Plus Size Sports Bra Buying Guide(1)

There are two excellent reasons to buy sports bras: to be comfortable while exercising and to reduce sag over the lifetime. Breasts are made of soft tissue, supported by the surrounding skin and a network of ligaments inside called the Cooper’s ligaments. During exercise such as running, breast movement can stretch those ligaments, which is what ultimately causes droop.

A well-built sports bra can reduce breast movement by more than half, maximizing comfort today and lift for the long-term.


Who Needs a Sports Bra?

Given the busy lives many women lead, "sports bra" may be a misnomer for the kind of bra that is just plain comfortable for active women. Women who are not runners but find themselves constantly on the run might value the extra support and comfort that a bra designed for physical activity offers.

Those who engage in active sports may want more than one kind of sports bra to have the right kind of bra for different kinds of activities.


What Kind of Sports Bra Will Work Best?

Typical sports bras, designed to manage bounce by compressing the breasts, are fine for size A and B gals but they don’t work well for plus-sized women. For sizes C and up, it’s important to find an activewear bra that is designed to separately support each breast.

Sports bras come in a range of styles. They are categorized, most broadly, into three groups:

Generally speaking, compression-style bras are inadequate for plus size women. Some of the specialty styles, and the grouping into which they fit, include the following.
 

Styles

Category

Sizing

Comments

Tank Style
 

Compression

S - XL

These offer limited support for low-impact activities such as bicycling, weight training, and yoga. They are also sometimes worn for belly dancing, which optimally requires more support for women with larger breasts.

Racerback
 

Combination

S - XL band sizing with cup sizing as well

This style offers particularly good support for women with large breasts. The straps hold the bra closer to the body, providing better support.

Cami

Usually compression

Sometimes S - XL and sometimes standard cup sizing (e.g. 36 DD)

These often are designed to be worn in place of tops, like bikini tops, instead of as undergarments.

High Impact

Encapsulation

Standard cup sizing (e.g. 36 DD)

These bras are designed with wide straps, wide bands, and secure cups to keep women comfortable well into size 50 and up.

Pushup

Encapsulation

Standard (e.g. 36 DD)

There are sports bras designed to emphasize cleavage. The fit rule about avoiding "spillage" doesn’t apply here. These are designed for low-impact activities in co-ed gymnasiums, on the assumption that heavy sweating is not likely to occur while the bra is being worn.


Finding the right style bra is important to ensure the best support for the breasts as possible. Plus size women typically need encapsulation options to provide individual support to each breast.


Sports Bra Features to Consider

Depending on the kind of activities practiced, women may choose different kinds of sports bras. Women who run need "bounce" protection and wide straps for comfort. Women who play contact sports, from rugby to roller derby, are looking for bras that offer very specific protection against intense physical contact. Women who exercise in co-ed mirrored gymnasiums may want bras that enhance their shape. Some women who are comfortable with their bodies, or who practice belly dance or yoga, may choose bras that are designed to be worn like bikini tops, without any additional covering.

Fabric Considerations

Sports bras are made from several kinds of fabrics, each of which offers specific benefits to the wearer.
 

Fabric Type

Considerations

Cotton and Spandex Blends

Cotton is very absorbent, but then remains damp. This can be a summertime disadvantage.

Nylon and Poly and Spandex Blends

Synthetic blends retain their shape extremely well, which means they can help contain the wearer’s shape extremely well. However, they are the warmest fibers during heavy exercise.

Fabrics Designed to Wick Away Moisture

The fibers that are best at wicking away wetness often weave into relatively thin fabrics that make for clothing with a relatively short lifespan. These fabrics are also likely to be too thin to be as supportive as plus-size women prefer.


Many sports bras are made using combinations of these fabrics. For example, a bra may combine synthetic blends in the cups, straps, and back with wicking fabrics in the side panels. Typically, the fabrics that offer the best support are not the fabrics that are best at wicking away moisture.