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Breast health and sports bras - Why female hikers need support!

A good bra can make a big difference in how you feel, move, and overall breast health. We know this because bras are one of the most common topics in women’s hiking groups. If you’ve been looking for a better bra situation, here are some things you should know.

The breasts are made of fat and specialized glands that produce milk. They can weigh anywhere from a few ounces to over two pounds and are supported by the surrounding skin and Cooper’s ligaments – a network of thin fascial-like tissue that attaches to the chest wall. While this support structure gives the breasts their shape, it doesn’t do much to prevent movement. Breasts move significantly in three directions – vertically, horizontally, and front to back. Thus, high to moderate velocity body movement produces the characteristic bouncing.

Repeated and significant breast movement can damage the Cooper’s ligaments and result in breast pain and sag. Breast movement also impacts performance with a lower running economy and increased race times when unsupported. When breasts bounce, women may change their movement patterns to minimize their discomfort or appearance, which can contribute to changes in ground reaction forces and injuries. Larger-breasted women may avoid physical activities altogether to spare themselves the embarrassment.

Stop the bounce!

The good news is that the right sports bra can help reduce breast movement and allow more freedom of movement for female athletes. There are three types of sports bras. The first to appear on the scene were the compression bras - they smash your breasts against the chest wall to keep them from moving. In the old days, you might have had to wear two of them to get the right amount of support. And, you might have sprained your wrist trying to get them off. These days, design and materials are more sophisticated, with compression zones and more user-friendly models. Higher neck bras provide even more containment and comfort.

The second type is an encapsulation bra which separates and supports more like a traditional bra. They also fasten more like traditional bras for better ease of getting on and off. The third type of bra supports each breast individually and offers compression support. They may have wider straps and more adjustability for increased comfort.

Which is best? It depends on you! Every body type is different, so it may take trying on a bunch until you find the best fit. Here are some things to consider:

1. Look for moisture-wicking material and read reviews - If you’re hiking for hours, a soaking wet bra can compromise skin health and result in chaffing and skin breakdown or fungal infections.

2. Get a good fit - The under-band that goes around your body is the foundation of your support and should be snug but not so tight it produces a bra bulge or back boob. It should be level around your trunk, and if it rides up, it might be too big.

3. Strap comfort - The straps should fit comfortably and adjust easily. If they dig into your shoulders, they aren’t long enough. Look for wider straps for increased comfort, and make sure you can slide a finger underneath them for the best fit.

4. One set is all you need - Whether compressed or encapsulated, it’s too small if your bra gives you another set of boobs out the top or side. If the cup falls away from the breast and leaves a gap, it’s too big.

5. Keep your fit current - Your breasts can change size based on your hormones, cycle, and stage in life. Don’t assume that you still wear the size you used to.

It’s important to wear a good-fitting bra, yet many women ‘make do’ with what they have. Finding the right sports bra may take some shopping around and lots of trying-on. Be patient and keep looking until you find the one for you – the girls will thank you!

PS - Want to be a better hiker? I can help! Schedule a consultation call and learn how you can become a stronger and healthier hiker!

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