The best bras for long distance running and how to get rid of chaffing!
For many long-distance, female runners finding the right sports bra can be a nightmare. Bouncing, sore breasts and painful chaffing in all the wrong places plague us. We try and “beat the bounce” by squashing everything into submission and often land up feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious. After most runs the dreaded chaff has us hopping up and down in the shower, as we soon discover those irritating hidden raw patches.
Here are some of the sports bras that I have found really work and some practical tips on how to avoid or reduce chaffing. But firstly, what gives me the credentials to give you any advice on this topic. Firstly, I am a woman and a long distance runner. I have run countless marathons and 8 Comrades and can really identify with any woman who has had to put on two bras in order to feel supported enough to go and run. I am also the owner of a bra business (www.sarahelizabeth.co.za) and have fitted many, many women over the years in sports bras. Actually, they are my favourite bras to fit, as I love seeing women running with support and without discomfort. When I started running, I was a G cup and finding something that fitted was virtually impossible. I used to wear two sports bras and a fitted running tank top to try and limit breast movement and reduce pain.
The day I discovered Panache Sports Bras revolutionised my life, and I am not exaggerating. For many women participating in sports and exercise is not an option because they feel so inhibited and self-conscious of their breasts. For me, my Panache Sports Bra is so much more than just a bra, it gives me the freedom to go out and do what I want to do. Whether that is running, climbing a mountain or riding a horse. I determine what I can or can’t do, not my breasts.
What is the main aim of a sports bra?
A sports bra’s main objective is to reduce movement of breast tissue. By doing this, you reduce the impact on your breasts and thereby protecti the tissues and ligaments from permanently stretching due to the impact of exercise and sport. In theory it’s simple – reducing the movement leads to less strain on your breast tissue and you avoid pain and discomfort when exercising. But finding the right sports bra is far from simple and the struggle continues, as we try and find something that helps us feel supported and confident.
I have run in many sports bras and so here my top three choices, their features, benefits and reasons why I would recommend them.
The moulded cups offer outstanding support and a defined shape. Most importantly, this bra SIGNIFICANTLY reduces bounce and movement – research shows 83% less bounce. The Panache Sports bra uses an encapsulation design, which means that each breast has a distinct cup and the breasts are totally separated. This bra is a brilliant choice for high impact exercise like running. Silicone encased underwires offer comfort and wide, cushioned straps that are fully adjustable can be turn into a racer back. Breathable fabric helps keep the wearer dry and comfortable (boob sweat is not an issue). It also comes in a non-wired version, which I absolutely LOVE. The thicker band on the new non-wired Panache Sports Bra is fantastic and this is a dream to run in.
UK Lingerie Awards Sports Brand of the Year 2012/13
UK Lingerie Awards Winner 2015
Lingerie Awards Gagnant 2014
#asksarah: This is still my favourite sports bra. It offers excellent support and shape. I never feel self-conscious of my breasts moving and experience no pain from breast movement. It also offers good coverage over the nipple area. Chaffing is significantly reduced and if I still experience slight chaffing in very specific areas, I can combat this by using a barrier spray (more on this later). In my opinion, this is a really good option for ladies looking for good strong support.
This bra offers high performance support with full coverage for ladies looking for comfort while exercising. High-tech COOLMAX fabric pulls the moisture away from the skin with a fast drying action. It offers great shape, lift and supports by encapsulating the breast rather than traditional compression. It offers the ability to turn into a racer back and has fully adjustable straps.
Awards: UK Lingerie Awards Sports Brand of the Year 2014
#asksarah: I really enjoy the excellent shape and support this bra offers. Freya have done extensive research into reducing pain, strain and independent movement of breasts while exercising. I can confirm that breast movement is almost totally reduced and I experienced no breast pain. The only small issue I encountered was that the straps were not long enough to turn into a racer back. This, however, is not the same for everyone and this might be the bra for you if worn more as a crop top than a racer back.
“Easy On & Off” design with a strap system that was exclusively developed for Anita. It has seamless shaped cups and a net insert at the front centre as an addition aeration zone. The X back design offers good support and considerably reduced movement. This is a non-wired option and designed for maximum support for high impact or intense sporting activities.
Redot award 2014 winner
ISPO award winner 2015/16
German Design Award Nominee 2016
#asksarah: This is an extremely comfortable and easy- to- wear sports bra. The “Easy On & Off” design is brilliant so you don’t have to struggle when putting it on. I love the straps and while running they placed no pressure on my neck and the X back design offered good support. However, I found that it didn’t offer as much lift as the Panache. Breast movement, although reduced, still occurred. One aspect that I really enjoyed was that I experienced no chaff even after 30kms of running in hot, humid conditions.
Please remember that a good sports bra is there to protect your breast tissue, reducing the opportunity for breast sag later in life. A good sports bra is a worthwhile investment to protect your breasts and to ensure that you enjoy bounce free exercise.
Can you eliminate chaff?
Everyone’s body is slightly different but I think each runner, both male and female, is going to experience some chaffing along the way. If you are one of the lucky few who don’t experience chaffing, count your blessings. For the rest of us, try to reduce or eliminate it with some of these tips. Also bear in mind that it often depends on the distances you are running, the humidity or how much water you pour over yourself during a run. I often find that in the more humid conditions or if I pour a lot of water over myself, the more likely I am to chaff.
Here are some other practical tips that I have found help to reduce or prevent chaffing
- The band of your bra (the bit around your body) needs to fit snuggly.
Make sure the band of your bra is nice and firm and stays in place. The more it moves, the more likely you are to chaff. That is why I LOVE the Panache Non wired sports bra – the band is thick and it doesn’t move. Bearing in mind you are running a long distance, so you cannot have anything too tight but it still needs to fit nice and snuggly.
- Micropore is your friend
On longer distances I still usually chaff in one very specific place. The solution that I found works like a dream is micropore as a barrier. Apply a couple of strips to dry, clean skin in the specific areas that you chaff. Micropore is readily available from chemists, and I find the 5cm width is just perfect.
- Use a barrier spray
On the rest of you body use a good barrier spray. For example, under your arms and other prominent area. Obviously don’t try and stick the micropore to where you have sprayed a barrier spray. My favourite one is Sport Eze Anti-Chafing Endurance Spray.
- In hot conditions on a run, try and spray water over your arms and legs to cool down but avoid dousing your whole body in water as this will increase the chances of chaffing.
Ultimately, as a long-distance runner you are bound to have some chaffing along the way. Try the tips and let me know what you think. If you have any questions pop them in the comments section below.
Happy running and I wish you all the best on the road. Keep in touch and I would love to hear your running stories.