The good news: Scientists have discovered which type of sports bra actually works, even on larger-breasted women. The bad news: It isn't on the market, and probably won't come out anytime soon.
According to the New York Times, several recent studies have established what women have known for years — the sports bras currently available in stores aren't all that supportive. Why has it taken scientists so long to catch on? Sexism, of course:
For years, scientists (most of them women) studying breast movement during sports have struggled for respect. A 2007 report about the work being done in the field of breast biomechanics at the University of Portsmouth was titled, rather defensively, "Bouncing Breasts: A Credible Area of Scientific Research." Some people (a k a men) may have considered breasts to be simple things, not requiring such high-tech attention.
While most sports bras are designed just to prevent breasts from moving up and down, researchers from England's University of Portsmouth recently found that while a woman walks or runs, her breasts "arc through a complicated figure-8 pattern." In another study, they discovered that in addition to being uncomfortable, inadequate breast support can affect a female runner's stride, causing her to land more heavily on the inside of her feet, and putting her at risk for a stress-related injury.
In a study published last month in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Australian researchers reported that the most effective sports bra, particularly for women who have a D-cup or larger, is one that compresses the breasts while lifting them from underneath with foam pads, "elevating the low point of breast displacement dynamically."
Women reported this experimental bra was the most comfortable and scientists found it prevented breasts from moving in a figure-8 motion during exercise. Unfortunately, this bra is still in the lab, and the two styles currently on the market — the sports bras that smash both breast down into a uni-boob and those that cup each breast individually — won't cut it, even if you wear both bras at once.
For now, scientists have some (slightly insulting) advice:
To test support, jump "up and down in the changing room and assess how much movement occurs." The chest band should be "firmer than an everyday bra, but should not dig into your skin." All in all, if the bra "is uncomfortable, then this is probably not the bra for you."
So we shouldn't work out in uncomfortable clothing? Well that makes sense — too bad that as we just learned, every sports bra on the market is woefully inadequate.