Dr. Kirby's Blog

Yes! You Can Find a Sports Bra That You Like

Updated September 24, 2020, Published July 15, 2014 by Dr. Kirby

Did you know that an unsupported breast can move up to 3 inches in each direction with every stride when a woman runs?

This isn’t just uncomfortable, it can also place a lot of stress on Cooper’s ligaments, the connective tissue that provides a natural support structure to the breasts. That’s why it is important to invest in a quality sports bra. A well-fitting sports bra can reduce breast movement by approximately 50% (compare this to the typical underwire bra, which can only reduce movement by about 38%), and help you maintain an aesthetically pleasing breast shape as long as possible.

A great fit is out there, you just have to know what to look for.

Choose a bra with the right support features for your body and activity level.

I tell my active patients to view a sports bra as a piece of equipment you must have to perform at your best—just as you wouldn’t use a ping-pong paddle to play tennis, don’t choose a skimpy shelf bra if you are a marathon runner. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • If you wear an A or B cup, although you may not notice bouncing as readily as your friends with larger breasts, you still need quality support. Look for a compression bra that holds the breasts firmly against the chest in order to restrict movement.
  • If you wear a C or D cup, you will need a bra with encapsulation, or “capsules,” that provide individual support to each breast, as well as compression for overall support. A bonus of encapsulation is that it helps you avoid the “uni-boob” look.
  • If you wear a D, DD, or larger, you should look for a well-structured encapsulation bra. Many include an underwire or a built in fabric “harness” to maximize support. Choose a bra with a hook-and-eye style closure—not only will this allow you to achieve the best fit in the band, which is crucial for proper support, but the bra will be easier to take off after your workout.

Make sure you are buying a bra that is well-suited to your activity. A stretchy pullover bra that works great for yoga class will probably not give you enough support to wear while horseback riding, no matter what cup size you wear.

Try it on before you buy it.

One of the most common mistakes we tend to make when bra shopping is choosing a size based on “what we’ve always worn.” A few things to look for that indicate a good fit:

  • The band fits snugly, but it’s not too tight. You should be able to fit 2 fingers under the band when you’re wearing the bra. Also try raising your arms above your head; if the band slides up, it is too loose. And of course, if you can’t breathe normally, it is too tight.
  • The straps stay put without digging in. Pay attention to how “stretchy” the straps are too—the less give they have, the more support they will offer. For larger breasts, adjustable straps can help dial in the fit to take advantage of the extra support provided by non-elastic straps.
  • You don’t have to adjust the bra “all the way in.” If you are considering a bra that has adjustable straps or hook-and-eye closures, choose a size that gives you the proper fit but still leaves you room to adjust the bra as it stretches over time.

Keep in mind that your sports bra size will likely change over time with weight gain or weight loss, during and after pregnancy and/or nursing. If you have recently had a breast surgery, your new larger or smaller breast size will continue to take shape over the months following your procedure, which can affect the fit of your sports bra.

Once you have found a good fit, consider the aesthetic features.
Sports bra designers have gotten pretty savvy about making bras that include important support features while flattering our feminine side. In addition to multiple color choices, you can find sports bras with v-necks, molded cups and even push-up features. As long as you get the support that you need, the rest is really icing on the cake. Activewear retailers such as Title Nine offer a myriad of choices online, while both lululemon and Dick’s Sporting Goods have stores here in Fort Worth.

An active lifestyle is good for overall health and for breast health. By wearing a supportive, comfortable sports bra, you can enjoy your favorite activities more and help keep your breasts looking their best.

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