.

So you know, I wrote this blog post about 6 times. Had we not be living in the technologically advanced world that we do right now I would be sitting amoungst a sea of screwed up paper…. Instead I am just clutching a cup of strong coffee and taking my mild frustration out on my wireless keyboard.

The world of bra sizing is complicated, but I’m going to do my best to simplify it for you.

What we already tend to know quite well:

The numeral eg 10, represents the back size.

Leaving the letter eg D to indicate the cup size.

What we don’t tend to consider:

Cup volume, it’s critically important when fitting a bra.

What most of us don’t know:

Different cup sizes can have the same cup volume – WHAT THE?!?!

The rule:

To find a bra with the same cup volume you can go down a back size and up a cup size.

So what I’m saying here is that a 10D bra has the same cup volume as an 8DD and a 12C.

And I’m telling you this why?

Because we know that the size on a bra (like any piece of apparel or footwear for that matter) should really just be treated as a guide.

How often have you tried on a bra eg 10D, figured it’s too tight around the back, so you grab the next ‘size up’ eg a 12D, only to find it’s too roomy in the cup?! We have all been there!

So if the band size of 10D is too small, but the cup size is perfect, then you would need to try a 12C, not a 12D as most would suspect.

This is important information, and I can’t believe that we are never taught this in the change rooms.

My hot tip with bra sizing:

Try a few sizes on for each model you buy. Then pick what you, or the bra fitter, feels is best. It will amaze you how often you don’t end up going with your ‘go to’ size!

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Best Sports Bras for large breasted women

As you’ll know by now there is no ‘best bra’ for any category or size range, given that each of our individual set of needs are very different. But I have put together a list of, in my opinion, the best Sports Bras for the larger breasted woman. In no particular order, the below would be on my ‘recommend you try’ list!

PANACHE SPORTS BRA, DD-H, $80AUD This is certainly an industry winner! This bra offers a firm support using the encapsulation method which will ensure breasts sit separately and results in a great shape! Like most in it’s class it has wide straps to disperse pressure, and it also features a hook to convert to leotard strap. I find most women ‘feel’ much more supported with this strap adjustment. It features an underwire which means if you have a ‘wide set breast’ (eg. your breast starts beneath your underarm) then this may be a less comfortable option for you. Another plus, it comes in three colour options!

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SHOCK ABSORBER ACTIVE MULTI SPORTS BRA, D – HH, $110AUD A quality crop top compression style bra for the larger bust is difficult to find. None the less, industry leaders Shock Absorber have managed to pull this off! The back features 2 clip points that form a racer back style. The straps are also adjustable which again is rare with racer back style Sports Bras. Given there is no underwire in this bra it is supremely comfortable, but I will say the shape from both front on, and the side view is slightly compromised because of this. I still rate this as a great motion control bra, and continue to receive positive feedback on it from my larger breasted product testers.

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ENELL SPORTS BRA, $100 A seriously unique Sports Bra specifically designed for the larger busted woman. This bra does up at the front, making it a winner for those with poor shoulder range of motion. This wire free Sports Bra utilises the compression method to deliver its support, so it has to be very firm to be effective. A by-product of the ‘firmness’ required will unfortunately result in a ‘uniboob’. I find this option most effective for women with a wide set breast, a larger back size, as an ‘over the top of another Sports Bra’ option and most certainly for those plagued with a shoulder injury or recovering from shoulder surgery.

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FREYA ACTIVE SAMBA SOFT CUP SPORTS BRA, D – H, $75 At its price point I think this bra is hard to beat! This is unlike any other bra you will have used in the past. It has a high profile around the neck offering complete coverage. It uses the encapsulation method of support, so totally separate the breasts. The shape of the actual cup is questionable in that is does cause the ‘Madonna cone bra’ look to a certain extent. If you have ‘uniboob phobia’ then this is the option for you! The U-style straps (traditional) can be adjusted to racer back via a hook to improve shoulder range of motion. Freya also offer a very similar bra, but with underwire. This is another good option, but given it has underwire cups it is harder to fit and will work for less of the population.

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Something else to think about, is the idea of wearing a crop top style bra over your supportive Sports Bra option to further improve control. It’s important to know if you are going to do this then the strap configuration must be different on each of the bras to prevent painful compression over your shoulders and back. Personally, I used to be ‘against’ the idea of wearing 2 bras. But having done much more product testing and after collecting feedback from more larger busted women I am now of the opinion that if it does in fact improve someone’s comfort then… why not?!

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Sports Medicine Australia ‘Be Active’ conference, Deirdre McGhee

This weekend saw me trek to Sydney for Sports Medicine Australia’s annual conference. SMA has recently funded a project led by Breast Health Researcher Deirdre McGhee to increase the awareness of Breast health in sport. They have recently put out a brochure titled ‘Exercise & Breast Support’ that is available to download via their website, the link to this is listed below.

Deidre spent the hour detailing mistakes that women commonly make in both bra selection and fit. I’ll be blogging on all of this in greater detail in the coming months. It was also interesting to meet and chat with many physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and general practitioners about the implications that poor bra fit can have on women’s health. Most of this centred around neural impingement (generally from tight straps digging in to the trapezius muscles) and thoracic kyphosis.

It’s great to see Sports Medicine Australia acknowledging the need for greater education on breast health in the community.

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