Sports Bras

©Great Strides 2007 by Shelly Glover

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Why Wear A Sports Bra?

Sports Top versus a Regular Bra

Sports bras minimize up and down movement from neck to naval, have sweat-absorbing liners, smooth seams and covered hardware to minimize abrasions. They can feature wide straps to distribute breast weight evenly across the shoulders, neck and upper back. They usually cost between $12-$65.

Finding the Right Bra

Designs include underwire, compression, encapsulation and push up varieties. Some hold heart rate monitors and some hold snacks. They zip, buckle, snap, hook and eye.

3 Factors to Consider

  • Motion Control Requirements
  • Personal Preference
  • Chest Size
  • Motion Control Requirements (MCR)

    The more bounce control the higher the MCR. MCR ratings appear on the bra label and are usually graded as high, medium or low.

    Different sports require different degrees of motion control.    Leisure walking needs less motion control than vigorous sports.   Women running have high MCR needs. Check the list of examples for support suggestions in your running and cross training.

    High MCR – running, off-road cycling, horseback riding, basketball, martial arts, dance, soccer and field hockey

    Medium MCR – step aerobics, stair climbing, downhill skiing

    Low MCR – walking, in-line skating, cycling, weight training


    MCR Techniques

    Two  methods of motion control are compression and encapsulation.  Chest size and personal preference determine your support mode.

    Compression   models restrict breast motion by holding tissue close to the chest wall – squishing is an apt term --   like wearing an Ace bandage.   This works best for cup sizes A & B.    These are usually over-the-head styles made with   lots of Spandex and can compact breast size by as much as 1.5 inches.  They are real chest flatteners.

    Encapsulation   models often have molded cups to separate breasts giving a more natural profile. They are more chest flatterers than flatteners.    Resembling   a harness,   they give women – a double- breasted profile instead of the uniboob look of compression styles.  

    Encapsulation models work well for “C” and larger cup sizes.   Some women joke these models have "industrial strength" support.

    Encapsulating underwire models have wire coated in fabric and sometimes plastic  to keep metal from poking runners.   Some designs use cording instead of wire and may come in push up models. Trussed-up breasts may or may not be more aerodynamic, but   there's nothing wrong with getting trussed up for a run. Especially if it makes you feel fast.


    Breast Size -  Bra Recommendations

      "C"   & Larger Cup Options Include:

  • harness, encapsulation models
  • non-elastic straps and cups
  • covered hardware at back closure
  • wide, padded and adjustable shoulder and chest straps
  • high neck lines

    A B & C Cup Options Include:

      compression or encapsulation models

  • front closure, back closure or overhead models
  • shimmels with shelf may be adequate
  • may consider no bra options
  • How to fit a Sports Bra

    A sports bra isn’t just along for the ride, it has a job to do. It provides necessary coverage, contains all the breast tissue and controls enough motion for comfort. Most bras are constructed to do all these, but they can’t work if the fit isn’t right. Too big in the girth, it rides up in the back and breasts sag in the front. Back fits and it's still sagging? Try a larger cup size. Okay nice tip, but how do you get a good fit without trying on half the merchandise in the store?

    Determining band and cup size requires two measurements.  

    Girth Size

    For the girth size place a measuring tape around the chest just under the arms.  Stand up straight and breathe normally. If the measurement is an uneven number round up to the next even number.   This is the # size of your bra.   Resist the temptation to fudge the figure-- keep your ego out of this. These numbers are just between you and your measuring tape.

    Cup Size

    To determine cup size, measure around your body at the fullest part of the breast.    Make sure the tape is straight   across the back and not drooping or lax. Subtract the first measurement of   under the arms from the bust measurement to determine cup size. If the difference between the rib cage and the bust is

  • Up to 1" or larger – A cup
  • Up to 2" or larger – B cup
  • Up to 3" or larger – C cup
  • Up to 4" or larger – D cup
  • Up to 5" or larger – DD cup
  • Up to 6" or larger – F cup
  • Up to 7" or larger – G cup
  • Example:  

    If the Rib Cage   Measurement is   31 inches, add one inch to round up to the next even number :   31 inches   +1 = 32 inches

    If the   Bust Measurement is 34 inches, then 34 inches minus   32 inches = 2 inches = B cup


    In the Dressing Room
  • Pour yourself into the top by bending over and dropping your breast flesh into the cups. Arrange until comfortable.
  • Give a bra the jumping jack test.   Jump around in the dressing room checking the mirror to see the upper body moves as one unit. Excessive movement can leave a runner sore and chafed.
  • Check arm holes.    There should be lots of room for arm movement with no rubbing.   No flesh should be spilling out of any opening.     Some over -the- head styles smash in so tightly in the front, that you bulge out in other areas. This means painful rubbing during runs.
  • Test the chest band for interference with your breathing. If it is too big, it will rub and chafe away sensitive skin.
  • Make sure you can get the thing on without a struggle. Pulling the elastic over your head is like wrestling with a boa constrictor. Not an option for those with limited range of motion or arthritis.
  • Make sure the bra has a liner to absorb sweat and minimize chafing.
  • Even with a properly fitting bra – chafing still happens.   You’ve got to experiment. Don’t expect to contain all movement. But you can expect enough support for your fitness activity. Be a little creative in your bra sizing.
  • In Between Sizes

      If a cup size doesn’t fit well, try going up a width size instead of a cup size. Examples: Instead of 34C to 34 D go to 36 C.   If a cup is too big, also try changing the width

    If you find everything causes some irritation, buy two different types of running bras and wear them interchangeably, allowing sore spots to heal.