Experts in breast and bra science
Our research helps women get the perfect bra fit and find sports bras that support their movement
We, the Research Group in Breast Health, use our expertise in breast biomechanics to improve scientific knowledge of breast health, inform the development of breast related products and raise awareness of this important aspect of women’s health.
Our research group is responsible for many international scientific publications in the area of breast biomechanics, bra science and breast health, and we have achieved considerable press coverage. Many of our collaborations are with the world’s major lingerie and sports apparel manufacturers. Ultimately, this helps us to achieve our overall objective of improving women’s quality of life.
Our research group investigates an extensive range of topics related to breast and bra science.
Over 80% of women have been reported to be wearing the wrong size bra, so an important area of our research focuses on breast sizing and bra fitting. It is crucial that women of all breast sizes wear appropriate and correctly fitting breast support for everyday activities and when exercising, as wearing the correct bra size reduces breast pain, and improves general health and wellbeing.
In one of our studies, we identified that the traditional bra fitting method does not give the best fit. We advocate a series of 'Best Fit' criteria. We believe it is important to educate women on best fit, rather than using a tape measure to dictate bra size.
Narrator: If your bra doesn't fits you properly, you're not alone. Over 70% of women wear the wrong bra size. Your breasts can change shape and size throughout your life, and you might need a different size depending on where you shop.
When buying a new bra, whether it's an everyday bra, a fancy bra, or a sports bra, you should search for your fit, not your size.
We are the research group in Breast health at the University of Portsmouth. We've spent 12 years scientifically developing these five simple steps to the perfect profits. You can ditch the tape measure and check your bra, fit yourself to make sure you're wearing the right size in any style of bra.
Step one: The underband. The under band should sit level all the way around your ribs and should be a firm fits. Allow only a five centimetre gap when pulled away from the body. This is where most of the bra sports comes from, so it's important that the band stays level as you move around.
Step two: The cups. Your breasts should be fully enclosed within the cups. There should be no bulging or gaping at the top or the sides.
Step three: The underwire. The underwire should follow the natural crease of your breast. It should not rest on any breast tissue. Pay close attention to the side of the cups under your arm if the cup fits. But the wire is resting on breast tissue. This style of bra might not be right for your breast shape.
Step four: The centre front. The front of the bra should sit flat against your body. It shouldn't lift away if it does lift away. Try going up a cup size.
Step five: The shoulder straps. The shoulder straps were just able to check these at the end. They should feel comfortable without sticking into your shoulders. The straps keep the bra in place. They are not the main support. Remember, your straps don't have to be the same length on the left and right. Most women have one breast bigger than the other.
Sister sizing. If your bra is not too good fits you sister sizing to find the right fits for you. For example, if you're on the band is too loose, but cut fits, you need to go down and under band size but up a cup size. Whether buying a new bra or checking the fit of bras you already have. Remember to check the underband, the cups, the underwire, the centre front, the straps. With these five simple steps, you can find a bra that fits you well and for all occasions.
- Dr Nikki Brown, Reader in Female Health, St Mary's University – Nikki’s research focuses on breast anthropometry and breast and bra education
- Dr Jenny Smith, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Chichester University – Jenny’s research focuses on the psychological impacts of the breast
- Amanda Brasher, Visiting Research Associate
- Alison Walker, Visiting Research Associate
- Michelle Norris, HIQA
Consumers deserve the best in breast support. At the University of Portsmouth, we provide a scientific bra testing service to help you develop the best product possible.
Why work with us
Bronze, Silver and Gold bra testing packages
Our Bronze, Silver and Gold bra testing packages can:
- Help you understand the performance, comfort and consumer appeal of your products using our rigorous scientific methodologies.
- Test your core styles, prototypes and final iterations before they reach the market.
- Help you gain an advantage by testing competitor products.
- Provide you with an understanding of the breast support requirements for different populations, breast sizes and functions (sports bras and everyday bras).
- Compare the performance of your bras to our unique and comprehensive database of bra performance.
- Provide you with detailed tester feedback on each bra tested.
- Produce a bespoke report containing biomechanical results, tester feedback and recommendations from our experts.
- Enable you to see your products in action through high speed videos of each bra tested (Silver and Gold packages only).
The Research Group in Breast Health bra testing stamp
As one of our clients, you can use our Research Group in Breast Health 'Tested' stamp.
This shows your products have been independently tested by some of the most highly regarded breast science experts in the world.
You can display the stamp on your marketing materials, packaging and presentations, and even on the products themselves.
Other ways you can test your products
Remote Laboratory Package
We can help you set up your own breast biomechanics laboratory so you can collect your own data, which we will process rapidly using our robust scientific algorithms.
This package enables you to receive quick results to better assess initial prototyping and bra development.
It also ensures you are using the latest data collection and data analysis processes, keeping you ahead of the competition.
Bespoke Research Project
Our research group is interested in investigating the full spectrum of factors which matter to the bra industry.
We can develop bespoke research projects tailored to your specific needs.
We also have a number of fundamental research proposals for which we are seeking commercial partners.
The Science behind breasts and bras workshops
We are committed to raising awareness and improving knowledge on breasts and bras through education. We welcome delegates from all over the world, ranging from bra manufacturers and sports apparel brands to healthcare professionals and students, to learn more about this important area of women's health.
Our next online workshop will be hosted on Thursday 12 October, 2.30–5.30 pm (BST).
Breast education for teachers
Adolescent girls can go through periods of self-consciousness, negative body image and low self-esteem. This happens at the same time as their first stages of breast development – the first outward sign of puberty.
In 2015 we surveyed more than 2,000 girls between 11 and 17 years old. We found that:
- Few girls knew what sort of bra to wear, whether their bra was a good fit or how to avoid breast pain.
- Three-quarters of girls had at least one concern about their breasts, such as embarrassment when getting changed for sport, breast bounce or breast pain.
- More than 70% of girls wanted to know more about how to check for signs of breast cancer.
50-minute breast education presentation and lesson plan
Following extensive consultation with girls, teachers and schools we have produced Treasure Your Chest, a breast education presentation and lesson plan to help you teach adolescent girls about breast health. This is free to download from our Treasure Your Chest website.
The Treasure Your Chest presentation aims to improve girls' breast knowledge, confidence and breast health habits and covers the following topics:
- An icebreaker to tackle the embarrassment of talking about breasts
- Understanding the anatomy of the breast
- Why some girls may suffer breast pain and why girls need a bra
- The bra fitting process
- Things to look out for when buying a new bra
- Breast sizes and shapes
- Breast awareness
- Looking out for breast cancer
The resources also include detailed learning outcomes and background information so teachers can answer any questions they might get on the topics.
Visit our Treasure Your Chest website to learn more about our education initiative and to download our resources.
Recent publication highlights
A multi-phase intervention study of sports bra prescription for elite UK female athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics
Research in Sports Medicine: An International Journal (2022) https://doi.org/10.1080/15438627.2022.2090254, Wakefield-Scurr, J, Sanchez, A, Jones, M, Hockley, L, Biswas, A, Johnson, F & Roberts, E
A multi-stage intervention assessing, advising and customising sports bras for elite female British athletes
Research in Sports Medicine: An International Journal (2022). https://doi.org/10.1080/15438627.2022.2038162, Wakefield-Scurr, J., Sanchez, A., & Jones, M.
Can we predict the neutral breast position using the gravity-loaded breast position, age, anthropometrics and breast composition data?
Clinical Biomechanics, 99,  (2022). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2022.105760, Norris, M., O'Neill, A., Blackmore, T., Mills, C., Sanchez, A., Brown, N. & Wakefield-Scurr, J.
The effect of washing and wearing on sports bra function
Sports Biomechanics (2022). https://doi.org/10.1080/14763141.2022.2046147, Wakefield-Scurr, J., Hamilton, C., Reeves, K., Jones, M. & Jones, B.
A novel multi-study intervention investigating the short and long term effects of a posture bra on whole body and breast kinematics
Gait and Posture (2021), doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2020.10.031, Jones, Melissa; Mills, Chris; Exell, Timothy; Wakefield-Scurr, Joanna.
Breast education improves adolescent girls' breast knowledge, attitudes to breasts and engagement with positive breast habits
Frontiers in Public Health (2020), doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.591927, Omrani, Atefeh; Wakefield-Scurr, Joanna; Smith, Jenny; Wadley, Ross; Brown, Nicola.
How the characteristics of sports bras affect their performance
Ergonomics (2020), doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2020.1829090, Norris, Michelle; Blackmore, Tim; Horler, Brogan; Wakefield-Scurr, Joanna.
Do static and dynamic activities induce potentially damaging breast skin strain?
BMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine (2020), doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000770, Norris, Michelle; Mills, Chris; Sanchez, Amy; Wakefield-Scurr, Joanna.
Featured press highlights
"Adidas’ new sports bra collection created in partnership with the University of Portsmouth."
"The English Institute of Sport (EIS), University of Portsmouth and Clover Global have offered UK athletes the chance to be fitted with bespoke sports bras developed by Clover using innovative technology with the aim of improving both health and performance."
"The search for the best sports bra for cycling is not an easy one – but we've found some clear winners."
The Breast Health Research Group featured in the BBC One programme 'The Truth About...Getting Fit at Home' testing the best sports bras for exercise.
"More than 40 years after two jockstraps were stitched together, researchers are finally starting to understand how to build a better sports bra."
"Women lose up to four centimeters of stride length due to poorly controlled breast movement while running – which, over the length of a marathon, could translate to running an extra mile, according to a recent study conducted by Brooks Running Co. in conjunction with the University of Portsmouth."
There are many ways you can get involved in our research.
Become a partner
We're looking for partners to join our Breast Education Consortium and help fund this innovation on an ongoing, sustainable basis. The consortium will continue to develop breast education resources, beginning with schoolgirls but broadening to other sectors where breast knowledge is poor.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can get updates on our news and research, sign up for our workshops or volunteer for our studies by subscribing to our newsletter.
Take a look at our newsletter archive for news on our past research.
Take part in our research
We're always looking for female volunteers to take part in out tests such as sports bra testing, bra fit and breast biomechanics.
Complete our volunteer form if you'd like to volunteer or would like more information.