Community Running in Sports Bras and the Risks That Entails

    Running in Sports Bras and the Risks That Entails


    Men often run shirtless and women run in their sports bras on hot summer days. Not surprisingly, women face greater scrutiny. “I absolutely will NOT run with just a run bra,” says Erin King. “However, I get so unbearably hot and sweaty so sometimes I run inside or skip the run—it’s that bad. I always envy male athletes who can wear just a singlet on these hot days.

    Women who spoke with iRun explain that they have complicated decisions to make with regards to running in their sports bras. Feeling self-conscious is one thing, getting catcalled on the city streets and facing abuse is something worse. Gina Stocco explains. “Choosing to keep a shirt on for me isn’t about appropriateness, it’s about whether or not I want to draw more attention to myself. The catcalling and harassment is real,” she says. Despite that, as a runner, Stocco wants to dress only how to best aid her performance. “I usually start with a shirt on,” she says, “but with this heat, it has to come off.”

    Even the most elite female runners in the country face the same kind of ignorant scrutiny. “When I’m running through my neighbourhood streets (where sports bras are perhaps less commonly seen), I have been on the receiving end of cat calls and horns honking,” says Lyndsay Tessier, one of Canada’s fastest marathon runners and an alternate at this year’s Tokyo Olympics. “I wear whatever is going to make me feel the most physically comfortable when I am training or racing. During the dog days of summer, my preference is to be in a sports bra. I want to keep as cool as possible. The less sweaty material I have sticking to me, the better I feel. The more tired and fatigued I get on a hot run, the more irritated I can get about small things like sweaty shirts. When I’m racing, I’m not thinking about how I look or how I am perceived while running. My thoughts and focus are on my performance.”

    Performance is the key ingredient of a proper sports bra and many companies, including Lululemon and Brooks, have made great advances in their products. Oiselle is a for-women, by-women American athletic line and their head of development, Dr. Sarah Lesko says, “I’m a free-range running fan!” At Oiselle, a company founded on equality politics, middle school girls are donated a bra each time one of their IN2SPORTS bras are purchased. Dr. Lesko wants society to catch up with her company’s ethos. “I’m a big believer in people wearing whatever feels comfortable to them when they run.” Cory Freedman, founder of the Toronto Women’s Run Series, echoes this sentiment: “I love seeing women running in just their bra top. I do it some days. It’s totally a personal choice. Function is the priority and it’s even better when it looks good and feels great. Wear what makes you feel good, strong, fast and confident!” 

    Stacey Munro, a runner with Stride Wise Running, agrees. “There are three topics you can count on in my run chat group; what the elites are doing, where the shoe sales are, and who has pocket bras in stock,” says Munro, who trains, sans shirt, in the Nike Pocket Bra. “An attractive feature of the Pocket Bra is its longline design. It’s about 2-inches longer than a regular bra. I like the added coverage when we go “tarps off” on a hot day.”

    Tina Garstad would like to go tarps off on a hot day—slang for doffing her shirt—however, she’s seen firsthand how a female runner’s comfort can be an invitation for abuse. Once, she was on a run when she heard someone harass a shirtless runner. She jumped to the runner’s defence. Garstad recalls hearing:

    Only fit and perfect people need to run without a shirt. Everyone else needs to cover up as no one needs to see “that.”

    She carried on the conversation. “When I said they were being horribly judgemental, they basically said: you’re just saying that cause you’re too big to run without a shirt.”

    In the end, all runners can do is what feels best for them, whether male or female, covered or uncovered, and watch out for each other. Lynn Bourque is a big voice in our running world, founder of the Runner’s Shop in Toronto, the oldest running specialty shop in the country. Despite her experience, she still feels uneasy, at times, doffing her shirt.

    “I was just having the same conversation with myself this morning about whether I should or should not cover up,” she says. “Currently I’m at a cottage and with no one around I’m comfortable to go shirt-free. In the city, I’d rarely do it. Too many people and too many eyes! At the age of 57, I’m not comfortable running around without some sort of cover up, but women know that they are free to do whatever they feel comfortable doing!”


    1. To each his/her own. If you care or worry or too conscious to be in a running bra, then cover up. If you are confident and feel comfortable, and know how to manage errant comments, then just don the bra! There are no hard and fast rules.

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