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Review: Sports Bras

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Old 06-24-2004, 09:58 AM   #1
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Default Review: Sports Bras

Finding the Right Sports Bra
By Lisa Sorrentino for about.com

How to better the odds of finding the right style for you

What's the big deal about the sports bra? Well, I'm not sure if all the Brandi Chastain hype was necessary, but there's something to be said for calling attention to this garment.
Finding the right sports bra is a serious decision. It's just as important as wearing the right running shoes. Let's face it – you need the right style to feel comfortable and stay motivated.
If you don't take this decision seriously, chances are you'll end up wasting a lot of money with the trial and error approach (and a lot of time for that matter). How many sports bras have you bought over the years that get used once, maybe twice, only to get lost in the back of the drawer? It's time to seriously think about this decision and, consequently, save some time and money.

One thing you have to do is shop at the right place.
You also have to know yourself - the right sports bra for you is primarily based on your body structure and, secondarily, on your personal preferences.
This is a very personal garment. We all aren't 34B's. We all don't love underwires. Some of us insist on no-bounce support while some of us can care less about it.
Here's the point – the wider the selection you're shopping from, the better your chances of finding what's right for you.
Once you've found that source with a wide variety, make sure that someone connected to the source really knows something about the sports bra. Then, it's a matter of setting your priorities.
Just like any relationship, this sports bra is not going to be perfect. So, decide, what's most important to you – Added structure for no-bounce support? All day wear ability? Separation with support? Easy on/off capability? Of course, these are just a few possibilities. Pick one or two must have's and go from there.
The rest of this decision should be based on your body structure and the amount of vertical movement in your chosen activity.

Find the Right Sports Bra

Recommended design types and features for general body structures
Are you large-breasted but narrow-chested? Trouble finding a good fitting sports bra because of your long torso? We all come in different shapes and sizes. Believe me, this really matters when it comes to choosing the right sports bra. But, let me tell you what I've found to work best in general.
First, it's important to understand the two general types of sports bras. There are the original pullover or compression styles and the separating encapsulation styles. I bet most of you have at least one pullover type somewhere in your drawer. You know, this is the one that looks like two jock straps sewn together (that's because the first sports bra was just that!).
Assuming your number one priority is no-bounce support, pullover type sports bras tend to work best for women with A and B cup sizes. This is because the style uses compression or flattening of the chest to provide no-bounce support. Compressive support doesn't work too well if the breasts are larger than a B cup size. On the other hand, if you are a C cup or larger, and engage in activities that don't involve a lot of vertical movement, then a compression style might do just fine in the area of no-bounce support. You would just have to deal with the uni-boob look and you may have a rough time getting the garment on and off.
With an encapsulation style, C cup and up sized women have a better chance of getting no-bounce support in activities with medium-high levels of vertical movement because the breasts are managed separately. So, an added benefit to the encapsulation style is you don't have to give up contour. Typically, an encapsulation style has adjustable back clasps and shoulder straps for easier on/off capability as well.
So, let's give this a try. What would you recommend for this woman? She's D-cup sized with a narrow rib cage and a long torso. She likes to run (an activity with lots of vertical movement) but hates to bounce.
That's right – recommend a style that supports and shapes her bust line and offers an adjustable band and adjustable shoulder straps (an encapsulation style, not a pullover style). Additionally, I'd tell her to look for an encapsulation style in a non-stretch fabric for a higher rating of no-bounce support or "Restricted Vertical Movement" ( I call this the bra's RVM™ rating).
Now, you can help yourself make the right choice. Consider your body structure, the amount of vertical movement in your chosen activities and your priorities. Lots of times, there won't be one solution that addresses everything you've taken into consideration. In this instance, wear a different sports bra for the activities that vary in amounts of vertical movement.

How to avoid problems that may occur with a poor-fitting sports bra

If you don't go for fit (instead of fashion) when buying a sports bra, some physical problems may occur. Chafing, sore breasts, sagging and a sore shoulder/neck area are just some of the physical problems that have been tied to poor fitting sports bras. I'm not sure if I believe poor fitting sports bras cause sagging, but it's been argued. Anyway, here are some reasons why these problems may occur and what to do about them.
• Wrong Size
Learn and accept your size. Taking your measurements is a start. The majority of the problems with poor fitting bras are about wearing the wrong size. Accept yourself – If you've always wanted to be a C cup, but you measure out a B (or vice versa), get the B size.
Don't buy the size you wish you were.
Take note, sports bra manufacturer's didn't exactly huddle and say, "OK, let's standardize a sizing chart for these things!" This means you may not buy the same size in one style as you might in another.
• Wrong Style
The right style depends on your chosen activities, body structure and personal preferences. Think about the amount of vertical movement you will be experiencing in your chosen activities. For example, running is thought of as an activity associated with a lot of vertical movement. Now, consider your body structure – what cup size are you, how does that relate to your rib cage measurement, how long (or short) is your torso. Finally, what's most important to you? While running, do you namely want no-bounce support? Wicking capability? Pick one or two must have's and go from there. The solution sometimes is a different style for different activities.
• Dead Bra
Yes, there is a life to this garment. The fabric eventually loses its functionality – this means the fit then changes. If you hand wash and line dry your sports bra instead of machine handle, it will last about twice as long. On average, a machine-handled sports bra will last about six months.
• Sensitive Skin
Some of you chafe no matter what the style or the fabric you're wearing. You've tried everything without relief. Folks who can identify with this dilemma probably have sensitive skin that tends to react to sweat and friction. In these instances, I recommend using Vaseline, or, better yet, a fabric-friendly product like Bodyglide between you and your sports bra.

How to get the most of out of your sports bra investment

Know When To Fold 'em, Know When To Hold 'em
And know when to walk away from your sports bra. There is a life to every one of these garments. You'll know it's at the end of its rope when it loses its ability to restrict vertical movement. Or, it just might not seem to fit right or be as comfortable anymore. Any signs of pilling or fabric breakdown are your cue to replace it.

Forever Yours
Well, based on the fact that there is an end to the life of any sports bra, it won't really last forever. But, there are a couple of things you can do to make it last longer. First, stick to a fabric care that really does cares about the fabric – one is Forever New Fabric Care. It's biodegradable and gentle with the fibers.
Second, please don't put your sports bra in the dryer. All that hot air breaks down those technical fibers that make you love the bra so much. And, if you can, it would really appreciate a hand washing as well.

Improve its RVM score
Those of you who have what's called an encapsulation style sports bra (not a pullover style) can improve its ability to "restrict vertical movement" (I call this the bra's RVM score). You can do this right off the bat. A sports bra should fit snugly, so if your style allows adjustments, wear the band as tight as possible without constricting breathing to get the most support. The band is the piece that goes around your ribcage. Tightening the shoulder straps helps too, but it's the band that can really make a difference.

For this review, I targeted encapsulation style sports bras because active women with C and larger cup sizes should avoid those pullover types.
An encapsulation style sports bra – one that separates and supports the breasts - is generally more supportive and easier to get on and off for larger-breasted women.
The three encapsulation styles below performed extremely well on ability to restrict vertical movement in high intensity activities like running. I describe the standout features of each style and provide a critique on sizing, comfort and support after a 10K and 5K run.

Shock Absorbers High Exertion 4
Description: This lightweight style separates the breasts without an underwire. Its adjustable shoulder straps are extra-wide and generously padded.The non-absorbent fabric content includes 89% polyester, 5% spandex and 6% nylon.
Bra Critique: This style seems to run a little small. I measure between a 34C and 36D - the 36D fit me best. The thick cushion of the shoulder straps did a great job of preventing any digging in during a run of any distance. The band started getting uncomfortable towards the end of the 10K, but I didn't notice it on the 5K. This style provides wonderful shaping without giving up a thing in support! I love that this style was built to be so strong without any heavy-duty hardware. If you really don't like those underwires but want contour and support, this style is a great find.

Naturally Natori
Description: This cottony style uses an underwire to provide separation and support. The smooth cup design includes an extra sleeve of fabric on the outside of the cups for added support. The fabric content includes 55% cotton, 35% polyester and 10% spandex.
Bra Critique: This great fitting style supports and separates with an underwire that completely surrounds the breasts. The design sort of outlines each breast and holds it in place. The underwires in between the breasts tend to rest away from the chest even when wearing the right size – this didn't seem to make a difference, but it was something I noticed. The Natori got a little heavy on the 10K because of the absorbent fabric. The soft cottony cup is smooth and seam-free, making this style one of the most comfortable sports bras I've ever worn. The style seems true to size – the 34C fit me best. If you don't mind going without a wicking fabric and don't have a tendency to chafe, this style offers exceptional comfort.

DK Quick Dry Underwire
Description: This lightweight style uses an underwire on the outside of the cup to provide a combination of separation and support in a non-absorbent fabric. The fabric content includes 93% Tactel® nylon and 7% Lycra®.
Bra Critique: Even though I measure between a 34C and 36D, I liked the 34D fit better. The 34C worked too, but I liked how the D cup gave more coverage and a little more control. The 34 definitely fit best. This style gave an excellent all-around performance. A form-fitting design, wicking capability, combined comfort and support all in one! The fabric is slick and smooth so my tee shirt didn't look like it was glued to the bra when I moved. What I liked best about this style was the fact that the underwire is on the outside (so, I never felt its presence on either run), the fabric is extremely comfortable and I didn't feel like the bra "gained weight" after the 10K.

All information contained in this article was obtained from about.com

I hope that you ladies find this information helpful!
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Old 06-24-2004, 10:18 AM   #2
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That is a great article.

Just for the record ...

Two really great places to buy sports bras are: www.Junonia.com (for those of us in the plus size group) and www.title9sports.com (for "regular" as well as some plus sizes). The reason I like these sites is that not only do they have a wide selection, but the rate each bra according to the amount of control they offer.

Having said that, I love love love my "Woman Comfort Strap Support Top" ... which I bought through Just My Size: http://www.justmysize.com/cgi-bin/nc... 605587642&V=A . Title9 and Junonia may carry this particular bra as well, I just spotted it on Just My Size first!

Last edited by funniegrrl : 06-24-2004 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 06-24-2004, 12:38 PM   #3
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Thanks, Michelle, that was really helpful. Just one ?:
Quote:
Well, I'm not sure if all the Brandi Chastain hype was necessary...
Who is Brandi Chastain?
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Old 06-24-2004, 01:01 PM   #4
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lol Brandi Chastain is the american soccer player who ripped off her top after winning the womens world cup soccer game. They played that clip of her running around in her sports bra for weeks afterwards.
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Old 06-24-2004, 01:08 PM   #5
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Ah, that explains it. I don't follow soccer. I'm currently in purgatory with the Mariners. *sigh*

Is there a chain of some sort that carries the encapsulation type bra? I've been in various sports shops, and all they seem to have is the Champion, which doesn't work for me at all. And Title 9 is way down in Berkeley. I usually have to try on a lot of stuff before I find something that works, so mail order is really awkward. Currently I'm in a Lane Bryant, the cotton underwire one, but that's not designed for sports.
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Old 06-24-2004, 01:28 PM   #6
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Champion makes all sorts of bras, and the one I linked to has more separation than the typical sports bra. So I'm wondering if you've tried that particular one? While there is no underwire, and the bra is very snug, I don't ever feel the girls are being mooshed together in one uniboob! Still, there aren't completely separate cups ...

You might try Googling or Yahooing the particular brands/styles mentioned in the article and see if you come up with anything ...

It's true, when you have to try things on to get the right style/fit, mail order is a pain. But, sometimes it's the only reasonable solution, even if you have to order a whole bunch of things in various sizes and send 'em all (but one) back.
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Old 06-24-2004, 01:35 PM   #7
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I'd be happy to try a different type of Champion, but the shops I've been in don't seem to carry anything except the pullover-type "squish" bra. I live in Portland, Oregon, home of Nike, and I suppose their style influences everything around here. There's a big running culture, and those girls tend to be pretty flat as well as thin, so I suppose the "squisher" works well for them. I have yet to see the encapsulation type anywhere here. I also get a lot of skepticism and incredulity-- the salespeople can't seem to wrap their minds around the idea that bigger women exercise. A lot.
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Old 06-24-2004, 02:17 PM   #8
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LOL I need to run and see what brand mine are I'll go do that now~

Ok I have Lilyette, which I absolutely love these bras!! They provide such wonderful support while exercising so I'm not getting smacked in the face with "the girls" while I'm jumpin all over the place LOL I believe I got mine at walmart and didn't pay more than 15 a piece for them, also I do notice that they keep me dry and comfortable while I workout, oh and one more thing, they have a 4 clasp hooks in the back and slightly padded straps very comfortable.

Michelle
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Old 06-25-2004, 09:58 AM   #9
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Michelle, do you think this thread should be a sticky? I think it would be helpful to keep around at least for awhile.

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Old 06-25-2004, 10:02 AM   #10
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Ok I'll sticky it!
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Old 06-29-2004, 12:42 AM   #11
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With a regular schedule of horseback riding, I find that I wear out my sports bras in about six months and I am constantly buying them. I can usually tell if I have purchased a good one when I am working on sitting trot with my horse - it's the ultimate test of a rider's sports bra! Not good enough, I get hit in the CHIN. I am a C cup and I despise the uni-boob look and feel, so I've been purchasing two types of Champion bras, one underwire and one soft/compression separated cup. The underwires are the best and are not uncomfortable at all, whether I am in the middle of an intense dressage lesson or working in the barn moving hay and manure. I am almost due for a new one...
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Old 06-29-2004, 11:55 AM   #12
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OMG Equestrienne, your siggy got me singing "I like big butts and I can not lie...." lmao I haven't heard that song since Junior High!!
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Old 02-02-2005, 04:47 PM   #13
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Personally, I had a breast reduction. Before that I used a minimizer wire bra plus a sports bra to keep from bouncing. It worked great but now that I ride gaited horses, I don't need one. Well, if I got going and jogged some, then I would use that combo again.
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Old 02-04-2005, 07:52 AM   #14
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I bought an Enell sports bra. So far, with my novice jogging, I've been happy with it. Although with my weight loss, I might have to buy a smaller size already (not that I'm complaining ). They're not cheap, but I found the best price at http://store.yahoo.com/breakoutbras/index.html.
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Old 02-15-2005, 07:22 AM   #15
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For lots of info, and purchasing in both the UK and US try www.lessbounce.com They are a wonderful on-line heaven of affordable, good sized, comfortable sports bras.

I have a heap of wonderful Panache High Impact sports bras that are perfect for my 40F chest to go kickboxing in!! I think I can even get a chest protector, although it may stop a size smaller than me!!

I used to use a sports bra plus a minimiser (or crop top one size too small). But as an instructor I always felt that there should be someone out there with a real solution. These guys are it!

Please have a look at the site - and yes I am evangelical about it. It has made a HUGE difference to the quality of exercise sessions I can now do. The comfort of wear and ease of purhcase are just wonderful!
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