Tag Archives: arm swing

Bra Banding Might Fix Your Chafing Woes

It’s all about the banding when it comes to Sports Bras – but even more so for Sports Bras for distance runners.

Almost every runner has experience dreaded chafing somewhere at some point – ooh and the nasty sting in the shower post run!

But avoiding chafing is usually down to a few simple steps.

  1. Make sure your Sports Bra banding is firm.

You don’t want your bra to be rib-crushingly-too-tight-to-breath firm but you do want it firm enough that the band cannot move.

Having a firm band around the rib cage is the number one rule for getting a Sports Bra or any bra fit right. If the band is firm the majority of support will come from the band and it will apply less pressure to the straps on the shoulders. The bra will be more comfortable and more effective at holding breast tissue in place.

If the band is too loose you immediately lose support for breast tissue, place greater pressure on the straps AND increase your risk of chafing – because the band will move around the rib cage. This is especially true of distance runners as they deplete fluids and grams to kilograms of physical weight as they run.

  1. Make sure the Cup is snug.

For all the same reasons as above – if there is any room in the cup you lose support and invite chafing. You want it tight – compressive – but not so much that breast tissue is spilling out the top or that you feel crushed.

  1. Make sure the bra doesn’t sit too high.

As Sports Bras are often ‘’crop’’ style another common chafe point is if the bra sits too high and digs into the tissue above the breasts and slightly in from the arm pits. This is a potential friction point due to arm movement during running. As runners seek higher coverage from a Sports Bra to close vertical escape routes for breast tissue – which we love – sometimes they can sit too high and cause issues.

  1. Wear a breathable, moisture/sweat wicking material.

It might sound simple but the wrong fabric close to the skin can increase the risk of chafing. Cotton based materials for example will become saturated with sweat and lose most of their breathability.

  1. Arm yourself with an anti-chafe product

Sometimes everything you try will not be good enough. Be sure you are well hydrated and arm yourself with an anti-chafe product like Body Glide. It needs to be something that is water based and NOT petroleum based. And if you already have chafing protect it from getting worse with a film dressing.


There are some schools of thought that you shouldn’t wear underwire for distance running. In fact this is an entirely individual decision. If a wire is sitting well in the right place and on the right person some runners will find they prefer this as it will assist to encapsulate the breast tissue reducing sweat pooling between the breasts. Others will find the wire will not sit correctly on their sternum and this can cause irritation as they progress into their run and deplete in fluids. Unfortunately, as our bodies have so many variables, this is one thing that can only be determined when tested on the track.

Getting your Sports Bra professionally fitted can help to ensure you’ve ticked as many of the right boxes as you can before you head out to hit the pavement.


Sports Bras, could going bare be better?

Since the recent completion of a 15 year study conducted out of the University of Franche-Comté which looked at the long term effect of bras I’ve seen a dozen or so media articles referencing the ‘findings’. The media seem to have gone a little crazy around the notion that bras may not in fact have any long term effect on reducing breast sag, which has made for some interesting reading.

Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon advises that the results show “Medically, physiologically, anatomically, the breast does not benefit from being deprived of gravity”. Their findings also conclude that nipples were found to sit higher in the non-bra-wearing women, and that the chest musculature of this experimental group had developed more muscle bulk to cope with the demands of carrying the otherwise unsupported breast.

Coming from a footwear background the ‘bare is better’ argument has been done to death and as such is a little lost on me. I’ve written about breast sag in the past, and agree that there has been no solid research to suggest that bras do in fact prevent sagging breasts. While I certainly appreciate the fact that so much time and resource is being channelled in to breast health, I am far from convinced that this should change the way women look to bras for breast support.

After all, why is it that you put a bra on every day?

Not many would answer ‘to prevent my breasts from sagging’ in their first breathe. Most of us wear bras to enhance our shape, improve comfort and avoid the embarrassment of breasts bouncing as we move.

15 years ago we would have winced at the idea of running barefoot, but nowadays you don’t have to look far to find someone donning a barefoot running shoe of some description. Fortunately for us ladies I can’t see this extreme being applied to our Sports Bras so there is no predication on my part of a bare-chested running fad! Our arm swing and torso movement is significantly alterted with a reduction in breast support, caused largely by our instinctive reaction to prevent the pain associated with an increase in vertical and lateral breast displacement. Efficient upper body body movement assists with propulsion and balance. It is essentially the reciprocal motion of our legs and is highly considered when assessing someones overall running biomechanics. So hold off on burning your Sports Bras ladies, they aren’t going anywhere!

she science bra support study

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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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