The Right Sport Bra is Critical
Starting With the Basics: The Right Sport Bra is Critical
Written by: Susannah Cole
I have been wearing sports bras for over twenty years and as a petite woman, I have not always had an easy time finding one that will fit correctly. Most bras squeeze my chest, they constrict my ribs to the point they hurt, sometimes they give me the dreaded “pit pooch” or they were just ugly. Today I can find all kinds of sports bras ranging from $10- $100 but they seem to be complicated to buy and select for a girl that’s not very “girly”. There was a shift in my athletic apparel when I met with Susannah Cole from Jack and Jane Sport. She helped fit me for the right bra and asked me the right questions. I asked her to guest blog with me so others can have some great tips on how to choose the right sports bra.
As an owner of an athletic apparel store, I understand the attention many women pay to the appearance of their clothing on the outside, the part people see. I cannot stress enough, however, the importance of a good sports bra, not as an accessory or afterthought, but as a foundation piece. An improper fit can influence back or shoulder pain, chafing, and, perhaps less importantly, the look of the clothes layering over the bra. A customer comes into my store looking for sports bras for several reasons. Occasionally, it’s because her trainer has sent her my way, informing her she shouldn’t work out in a regular bra. Other times, a woman knows what has worked for her in the past, but has recently changed her body shape, or is recovering from an injury, and her current bra isn’t a good fit for her anymore. Whether you have a general knowledge about sports bras, or you’re completely at a loss and need one-on-one help, there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting your next athletic bra.
First, I always ask what the customer will be doing in the bra. High impact activities, such as running or jumping rope, certainly require a larger amount of support than low impact athletics, such as yoga or barre classes. When looking for a high impact bra, note the level of compression and encapsulation. Encapsulation refers to two distinct cups that hold each breast separately, with a triangular piece between the cups that should rest flat against the breastbone. For larger girls engaging in high impact activities, a bra that combines encapsulation and compression is often the best bet. For smaller ladies, a compression bra may be all they need. Second, I typically ask ladies about padding. Is it a preference? I would guess that about 60% of my ladies prefer it. The reasons vary. The padding does provide shape to the ladies, but most of the time women are more concerned about modesty, and the padding helps ensure nothing shows through their clothing.
Finally, I ask about the bra’s structure preference. A traditional M frame bra has wide set shoulder straps that rise straight up from the top of the breast over the shoulder and down to the clasp in the back near the outside of the shoulder blades. This design tends to minimize horizontal movement of the breasts during activity. By contrast, in a racer back style, the straps are set closer the center of the back, and allow for more freedom of arm movement. Some ladies have a preference based on activity, but more often than not, the decision is made based on the aesthetics of the clothes they are wearing over the bra. Do they care if the straps show, or can they use those bra straps to their advantage? For example, it isn’t unusual for a woman who prefers to wear mostly black, to buy a pink bra for a pop of color at their shoulders. They are still in their comfort zone for the most part, but a colorful bra gives some variety to their attire.
Once we’ve picked out a few options, I always encourage ladies to try them on in the store. The decision is typically made on a combination of comfort, bounce testing, modesty, and overall fit. If the cup size is too small, the breasts will spill out of the top or sides of the cup. Too big, and you will see wrinkling of the fabric in the cup itself.
Finding the right sports bra can seem overwhelming when you see all the choices out there. Truthfully, trying several on is the best way to go. When you’ve found the right one, you just know. At Jack and Jane Sport, we are always happy to help a woman find the right bra for her, and if we don’t have what she needs, we will help her find someone who does. Bra shopping won’t be so intimidating once you know how to look.