The importance of sports bras and how to find the right fit.
Picking a sports bra can be a really confusing. In this blog we guide you on what you need to know and what look for before buying your sports bra.
It all began in 1977 when the first sports bra was made by Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith by sewing together two jockstraps!
Technology and the science behind sports bras has come a long way since then and now there are many shapes and styles to choose from.
But why should you wear a sports bra?
The average cup size in the UK is a D which can be up to 1kg of weight to support. That's a bag of sugar or a whole bottle of wine! Wearing a sports bra whilst excising helps to prevent sagging of breast tissue and helps reduce pain and discomfort during exercise by helping to support that weight.
The Coopers ligaments are bands of supportive tissue that maintain the shape support and structural integrity of the breasts and helps prevent sagging. Once stretched it cannot be reversed or repaired. Wearing a good, well fitted sports bra helps reduce movement during sport by 60%-70% compared to a normal bra at just 35%. This understandably helps prevent stretching of the coopers ligament and helps to alleviate chest, breast tissue and backpain during exercise.
Not only can a good sports bra help with support, it can actually improve performance. Having larger breasts can affect posture and gait whilst running. According to a study conducted by Brooks Running Co in conjunction with Portsmouth University, due to poorly controlled breast movement whilst running women loose up to 4cm of stride length. Over a marathon this could translate up to an extra mile!
What is the best sports bra for me?
There are two main types of sport bras the encapsulation bra and the compression bra.
Encapsulation Bras like the Brooks Juno or Dare Racerback are made up of two cups like a normal bra but with more support. They are engineered to individually surround and support each breast to minimise movement. These bras are for all sizes but particularly suit D+ cup sizes.
The compression bra such as the Brooks Rebound Racer, looks more like a crop top and works by compressing the breast against the chest to limit motion and is usually pulled over the top of the head.
Whilst looking for a sports bra always make sure it is made of a breathable moisture wicking fabric. Take note of where the seams lie to make sure there won't be any chafing . Some bras like the Dare Crossback come with the Bottom band fully integrated into the bra, offering support where you need it and smooth, chafe-free comfort.
Checking you have the right fit
Making sure you have the right fit is one of the most important parts of choosing your sports bra. We offer a bra fitting service in store however if you're buying online or buying a sports bra on your own here are a few tips to make sure you get the right size.
- Measure around your rib cage around the bottom band, just under the breast. The tape measure should feel quite snug. Round the measurement down to the closest inch. The bottom band of the bra should fit snugly but not so tight it is uncomfortable. It should lie flat across your back and should not ride up or be loose around your rib cage. when fastened on the middle clasp & pulled out at the back there should be no more than a 4-5 cm gap. If it is more than 5 cm when pulled out then the band is too big.
- Cups should fit smoothly and all breast tissue contained within the cup. There should be no tissue spilling out at the sides or the front. Extra space means the cup size is too large. Most women have one breast larger than the other. Always fit your sports bra to the larger cup and look for a style with adjustable straps that allows you to customize the fit to each individual breast.
- Once adjusted, the straps should lie smoothly against your skin without sliding around or digging uncomfortably into your skin. Adjustable straps can offer a more custom fit. If the support feels like its coming from the straps you made need a smaller band size.
- The other tried and tested technique is the 'bounce test' I always have have a jump up and down to make sure that my sports bra is supportive and comfortable!
If you need to to go up a band size you should move down a cup size, for example if a 36D is too small on the band size, you should try a 38C.
If the band size is too large go down a band size and up a cup size. For instance if a 36 D is too large on the band try a 34DD.
Caring for your sports bra.
- A build up of sweat bacteria and dirt can break down the fabric of your sports bra and affect its performance so wash it after every 1-3 wears.
- do not wash in fabric conditioner or at high heat is it can damage the technical properties of the fabrics.
- If your sports bra has moulded cups try to store it flat in your draw.
- The bad news is just like your running shoes over time your bra looses its effectiveness and depending on how often it is worn, a sports bra should be replaced every 6-12 months.
The most important thing is that your sports bra is comfortable and supportive. What works for others may not work for you so make sure you try a few different bras to find the right one.
You can see our full range of sports bras here