High versus Low Impact Sports Bras
Above: Q-T Intimates Spirit Within Sports Bra is lightly padded and features cotton lined, medium compressed cups.
“Whatever the reason for wearing a sports bra, it’s a good idea to know what level of impact, be it high or low, best matches the level of activity.”
by Michelle Broomes, Lingerie Journal Editor
You’ve finally convinced yourself that it’s time to get fit and active. You’ve got your “light as air” running shoes, a sleek outfit to match and all your favorite motivational tunes lined up waiting for you to just press play. And whilst all these things appropriately go towards enhancing our fitness sessions, what can really make the difference is wearing the best possible sports bra for the intended activity.
“Having the correct bra for the job helps so much,” says Terri Frazier, owner of Californian lingerie boutique South Bay Boobology. “Sometimes a new [sports] bra can give customers the confidence that they can do their workout routine. I’ve had many teenage girls start playing their sport again because their new sports bra gave them the support they needed to run or jump.”
Researcher Dr Joanna Scurr, an expert in biomechanics from the University of Portsmouth in Britain, has produced some of the most comprehensive research on women and sports bras and found that during exercise many women experienced breast pain because of breast bounce, irrespective of breast size and across different workout intensities.
Moms & Moms-to-Be have La Leche League International Intimates Super Mom Sports Bra as a great sports bra option.
So whether you think your breasts resemble bee stings or grapefruits, the general rule is, wear a sports bra – and the best one for the job – to protect your assets when you are working out.
Of course, not all exercise and activity requires that we suit up in the strongest of sports armour on the market. Your stretch class will likely not incur as much breast stress as your spin so differing levels of sports bra could be a sensible investment.
“I think it is very important to have a choice between high and low impact [sports bra],” says Jennifer Alexander, model, blogger and overall busy woman. “As a girl who pretty much lives in a sport bra in my day-to-day life, I really like low impact styles for running about.”
Boutique owner Terri Frazier also agrees that women should be able to enjoy the benefits of both high and low impact sports bra styles.
“It’s important to give customers a choice because people wear them for different reasons,” she says. “Some customers wear sports bras as an everyday bra and don’t want the high compression that comes with a high impact bra. Others want to have a snug fit and can’t find it in fashion bras.”
Whatever the reason for wearing a sports bra, it’s a good idea to know what level of impact, be it high or low, best matches the level of activity. This logically leads to the question: what do we look for when choosing a high vs. low impact sports bra style?
Bra expert Liz Marrell, Design & Creative Director at Q-T Intimates explains that the clues can be in the construction of the bra.
“Fabrications are different for low vs. high impact bras,” says Liz. She gives some helpful tips to observe in the structure of high and low impact activewear bras.
Features of the high impact bra:
Q-T Intimates All Star.
“High impact styles are better suited for short term, high intensity activities like jogging and/or other sports…” Jennifer Alexander.
“In order to allow the wearer to do high impact sports – the wearer [being] very active and moving – fit is key: a tighter fit around the body (sometimes we’ll grade down a half size to make it tighter); compressed cups with less stretch in the fabrics, padding [and] short stretch straps, which are sometimes stabilized,” Liz advises. She further suggests looking for characteristics like:
• Padded cups (or at least lined with a rigid fabric)
• Wired, if not wired, then has a wide bottom band elastic for extra support
• High fabric weight (grams): fabrics can feel quite dense
• Wider inner elastics, shoulder straps, and hook & eyes
• Wider wings, sometimes with boning
• Higher neckline for more bust coverage/support
“High impact styles are better suited for short term, high intensity activities like jogging and/or other sports as the support and compression they often offer are not usually comfortable long-term,” warns Jennifer Alexander, blogger and model. Wearing a high compression sports bra as an everyday style, is therefore not necessarily an ideal circumstance especially if you can wear a more appropriate option.
Features of the low impact bra:
Q-T Intimates’ Spirit Within Sports Bra.
“These styles can be very relevant to lifestyle or “atheleisure” brands as they may be worn as comfortable casual innerwear pieces for the woman on the go.”
“For low impact sports, the wearer is not moving at such a high rate, so comfort is key: a normal fit is efficient [as well as] soft interior fabrics and trims,” says Liz Marrell of Q-T Intimates. Her key indicators for a low impact bra are:
• Low fabric weight (grams): the bra will feel less bulky to the touch
• Usually unpadded
• More narrow inner elastics, shoulder straps, and hook & eyes
• Extra soft materials with stretch and plush trims (to enhance comfort)
“Low impact sports bras are great for activities like yoga, walking and basically any lengthy activity that requires slower movement, comfort and flexibility,” suggests blogger Jennifer Alexander who appreciates these styles when she’s out and about on a busy day.
A low impact style could be a useful alternative for ladies who prefer the cover and hold of a sports style but aren’t quite fond of wires as many low impacts styles are wire-free and therefore less likely to feel restrictive. These styles can be very relevant to lifestyle or “atheleisure” brands as they may be worn as comfortable casual innerwear pieces for the woman on the go.
“Some customers wear sports bras as an everyday bra and don’t want the high compression that comes with a high impact bra. Others want to have a snug fit and can’t find it in fashion bras.” Terri Frazier, South Bay Boobology.
However, we must remember that the bigger our breasts the more support they need and consequently the intensity of a sports bra may need to be increased to accommodate very large breasts even for low level activity. It is also very important to read the manufacturer’s guide as to what is considered high and low impact sports styles if you are not sure of the look of the bra. And of course, enlisting the help of a bra fitting expert to get your right size should be a priority as this can be the difference between buying a bra that supports effectively or one that still allows too much bounce and breast stress.
Now that we know what to look for in different impact bras, the next challenge might just be getting one in the right size. Particularly in the case of fuller busted ladies, finding an effective sports bra can feel like a sport in itself. Unfortunately, some women actually work out in their normal everyday bra or ineffective sports styles.
“I don’t feel like there’s enough out there for cups bigger than H and bands larger than 44,” notes Terri Frazier of South Bay Boobology. I would like to see more companies have more options in these hard to find sizes. It’s somewhat disappointing when we can’t accommodate a customer or they have one bra to choose and it isn’t made for their body type.”
Super Mom by La Leche League International Intimates features easy one-handed nursing buckles and is perfect for medium to high impact activities.
However, model and blogger Jennifer Alexander, believes that there has been some movement in the market towards providing more choice of sporting lingerie for different sectors of the market.
“In the past there wasn’t a ton of choice in terms of style, color etc. but that’s changing,” she reasons. “I think companies are starting to realize that “sports bras” aren’t just for sports/athletics anymore and I’m seeing more and more brands come out with cute and flattering, low impact styles for everyday living. There has always been an issue for fuller figured women who fall in between or above the basic Sm-XL sizes offered in the past, and I like that brands are starting to offer more adjustable sport bra styles for a custom fit.”
And if you are looking for the right sports bra to get you get active again, here are a few of Liz Marrell’s picks from Q-T Intimates and La Leche League International Intimates (LLLII) to get you started.
All Star (Q-T Intimates)
– Lightly padded, cut and sew, high compression cups
– Cushioned shoulder straps and center front gore
– “Wide hole” breathable spandex mix sports mesh
– Wide, plush elastic band for support
– Good for medium to high impact activities
– Sizes available up to a G cup
Spirit Within (Q-T Intimates)
– Lightly padded, cotton lined, medium compressed cups
– Nylon/Spandex breathable mesh wings
– Cushioned shoulder straps
– Accented color piping design
– Good for low to medium impact activities
– Colors come in Black and White
– Sizes available S-2X
Super Mom (La Leche League International Intimates)
– Sports Nursing Bra
– Wireless, cut and sew, high compression cups
– Cotton/Poly/Spandex mix
– Breathable, waffle mesh side panels
– Easy one-handed nursing buckles
– Cotton nursing frame
– Wide, plush elastic band for support
– Good for medium to high impact activities
– Sizes available S-XL
– Colors come in Black, White, Grey, and Purple Fuchsia
And for further reading, check out this older post: http://thelingeriejournal.com/you-and-your-activewear-choosing-a-good-sports-bra/