Have you ever wondered, “What is the point of a sports bra?” The truth is, it’s not just to make you look cute and sporty in your hot yoga/spinning/Zumba class. We caught up with Dr. LaJean Lawson (Ph.D., sports bra scientist and Champion Athleticwear expert) to learn more about the importance of a sports bra and how to shop for the right one for you.
LaJean says, “One of the main reasons women wear any kind of bra, especially if they wear a larger cup size, is to limit breast movement. And even more so for a sports bra because the impact of our workouts causes even more bounce than sitting at our desks or strolling the mall.”
So what exactly should you be looking for in bras for different activities? Dr. Lawson suggests keeping the activity that you need the bra for at the top of your mind and then making sure that the sports bra you choose has all the necessary requirements to adequately support you while performing the activity.
Light to Medium Activity
“For light activity, which I call ‘stretching, strolling or snoozing’, your first priority can simply be comfort. Lighter, body-friendly constructions like all-stretch seamless styles, with either narrow cami straps or a relaxed racerback, may give you all the support you need for gentle yoga or other slower-paced workouts. Of course, you can also pick something more structured, just as long as your body and skin feel relaxed and comfortable through a full range of motion,” she says.
Do: Look for comfort first, since you don’t have to worry about much bounce.
Don’t: Forget to move around in the bra in the dressing room. Try bending at the hips to make sure you don’t fall out of the bra when in inverted positions.
Medium to High Activity
“When your body is moving more vigorously but your workout doesn’t involve a lot of running or repeated hard jumping, the support you need for a comfortable workout can be less strict and more body-friendly than what you need for a truly high impact session. But even though you have less bounce to control, you’ve still got to have straps that don’t slip, fasteners that don’t dig, fabrics that don’t stay wet and soggy, and a neckline that doesn’t let your ‘girls’ fall out when you bend over,” says Dr. Lawson.
For A, B, or C cups she suggests pullover, compression-style bras with wider straps and racerback styling. She adds that moulded cups or inserts will “preserve rather than flatten your curves and maximize modesty.” (No matter how cold you are, your nipples won’t show through.)
For D cups or larger, look for more structure and support, which means making sure the fit is perfect and the bra is comfortable. Look for separate cups, an adjustable bottom band, and adjustability in the straps.
Do: Look for straps that don’t slip.
Don’t: Buy a bra if the band, straps or fasteners dig into skin. Your bra shouldn’t stretch or give too much over time. You can’t wear it in.
For Maximum Activity
“The higher the impact of your workout, the more bounce it produces and the more possibility for pain and annoyance if your sports bra is not doing its job of giving you high-level support,” says Dr. Lawson.
“Women with cup sizes A, B and C will want to look for firm compression styles with limited stretch in the body and straps of the bra,” she says.
Do: Look for an adjustable bottom band and adjustable straps to help you find your perfect fit.
Don’t: Accept a non-adjustable, one-size-fits-all sports bra (even in your size) if it’s not comfortable. Two women who both wear a 34C can have very different bodies.
Dr. Lawson also has very specific style and feature recommendations for women with high-support needs in D, DD and DDD sizes:
Look for sports bras with separate cups:
- Two distinct cups control bounce better and help to prevent your breasts from being smooshed together.
- No-stretch cup fabrics help restrict your breasts’ ability to fly or fall out.
- Rounded ‘minimizer’ shapes, rather than pointy, keep your boobs closer to your chest with less urge to move.
Choose sports bras with substantial shoulder straps:
- Wider is always better — it’s amazing, but just doubling the strap width really can decrease pressure per square inch on your shoulder by about half!
- Minimal stretch is mandatory (especially in front where load is greatest), but maximum adjustability is essential so you can personalize fit and support.
- Top-of-shoulder cushioning is key — bigger breasts really do create significantly heftier loads on your tender little shoulder bones and skin.
- Straps made of smooth, body-friendly material make a difference — heavier loads rub harder and boost the risk of chafing.
Pick sports bras with a high neckline:
- Cleavage can definitely be an asset, but not when you’re trying to keep your ‘girls’ under control. So a higher neckline is always better to prevent the possibility of anything ‘surging up’ out of your bra.
Look for sports bras with adequate anchors:
- You need solid mooring for your bra’s cups and straps to work against.
- Fabric support panels/straps, super-cushioned underwires, a wider rib band, and extra back support will all help get you there.
Select sports bras made from firm, fast-dry fabrics:
- Anti-stretch = anti-bounce, so scout for more substance and less stretch in all bra zones.
- Moisture-wicking cups and rib bands can trump the annoying sweat that’s more easily trapped by full breasts.
- Smooth, low-friction fabrics discourage nasty chafing — the bigger your breasts, the more contact/rubbing there is between them and the rest of your body.
Keep an eye out for sports bras with specialized sizing systems:
- A cup/chest sizing scheme with an adjustable rib band (instead of S,M,L sizing) lets you personally fine-tune the fit and provides the support that your ‘girls’ need.
- Check out any hook-and-eye fasteners to make sure they’re well-cushioned and won’t weasel their way into your skin.
Sports Bras to Try
How to buy a sports bra that actually fits
Medium Impact Sports BraFashionable and comfortable, this sports bra is perfect for yoga class, featuring moisture-wicking technology and lots of stretch for ease of movement. Champion Absolute Workout Bra Top, $24.99, sportchek.casportchek.ca
Maximum Impact Sports BraComfortable, smooth and with shaping cups, this bra works for all breast sizes for moderate activity and will take those with smaller breasts through to a high-impact workout. Champion All In One Bra Top, $44.99, sportchek.casportchek.ca
High Impact Sports BraHigh impact support, moisture-wicking technology and a stylish design make this bra extremely easy to wear. Adidas Women's Supernova Racer Bra, $50, adidas.caadidas.ca
High Impact Sports BraBoth trendy and functional, this bra is great for women with smaller or average sized breasts for maximum impact activities or for larger-breasted women for medium impact activities. Titika Matrix Bra, $52, titika.catitika.ca
High Impact Sports BraA bra designed for high impact and versatility, the straps on this one are convertible from tank to racerback style. It also features seamless cups to help reduce chafing. Champion The Smoothie Bra, Women's D Cup, $44.99, sportchek.casportchek.ca
High Impact Sports BraFear uniboob no longer, this bra promises separation with encapsulation cups that contain compression technology to inhibit movement, and it also has a wide band for extra support. Champion The Great Divide Bra Top, $39.99, sportchek.casportchek.ca
Maximum Impact Sports BraBuilt-in stabilizers restrict movement in front while a racerback design in the back allows for full movement of arms and shoulders. The fabric will stay dry and flat seams won't chafe. Nike Pro Bra, $34.99, champssports.comchampssports.com
Maximum Impact Sports BraThis bra provides double layer cups so larger breasted women never have to wear two sports bras at once ever again. A higher neckline adds support and keeps breasts from escaping, while straps are cushioned for extra shoulder comfort. Champion All Out Support C Cup Bra, $53.99, sportchek.casportchek.ca