Sports bras~ The ins & outs, what you really need

No matter what the size, the construction of the breast is the same.  There is breast tissue and fat that is supported by skin and the Cooper’s Ligament.  No matter what the size, breasts need support, both in daily activities and in exercise.  The level of movement may be different, the needs from the bra may be different, but every woman needs a properly fitted sports bra.

So let’s start with the needs of a smaller busted woman.  I can say from personal experience, many times it is hard to see the need for a sports bra when you are a 30A.  But remember all A’s are not created equal.  A 38A holds the same volume as a 30DD.  The 30DD would be in a different range and encouraged to follow different guidelines then the 38A, even though their breasts have the same volume.  So remember the recommendations for a “small busted” 32A will be different then the medium busted 38A.

What should you look for as a woman in the lower range of bandsizes and a smaller bust?  Your breasts still need the support of a bra during high impact activities, many women in this size range find compression style bras to be enough support without creating a uni-boob look.  That said, with a compression style bra the goal is not to flatten the breasts.  It is to minimize bounce while shaping the breast.  Some encapsulating bras are available in a smaller band and cup combination, but you’ll be more hard pressed to find them without ordering online in the US.  Many women prefer a small pad in the front of the bra to minimize any nipple show through and prevent rubbing. Encapsulating bras are available in band/cupsize combinations while compression bras are sized xs-xl.

The medium busted women will be looking for encapsulation and compression combination styles.  Compression only styles will press the breasts toward each other which can result in chaffing and a collection point for sweat. The encapsulation will separate the breasts to prevent a uni-boob look, breast chaffing, and sweat collection. The combination of encapsulation will be more supportive then compression alone. Don’t be fooled by the term “individually constructed cups.”  That is not what encapsulation bras really are.  An example is the Under Armour Endure High Impact sports bra.  This bra is a compression bra with individually constructed cups.  It is sized in s-xl and the option of A/B, C, D, or DD.  It is a compression bra, not a combination of compression and encapsulation.  In fact many fuller busted women in the US will squeeze themselves into this style of bra creating uni-boobs and less support.  The individually constructed cup style can easily be lifted when too large breasts are placed in this bra.

Under Armour Endure DD, image from http://www.underarmour.com

Many encapsulation and compression soft cups are available, but many women prefer underwire to get the best fit.  Check out the Moving Comfort Maia Underwire bra for a good option C-E cups.

Moving Comfort Maia, image from http://www.herroom.com

A full busted woman will be looking for encapsulation style bras, usually with an underwire.  There are wire free versions available, you will have to assess your own needs.  The encapsulation style bra for the full bust works with each breast separately.  There is no compression of the breasts together.  The cup design itself provides the compression, individually to each breast. A high impact compression style bra can be confused with the encapsulation design of other bras based on appearance, but they will not do the same job.  Take the Royce Impact Free sports bra.  A look at the design could make one think that it is an encapsulation bra, when it is not.  It is a compression style bra, which is not the most supportive for fuller busts.

Royce High Impact Sports bra, image from http://www.herroom.com

Now compare that to the design of the Panache Maximum Control Ultimate Underwire sports bra (what a mouth full!). Anyone could easily look at these two bras and assume that they are the same.  The Panache below is an underwire encapsulation sports bra designed to separate the breasts and stop movement individually. This style is much preferred for a fuller bust woman.

Panache Maximum Control Ultimate Underwire Sports bra, image from http://www.barenecessities.com

No matter what size you are or what type of bra you need, there are some things you should look for.  Just like any bra you need to try it on and assess how it fits you.  You’ll check the band, the straps, and the cup portion of the bra.  Check the fabric to ensure it does not irritate your skin and will properly move sweat away from your body.  You want to move around, jump, move your arms and assess the movement of your breasts.  You’ll want to check for areas that may rub, seams that may pinch, areas that may cause raw spots.  Just because a bra is highly recommended for your breast type does not mean it is the proper sports bra for you. Be prepared to try several before finding the right one for you.  And just like any bra, hand washing is best and will make your bra last longer.  Machine washing and drying will stretch your bra faster and it will need quicker replacing. Look to replace your sports bras yearly, possibly sooner depending on wear habits.

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