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Sports Bras: Finding the Right Fit

Updated on May 1, 2007

SPORTS BRA: noun; a garment made specifically by design and fabric type to support a bustline for activity of any kind.

The Importance of the Right Fit

Finding the right sports bra is just as important as wearing the right running shoes. You need the right style to feel comfortable and stay motivated.

If you don't take this decision seriously, chances are you'll end up wasting a lot of money with the trial and error approach (and a lot of time for that matter). How many sports bras have you bought over the years that get used once, maybe twice, only to get lost in the back of the drawer? It's time to seriously think about this decision and, consequently, save some time and money.

One thing you have to do is know yourself - the right sports bra for you is primarily based on your body structure and, secondarily, on your personal preferences.

Just like any relationship, this sports bra is not going to be perfect. So, decide, what's most important to you? Added structure for no-bounce support? All day wear ability? Separation with support? Easy on/off capability? Of course, these are just a few possibilities. Pick one or two must have's and go from there.

The rest of this decision should be based on your body structure and the amount of vertical movement in your chosen activity.

Sports Bra Fit Tips

Know When Get Rid of Them

And know when to walk away from your sports bra. There is a life to every one of these garments. You'll know it's at the end of its rope when it loses its ability to restrict vertical movement. Or, it just might not seem to fit right or be as comfortable anymore. Any signs of pilling or fabric breakdown are your cue to replace it.

Forever Yours

Well, based on the fact that there is an end to the life of any sports bra, it won't really last forever. But, there are a couple of things you can do to make it last longer. First, stick to a fabric care that really does cares about the fabric one is Forever New Fabric Care. It's biodegradable and gentle with the fibers.

Second, don't put your sports bra in the dryer. All that hot air breaks down those technical fibers that make you love the bra so much. And, if you can, it would really appreciate a hand washing as well.

Improve its RVM score

Those of you who have what's called an encapsulation style sports bra (not a pullover style) can improve its ability to "restrict vertical movement. You can do this right off the bat. A sports bra should fit snugly, so if your style allows adjustments, wear the band as tight as possible without constricting breathing to get the most support. The band is the piece that goes around your ribcage. Tightening the shoulder straps helps too, but it's the band that can really make a difference.

Finding the Right One

We all come in different shapes and sizes. Believe me, this really matters when it comes to choosing the right sports bra.

First, it's important to understand the two general types of sports bras. There are the original pullover or compression styles and the separating encapsulation styles. I bet most of you have at least one pullover type somewhere in your drawer. You know, this is the one that looks like two jock straps sewn together (that's because the first sports bra was just that!). This style may or may not be best for you depending on your body structure, chosen activities and priorities.

Assuming your number one priority is no-bounce support, pullover type sports bras tend to work best for women with A and B cup sizes. This is because the style uses compression or flattening of the chest to provide no-bounce support. Compressive support doesn't work too well if the breasts are larger than a B cup size. On the other hand, if you are a C cup or larger, and engage in activities that don't involve a lot of vertical movement, then a compression style might do just fine in the area of no-bounce support. You would just have to deal with the uni-boob look and you may have a rough time getting the garment on and off.

With an encapsulation style, C cup and up sized women have a better chance of getting no-bounce support in activities with medium-high levels of vertical movement because the breasts are managed separately. An added benefit to the encapsulation style is you don't have to give up contour. Typically, an encapsulation style has adjustable back clasps and shoulder straps for easier on/off capability as well.

Now, you can help yourself make the right choice. Consider your body structure, the amount of vertical movement in your chosen activities and your priorities. Lots of times, there won't be one solution that addresses everything you've taken into consideration. In this instance, wear a different sports bra for the activities that vary in amounts of vertical movement.

Go for Fit Instead of Fashion

If you don't go for fit (instead of fashion) when buying a sports bra, some physical problems may occur. Chafing, sore breasts, sagging and a sore shoulder/neck area are just some of the physical problems that have been tied to poor fitting sports bras. Here are some reasons why these problems may occur and what to do about them.

  • Wrong Size- Learn and accept your size. Taking your measurements is a start. The majority of the problems with poor fitting bras are about wearing the wrong size. Accept yourself. Take note, sports bra manufacturer's didn't exactly huddle and say, "OK, let's standardize a sizing chart for these things!" This means you may not buy the same size in one style as you might in another.
  • Wrong Style- The right style depends on your chosen activities, body structure and personal preferences. Think about the amount of vertical movement you will be experiencing in your chosen activities. For example, running is thought of as an activity associated with a lot of vertical movement. Now, consider your body structure what cup size are you, how does that relate to your rib cage measurement, how long (or short) is your torso. Finally, what's most important to you? While running, do you namely want no-bounce support? Wicking capability? Pick one or two must have's and go from there. The solution sometimes is a different style for different activities.
  • Dead Bra- Yes, there is a life to this garment. The fabric eventually loses its functionality this means the fit then changes. If you hand wash and line dry your sports bra instead of machine handle, it will last about twice as long. On average, a machine-handled sports bra will last about six months.
  • Sensitive Skin - Some of you chafe no matter what the style or the fabric you're wearing. You've tried everything without relief. Folks who can identify with this dilemma probably have sensitive skin that tends to react to sweat and friction. In these instances, I recommend using Vaseline, or, better yet, a fabric-friendly product like Bodyglide between you and your sports bra.


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