Sports Bra Science: Sports Bra Design Lags Behind Other Apparel

Scientists who study breast biomechanics work to create the ideal bra.

ByABC News
August 23, 2010, 3:46 PM

Aug. 24, 2010— -- In search of the perfect sports bra? You're not alone.

And the bustiest women are the worst off, according to international scientists who study the niche field of breast biomechanics. The most supportive bras for bigger-breasted women don't yet exist outside the lab.

While companies have long invested in running shoe and textile technology, innovation in bra construction has crawled along in comparison. In the past five years, however, the simple sports bra has increasingly attracted the attention of science.

"It's massively important because sports bra design is quite far behind other apparel," said Jenny White, a Ph.D. candidate at the U.K.'s University of Portsmouth who has led recent breast biomechanics studies. "Sports bras for women are just as important as shoes and socks that don't rub. … If we want to encourage more women to take part in sports, this is something that needs to be done."

If women feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about excessive jiggling, they won't take a trip to the gym, she said. And, especially as obesity rates climb in the United States and around the world, removing barriers to exercise becomes even more important.

In a recent study, White and her colleagues looked at the effects of different levels of breast support on running. They found that breast movement impacted women's running considerably -- the better the support, the less stressful the stride.

Without support, the researchers found that women hit the ground with more force, which may have negative physiological consequences on performance.

"In a no-bra condition, we found that there was more force being exerted on … the inside of the foot," she said. "Different bra support can affect the way we run."

White also said that research shows that when women run, their breasts don't just move up and down, but also side to side and forward and back.

"Breasts move in a figure eight while running," she said. "Sports bras in the past have not yet been designed to necessarily stop that movement."