Sunday, April 14, 2024

Leak Protection Shorts? Sports Bras That Actually Fit (& Work!)? The Secret Weapons in the Female Football Stars Arsenal, That You Can Try At Home!

We go behind the seams to discover some of the special features of the kits you’re seeing out on the pitch – that are also available to buy off the shelf!

In Partnership with Nike

We were told it was going to be special, but, heck, now that we’re in the thick of the greatest sporting tournament, we understand what the hype was all about. Even though our beloved Football Ferns are now out of the running, we’re still on the edge of our seats watching the tournament progress. Now we get why it’s called ‘the beautiful game’, why social media is abuzz, why stadiums are filling up with so many excited fans, why celebrities have begun flying in from around the globe and why we’ve all been repeatedly Googling how to get our hands on one of the USA team’s pre-match custom tailored suits (a collab between Nike and Martine Rose which – sob – is apparently just for the athletes).

But while the athletes look truly incredible, there’s actually a lot more going on behind the scenes of their garments. And the good news is, unlike those incredible suits, these new technologies and features are available for us all to buy off the shelf. Some of them are pretty darn amazing – so amazing that they might even keep young teens and pre-teens playing sport.

Nike is the design team behind the kits of 13 national teams in the tournament (more than any other brand) – including our own Football Ferns, plus Australia, USA, Brazil, England, France, Korea, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, China and Canada. We learned all about the biggest new breakthroughs from Molly Polak, EKIN Experience and Training Specialist at Nike.

Secret Weapon #1: Leak Protection Shorts

If you’ve been following along with our coverage, you’ll have heard Nike Pacific Head Running Coach Lydia O’Donnell lament over how many adolescent girls drop out of sport – often because they feel that getting their period has made it too tricky, too painful or too embarrassing to continue with sport.

Former Football Fern Rebecca Sowden echoed these sentiments, remembering how the only memory she now has of making her debut for New Zealand U-17b team was “being so worried about being on my period and bleeding all over my white shorts!”

With sports like football often calling for small white shorts to be worn, it’s often not just young teens or pre-teens who are worried about what might happen if game day falls on one of their heavier period days. Molly Polak says that it becomes something that even experienced athletes fixate on. “Female footballers playing at the elite level on average report spending nine minutes of the game worrying about leaking if their period falls on game day,” she says. “That is roughly 10% of the game!”

So, the Nike team wanted to remove this barrier for females (or those who menstruate) athletes so they can spend their time on the pitch fully focusing on the game at hand. And, for any of us who do want to work out, play sport or be fit and active, without having ‘the fear’ in the back of our minds – as well as, of course, our budding next generation of athletes who might now be more likely to stick with sport, having one of those barriers removed!

They’ve managed to do this without adding any bulk or weight to the garments, through a rather tricky composition that Molly explains as a “multi-layered construction – which is only as thick as a 10c piece! – that absorbs menstrual overflow and helps ensure no leakage occurs”.

“It can hold up to a medium flow of menstrual fluid when used as a secondary protection product, which is the equivalent to about a medium tampon or pads worth of fluid,” she says. “When you pair this with a primary period product (such as a pad/tampon/menstrual cup), females have more confidence in their leak protection shorts preventing any unwanted leaks. The product team have also focussed on the body feel, ensuring that the material that touches the skin is smooth, silky, and has excellent moisture management properties.”

Secret Weapon #2: The Flyknit Sports Bra

As I write this, I can almost feel some of the sports bras of my past digging into my ribs, or rubbing my skin raw, or, just pretty much leaving me unable to breathe (a pretty important function – particularly if you’re supposed to be getting your heart rate going!). And don’t even get me started on the time (and contortionist’s moves!) it took me to get myself in and out of them.

Sports bras have historically been rather cruel contraptions. Particularly the ones many of us can probably remember from our youth. It’s a rather cruel trick of mother nature that, just before we are tested by our first period, we get the warm-up of having our body change and develop breasts – right as we have P.E. class or Saturday morning sport to worry about.

But, if you’ve ever let a sports bra stop you from working out, there’s good news. The new sports bras – the ones the Football stars are wearing – are actually phenomenal. They’re light, smooth, fit super comfortably and also do a darn good job. Because, if you’re playing sport – particularly high intensity like football – you need some pretty serious support.

“At Nike we have a saying: ‘no sports bra, no sport’,” says Molly. “Bras are an essential piece of equipment that act to protect the breasts while an athlete is moving, and having the right level of support for the sport being played is crucial.”

The damage you can do to your breast tissue while doing exercise (particularly anything high intensity that involves a high level of jumping, running or cutting) is substantial – and, unfortunately, irreversible. It’s why you need the right gear for the job. The right bra should give you that ‘locked in’ feel, without being uncomfortable, says Molly.

“The material within sports bras is designed to move with the body and lock out at a certain point to ensure the breasts don’t move too far beyond their set point,” she says. “The level to which the bra can do this, as well as the way it is constructed, is what enables it to provide the support. To the wearer, a higher level of support will offer a more locked in feel, and a higher level of compression.”

Nike’s bra of choice is the Nike Swoosh Flyknit 2.0, which comes in sizes XS to XL in cups A to E. The non-padded bra features a scoop neck (it’s not low enough to make you worried that things could come loose, but not high enough to give you that claustrophobic feeling!), ultra-stretchy fabric at the back (making getting changed a breeze), plus sweat-wicking technology to keep you feeling dry and cool.

Nike has introduced its Flyknit technology into its sports bras. Molly explains that “flyknit is the ultimate technology for providing this locked in compressive feel, historically it has been a technology we have used to provide support to the foot in running shoes.”

Secret Weapon #3: The Phantom Luna boot

Speaking of shoes – when it comes to football, there’s really no item of clothing in the kit more crucial than the boot. Like picking out a sports bra, you’re always going to want to choose the right footwear that is made for the kind of movement and intensity of the exercise you’re going to be doing.

Nike has you covered, whether you’re going for an easy stroll or walk, a high intensity workout, or a fast paced sport like tennis or football. If it’s football you’re playing, your best bet is the one that Nike designed, with the World Championships in mind: The Phantom Luna boot.

Molly says the design of the shoe was specifically designed to help female athletes make quicker moves on the pitch – traction with less resistance, allowing players to move with agility and confidence across the field.  “The ultimate goal is allowing her to create space from her opponents, get in front of the play, and hopefully score more goals,” she says.

“The key technology innovation that helps reduce rotational traction, is Nike’s cyclone 360 technology seen in the outsole. This provides for the right amount of grip, whilst minimising unwanted stick in the ground, helping unlock precision in the way she can move and create plays.”

If you’re a football player, or have a budding young player in your family – this is the ultimate secret weapon to turn you into a MVP.


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