The Sports Bra
Why finding your proper fit is so important.
About seven years ago, I re-committed to being fit and active. Running seemed a good place to start; I already had good shoes, a pink pullover sport bra, and catchy tunes in my headphones. I knew the journey to better health would present some obstacles, but never did I suspect my sport bra would be my downfall! Yet, on my first run, I painfully bounced along with the lack of support and quickly realized that my pretty sport bra provided little more than a covering to prevent me from indecency.
Since I started the in-depth training required to be a bra fit specialist at Petticoat Fair about six years ago, I have learned about a whole world of bras—including sport bras. As store manager and buyer, I have helped women of all shapes and sizes find the right sport bra. I’ve also tested many styles myself, wearing them to run on the Lady Bird Lake trails, to lift weights and participate in circuit training classes, and to play in a local basketball league. The right fit will transform a sport bra from a frustrating thing-you-have-to-wear to a functional, comfortable garment that will help you perform at your highest level. The key is finding the ideal bra for your body and your activity.
One of the most popular and widely available styles is the non-wire pullover. Soft, stretchy, and comfortable, this kind of sport bra typically has little hardware and fewer seams to rub or jab. Usually lightweight and cool, it will move well with the body. I recommend this style for walking or hiking, or when performing flexibility and core exercises during yoga and Pilates. Because these are sized SM–MED–LG–XL, they tend to best fit a petite- to average-sized bust.
Despite the comfort of the classic pullover style, the characteristics that make it comfortable and flexible take away some of the support needed for high-impact activity. For high-impact or fuller cup sizes, I would recommend looking for a sport bra that is bra sized. These are generally more structured and firm. Some may even have seamed cups that are very effective in lifting and shaping the breast tissue. This type of sport bra is very supportive for running, team sports, circuit training, Zumba, tennis, and even endurance sports. It also works well on a wide variety of body types. In this category, I’ve found very supportive options from A to even I cup sizes.
High-impact with extra support
Although the features of the bra-sized styles offer significant support, some women will want the added support and shaping of an underwire. I recommend this style for full bust sizes that need the security of an underwire, which will allow them to perform high-impact activity much more comfortably. In addition to added support, wired bras tend to give a better look underneath clothing by eliminating the “uni-boob” effect. Molded or lined cups can provide an extra layer of coverage and security for training in the gym or in public settings. However, I do caution against wearing an underwire for certain activities, including endurance sports, flexibility exercises, or any kind of very physical sport during which the wire could injure the wearer.
One bra does not fit all
With your activities and body type in mind, the next important step is making sure the bra has an excellent fit. Even the most structured, underwired, armor-like bra will support little if it does not fit properly. It should fit like a snug second skin, not digging but also never loose. I highly recommend a professional fitting. Just as you might visit a professional to find the perfect athletic shoe for your unique foot shape and activities, a bra fitter can guide you to the specific brands that have the construction and shape that will work best for your body and the way you move. A sport bra should never stand in the way of lifting the heavier weight, running that extra mile, mastering a difficult yoga pose—or just getting back to healthy habits.