INTERVIEW: How adidas Is Reinventing the Sports Bra, and Why It Matters

Finding the right sports bra can be an arduous but necessary task and as it turns out, the majority of women still aren't sure how to do it or what they should be looking for. According to adidas, 92% of women find it difficult to focus on their workout if their gym clothing is uncomfortable, which can often lead to a pretty big decline in women's participation in sports. That's why the brand is continuing to invest in its women's sportswear offering, starting with the humble sports bra.

For its latest collection, adidas enlisted the help of Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr to ensure that women's breast health was being considered when designing sports bras. "Almost three-quarters of women shared that they've experienced body chafing or pimples due to apparel performance and almost half told us that they've had marks left on their skin by their workout clothes because they're too tight," Kim Buerger, Senior Product Manager at adidas told Hypebae.

We caught up with Buerger to find out more about the effects of ill-fitting sports apparel on female athletes, and how adidas plans to combat the issue with its new range of performance wear.

Continue scrolling to read the full interview.

What changes have you noticed about the design of the Sports Bra in recent years?

Following the successful launch of our most diverse sports bra portfolio last year, where we re-engineered 43 styles in 72 sizes, sports bras are becoming more inclusive for all sizes which is such an important step towards getting more women involved in sports. Through our research, we found that 92% of women find it difficult to focus on their workout when their gym wear is uncomfortable. Our experts unearthed the huge role that comfort plays in women's performance, enjoyment and overall participation in sports which is why we created sports bras that can be tailored to fit the individual and the unique form of women.

adidas sports bra leggings science
adidas sports bra leggings science

What's something that every female athlete should know about how to find the right sports bra?

That one size doesn't fit all. Sports bra styles with a tailored fit are critical and not something any athlete, at any level, should overlook. Firstly, make use of the adjustable straps on your sports bra to support the individual breast (as they are often asymmetrical).

Secondly, look for a sports bra that supports the specific activity, as breast movement and displacement vary across different activities. If you are taking part in HIIT, with lots of jumping, look for a high-impact bra that will support the vertical 'up and down' breast movement like the TLRD Impact Luxe Training High Support Bra. Breasts can still be displaced up to 5cm from side to side in low-impact sports like yoga, so look for a sports bra that will support this, such as the Yoga Studio Luxe Light Support Bra.

Why is it important for women to find the right fit?

It is so important to find the right fit not only for a sports bra but all gym wear. Our research and experts found that poor and ill-fitting apparel can have huge implications on your short-term and long-term exercise performance. In fact, a number of studies have indicated that as well as too tight-fitting leggings reducing comfort, loose or incorrectly-fitting leggings could potentially lead to a higher injury risk.

Leggings that are the correct size, with a snug second-skin but comfortable fit, raise the skin temperature at a faster and greater rate, which results in an increased skin temperature, reducing the chances of injury and improving flexibility. Overall, ill-fitting apparel can be distracting. Our goal for this collection is to create gym wear with a second-skin feel so the wearer's focus is solely on the workout.

adidas sports bra leggings science
adidas sports bra leggings science

What was the reasoning behind developing a new collection?
As we found in our research, comfort plays such a big role in women's performance, enjoyment and participation in sports, so we wanted to create a collection which is specifically tailored to provide support for that silhouette. The collection is an evolution from 2022, we didn't re-do everything. We took the learnings from our communities across the globe to make our bras and leggings even better from a comfort, style and performance perspective.

The new line focuses on tackling the range of performance barriers that our community of athletes shared (chafing, skin marks) through innovating performance fabrics with differentiated performance and haptic (feel), activity-specific design features and built-in technology. From recycled Nylon fabrics with a 4-way stretch to elastane alternatives for enhanced fit, as well as materials designed for no-show coverage for athletes, the new pieces feature adidas' best-in-class fabrics with next-to-skin sensation, whilst our performance technologies support each move.

To take this one step further and to cater to more bodies and workouts than ever before, the latest collections have been created to provide tailored support for specific exercise types: Yoga, Barre, Gym Workouts/Cardio, HIIT, Strength Training and Running. We have designed Bra and Leggings with specific materials and design features – that have been two years in the making - meaning our community can choose apparel based predominantly on their activity requirements - from low-impact yoga sessions to HIIT, as well as weight training and running.

For SS23, adidas enlisted the help of Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr to support the scientific requirements behind the design of the bras. Why was that important?

For this campaign, we partnered with experts like Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr in the field of breast health, biomechanics and female athlete health, so together we can fully understand the extent and impact that poor apparel can have on athlete performance. Coming together and incorporating this expertise, we're able to provide even more insight into the benefits of correct support and showcase how our products can directly benefit you during sport. Knowing that without the right support, your breasts can experience the same G force as an F1 driver, really does land the impact.

adidas sports bra leggings science
adidas sports bra leggings science

What can you tell us about the findings from her work and how that helped to inform your designs?

Almost three-quarters of women shared that they have experienced body chafing or pimples due to apparel performance and almost half (49%) told us that they have had marks left on their skin by their workout clothes because they are tight. This is why the Yoga Studio Luxe 7/8 Legging has flat and flush seaming, strategically placed in areas of high friction, designed to help reduce chafing over long sessions, whilst the high-rise waistband offers a supportive feel and streamlined finish.

A woman's body works differently from a man's, so creating a collection that is suited and supportive [of that] was the foundation of developing every piece. For example, men and women have different internal body temperatures and sweat rates, which means the way they regulate body temperatures varies. Taking this into consideration, we needed to ensure that our portfolio offers adequate thermal regulation for women so that we can support them during all types of exercise. This is why the TLRD Impact Training High Support Bra incorporates technology like HEAT.RDY to support in keeping you dry and comfortable, whilst mesh panelling detail across the front and the open back maximizes airflow across high heat and sweat zone areas.

Finally, how does adidas plan to continue to innovate and expand its sports bra offering?

One of our main priorities as a brand, and particularly within the design team, is to relentlessly innovate our offerings. We continuously collaborate with our athletes to implement their feedback as well as have the collection wear-tested by the community and then see how we can push the boundaries of performance wear forward. There's so much more to come!

Take a look at adidas' new sportswear offering above, and head to the brand's website to purchase.

While you're here, check out our list of the best activewear brands to try this year.