Types of Sports Bras
Sports bras let women tackle workouts with gusto while keeping bouncing, jiggling and other potentially painful breast movements to a minimum. Experts say a good sports bra can help active women keep delicate breast tissue from drooping and sagging, and happy users say the right sports bra lets them participate in high-impact activities comfortably. There are three main types of sports bras: compression, encapsulation and combination. Compression bras support the breasts by compressing and holding them firmly against the body, while encapsulation bras have a separate internal cup for each breast. Combination bras combine compression and encapsulation to provide a high level of support for women of all sizes.
Padded Sports Bras
Unlike many regular padded bras, padded sports bras aren't intended to make breasts appear larger. Padding is thin, and it's generally used with molded cups to provide lift and separation -- no unflattering "uniboob" in this category. Padding also helps keep nipples from showing through bra cups, a particular concern for those who like to exercise shirt-free. Some women, however, feel padded cups add unnecessary bulk, absorb sweat or otherwise become a nuisance.
Sports Bras for Large Busts
Large-busted women don't have to skip their favorite activities if they opt for a bra with adequate support. Sports bras for larger busts use encapsulation or a combination of encapsulation and compression to keep bouncing to a minimum. Bras intended for larger breasts generally come in a wider range of sizes than those aimed at women with smaller breasts. Most have thick, adjustable straps and hook-and-eye closures. Some women complain these bras aren't designed with style in mind, however -- many say the designs are utilitarian, "orthopedic" even, and colors or patterns are limited.
High-Impact Sports Bras
Like many bras aimed at large-busted women, high-impact sports bras use a combination of compression and encapsulation to limit breast movement. These bras are intended for use by women of all sizes during running, cross-training, boxing or other intense activities. Like bras for larger busts, some use band-and-cup sizing, but others may offer only a handful of sizes such as small, medium and large. These bras typically have heftier straps and thicker fabric than bras intended for lower-impact workouts, and straps can often be crisscrossed into a racerback for greater support. Some women may find the structure and fabric to be too stiff or overwhelming, however.
Finding The Best Sports Bras
"Best of the Test: Sports Bras"
"The Best New Sports Bras for Every Cup Size and Workout"
There are several expert roundups that recommend sports bras based on
first-hand testing, though these roundups tend to lack detailed methodology and
don't compare bras. Sources that take an in-depth look at recent bras broken
down by size include Good Housekeeping, Self.com, WomensRunning.com and
RunnersWorld.com. One site, GearInstitute.com, undertook impressively detailed,
even-handed testing, but its recommendations could use an update. User reviews
of how sports bras fare during day-to-day use are especially valuable. The best
sources include mega-retailer Amazon.com and HerRoom.com, which specializes in
lingerie. In all sports bra reviews, we focused on comfort, support, ease of
use and style.
The best sports bras
supportive, the (Est. $40) is equally at home in the
yoga studio or on the treadmill, reviewers say. Beloved for its cushioned,
adjustable straps and closure, the Fiona keeps bounce to a minimum with compression
and lightly molded, seamless cups.
Made of 82 percent DriLayer polyester and 18 percent Spandex, the Fiona
offers solid moisture-wicking, reviewers say. Seam-free cups reduce the
potential for chafing, and few reviewers report problems on that front. The
wide straps do not cross or meet in the back as on many sports bras, but are
easily adjustable with Velcro closures in the front. A handful of women say the
Velcro irritates their skin, however. Some also complain the wide chest band
can start to twist and curl uncomfortably. The hook-and-eye closure on the back
of the bra means wearers don't have to struggle to pull the bra on overhead,
which many women appreciate.
The Fiona combines compression and encapsulation support. The bra is a
favorite for medium- and high-impact workouts, including running, aerobics and
cross-training. Brooks recommends the Fiona for B to DD cups, and most users
agree that it minimizes bounce for large busts. However, some larger-busted
reviewers recommend bras with deeper cups to better support each breast.
Offered in sizes from 30B to 44DD, the Fiona makes it easy to find a
comfortable, supportive fit.
The Fiona has a slightly scooped neckline and an
open back. Reviewers are divided on the style -- some find it attractive, while
others say it's a bit utilitarian, especially compared to bras featuring
racerbacks, keyholes and the like. Several women warn that the slightly molded
cups don't provide enough nipple coverage, making the Fiona a less than ideal
option for going shirtless. The bra comes in a wide variety of colors, though
availability varies around the web.
For women looking for a sports bra with a little
more stretch and a little less structure, we recommend the (Est. $30). Reviewers particularly this bra like for its comfort,
simplicity and excellent moisture-wicking abilities.
Experts with Good Housekeeping praise the Nike Pro
Classic for superior comfort and its quick ability to absorb and lock away
sweat during intense workouts. Owners echo this praise, saying the bra does a
good job of keeping them dry and irritation-free, though a couple say the
seaming on the sides is a bit rough. The bra is made from 88 percent Dri-FIT
polyester and 12 percent Spandex. The straps and band of this pull-over style
bra are not adjustable, reducing opportunities for chafing, but also making
proper sizing especially important. The bra is available in extra-small through
extra-large, which Nike says should fit women with bra sizes ranging from 30A
Glamour.com recommends the Nike Pro Classic for
low- or medium-impact workouts such as yoga, hiking or cycling. Reviewers mostly
agree, saying there are better options for activities like running that cause a
lot of bounce, especially for larger-busted women. The Pro Classic is a
compression-style bra that does not have an underwire or separate cups that
encapsulate each breast. While some women appreciate the simplicity of this
style, others warn that it can smash breasts together uncomfortably.
Style is one of the Nike Pro Classic's strong
suits. Reviewers like the bra's clean, sporty look, with its wide scoop neck
and stylish racerback. It's also available in a seemingly endless array of
colors and patterns around the web. A few reviewers say the fabric doesn't
offer enough structure or nipple coverage, however. Women who want a little
more modesty or shape can buy the (Est. $30).
sports bras give you a lift with style
Some women despise how traditional sports bras mash and flatten their
breasts. Padded sports bras help them maintain a curvier shape under clothes,
and the padding even provides a little extra nipple coverage for women who wear
thin fabrics or prefer to go shirt-free while working out.
Women don't need to fear uniboob with the padded (Est. $18) which gives them an appealing shape instead of mashing
breasts, reviewers say. As a bonus, the Curvy Show-Off is relatively
inexpensive for a sports bra.
The body of the Curvy Show-Off is made of 87 percent
polyester and 13 percent Spandex; it also features a mesh back that is 95
percent polyester and 5 percent Spandex. Reviewers give the bra high marks for
comfort – there are no clasps or seams that chafe – and they like
that the molded foam cups are sewn into the bra and don't shift around.
Moisture wicking gets mixed reviews, with a couple of owners saying the pads
absorb a bit more sweat than they would like. The bra is available in four
sizes, small through extra-large, that Champion says should work for bra sizes
32A to 38D.
Champion recommends the Curvy Show-Off for low- to
medium-impact activities such as walking, Pilates and yoga. Owners agree,
saying it provides enough support for day-to-day gym sessions but not enough
for high-impact activities such as running, especially for well-endowed women.
The Curvy Show-Off is an encapsulation-style bra, meaning it supports each
breast in individual cups instead of compressing them against the chest. It is
not adjustable, and some say taking it on and off requires some dexterity since
it goes over the head.
Reviewers love the style of the Curvy Show-Off, which has a
low-cut V-neck that makes it look decidedly less utilitarian than a typical
sports bra. A racerback with a keyhole adds interest in the back, and the
padding on the cups gives women enough nipple coverage to wear thin fabrics or
go shirt-free, reviewers say. It's available in more than a dozen vibrant color