Get Fit in Your Best Fit – Sports Bras 101
By Jené Luciani
Sports bras have been around for 30 years yet are still a mystery to most women. But proper fit and support is just as, if not more, important in a sports bra as in the everyday model. Researchers say an un-supported breast moves up and down about 6 centimeters when we’re working out. Not a good thing for the “gals.” Since breasts are made up of tissue and ligaments, you have to think that theoretically, this stretches the skin and speeds up the sagging process.
Whether you’re a jogger, a dancer, a kick boxer or a yoga enthusiast, you need a well-fitting sports bra that keeps your breasts firmly in place during any activity—even if you’re a small-breasted woman! Actress Katie Holmes raised eyebrows when she appeared to be braless while running the New York City marathon. It’s always a good idea to support any and all breast tissue with a proper-fitting sports bra, even if you feel like you don’t need it.
Sports bras generally come in two basic designs:
Sound scientific? Well, they are. These “models” have been developed as a result of years of research, and are both designed to minimize movement of the breasts in different ways. In the compression style, the most common type of sports bra, your breasts are pressed together, flat against your chest, in an attempt to reduce motion. This option better suits smaller breasted women (up to a D-cup) as they can often be too “constraining” for a larger-breasted woman. Compression-style bras come sized small, medium, or large. Usually, a small correlates to a 32B/C, a medium is a 34B/C, and a large is a 36B/C.
Encapsulation styles, on the other hand, are sized like regular bras, by both band and cup size.
If you’re in the store, you can usually tell which style is which. The “compression” bra is usually one piece and is pulled on over your head, whereas the encapsulation will have actual “cups” and often an underwire as well, much like a regular bra but made from stretchy, moisture-wicking material that’s especially suited for physical activity. Keep in mind no matter which style you choose, it’s meant to feel snugger than your normal bra, but not so tight that it’s irritating your skin.
Sports bras are infamous for creating a uni-boob appearance (especially the compression models) but many on the market today are much more flattering. Plus, many sports bras are even chic enough to wear by themselves! You’ll stay cooler in them that way too. I have taken a liking to a style by Champion (Hanes Brands) that zips up in the front – you can adjust your breast tissue after you zip it up and create great cleavage, sans uni-boob effect. But whichever style you choose, it’s important to shop around and get the best fit you can.
Here is The Bra Book’s “Fashion Formula” for finding a suitable sports bra:
- The elastic band on the bottom should fit snugly around your rib cage (but not so snugly that it takes your breath away).
- When trying it on, you should jump up and down a few times in the dressing room—you may look a little crazy but you’ll accurately determine if the bra gives you the necessary support needed for physical activity! Obviously, the less “bounce,” the better. The sports bra, more than any other bra, is all about range of motion and comfort level.
- You should also look for wider shoulder straps for more support.
- Note that those with built-in “shock absorbers” are designed to minimize bounce and impact.
The fabric you choose also has an impact on the comfort and effectiveness of the sports bra – most are designed to wick moisture away from the body but you can choose one that goes a step further to prevent chafing and all-around discomfort. Check the tag before you buy so you know what your sports bra’s made of. The tag can be a wealth of information – sometimes it even tells you what activities your bra is designed for.
There are several different fabrics to choose from. Here is a breakdown of the options, with the most common first:
- Polyester/Cotton – Classic blend provides gentle softness and powerful moisture management for all your workouts.
- Cotton/Lycra® Spandex – Soft, moisture-managing cotton combines with shape-retaining Lycra® to create a very comfortable fabric with just the right amount of stretch and support.
- CoolMax® Polyester/Lycra® Spandex – This high-performance fabric blend delivers you all the moisture-wicking benefits of CoolMax® plus the comfort, stretch and shape retention of Lycra®.
- Polyester/Cotton/Lycra® Spandex – This 3-fiber blend offers polyester and cotton for softness and moisture management while Lycra® provides optimal fit and support.
- Supplex® Nylon/Lycra® Spandex – Offers soft, luxurious feel and incredible fit, support and shape retention.
For great options to rock over your new sports bra check out our post on Workout Wear We Love!