Is there anything more frustrating than buying a new pair of jeans?
Yes, shopping for a sports bra!
When I find a good sports bra, I buy as many as I can; I know they will likely be gone next season. Much like my running shorts, I have held on to sports bras long after they should be replaced simply because I can’t find anything comparable on the market.
Women with larger breasts know well the pain that can come with carrying the extra weight. Our breasts can impact posture, posterior muscles, even how we walk. It is no surprise that they impact our athletics.
Through several focus groups, I spoke with over 50 plus size women across the US about activewear. The most talked about and maligned garment was the sports bra. There are common terms to describe the challenges we face, and I am sure some of these will sound familiar.
- Uni-boob, when the bra squishes your together and into your body to stop them from moving.
- Spillage, when your breasts are spilling out of the top and sides of the bra.
- Back fat, when the bra is so tight it makes your back skin bulge out, similar to spillage.
- Strap cuts, when the shoulder straps are so tight they leave painful red indentation on your body.
- Roll up – when the band bottom of the sport bra rolls up.
What is the deal? Why is it so difficult to get right?
Apparently there is a heck of a lot of science that goes into creating a good, supportive sports bra. Our breasts have no actual muscle. Breasts consist of tissue and glands that sit on top of our pectoral muscle. Breasts move freely and not necessarily in the same direction. Size, density, and placement all vary, making standardization almost impossible.
Last year was the 40th anniversary of the Sports Bra. Design and introduced in 1977, the first prototype was made of two jock straps sewn together, called the Jog Bra.  Today there are thousands of more stylish options, but function and fit issues remain. So how do you know what is right for you? To begin, we need to understand the basic fit options available.
There are two types of sports bras, the Compression Bra and the Encapsulation Bra. Their names describe how they work. The Compression Bra uses compression to minimize movement. The Encapsulation bra provides for individual support to each breast. Some designs use a combination of both. Both designs come with their pros and cons, but generally speaking Compression Bras are best for low impact activities and Encapsulation bras work well for higher impact sports.
Fundamental to finding the right bra, sports or otherwise is knowing and understanding your measurements. It is worth the time to get an old fashion fitting at a department store. You can also check out this great piece by Lane Bryant. Understanding your measurements will help you make a better decision on a sports bra.
In the past we have often had to choose between style, fit, and function. Women are demanding better products and some companies are listening. There is more investment in research design and development and there are more options for women of all shapes and sizes, if you know where to find them.
Here are a few of the good ones.
Panache. By far the most talked about sports bra among Proud Mary’s focus groups. Panache sports bras come in a wide range of sizes and provide excellent support, but it does come at a cost. Can you find them at varies vendor or buy direct here. The best description for Panache is that it is a piece of sporting equipment, something you invest in as part of your activity.
Brooks Running Sport Bra – by Moving Comfort is a long-time favorite. Moving Comfort sports bras were a close second among Proud Mary’s focus group participants. The company was founded in 1977 as athletic wear for women, specifically running shorts, but now Moving Comfort has become a trusted name in sports bras. The Juno bra has a back clasp and velcro adjustable straps.
Athleta. Proud Mary has tried and tested two Athleta sports bras that provide great comfort and support.
The GiGi Bra, is an encapsulation bra with wide cross straps and a back clasp. It has a wide support band around the torso and high coverage.
Be Bold is also an encapsulation bra. It has adjustable straps and instead of a back clasp, it has side clasps, helping to provide extra support and coverage to prevent side boob slippage.
Last, but not least, I have been a long time lover of Champion sports bras. The Power Shape Max is an over the shoulder encapsulation bra with adjustable straps and back clasp.
What? An over the shoulder bra that provides great support? I know! I am shocked too, but if someone were going to get it right I would bet on Champion. They are still my go-to brand for affordable, durable sport bras. I bought my first one several years ago and they still provide great support.
While these brands and style may be popular, every woman is unique. Do you have a favorite sports bra? Tell us about it! We would love to add to the list of quality activewear for plus size women.