Benefits of Sports Bras
Why should you wear a sports bra?
- Support your breasts. A lot of high-impact movement can stretch and tear the ligaments surrounding and supporting your breasts, leading to breast sagging. This sort of damage cannot be reversed. Sports bras provide the support to prevent drooping and sagging by preventing ligament damage.
- Regulate temperature and sweat. The fabric used to make sports bras is usually moisture-wicking, cooling, and sweat absorbing, thereby preventing high amounts of underboob sweat (a common problem for all men and women). The increased air flow promoted by the sports bra will keep your skin dry and cool.
- Reduce movement. This is important particularly for women with heavier breasts, as excess movement can be painful and inconvenient. A sports bra will hold your breasts in place to prevent them from moving around as you run, jump, and play.
- Protection. Sports bras are made with thicker material that prevents your nipples from poking through your shirt. For women who work out at gyms with a lot of guys (some of them with wandering eyes), this is a definite plus!
- Better comfort. Sports bras are designed with active use in mind, so they remove everything you hate about bras (mainly the underwire). They're soft, supportive, and make you feel comfortable as you run and train.
- Storage space. Not just for your breasts, but for other items: keys, cellphones, money, etc. Most sports bras come with a handy pocket for carrying small items, making your workout hands-free and worry-free!
Types of Sports Bras
Sports bras aren't a "one type fits all" item of clothing. You'd be amazed by how many different types of sports bras there are:
Racerback – These are designed to reduce shoulder pressure, providing good support for heavier breasts while running, rowing, and training the upper body.
Compression – These bras press the breasts close to your body, keeping everything firmly in place. For maximum support and minimum bounce, these are your top choice.
Encapsulation – These have a defined cup for each breast, enhancing your feminine shape while ensuring maximum support. Great for looking good at the gym!
Padded – For those who want to stay modest in cold environments, the extra padding built into these will prevent your nipples from showing through your shirt. And the padding will give you a little extra volume in the bust.
Front Fastening – If you're looking for comfort and user-friendliness, these easy-on/off bras are just what you need. They're also good for post-surgery comfort when mobility is limited.
Underwired – These offer extra support for heavier/bigger breasts, but without the pressure of a regular bra. These are made of the same soft, comfy material of non-wired sports bras, and enhance bust support.
Non-wired – These are ideal for sensitive breasts (usually smaller or developing). They provide some support without restricting movement or cutting into sensitive skin.
High impact – These are designed for high-impact activities: CrossFit, HIIT training, running, horseback riding, snowboarding, etc. They are usually made sans underwire, but ensure your breasts stay firmly in place through the high-impact exercise.
Plus-size – These are designed not for plus-sized women, but for plus-sized breasts (beyond a G-cup).
Low impact – For sports activities like Yoga or walking that don't involve high impact, these sports bras are ideal. They're super-comfy, provide good padding, support, and comfort, and will often be an added stylistic element.
Mastectomy Sports Bra – These are designed to be worn post-mastectomy, providing comfort and control during recovery.
Signs You're Wearing the Wrong Sports Bra
How can you tell you're wearing the wrong sports bra? Here are a few simple things to notice:
- You're uncomfortable. Discomfort can be caused by insufficient support, an underwire, or a bra that's too tight/loose.
- It's old. Sports bras worn for more than 4-6 months will start to lose their elasticity and support. Hand-wash your sports bras to extend their lifespan, but change them out no less than once a year.
- Bra band doesn't fit right. Maybe the band rides up in the back, or you've got it cinched on the tightest hook. Either way, it's a sign the band (which does most of the support work, not the shoulder straps) is too loose. Time to change it up!
- Uniboob. Your sports bra should provide support for each breast individually, and any bra that pushes your boobs together is the wrong bra!
- Painful straps. The straps of your bra should never dig into your skin. If they do, it's a sign the band isn't offering the required support and thus requires a change of bra.
- Visible nipples. If your nipples poke through your bra, it may mean the molding is too light or faded, or the padding has fallen out.
- Two bras are required. Double-bagging your breasts may seem like the best way to enhance support, particularly for large ones. However, you should look for a single sports bra that offers the precise level of support and comfort required.
- It's hard to take off. Bras that require a struggle to get out of are NOT sized correctly!
- It's too cheap. Sports bras shouldn't be the cheapest item of clothing you own. Paying more for a high quality bra is 100% worth it!
- Breast pain after your workout. This could mean the sports bra isn't providing sufficient support or compression, so your breasts are moving around. NOT GOOD!
- Spillage. If your breasts spill out of your bra (especially when bending over or doing inversion poses), you need to look for a bra that will keep everything securely in place. You may be wearing the wrong size cups as well.
Sports Bra Buying Guide
Buying a sports bra is a surprisingly challenging activity! With so many styles to choose from, each with their own unique features, you may have no idea how to buy a sports bra.
Here is the fail proof way to know you are walking out of any store with the perfect sports bra:
Step 1: Determine the sizes. Obviously you need to think about bra cup sizes, but the band size also matters. Without a shirt or bra on, run a measuring tape around your back, measuring just above your breasts. The tape should be pulled tight enough to be accurate, but not so tight it squeezes anything. Seeing as the band does most of the support work, it's vital to get the band size right.
Next comes bust size. Wrap the tape measure around the fullest point of your breasts. Always round that number up to the nearest inch. Depending on the size of your cup, you'll find this number is anywhere from 1 to 4 inches higher than your band size.
The formula for cup size is: Bust size – band size = cup size. So, for example, a 3" difference between your band and bust size would be a C or D cup, while a 1" difference would be an A or B cup.
For A and B cups, you'll want to find a bra that offers protection and a snug fit, without too much compression. Padding may also be a bonus.
For C cups, coverage is vital. You'll also want to think about supporting your breasts without compressing them too tightly.
For D cups, support is definitely what matters most, and compression can help keep everything firmly in place as you move around.
Step 2: Consider the required support. Bras come in different impact types, from high to medium to low impact. The higher the impact, the more support provided.
Think about what type of exercise you're going to do:
- For running, mountain biking, HIIT, CrossFit, or aerobics, you definitely want a high-impact bra.
- For walking, stretching, mobility training, and Yoga, you'll want to go with a low-impact bra.
- For fast-pace walking or hiking, road cycling, or skiing, stick with a medium-impact bra.
Women with larger breasts may need to use a high-impact bra for medium or low-impact activities, while women with smaller breasts will be able to perform more activities with low impact bras.
Step 3: Think about compression and encapsulation. Compression refers to the amount of pressure on your breasts. Encapsulation refers to the individual support offered by the bra, enhancing the feminine curves of your bust.
Compression bras are good for those with larger breasts, as well as anyone doing high-intensity exercise. Encapsulation bras are more stylish, but they offer good individual support for large-chested women. You can find bras that offer both compression and encapsulation.
Step 4: Consider the features. Bras come with a wide range of features to consider, including:
- Band thickness, tightness, and elasticity. Remember that the band is doing most of the support work, so you have to find the band that works best.
- Shoulder strap design, including spaghetti strap, tank top, criss cross, or racerback style. The straps should feel secure and snug, but shouldn't dig into your shoulders. Consider adjustable straps if you want better customization.
- Padding can enhance comfort and size, as well as prevent your nipples from poking through softer fabrics.
- Moisture-wicking fabrics will keep you cool and your skin dry.
- Flat-lock seams will reduce friction and irritation against your skin, a must-have for high-intensity activities.
- Venting (a mesh or perforated panel integrated into the side/underside of your bra) can help to keep things ventilated and cool.
- Underwires may seem like the devil in some bras, but they can provide maximum support for high-impact activities.
- Closures can be in the front or back, and they can make the bras easier to put on/take off. Not all bras need to be the pull-over style.
Step 5: Test the darned thing. This is the important final step in buying a bra! You have to test it out to determine whether or not it fits, if it's too tight/loose, or if it offers good support.
To test the bra:
- Move around, including a bit of running and jumping. See how much/little your breasts move when you do. Less is better!
- Test the fit. Insert your fingers inside the skin, the straps, and the cups. You should have enough space to insert a finger or two without too much effort.
- Evaluate the chafing. If you feel it rubbing your skin, imagine how much worse it will be when the material is wet or crusted with dried sweat.
- Look in the mirror. If you see uniboob, the bra isn't the right fit! The sports bra should enhance your feminine figure without pushing everything too flat or tight.
How to Make Your Sports Bra Last
Sports bras are more durable than regular bras, but they still require delicate care to keep them in good condition. To ensure your sports bra lasts:
Hand wash only. Wash with warm water, and don't scrub too hard. Washing the sports bra in the machine will speed up the wear and tear, meaning you'll have to replace the bra soon. If you're going to dry it in the machine, run it on the cold cycle.
Have a few bra choices. Don't just have one sports bra you use for everything. Buy 6 to 10, so you can switch between them. This will extend the lifespan of your bras and help you get the most out of them.
Use the right bras for your activity. This is VERY important especially for women with larger breasts. You need to find the right bra compression/support/fit/impact according to the exercise you're going to be doing.
Replace regularly. Your sports bras have an average lifespan of 6 to 15 months, depending on regular use and care. Once the bra starts showing signs of wear, replace it!