Women blessed in the breast department will be familiar with the Holy Grail search for a sports bra that’s both supportive and comfortable.
As an E cup I’ve experienced my fair share of bouncing, chafing and discomfort (not to mention beeps from drivers and heckles from pubescent schoolboys).
In the 13 years that I’ve been running bras have improved but it’s still a struggle. The comfy ones don’t stop the boing; while the bounce-restrictors bite into the chest and pull on the shoulders. Like many women, I’ve long resigned to choosing one benefit over the other.
But a new sports bra taking the US by storm, and launched in the UK last spring (2013) exclusively by Less Bounce (www.lessbounce.com) could be the answer to our prayers.
Selaine Saxby, founder of LessBounce (and a fellow sized 34E) says: “I’m hard to impress – but the Lynx combines comfort and support and is a joy to wear. It gives great support but doesn’t leave marks all over when you take it off.”
“Rather than the usual method of holding breasts down via the straps or under-bust band, it supports breasts from the sides – leaving the wearer free to breathe and move without restriction. There is no under-bust chaffing or painful grooves in shoulders – and the bust remains bounce-free through even the most high impact workout session.”
Selaine invited me to Loughborough University to try out the bra and meet its inventor – Cynthia Smith, 39, a molecular biologist and patent attorney from New York who spent years wrestling her 34F breasts into three sports bras and a crop top for workouts.
Switching to triathlon seven years ago was the turning point. “Wearing all those layers to swim, cycle then run, I just couldn’t breathe,” she says. “I thought ‘there’s got to be a better way of doing this.’
“I wanted a bra that felt like someone standing behind you holding your breasts in place. One morning, the idea just came to me.
“I now know that my design went against all the usual rules. Instead of a rigid ‘front’ and ‘back’ with stretchy sides, I designed the opposite – rigid sides and a stretchy front and back.”
Cynthia sourced fabric in downtown Manhattan and got to work with a sewing machine. “It was so terribly stitched together I called it Frankenbra. When it was finished, I didn’t think it was going to work. But I put it on and jumped up and down in front of a mirror. It was the best support I’d ever had and so comfortable it was like wearing nothing.”
Launching the bra at the Walt Disney Marathon in January 2011 Cynthia sold £10,000 worth of bras in three days. ‘I cried when a woman recovering from a biopsy was able to run the entire race in a Lynx – instead of binding her breasts and walking. Other women hugged me in gratitude – saying my bra had changed their lives.”
The Lynx doesn’t come in traditional ‘chest and cup’ size. “Around 80 per cent of women are in the wrong size so I wanted to steer them away from automatically choosing a size,” explains Cynthia. “Instead, we ask them to measure around the underneath, then fullest part, of their breasts.”
They are then assigned a correlating number in the Sprint, Dart or Zoom category. “You’re a 3 Dart,” she announced, handing over my bra.
My high hopes plummeted. The bra was light, flimsy, unsubstantial and gossamer-thin. There were no wires, no clasps, no padding, or panels. How on earth could it live up to the claims?
With a heavy heart (and boobs), I pulled it over my head. “Now, reach in and position each breast inside the bra,” instructed Cynthia. “Make sure the band at the bottom is flat against your ribcage.
“Now, take a deep breath. Can you feel any restriction? Is there any pain in the shoulders?”
The answer was no. It felt surprisingly comfy. Too comfy…
“Now, jump up and down,” she said positioning me in front of a mirror.
Bracing myself, I jumped. Nothing. I jumped again. My boobs barely moved.
The Lynx has already received plaudits from Runner’s World magazine in America.
So I was interested to see how it fared in the lab – compared to the Panache Sport (a best selling sports bra for larger busts) and the Enell (the boa-constrictor type corset that I normally wear for running).
Firstly, biomechanics measured the pressure between the skin and sports bra*.
The Lynx had a pressure reading of nine mmHg (or millimetres of mercury) in strap tension and 11 in underband tension – compared to 25 and 16 in the Panache and 12 and 37 in the Enell (which explains why I’m always so keen to whip it off after a workout!)
Next came the treadmill test – analysing 3D breast movement. To gain ‘controlled’ results I had to run in a non-supportive crop top (an experience I hope never to repeat) before trying out the three bras.
The Enell came top with a 53 per cent reduction in movement over the crop top. The Lynx was just six per cent behind, with 46 per cent, with a Panache reading of 37 per cent.
But when it came to comfort – there was no contest. The Lynx wins hands-down.
I’d love to see the bounce-stop improved just a fraction to equal the Enell and a bit of padding to prevent nipple-show. But, for now, I’m impressed. Very impressed.
As Cynthia says: “I’m not saying the Lynx is going to the best bra for every woman – but hopefully it will make a huge difference. When it comes to sports bras you shouldn’t have to choose between comfort and support.”
The Lynx Sports Bra can be pre-ordered for the launch on May 1. It comes in three different colours, 22 sizes (up to the equivalent of 52K) and costs from £45. See www.lessbounce.com.
* Pressure was taken via a Kikuhime sub bandage pressure sensor.
Biomechanics measured bounce by fitting CODA markers or sensors on my clavicle (collar bones), nipples and sternum: the computer analyse and compare 3D breast movement (ie up-down and in-out motion) during two minutes of running.