Question of the Week: “Bra straps that slide down during a workout drive me crazy—how can I solve this problem?”
March 4, 2011
If you have problems with slipping sports bra straps, you are in very elite company!
One of the most enduring images of the 1984 Women’s Olympic Marathon (which got an astonishing amount of international press coverage) was gold medal winner Joan Benoit striding toward the finish line with her bra straps slipping and showing!
In my research, I’ve found 5 major factors that contribute to wayward sports bra straps, and easy strategies to overcome each of them:
1. Your body type: If your shoulders are delicately narrow, many bra straps designed for ‘average’ width shoulders will end up sitting too far out on yours, making it easy for them to slide off and down. And even with average width, if your shoulders are more sloping than square, those pesky straps will tend to slide right on ‘down the hill.’ If you are petite, the distance between the girls and the top of your shoulders may also be shorter, making it difficult to snug straps down. Hooking up with the right bra styles (coming up in #3 below) is an easy solve for anatomical issues.
2. Your sports: Constantly reaching up, down, and around in your zumba class or basketball game can definitely challenge your bra straps’ ability to stay put! When your arms are moving in every direction, making sure there’s a bit of stretch in your straps is key to keeping them firmly anchored. You want just enough ‘give’ so your shoulders don’t become chafed and ‘cut into’ and so the bra’s bottom band isn’t yanked up onto your breasts from its normal position on your torso.
Runners can also face a challenge. Believe it or not, as your breasts fly up during each running stride, they are momentarily ‘weightless’ as they change directions and get ready to zoom back down. This event very briefly un-weights the straps and gives them a micro-second to shift around before gravity kicks back in. Again, making sure there’s some firm stretch in the straps (in back, for highest support) is the key to zapping strap-shift.
3. The design of your bra: T-backs, Y-backs and cross-backs on a sports bra are not just about the fashion—they can’t fall down, and are often the first line of defense against slipping. But if you need or prefer a more conventional strap design, you’re still in luck. Check strap connection points in back—on a sports bra they should attach somewhat closer to the middle compared to an everyday bra to prevent shoulder slippage.
Are your straps adjustable? Straps that are permanently too long can fall off because there is no ‘tension’ to hold them in place. A good range of adjustability is one of your best weapons for solving body-type slippage issues such as narrow/sloping shoulders or petite frame. This also allows you to fine-tune strap length for the amount of support or flexibility you need for your favorite workout.
4. The right fit: While it’s obvious that a too-large bra size can lead to too-long straps that fall down, there are a few more things you might not have considered when it comes to fit.
-If the bottom band is too large, your bra can slide up onto your breasts, causing the straps to lose the tension they need to stay put.
-If cups are too big, that can create looseness in the straps (because they have nothing firm to anchor themselves against).
-If straps are too short, that ironically can also contribute issues! Straps that are initially too tight can pull the back band up and out of place, letting everything loosen and fall toward the front, including your straps.
5. The age of your sports bra: Take an honest look—is your faithful sports bra pushing 90 in ‘sports bra years’? Key points for diagnosis are the straps and bottom band. If the elastic is shot (zero stretch-and-recovery), the band will constantly want to ride up, allowing the straps to loosen and fall. Solution: Time to trade in for a newer model!
There you have it! You may never win an Olympic gold medal, but now you should never have to worry about the hassle of sliding bra straps again!