There are four main reasons to wear a sports bra:
1) To control bounce
2) To reduce breast pain – 50% of the UK female population experience breast pain.
3) To prevent damage to the Cooper’s ligaments in the breast, which can lead to sagging.
4) To improve your sports performance
If you don’t wear a sports bra while exercising, or are concerned you might not be wearing the right size or type of bra, read on for our top tips.
Style of bra
There are three types of sports bra. Compression bras are ideal for small busts and low-impact sports. They flatten your chest and redistribute the breast mass to reduce movement. Encapsulation bras are a good option for all, but best for bigger busts (DD+) and higher-impact sports, as they support both breasts individually. Similar to normal bras, they also have thicker straps and an under-bust support band. Combination bras use carefully constructed seams and liners to support both breasts. They have a racer-back design like a crop top and are suited to medium-impact activities.
Different bras are suitable for different levels of activity. Yoga, Pilates and walking are classed as low-level activities, while cycling, Spinning and tennis are medium intensity and running and aerobics are high-impact activities. Most companies now state which level of activity their bras are suitable for, so make sure you take this into account before buying.
Look for performance fabrics
Check the fabric is fully breathable, quick-drying, high-wicking, flexible, durable and lightweight. Supplex, nylon and Lycra are soft fabrics, will retain their shape and are often blended with Coolmax, which is the fastest drying technical fabric.
Shopping for bras online can be tricky, but if you can’t go into a store, buy a range of sizes and check you can send them back. Visiting a store is the best way to get a proper fitting – you might be a 32C in one brand but not in another – sizing is not an accurate science! Go into the changing room and jump around, lift your arms up and down and rotate your upper body advises Dr Joanna Scurr, head of biomechanics, department of sport and exercise science at Portsmouth University. ‘The band under your bust is where the support is generated from, so make sure there’s a rigid connection between this and your body. When you pull this band at the back, it should give about one inch for a perfect fit. Fasten the bra on the loosest setting to allow for adjustment as the elasticity of the bra declines,’ she says. ‘The cup needs to fully encase the breast tissue, but not cause any tissue to bulge out of the top or under your arms.’ Look for adjustable shoulder straps – no two bodies are the same! ‘You’re looking for about an inch give when you pull the strap on your shoulder. It’s personal preference but there are lots of strap styles on the market, from T, Y, racer-back, cross-back, standard to narrow,’ says Scurr.
When to replace it
How you care for your sports bra determines the longevity of its effectiveness. How often you wash it, at what heat and whether you tumble dry it are factors. ‘As a rule of thumb, I recommend that when you replace your running shoes, it’s worth replacing your sports bra too. Buy two so you have one to wear while one’s in the wash,’ advises Scurr. Lisa Mulube, technical manager for lingerie at Marks & Spencer, recommends getting fitted for a new sports bra every six months because your shape and size can change over time, especially if you’re losing weight.