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Study Examines Breast Movement During Bare-Breasted Running

A few days ago I received a literature review update from my friend Blaise Dubois, and among the many articles he summarized was one in particular that caught my eye. The article from the July 2012 issue of Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise is titled “Predictors of Three-Dimensional Breast Kinematics during Bare-Breasted Running.” The study authors are Louise Ellen Wood, Jennifer White, Alexandra Milligan, Bessie Ayres, Wendy Hedger, and Joanna Scurr.

Now, as a father of an 8-year-old boy, I’m more than willing to admit that I sometimes share his level of maturity and sense of humor on topics like this (much to my poor wife’s chagrin!), but my first thought on seeing this study was “How the heck did they get this past an Institutional Review Board???” Well, as you might surmise the research team was composed of six women, and the question they addressed was actually quite serious.

In an article titled Bouncing Breasts: A Credible Area of Scientific Research(apparently you have to have a good sense of humor when you work in this area), team member Dr. Joanna Scurr explains that exercise related breast pain has been reported in 56-72% of females in previous scientific studies, and that “appropriate breast support has been identified as the most effective form of treatment for breast pain and prevention of breast sag.” Their overarching goal is therefore to attempt to find the most effective form of support for exercising women of varying breast size.

The study linked above had a more narrow focus in simply try to determine how the breasts move during bare-chested running in women with varying chest sizes. Here is the Abstract summarizing the research:


This study aimed to analyze differences in breast kinematics between breast cup sizes during running and the ability of breast and body size measurements to explain these differences.


Forty-eight women (A to G cup; mean ± SD: age = 26.0 ± 6.0 yr, stature = 1.667 ± 0.064 m, mass = 62.78 ± 8.24 kg) with chest sizes of 32 to 38 inches participated. Chest and breast girths, a restricted anthropometric profile, suprasternal notch to nipple distances, and body mass index were measured, and breast mass was estimated. Multiplanar relative breast displacement, velocity, and acceleration during treadmill running were then recorded. Differences in breast kinematics were compared between cup sizes before and after allometric/polynomial scaling using significant breast and body size measures.


All kinematic variables significantly increased with breast cup size (P < 0.05). Mean anterior-posterior (a/p), medial-lateral (m/l), and vertical bare-breasted displacements ranged from 0.030 to 0.059 m, from 0.018 to 0.062 m, and from 0.042 to 0.099 m, respectively, across A to G cups. Breast velocities ranged from 0.428 to 1.244 m·s (a/p), 0.411 to 1.708 m·s(m/l), and 0.819 to 2.174 m·s (vertical), respectively. Increases in breast acceleration varied from 11.664 to 48.438 m·s (a/p), 15.572 to 51.987 m·s (m/l), and 23.301 to 66.447 m·s (vertical), respectively. Scaling models found that breast mass was the only anthropometric measure to consistently explain differences in breast kinematics between cup sizes.


Bare-breasted kinematics significantly increased with cup size during running. Differences in breast displacement, velocity, and acceleration between cup sizes could be predicted using estimates of breast mass based on conventional brassiere sizing. These data inform the design and evaluation of effective bra support.

Now, having myself reviewed underwear that attempts to achieve the same goal for a man’s “parts,” I can relate to the value of this research, though it still does make me snicker a bit (did I mention that I have an 8-year-old’s level of maturity?). And, just to even the male-female playing field a bit, it reminds me of this classic video for the Jog Strap water bottle holder – enjoy!:

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. Oh come on Pete, where are the pictures, or at least the slow motion videos weve all come to love you for.

    … yes i can be just as immature as my kids too ;)

  2. Katarina says:

    Thank you for including posts that are also female-focused! Honestly, this kind of research is important to me.

  3. Chad Wilkerson says:

    Need a visual… you know, for scientific purposes. :)

  4. TK42ONE says:

    My wife said “ow” while I snickered.

  5. Charla Welch says:

    Being a G cup female runner, there findings make perfect sense to me. Hope they can take these results farther to better the world of sports bras!

  6. I assume they didn’t look at footstrike pattern/stride length vs. breast kinematics? Would be interesting to see if there are differences. Wonder if women had already used some sort of sports bra 40 000 years ago? It must have hurt then, too.

  7. cody r. says:

    running and sprinting may be alright to use bras…your thoughts on bras supporting…stuff…which weakens the back, causing the back pain…at least that’s what i’ve thought…

  8. Angie Bee Hotz says:

    Interesting. I quit wearing a bra 6 months or so ago. I am much more comfortable without one, even running. I run lighter and more gently without one. Having experienced a range of breast sizes through out my baby making career, I can say from experience that a DD milk filled breast needs support when running and my post baby size barely B cup is much more comfortable without.

    I had issues with them being too tight around and the better bounce support the cost of breathing well went up.

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