How to get the best out of your sports bra

Tish Monahan, Director of She Science, Sports Bra Stor

As a store specialising in breast support for the active woman, we are commonly questioned about how long one can expect their support solution to last. Naturally, the better care we take of our product, the longer we’ll get out of it, but there is more than that to consider.

There are two ways that your sports bra will stop working. The first being if it no longer fits you, or secondly if the materials or clasps breakdown and no longer function.

We refer to the first option as a silent death, you often won’t notice this happening until you are hit with chaffing or catch yourself running in a shop window and wince at the bounce-factor you see in the reflection. The sudden death is more related to a feature like a strap or a clasp giving up with prolonged wear and tear.  

I think it’s important for women to understand where the support comes from in the bra so that their expectations on lifespan are realistic. The band that runs around your ribcage and back is responsible for taking 80% of the weight of the breast, and is used to anchor down the bust during activity. If this band is loose it will ride up and down your back, causing the front (your bust) to follow in a see-saw effect. This means, as soon as you notice the band around your ribcage no longer fitting snuggly, you can expect your sports bra will no longer be limiting breast displacement during activity.

In order to prolong the lifespan of your bra you should ensure it is fitted firmly on the loosest hook and eye setting when you are first fitted for it. That way you can make the back smaller as the materials have give over time. Most ladies are unaware that the reason for the triple hook setting is to allow for stretch in the product, not to fit three different size ladies.  

If you anticipate your size decreasing, then you specifically need to select a bra that uses firm fabrics that will not stretch quickly in the band that runs around your ribcage and back.

Bras that pull over your head and shoulders without opening up at the back, like most crop top styles, will stretch out much faster than bras that you don’t have to stretch to get into. For that reason, we advise customers that these sports crops will have a limited lifespan for high impact control.

So, if you want a bra to fit you for a long time, then you should be looking for a bra with multiple adjustment points, and that uses firm fabrics that aren’t likely to stretch out quickly.  

The second, logical way to ensure you get the best out of your sports bra is to treat it with a bit of TLC. The washing cycle can be really traumatic for bras, it can lead to premature breakdown in materials and stretch in fabrics. Most technical brands will advise that their bras are hand washed as to avoid material breakdown, to optimise lifespan. This is particularly important for bras that have an underwire or foam/moulded cups. Bras without those features can be put on a gentle machine wash so long as they have all the hooks and clasps done up and are placed in a wash bag. The wash bag prevents the bras becoming entangled and stretched in the wash and stops hooks from clasping onto other garments and becoming damaged.   

One of the ‘warning signs’ for your sports bra going over it’s used by date is chaffing or ‘bra burn’, typically noted around the band that sits on your ribcage. With the added issue of moisture on triathlon race days this is something you want to avoid at all costs. ‘Bra burn’ means materials have stretched, and the size and support is no longer appropriate.

If you have any specific questions about how you can get better support, or get longer wear out of your product then feel free to get in contact with one of our staff at She Science, Australia’s only Sports Bra store.

Tish is the co-founder and director of She Science, a Specialty Sports Bra and Sports Wear store in Melbourne. Tish has completed Advanced Bra Fitting training both locally and internationally as well as tertiary education in biomechanics. She follows the latest research on breast biomechanics and Sports Bra design religiously to ensure that She Science remains the most advanced Sports Bra shopping environment in the world. Tish views her Sports Bra business as a vehicle for her to inspire and enable women of all shapes and sizes to participate actively in life. Find Tish online via @SheScience.