Large-breasted women often have trouble finding a sports bra that fits, is comfortable and keeps their breasts from jostling too much, causing pain. If you're one of those women, fear not. Scientists are trying to build you a better bra. They even produced a study about it.
Researchers at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, tested three bra types on 20 women, average bra cup size DD, while they ran on a treadmill. One was an experimental bra designed to both compress and elevate the breasts, another was a commercial encapsulation sports bra and the third was a placebo bra. We're not really sure what a placebo bra is, but we're guessing Victoria's Secret won't have a version anytime soon.
Sports bras are typically designed to encapsulate or compress the breasts. Encapsulation bras give support to each breast via separate cups usually made of rigid material.They also frequently have a bra band made of sturdy elastic, and wide, padded straps.
Compression bras are made of elastic and push both breasts together against the chest wall. According to the study, encapsulation bras typically do a better job than compression bras of keeping breasts from moving too much, but they also tend to be uncomfortable. Hence the need for a better sports bra.
The study's experimental bra had the same basic structure of the commercial and placebo bras, but the stiff material in the cups was replaced with elastic rubber material that had greater stretch resistance and was designed to compress the breasts. High-density foam pads placed in the cups also elevated the breasts.
Breast movement relative to trunk movement was measured via markers placed near the neck and on the left heel. Movement was also measured with infrared light-emitting diodes placed on both nipples under each bra using double-sided surgical tape. It hurts just to write that.
Researchers measured vertical breast displacement relative to the torso, vertical breast velocity and breast compression and elevation. Participants were asked to rate bra fit comfort, breast discomfort and how much they thought their breasts moved.
All bras measured about the same for vertical breast displacement and breast velocity. However, breast elevation in the experimental bra was significantly better than the commercial and placebo bras. The runners reported less breast and bra discomfort while wearing the experimental bra compared with the other two bras.
Researchers believe that having the breasts more elevated might be the key to greater comfort, because elevation lessened the tension and loading on supportive breast tissues, not allowing them to stretch as much.
The study authors believe the findings may prove useful in developing new sports bras that are both functional and comfortable.
The study appears in the July issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
-- Jeannine Stein
Photo: Finding a comfortable, supportive sports bra can be difficult for some women.