Choosing a Good Sports Bra

Choosing a good sports bra Lingerie Journal Feature

“Getting healthy and active not only requires the right diet and exercise but also the right gear”

By Michelle Broomes, Lingerie Consultant & Freelance Journalist
Activewear featured: Anita, Freya, Panache and Shock Absorber

Losing weight and exercising more are common challenges for many of us especially at the start of the New Year.

Getting healthy and active not only requires the right diet and exercise but also the right gear. For us ladies, choosing the optimum sporting lingerie should be just as important as choosing our running shoes, jogging pants and tank tops.

Anita Active Seamless Sports Bra

Above: Anita Active Seamless Sports Bra

“Movement during sport can put an excessive amount of strain on these ligaments causing irreversible damage,” – Geralidine Hurd

Research suggests that many young ladies avoid sporting activities because they dread the pain that accompanies excessive breast movement during exercise. In fact statistics for 2012 reveal that up to 60 per cent of British women experience breast pain from exercise. Coincidentally, it appears that many women are not properly supporting their assets during exercise.

“A huge number of women don’t wear a sports bra [during exercise],” says Amanda Brasher, a sports bra buyer and consultant for Sweatshop, the UK’s leading retailer of running gear. The figure is estimated at over 50 per cent.

“Inadequate breast support, combined with excessive breast movement, is the most likely cause of sore and tender breasts after exercise,” says Geraldine Hurd, bra fitting expert, designer and founder of online sports shop Totally Physical.

But whilst lack of adequate breast support during exercise can be a cause of breast pain in the short term, it has also been associated with breast sagging in the long term.

Since breasts are only really supported internally by ligaments they have no real firm support structure (from muscles or bones).

Panache Sport Bra Black

Above: Panache Sport Bra in Black

“Don’t just settle for the first sports bra you find, you could be robbing yourself of maximum support from a better bra. Compare brands and styles.”

“Movement during sport can put an excessive amount of strain on these ligaments causing irreversible damage. Once breasts have dropped because of stretching these ligaments, nothing can naturally restore them to their former position,” says Hurd.

So, for those ladies who are thinking of hitting the gym, shuffling on the tennis courts or simply pounding the pavement, it is essential that you know how to choose a good sports bra.

Choosing a Good Sports Bra

A sports bra is the ultimate piece of feminine sporting gear. It should be the first bit of your kit that you choose as it can determine what activities you are most capable of performing. For women who are tempted to wear their normal everyday bra to sporting activities, this is not ideal.

“A good sports bra has proven to be as much as twice as effective at minimising breast movement as a ‘normal’ bra,” says Hurd.

According to Brasher, sports bras work in three different ways:

  • Encapsulation: offering each individual breast the coverage needed to keep it held thereby reducing bounce
  • Compression: supporting by flattening the breasts towards the chest wall
  • Combination: offering both encapsulation and compression for increased support

It is suggested that the best sports bras for larger breasts are combination support bras but it is always recommended that you go with what is best for your shape and comfort level.

F.A.C.T Checking

Freya Active

Consider the F.A.C.T. below when buying your sports bra:

Fitting: since research has shown that many women wear the wrong bra size it is best that you have your sports bra fitted to increase your chances of finding an effective garment. “An ill-fitting sports bra is actually no better [at supporting the breasts during exercise] than an everyday bra,” warns Brasher.

Assess: determine what activity you want to do in your sports bra and choose a support level to match. “Many [sports bras] come with differing levels of support depending upon the exercise you want to do. Obviously high impact needs a really supportive bra while other activities such as Pilates may just need a lighter support,” advises Hurd.

Compare: don’t just settle for the first sports bra you find, you could be robbing yourself of maximum support from a better bra. Compare brands and styles. “You need to compare two or three bras to actually know what is the best level of support,” advises Brasher.

Test: always test your sports bra even if it is in your correct bra size. “Try several sports bras on,” Brasher suggests, “and jump up and down in the changing room and see the level of support for yourself.” Sports bra designers and marketers might tell you that a bra is effective but you won’t know until you actually try it out for yourself. “Just because it says it’s a sports bra doesn’t mean it’s supportive,” warns Brasher. There might not have been as much research and testing gone into that bra as you might think.

Features of a good sports bra

shock absorber ultimate run bra white

Above: Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra in white

There are many sports bras on the market and choosing one can be quite a task but here are some important features to look for in your quest for an effective style:

  • The coverage should be more than your normal bra, taking in all the bust from top to bottom
  • Wide, adjustable and preferably padded straps for shoulder comfort
  • Padded hooks and eyes to reduce friction and chaffing on the skin
  • Rigid fabric. “The more rigid that fabric, the more supportive that’s going to be,” says Brasher
  • A snug fit: “You should feel your bra on,” says Brasher. “You should know you are wearing one.” This goes especially in the case of a sports bra.” Brasher recommends that the underband is fitted as firm as you can bear only allowing for a 1 to 2 inch give, since that is where most of the support comes from. Moisture wicking and breathable fabrics: the fabric should draw sweat away from the body and allow air to circulate to the skin. This can improve body temperature regulation during exercise.
  • No seams or covered ones on the inside of the cups to reduce friction on the nipples and underarms
  • If underwired, wires should be “cushioned”. “Brands are now developing more under wired bras for sports, especially for larger busts, with silicone encased wires for extra comfort,” says expert Geraldine Hurd.
  • Information on impact level should be attached: the bra should indicate the level of exercise for which it can be used. For example, if it can be used for high level sports like running or low level activity like Pilates.

Keeping your sports bras healthy

Freya Active Underwired Sports Bra

Above: Freya Active Underwired Sports Bra

Pay close attention to the health of your sports bra because with regular wash and wear it will lose strength. Industry experts have suggested that a sports bra might need replacing after 30 to 40 washes. If you exercise regularly it might be a good idea to have at least two sports bras you depend on so that you have firm support for longer.

It is best to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions. Not only should this prolong the bra’s life but, if the bra degrades quicker than expected and needs to be returned to the shop, its care will not be a reason to be denied a replacement or refund.

Industry experts usually recommend hand washing bras as machine washing could damage their fabric, shape and strength. Brasher’s general advice for caring for your sports bra is to hand wash and air dry it. Also, try a lingerie wash like Eucalan to help extend the lifespan of your activewear.

For those of you who might laugh at the thought of hand washing your sports bras (and any of your lingerie for that matter), Hurd gives some damage limitation advice for machine washing. She advises to “ensure that they are placed inside a mesh laundry bag. This will keep wires from coming out and damaging your washing machine and stop and hooks and eyes from catching on other garments and avoid stretching the bra in the spin cycle.”

Geraldine Hurd’s Recommended Picks

  • Panache Underwired Sports Bra
  • Freya Active Underwired Sports Bra
  • Anita Active Seamless Sports Bra
  • Shock Absorber Ultimate RUN Bra

Geraldine Hurd, bra fitting expert, designer and founder of online sports shop Totally Physical Geraldine Hurd is a bra fitting expert, designer and founder of online sports shop Totally Physical. All of Geraldine’s recommended picks are featured as photos above.

About the Author

Michelle Broomes

Michelle Broomes

Name: Michelle Broomes aka Shelly
Bra size: bigger than you’d imagine!
Email address:

Favourite lingerie brands: Panache, Bravissimo, Curvy Kate, Freya. These, in my opinion, are built to carry weight.

Bio: In my early years I was always known to be an “academic” because I was good at the books and always got really good grades in school. I’d never been really good at anything practical until I became a lingerie fitter. Now I talk about lingerie nearly all the time and -ask my hubby- I am a fierce critique of bras and the like. Throw in matching knickers, jewellery and heels and I’m in lingerie heaven.

Lingerie philosophy: Well fitting lingerie is always sexy even if it’s from the bargain bin!


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