The Right Sports Bra: A High-Impact Decision

We came across a study a few weeks back that found that the size of a person’s breasts was directly correlated to the likelihood they participated in sports and exercise. In other words, the bigger your boobs are, the more likely you are to opt out of intense exercising. This research builds on existing studies that show girls tend to quit sports at about six times the rate of boys, and that those dropout rates accelerate as kids hit puberty.

If you’ve ever tried to run down some stairs to meet the pizza deliverer without your bra on, you’re probably thinking, “They didn’t need a study for this.”

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Sports bras are designed for exercise and are made of moisture-wicking fabrics. When you’re exercising, your breasts can oscillate up to eight inches, a fact it is best not to think about too much. Your everyday bra only counters gravity, while your sports bra keeps your boobs from moving around in all directions with compression and encapsulation.

To find the right sports bra, first have a fitter help you find the best size. Because sports bras are typically made from rigid fabrics designed to keep you in place, it might not be quite the same size as your regular bra. In the fitting room, feel free to move around in it to get a sense of what it will be like when you’re working out. Take some deep breaths to make sure you can huff and puff like you will at the gym.

Next, figure out what level of control you need. For low-impact workouts, like yoga and weightlifting, you can get away with a compression bras that hold you tight. These are the more traditional sports bras, but they aren’t suitable for most sports because they only manage the “in and out” motion of breasts as you exercise, not oscillation. They often pull over the head and don’t have cups, but they have their place if you like them!. Low-impact bras are great for a quick run to the grocery store on Sunday morning when you’re not feeling a “real bra” but still want a little control, or for your weekly mat Pilates class. Unfortunately, these bras aren’t great for most; they get the job done if you’re working with an A, B, or C cup.

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Medium-impact workouts, like hiking, spin classes, or the elliptical machine, call for more control, like an encapuslation bra. Encapsulation bras look more like a regular bra— they have a cup for each breast and usually have a closure in either the front or the back. This gives your Coopers ligaments a break and mitigates the discomfort that comes with breast oscillation during more intense exercise. These are available in almost any size.

For high-impact workouts, like running, HIIT, or Crossfit, you’ll want a bra that does both. A compressing, encapsulating bra is going to lock down the ladies and keep everything in place. A good high-impact sports bra can take many forms, but most of all, it prevents your boobs from making a run for it. High-impact bras are available in a huge number of sizes— way more than were available even a few seasons ago. If you’re only going to get one sports bra, make it one designed for high-impact exercise. Too much control isn’t going to hurt you, but too little will.

A lot of people come to us frustrated because they couldn’t find a bra that allowed them to run a marathon while simultaneously being an F cup, but the technology has come so far in the last decade. If you’ve found yourself frustrated and sat out Zumba because you couldn’t find the right bra, let’s do you right. Enjoying exercise isn’t a privilege you earn when you can squeeze into some tiny Lululemons— you can have fun and feel confident at any size. Trust us: working out hard is better when you don’t have to worry about getting smacked in the face by one of your own.

Kirsten Schofield