I had taken off on my morning run one day and gotten pretty far from home before I’d realized I had forgotten my sports bra. Oops. I laughed and just finished my run as it clearly wasn’t going to make a big difference for me. However, I am just now realizing that this is not even an option for other female runners. For women who have larger chests, not only is running very uncomfortable, it can actually be very damaging to their body.
Kelly Turner of KellyTurnerFitness.com alerted me to some stark truths about the harm running can do to breasts.
“It’s primarily just an annoyance, but not properly supporting your breasts, or wearing an ill-fitted sports bra, can potentially be harmful to the tissues of the breast over time. Running pulls on the breast in all directions: in, out, up, down and side-to-side. This movement can weaken the connective tissue that supports the breasts causing it to lose elasticity and even permanently damage your breasts.”
The breasts are made up of mostly fatty tissue, mammary glands, and muscle. Since the muscles are so deep they really can’t do much to help support the breast. The only built-in support breasts have are the Cooper’s ligaments, which hold the breasts up; however, they are very thin and repeated bouncing from running can permanently stretch the Cooper’s ligaments. Obviously it is easy to deduce that the larger the breast, the more damage will be done. Turner explained more about this.
“The weight of the breasts is the biggest issue. Heavy breasts can cause back pain and bra straps to cut into the shoulders, the severity of which is multiplied with the bouncing of impact activities like running and jumping. The wider the straps, the more comfortable they will sit on your shoulders.”
So, not only can running damage the breasts, but those with larger chests are looking at back issues, too. The excess weight in the front can really strain the back muscles as they work harder to keep the shoulders aligned. After several repetitions of strain without proper support the back muscles can grow weak and cause neck pain, too.
“While smaller chested women can get away with traditional sports bras that smash and flatten the breast to keep them still, for those more endowed, bras should hold, support and encase your breasts- separately,” Turner explained.
I have always fallen into the “smash and flatten” category and could manage with very little or even, at times, no support. But as Turner explained a more buxom runner needs a bra that will not only support, but provide support for each breast. This prevents vertical and horizontal movement and therefore limits permanent damage and discomfort.
While researching this topic I was surprised to find that even small chested runners like me shouldn’t skimp on sport bras. Just because we’re not in pain or annoyed by the movement, our Cooper’s ligaments are still being stressed and probably stretched beyond repair. This will equal breast droop, and prevention is way cheaper than the cosmetic surgery cure.
My apologies to all the well-endowed ladies I share the road with. I had no idea of your pain. Kudos to you for powering through. Hopefully you aren’t suffering more than necessary. The market is full of great sports bras designed with the sole purpose of keeping you and your endowments comfortable and safe while on the road. Read here for our picks for the best sports bras for busty girls!