The first sports bras were big on support, but "provided all the comfort of a boa constrictor," says Bryant Stamford, director of the Health Promotion and Wellness Center at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Today's sports bras are functional, comfortable, and even fashionable, but there are dozens of styles and shapes to choose from.
Stamford researched the subject for an article in The Physician and Sports Medicine, a trade journal for doctors and athletic trainers. Here are his shopping tips:
- A sports bra should fit firmly to control breast motion, but shouldn't constrict breathing. In the dressing room, do a few jumping jacks or the motions of your favorite sport to check the fit.
- Chafing can be a problem, so look for a bra that stays put when you move. The bra should have little vertical stretch to it and some horizontal elasticity, so it won't interfere with breathing.
- The bra should be lined under the breasts and the arms with material that wicks moisture away from the skin. A band at the bottom should be wide enough to prevent the bra from riding up. A band at the top can help control bouncing.
- Cups should be seamless. The hooks and fasteners should be covered and padded.
- Look for wide, nonstretch straps that won't dig into your shoulders. Slightly elastic straps may be better for activities that require overhead arm motion. Also, a wide Y-back panel can increase support.