Sports Bras and Chafing


One of the biggest concerns when we see a client, who exercises and wants to purchase a bra, is chafing.

Most women accept that this is a normal event and have taken certain precautions that may work for the short term but do not solve the very uncomfortable chafing.

Just to clarify what “chafing” means

The red, raw appearance of the skin around the breast after prolonged exercise where there has been excessive breast movement. This is often not obvious until the runner has a shower when an intense burning sensation is experienced. The red, raw flesh will often scab and look like a graze.

My biggest concern is that women have accepted that there is no other alternative as they have purchased a good, quality bra and expect that if their item is still chafing it must be a fact of life.

The reason why we chafe anywhere on our body is because there is excessive movement and things are rubbing against our skin causing irritation and trauma to the top layer of skin.

It seems the only way to stop this is to prevent the movement which is near impossible with bras claiming 75% - 85% reduction in bounce.

This will only happen if the bra is the correct fit, which as statistics have shown, is not the case in most South African Women.

These are my tips for reducing the dreaded chafe:

  1. Make sure your breasts are separated. This means that each breast is secure in its own cup and your gore is firmly fitted against your chest forcing this separation. If your breasts are not separated the weight of the two breasts is compounded into one with catastrophic effects. Shop-bought bras traditionally compress the breast into some form of support where as a well fitted sports bra should encapsulate the breast separately.
  2. Make sure your band is small enough. We often find that we may go smaller in the back for a sports bra, this means going up in the cup at the same time. This is what your professional bra fitter is trained to do. Big bands cause excess movement contributing to the chafing. Ways to test if your band is too big is to look at yourself in the mirror: If your bra sits away from your body creating a gap under your breasts.Can you pull your bra forward easily?
  3.  Make sure you do NOT get your support from your straps. If this is the case you will land up with more than chafing in the form of massive craters on your shoulders. The first thing you should be able to do when you buy a new sports bra is release the straps.
  4. Make sure that your bra is designed to carry the movement. If the bra has too much stretch in it, the stretch will only exacerbate the bounce. Most award winning sports bras will have limited stretch in them. Most cotton bras will not offer support as there is a natural stretch. While cotton is great to work out in for its breathability it is not ideal to have a cotton sports bra. Most modern fabrics have been engineered to breathe.
  5. If you suffer from Chafing and exercise in a crop top without a bra support its time to come to terms with the fact that you may not be able to exercise in a conventional crop top. Most new sports bras are designed to look like a crop top but are a high impact sports bra because of the cleverly disguised bra underneath. The price will be a good indication of whether it is a crop top or a sports bra designed as a crop top. Most crop tops will not separate your breasts.
  6. Do not buy a Small, Medium, Large or Extra Large sports bra. Most bras that do not cause chafing will only be available in bra sizes up to a J cup from an A cup.

It is always advisable to have a professional fitting done, one that encourages you to go for a short run in your new bra or makes you test the bra by jumping up and down in the change room.

If you need any further information please contact our expert fitters at or nationally on 0861 333 77 9.

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