Fitness: Expert sports bra advice

LaJean Lawson,Vicky Hallett
Thursday, February 17, 2011; 12:00 PM

Ask LaJean Lawson, a sports apparel designer and researcher, questions about sports bras.


What to buy: What considerations do you need to make when selecting a sports bra for a tennis player w/38d

Vicky Hallett: I'll let LaJean handle this too, but one interesting product to look into is the Shock Absorber Racket bra, which is designed specifically to limit the lateral movement created by racket sports. But if you go to the company's website while you're at work, avoid the Bounce-o-meter. Trust me on this one.

LaJean Lawson: So look for straps that won't slip (Y-back or T-back), firm anchoring of the cups (and underwire is great) so they don't slide up over your breasts when you're serving, and great moisture management fabrics to handle the sweat.


The friction rash on the obliques: I have tried many many sports bras, but all of them leave a red friction line on my obliques. This only happens during long runs(5miles +), but since I would like to be able to run even longer runs what are my options?

Vicky Hallett: It may have to do with the fabric -- when I used to wear cotton sports bras, that happened to me too. So make sure what you're picking is wicking! Also: Body Glide. Or other anti-chafe stuff. That'll make most bras friendlier for those longer runs.

LaJean Lawson: For A, B or C cups, I like the Champion 6793 Compression Vented sports bra, and for C through DDD, Champion's new 1602 Spot Comfort Full Support sports bra. Also, make sure the band is not too loose--ironically that allows it to shift back and forth during each running stride and chafe you.


Sports Bra for large-breasted women: I am a large-breasted woman 46I. Where does someone like me find a sports bra that supports and fits? Any recommendations or online resources?

Vicky Hallett: Enell only makes two styles of bras, but bigger women swear by them! And they do custom orders, which I think is what you'd need to get the proper fit: also make support vests for men with enlarged breasts.

LaJean Lawson: Try of the best resources for sports bras in your size range.


Tiny Tatas: I have a pretty small chest (34B). Do I still need to get expensive bras, or will the Champion ones from Target be OK? I mainly bike but do a little running and walking.

LaJean Lawson: C9 by Champion sports bras at Target are a great value, will certainly work for biking, running and walking.


Sports bras for pregnant ladies: I'm 14 weeks pregnant, and not only are my breasts growing, but they're much more sensitive. Do you have any recommendations for sports bras that would be good for pregnant ladies? (If it helps, I'm normally a small C-cup; not sure what I am now!) Thank you!

LaJean Lawson: I personally went from a B pre-pregnancy to a C during most of pregnancy, to a D right after delivery, then back to a C during my year of nursing!


Bigger sizes: Since taking up weight lifting I've dropped inches in my chest (down to a 32!) but not my bust (now an H). Are sports bras even made for people like me? The general S-M-L sizing doesn't seem to apply.

Vicky Hallett: You're right! The S-M-L sizing doesn't apply to you. But that's why bras are increasingly being sold by cup and band size. I'm curious -- what are you wearing now?

LaJean Lawson: Take a look at and may be able find just what you need for your size.


Bra fittings: I've been fitted for regular bras by a professional, can I use the same measurement when getting my sports bras? I've done that for the one's I have and they fit well but am wondering if I need to get a sports bra fitting as well. Please advise!

Vicky Hallett: The question is: How long ago were you fitted for a regular bra? Weight fluctuates, which will change your size. At Fleet Feet Gaithersburg, sports bra buyer Melissa Barber told me she recommends customers get fit every six months. It can't hurt, right?

LaJean Lawson: For more tips, I hope you'll visit my Bra Blog on Champion's Facebook wall!


Bra replacement: When do you know it's time to replace your sports bra? The article says the bra should never have a birthday depending on usage and care. But what should you look for when examining a bra?

LaJean Lawson: Here's what to look for:-Your bra no longer feels snug--especially pullover styles that depend on strong spandex to support.-It rides up and won't stay put around the bottom band (even in the tightest adjustment if it has hooks.-The straps have lost all their stretch-YOU change size or shape due to weight gain/loss, pregnancy, etc-Your sports bra looks too old and ugly to motivate you to put it on and do your workout (I do love my bright-colored, new spring sports bras!)


Bra advice: Where can a 42 DDD cup find an exercise bra, I have to wear a regular bra and try to find an exercise bra while I am playing basket ball, to hold me. I need help badly.

LaJean Lawson: P.S. Almost forgot about Champion's brand new 1602 Spot Comfort Full Support sports bra, which also comes in 42DDD!


Another place for sports bras: Another great place for sports bras is Title 9 ( They have stores on the west coast; but, you can also buy their products online. Having worked there, I can tell you that all employees are knowledgeable about the sprots bras they sell since we had to try them all on!

Vicky Hallett: So spill! Which bras do you like?


Philly: Hi, I was surprised at the article suggesting that sportsbras don't even last a year. Most of mine are in the 1-5 year range, with frequent use for running and sports, and they seem in good shape. They aren't stretched out, fit well and the fabric appears to be in good shape (I let mine air dry after laundering). Are there less obvious indicators for knowing when a sportsbra is worn out?

LaJean Lawson: Keep up the good work--and the good workouts!


chafing: I often get chafe on the underside of my breasts. Does this mean I'm wearing a bra that's too small, or too big?

LaJean Lawson: One solution is to look for sports bras where the inside of the bottom band is completely covered with smooth fabric and stitching, like Champion's 6793 Vented Compression for A,B,C cups, or their 1602 Spot Comfort Full Support for C-DDD.


Title Nine Bra's: My favorite at Title Nine are: 3-Reasons Support, Solid Shape-Up, Bye Bye Bounce, and the 7 Wonders Sports Bra. But when I'm working out, I'm active and like the girls to not move at all; but, they have many different bras with differing levels of support.One of the best (and I'm not just saying that because I used to work there) part of Title Nine's bra's is that they are organized by how much support you want or need.

Vicky Hallett: The dumbbell rating system is pretty handy...And FYI to other readers: Those are all Moving Comfort bras.


embarrassing: nipples: any advice for bras that camoflague my nipples, which always seem to poke through my workout clothes?

Vicky Hallett: LaJean just wrote an AMAZING post on this topic on her Champion Facebook blog, which she isn't bragging about (so I'll do it for her!). generally, "modesty" features (usually removable cups or "cookies") are getting popular for this very reason. Have those in the bra and it'll be smooth sailing.

LaJean Lawson: A shaping seam over the area of the nipple can also help (make sure there's no rough stitching inside next to your skin). Two great choices are Champion's 1050 T-Back Shape Sports Bra (32A to 38D) and 6843 Shape Scoop Sports Bra at If you don't like padding or seams, you can still get partial relief with a bra that has firmly molded non-stretch inner cups.Also be sure your sports bra has great wicking properties in the cups--when your breasts get damp and chilled, it makes the "high beam" response stronger.


re: Champion's 6242 Seamless Underwire?: will that work in reverse too? i am currently losing weight and would love to find a sports bra that will last. trying to only buy new clothes when i absolutely have to.

LaJean Lawson: The 6242 is also great for changing body sizes because the straps and bottom band are fully adjustable.


lighter activities: I'm a 36G and play soccer. I bought a Shock Absorber and it's been doing pretty well by me, but sometimes I wish that I had something a little less, ah, industrial for lighter activities, like hiking. Are there any such options? And where can I find these things in stores? I bought mine online, and wish I could try these things on first.

Vicky Hallett: I just looked up 36G on and found out the Anita Molded Sports bra comes in that size. And Tomima Edmark (who founded the site) told me that's a full-figure best-seller since it gets good reviews and looks pretty fashionable. Maybe give that one a try? I wish I had store recommendations for you, but I don't know of any around the DC area that carries larger sizes. Chatters? Any tips?


I do love my bright-colored, new spring sports bras!: I want some new spring sports bras! Where can I get fun colors? I'm a 32D in a regular bra and usually buy Champion bras which, at that size, usually come in only white, black, or gray.

Vicky Hallett: Funny you should say that because when I talked to Dianna Deveney, who handles sports bras for Fit3 in Tysons Corner, she was complaining that they have all of these awesome bras in bright colors (especially from the Moving Comfort brand) and customers only ever seem to want to buy the black ones. But if you're not finding colors you like in stores, try online -- they're definitely out there.


myth or truth: Any truth to the story that not having supportive enough bras makes you sag more/prematurely?

LaJean Lawson: It's not unreasonable to assume that lack of support can accelerate skin stretching and loss of shape in the breasts.But that said, there are a number of other factors as well--genetics (just like some of us wrinkle more easily around the eyes), and especially, periods of rapid weight gain and loss including pregnancy and nursing. In fact, many women I've talked to in my years of sports bra research tell me they can't run without pain (or at all) unless they are wearing a sports bra designed for high impact.


All The Time?: I have a friend who wears sports bras all the time. I told her this was not good b/c of the whole loft and separate thing but I was just assuming. Is there anything wrong with wearing a sports bra everyday?

Vicky Hallett: I'll let LaJean take on the science side of this, but Renelle Braaten, the founder of Enell, told me that she wears her Lite bra (made for low-impact sports) as an everyday bra. So your pal has company!

LaJean Lawson: One study looked at the effect of a snug sports bra on the ability to take a deep breath during vigorous activity, and again, no negative effect. If that what feels best to her, no problem!


Lack of options: Hi! I'm a runner with a larger chest (36FF/G) and I am totally frustrated at how few options exist for me. The Freya underwire sports bra works ok for me but chafes after a long run. And at $60+ a pop, it's not exactly easy to try out new styles (there's really no way to tell if it'll chafe until you've put some miles in, at which point you can't exactly return the bra). Any suggestions?

Vicky Hallett: I don't know how comforting this is to hear, but there are many other women in your shoes (your bras?) who can't find what they're looking for. But it seems companies are starting to realize that this is an underserved market and in the next few years, there will be more options. Hopefully. Right, LaJean?

LaJean Lawson: There are so many more options now. Women, even of the same cup size, vary dramatically in actual body 'topology', which complicated things further. It's a journey--we've come a long ways, but still a long ways to go!But to answer your question--try to find a retailer with great return policy!

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