Getting the right support!

This is one for the females amongst us. Finding the correct support bra can make or (literally) break us as runners! I sometimes send this email (or one like it) to new female runners as many of us can benefit from a bit of support in this department! Even those of us who have been running for a long time may find the following … uplifting. 


Dear new female runner,


Apologies in advance for the LONG email! We can chat about some of the stuff next time we meet if you have any questions.


When you start to run, it is really important to wear adequate supportive underwear, so running doesn’t become a pain. Poorly supported breasts may become sore. The breast tissue can become sore due to movement – remember breasts are not muscles so they can’t support themselves! In addition, the nipple area may become abraded if the entire breast is moving around a lot or the material touching it is unsuitable (has a seam for instance). That is definitely not to be recommended.


Sports bras that are suitable for general exercise may not provide enough support for activities that are classed as ‘high impact’. Running is a high impact activity, so you need to look for high support bras. Smaller-breasted females may get away with medium support bras.


Clearly, the exact type of sports bra a person chooses is entirely individual but there are two general types; bras that have moulded cups that support each breast individually (especially suitable for larger-breasted women) and ones that are more like bands, so they flatten the breast tissue to the chest and support them in this way (generally more suitable for those with smaller breasts). In addition to those general groupings, the strap types, whether it is a tank top or a bra etc. may also need consideration. Running websites/magazines often do articles listing ‘the best sports bras this year’ and these may serve to give you some ideas. However, finding the correct sports bra for you is an individual quest and it is one that repays the investment of your time.   


I am a women’s specific coach (Girls Gone Strong accredited) and their coaches’ forum, although American, contains a thread on support bras. Many of the companies suggested there supply only within the United States. However, some brands are available in the UK. If more familiar names such as Adidas/Nike/Under Armour etc. don’t have any suitably fitting products, these American brands might be worth a look, especially if you are a D cup or larger and frequently have difficulty getting a comfortable supportive garment.


Many companies have good websites, and you can order several types/sizes, try them fairly quickly when they arrive, and return those that are unsuitable. That way you can get to see and try what is available, across the full range of types and sizes, without having to visit shops physically. 


Here are a couple of familiar brands (please note, I have no material interest in any suppliers I mention in this document, and the list is not exhaustive so my apologies to those brands I have not mentioned):


Adidas ( You can get free/low-cost delivery & returns are easy.


Nike ( I think you pay for the postage (unless joining the Nike club, then free) but then you get free returns


Brooks (

This starts you off at a page where you enter your size & preferences and they come up with suggestions. They have a UK base for on-line, so P&P doesn’t cost the earth!


Under Armour also has a good range (


SheFit ( does something like Brooks (size quiz) although you must pay for delivery & returns – from the US, I think! A lot of very large-busted ladies swear by this one! Have a look if you think you are in that league!


Panache (, like Brooks, has a UK base so P&P isn’t quite so expensive as US-direct supply.


There are other ranges that may well be worth a look: Sweaty Betty, Lululemon, Royce, Shock Absorber, Maaree, Freya and Triumph. 


In terms of physical stores, clearly there are several general shops (John Lewis, Marks and Spencer etc.) that stock sports bras and many specialist running shops (e.g., the locally-based Birmingham Runner) will also carry a range. However, for larger busted women, there is a shop in Coventry (Butterfly Bras) that has a few specific ranges including Anita bras (


I hope this email gives you enough information to get you started on finding your perfect sports bra! It is often a ‘trial and error’ activity as we are all so different and what looks like it might suit us may not be comfortable to wear in practice when we are running. So, please be prepared to do a bit of work to get your perfectly fitting garment. Once you get the correct type of garment, note down the details and until it fails you, stick with it!


Have fun,