For years, Rachel Ardise has been a fan of the same pair of Lululemon running tights that she wears religiously. And the 28-year-old client relations manager knows exactly which sneaker is perfect for logging long distance runs prepping for the New York City Marathon—her first—in November. But when it comes to sports bras? It's not as black and white.
"I have a fairly petite frame but am heavier chested so sizing always proves problematic when looking for the right sports bra," she says. "There are so many different brands with all different designs and price points so it can be really overwhelming to find the right fit. If my 'good' ones are in the laundry, sometimes it's discouraging to workout at all." (Related: What to Know Before Buying a Sports Bra, According to the People Who Design Them)
Ardise definitely isn't alone. In fact, roughly one in five women say their breasts prevent them from participating in physical activity, according to research published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health. The survey of 249 women found that not being able to find the right sports bra and being embarrassed by breast movement were the two biggest barriers to breaking a sweat. Now, big-name brands are hoping to change the way she thinks about support.
Earlier this summer, Reebok released the PureMove Bra featuring state-of-the-art technology that adapts based on your workout. In fact, it was initially developed to be used as body armor for bulletproof vests and NASA spacesuits. Picture this: The bra has a tighter feel during a HIIT workout including burpees and box jumps, then relaxes when you do for something lower impact, like yoga or Pilates. (More here: Reebok's PureMove Sports Bra Adapts to Your Workout While You Wear It) Reebok also shared some interesting research: A whopping 50 percent of their test subjects experience breast pain regularly while exercising—and what's worse, many women blame themselves when their sports bras don't fit.
"Women have been making compromises when it comes to their sports bra," says Danielle Witek, senior innovation apparel designer at Reebok. "Some women shared that they were wearing multiple sports bras, and some admitted to buying high-fashion or cheap unsupportive bras, only to then deal with the repercussions of pain, discomfort, or ill support that follow."
Reebok isn't the first company to turn their focus to sports bras as of late. Last year, after two years of development, Lululemon released their Enlite bra to fanfare. Created using helpful feedback from 1,000+ women, the bra features a sleek, seamless design and built-in cups that soften the bounce of your boobs mid-sweat.
This year the company is taking things a step further with their pilot Signature Movement Experience led by their research and development team, Whitespace, where starting this month, customers in certain stores can hop on a treadmill in-store and learn about their own unique pattern of motion. Using sensors, Lululemon can track how each customer's body moves, and then provide highly customized product recommendations to suit their needs.
"Looking ahead, the Whitespace team's also planning to use the data collected and insights gained to further inform and innovate future bra products to offer complete personalization for our guests," says Chantelle Murnaghan, innovation manager at Lululemon. (Related: Lululemon Just Launched Their First Everyday Bra—and It Feels Like Wearing Nothing)
These brands know that the right sports bra can be the difference between a killer workout and no workout at all. When Nike released their FE/NOM Flyknit Bra mid-2017, their goal was to finally offer women something that both holds shape and keeps them comfortable—during any activity.
"This is bigger than a bra, really," Janett Nichol, VP of apparel innovation at Nike said in a press release at the time. "It's about breaking down the barriers women face in sports and life."
The question arises: What's next? Continued innovation, for sure. A focus on comfort, no doubt. And of course, listening to what women really want. "We're in an era of female empowerment and there is a hunger for ideas that celebrate and support women," says Witek. "We're hoping to give women back the desire to participate in whatever activity they choose. Every person at any size, participating in any level of activity, deserves to have a highly functional product that allows them to move in their own unique way."
As for Ardise, she's finally found the Under Armour style that supports her for everything from a Tuesday pre-work 5K to her Saturday long runs. (She even bought it in six different colors).
"I've done all sorts of running analysis to ensure I have the right running shoe, why should a sports bra be any different?" she asks. "I feel lucky to have found one that fits and feels just right for me."