Monday, May 16, 2011

Sports Bras, Part 1: Picking the right sports bra for you

***Blogger had some serious issues a few days ago and many people who use it had posts deleted, this post included. I'm re-posting it now with a special thank you to reader Elise, who had the great idea of sending me the text that her RSS reader had saved.***

I have had multiple requests from readers for advice about sports bras, so obviously I needed to write about it! I'm going to split this into two posts. This one will talk about how to pick the right one and the next will go over brands and where to buy one.

There are lots of great sports bras on the market right now for big breasts, so there is absolutely no reason your boobs should hold you back from any sort of physical activity. Wearing a sports bra when you are exercising is super important for women of all sizes... And if you are busty, of course, it's impossible to do many things without a proper sports bra. (Somebody could lose an eye!)

There are two basic styles of sports bra:

Compression bras, which are more common and are your typical smush 'em down, monoboob style. The advantages are that they are more commonly available, you can fudge the fit a little bit if you need to, and they often come in styles that are acceptable to wear as outerwear whilst exercising. And, because they don't have underwires to twist and bend, you can generally toss 'em in the washing machine! (I still recommend cold water and hanging to dry, however!) The cons are: They usually look terrible under a shirt, they can make you sweat more ('cause your boobs are squished together!) and they can hide problems of bad fit.

The second type of sports bra is the underwired sports bra. These are not your typical full cup bras, so don't think you can just wear a regular bra and have it work the same- they are still special bras. But the major advantage of these is, they provide separation and therefore look better under clothes so if you need or want to workout in a T-shirt, you can do so without the dreaded "uniboob" effect. Also, theoretically, if you need to do something else after working out without time to change bras, you can do so and still look good. In practice, though, I find that these have to be extremely high cut to stabilize your breasts and so they usually show under necklines. You also have to have a little bit more precise fit with these, which could be a disadvantage if you have unusually shaped breasts or something.

Either style is just fine and up to personal preference. If possible you should try both styles on to see which you prefer. Obviously, though, whichever style you prefer, the most important thing is making sure you are wearing your sports bra in the correct size!

Also consider the activity level the bra is rated for. Make sure you get a bra that's rated for your maximum activity level. If in doubt, go for a higher activity rating and I would personally just go for the highest impact level regardless, unless you do a lot of yoga or something and really want a slightly softer sports bra.

If you are more active, a good guideline on how many to own is enough so that you can wash each one after every time or two of wearing them, since sweat will break down the fabric if you don't wash them frequently.

Everybody should own at least one sports bra. Even if you are currently completely sedentary or don't do a form of movement where you really need a sports bra, still have one laying around in your underwear drawer(s). If the mood strikes you to exercise, you don't want a lack of sports bra to be an excuse- and you don't want to try to exercise without it!


  1. I've never had an underwired sports bra... I have one Shock Absorber and an old M&S. I really use only the first, even though I stupidly got a band too tight (what was I thinking? I know, it was eBay, and I bid...) Fortunately after a year it's loosened a bit, though still the first moments are difficult. However, since I really only use it for horseriding now & I've noticed the body protector I always use does more or less the same job (ie. squashes and stops everything moving), I sometimes ride in everyday bras, although only full-cup/balconette types, which normally offer a lot of support.

  2. I've tried the shock absorber model and the freya active underwired model pictured, and hands down I recommend the freya underwired. People always say the shape is unnatural, but it actually gives me a nice silhouette (as a 32ff/30g!)and cannot be beat in terms of support and comfort. The shock absorber bands run tight (which can be good in a sports bra), and I couldn't get over the smushed feeling, though it's worlds better than conventional sports bras.

  3. I can't seem to remember where I saw this, but an article somewhere found that bras with separate cups were actually better than plain compression-style bras because they protected in more directions. That is, side to side, up and down, diagonal, etc

  4. Normally i just buy a large or extra large sports bra and i wear it over a full cup bra.

  5. Hi! Did you ever end up posting links to places to buy good sports bras? I recently discovered your site and the whole new world of bra sizing, and ordered a bunch of bras. Using your sizing chart, I am a 32JJ, and I ordered two Panache bras (regular) and a Royce sports bra. I was able to find a relatively large variety of regular bras in my size, but only this one sports bra. The problem I found after I tried it on, though, is that the band is way too small. The Panache bras seem to fit well, but I could not even get the sports bra hooked! I measured the length of each bra (casually, and not stretched at all), and the Panache bras seem to be around 28 inches long, while the sports bra was approximately 23 inches long. Unless it's a problem with this brand, then, I'm thinking I need some sort of a different size when it comes to sports bras. Do you have any advice for adjusting my size accordingly? Thank you so much!

  6. I recommend Title 9, a women's sports store for well fitting sports bras in a huge range of sizes! I went to my local store front, and the women there were so helpful! They had me try on everything from a 34D to a 30E until I found something that fit right for the support I need. They were patient, knowledgeable, and I couldn't be happier! I'll often layer a cute "smooshy uniboob" bra over an underwire sports bra purely for looks. Thanks!

  7. To those wearing stretchy sports bras over everyday bras: Don't do it! I have the Freya underwire sports bra and it is amazing! They also have a non-wired version which seems to be also well-received. Regular bras do not wick moisture or move as well on your body.


I always love to hear your thoughts! Please remember to be respectful. I may not publish comments that are rude, hateful, personal attacks, racist, sexist, or otherwise inappropriate. Dissenting opinions are fine, as long as they are respectful. Thanks!