My Eyes are Up Here: 5 Style Tips for Running Shirtless

Taking the Salty Challenge in my Alexis Bra from Moving Comfort

This post originally published on Aug 31, 2012. We thought it was a timely follow-up to the The Essential Guide to Salty Summer Running!

I’m in love with Clove’s Salty Running Challenge!  Leaving my shirt behind when I go for a run is a real struggle, but the more I practice the more I just stop caring what others think of my tummy and start feeling great about showing off the amazing athletic machine that is my body.

Now Salty already posted about running shirtless, but I wanted to point out that when we wear our bellies on the outside for a run there are a couple things to consider in your bra.  I’m not talking about your boobs, either (at least not this time). 

1. First things First. When removing your top, please consider bounce factor

Considering that sport bras are historically just really tight half-shirts it’s no surprise that they have become more-than-acceptable to wear sans chemise, but as I’ve written before, those kinds of compression bras can really let your jubblies jiggle…a lot.  To keep larger breasts in place encapsulation bras are the best option, but be prepared…it’s gonna look like a bra, not a half-shirt.  But that’s not a bad thing!  The best way to keep yourself from being nervous about showing off your bra is to own it. Get a style or a pattern that you love, like the stripey bra I’m wearing above (a Moving Comfort Alexis).  I’m currently salivating over this hot little number:

Great support AND you can look like Wonder Woman too! click to get this beauty on


2. Let’s talk cleavage. Does it reveal more in the front than you’re comfortable with?

This “flexwire” bra from U.K. company Shock Absorber is really cute, but a little too revealing for me to want to run in it without my singlet covering the goods. I can just see it now – all the sketchy dudes in the park would be hustling to go faster than me just so they could look over their shoulders!

Hello, boys. All of you who clicked on this article to see some sexy cleavage just got what you came for! click to view/purchase on

Okay, so I’m well aware that men in the NYC park system aren’t all salivating over my exposed parts when I run. My point is, people often can’t seem to keep their mouths shut when they see a hot lady with a bare tummy, and I consider this when choosing my running apparel. When putting one’s bra out there in front of others one must acknowledge that many people will appreciate her God-given gifts more than she does herself!  If you’re comfortable with that, more power to ya, but  if, like me, you prefer to minimize commentary consider opting for something with a bit more coverage. After all, you’re wearing it as your top, not just your bra!

I’m not saying you have to dress like Saudi runner Sarah Attar or anything, but if you’re going to flaunt it, make sure you do so on your own terms…just like she does.

Damn, she looks hot in that smile! img via

3. Now look at the back. Are the hooks the only things between your nipples and full daylight?

Hook-and-eye closure has come back onto the sport bra scene with a vengeance, since clasps provide a better fit on the band than a traditional pull-on sport bra.  But you’re not trying to emulate a lingerie catalog, you’re trying to look like an athlete, so you need to consider both the aesthetic implications of a bra’s back in addition to its support when wearing it on the outside.

Take this bra, from Athleta, for instance:

The traditional hook-and-eye bra closures do just as good a job of holding your boobs up, but let’s face it, if you ran shirtless in this bra you’d look like you were just out for a jog in your everyday underwear.  See above re. commentary from others.

But never fear, ladies, there are plenty of options out there for those of us who crave the support of a fitted band and want to look a little more sporty! Check out this one instead:

The Moving Comfort “Rebound Racer” does a better job of back coverage and has a clasp-band for added support while still allowing plenty of open space to keep you cool. click to view/purchase at


4.  Dude. Seriously. Make sure it fits.

You’ve all been there.  You’re running along at a race, minding your own business when…

(cue the Jaws Theme)

Bouncing up next to you comes…


The Australian Institute of Sport actually thinks it’s okay to run in this bra without a shirt.  Clearly no one who works there has tried running with boobs attached to his chest. img via

As a bra, the above example fits that girl reeeeal nice. As a sport bra it lacks the coverage necessary to lock n’ load those boobs in for high-impact activity like running.  Note the dreaded side boob.

It’s a miracle that I couldn’t find more images representing runners with side- or under-boob, since I see it so freaking often at races.  It seems that many women aren’t aware that teeny-tiny sport bras aren’t made for running, they’re made for wearing at a gym when you want boys to stare at your chest while you box:

You think dudes don’t ogle us when we’re sweaty? Check out, where I found this image. Vom.

But seriously, before you remove your shirt ladies, please check that your bra does not expose your breast tissue from the sides, and while you’re at it, make sure that the band around the bottom fits nice and tight, or risk bouncing right out of your bra altogether…the dreaded underboob is a threat to us all!

The moral of the story? When wearing your bra without a shirt on it’s important to be sure that it fits you well and provides adequate coverage for your boobs to not go viral on sexy joggers.  For a great fit guide, check out this swell video from Sweatshop U.K.:

5. Finally–Are you wearing a white bra? Be careful where you point those things…

Okay, so you have a bra that fits, now it’s time to think pure aesthetics.  Think about this lady running down your street:

Vintage Ad #1,300: I Dreamed I Was Tickled Pin...
This is not your running club’s uniform for a reason. And THANK GOODNESS it’s not. She could poke some dudes eye out with that thing! img via jbcurio on flickr

Slightly terrifying, right? I bet her boobs don’t move a millimeter in that bullet-shaped vault, but nonetheless it’s not a classy look, even with the shiny pink spandex.

Since we can’t all get away with the underwear-as-outerwear look. It’s best to consider taking off your shirt only when you’re wearing a bra that doesn’t look like…well…a bra. This is one of the reasons I avoid white sport bras at all costs, opting instead for something a little more stylish. My favorite bras are my Alexis (at the top of the post), which combines compression and encapsulation, and my very first encapuslation bra, a LuLuLemon Ta-Ta Tamer.  It also features horizontal stripes in grey on grey.

Have fun baring your bellies, gals!

Got any other tips for runners who want to bare their bellies?  How about horror stories of runners who didn’t follow these rules?

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. What about those of us with barely any boobs to speak of? I just find a compression bra with a lining and adjust the goods to avoid wonky headlights. But can I do better?

  2. I love that we revisited this today. I *almost* ran without a shirt today, but then chickened out! I think we need to bring back the challenge too 🙂

  3. I’m a very old runner who figures nobody wants to see more of me, so I haven’t been able to make the transition. Very annoyed at a young woman in my husband’s running group who can’t wait to strip down, & if it’s to chilly to run shirtless, she feels the need to talk about taking her shirt off. Haven’t yet convinced hubby to ask her, Is it that warm out or are you just showing off?

    1. That woman will be your age one day, and she might feel less comfortable with her body then, but I certainly hope not. And as for you – who cares if other people want to see more of your body or not? If YOU want to run shirtless, go for it! If not, that’s great! But I personally feel strongly that we encourage positive body image in ourselves by thinking, talking and acting positively about each other’s bodies and steering clear of body shaming.

      I can appreciate feeling jealous; I’m only in my thirties, but I’m big and chronically single, so I have a lot of body anxiety! When women who are younger or fitter in my running club wear tight clothes or take off their shirts, I can get intimidated and that can translate into thoughts about saying something nasty or thinking they’re showoffs. One thing writing for Salty Running has taught me though, is that we ALL have to contend with a world that places too much value on women’s youth, thinness and sexuality, and having a negative attitude about women who are confident in their bodies as they are, we’re perpetuating those values.

      We’re in this together, and instead, I think a better value we can have is accepting our bodies as they are. Whether it’s you or the girl in your husband’s group, a 400 pound woman, my five-year-old niece, someone with a giant belly scar, a trans-woman, my 88 year old grandmother, or a cancer survivor who’s had a mastectomy, I want every woman to feel comfortable being herself as she is!

  4. I’ve been overweight most of my life. Since Christmas though, I set a goal for myself to get back into shape. During the winter months I ate better, lifted weights, and rode an excercise bike inside. Since the weather has gotten warmer though I’ve added running outside and am up to about 3 miles each time. I’m happy to say that I’m now down 35 pounds!
    I recently stumbled upon this blog and have decided to get over my fear and make my next run a shirtless one. I’ll probably have some anxiety beforehand but will definitely do it. Thanks!