Sports Bra vs Regular Bra

CARLI BIANCHI / STYLE WELLNESS

Both sports bras and regular, everyday bras should offer you superb fit and comfort. Your bra should never cause pain. However, a bra for sports really focuses on minimizing the pain caused by breast movement during physical activity.

Sports bras are specifically designed to wear when exercising. Their design focus is on support, minimizing movement and wicking away sweat. Regular bras are designed for everyday wear. Their design focus is on support, shape / silhouette and aesthetics.

However, just as athletic gear has made it into our everyday, so the lines dividing sports bras and regular bras have begun to blur. Just as you might wear yoga pants when doing many things apart from yoga, so you may find yourself reaching for your sports bra when there isn’t any physical activity in sight.

Is there anything wrong with wearing a sports bra when not doing sports? Or, can you wear a regular bra instead of a  sports bra when exercising? Let’s take a look...

Advantages of Wearing Sports Bras 

As mentioned, sports bras are designed specifically to be worn when exercising. Most sports bras work by compressing the breasts against the wall of your chest. This means that your breasts cannot move as much when you’re running, jumping etc.

Many women cite breast movement as a major cause of breast pain and discomfort during exercise. For women with larger breasts, this discomfort can be so severe that it puts them off exercise altogether. So, having a bra that keeps your boobs from bouncing, can be a difference-maker for your health and wellbeing.

Besides offering extreme support, sports bras are also good for:

  • Confidence: If breast movement makes you feel self-conscious about exercising, a sports bra can give you the support and confidence you need to move without distraction.
  • Moisture wicking: Sports bras are usually made of high performance athletic materials that have moisture-wicking properties. While boob sweat is a normal and natural by-product of exercise or hotter days, it can also cause irritation. A bra designed for sports can help keep you dry.
  • Prevents sagging: Although saggy boobs cannot be wholly prevented by wearing a bra (read more about what causes saggy boobs here), high impact exercise without support definitely won’t help.
  • Healing after surgery: Because they minimize movement, sports bras can also be recommended by doctors if you’re recovering from any kind of breast surgery.

Can I Just Wear a Regular Bra? Consider the Impact of Your Exercise...

Some women, especially women with smaller cup sizes, may wonder if a sports bra is really necessary. This may especially be the case as everyday bras have become more performance-driven than simply being fanciful “lingerie”.

The answer is, of course, that it’s a personal choice. Some women go entirely braless, some blur the lines, and some observe strict distinctions between everyday, sports and “special” lingerie. Your cup size, comfort, confidence will all inform your decision.

One note: Make sure you wash your bra more regularly if you’re working up a sweat in it. It’s generally recommended that you wash an everyday bra every 3 wears, whereas a sports bra should be washed after every workout. Wearing your everyday bra for these activities and washing it more often will likely shorten its lifespan quite significantly.

Our advice? When making a decision, consider the impact level of the activity you’ll be doing:

  • Low impact exercise includes, walking, gentle (street) cycling, hatha yoga and strength training. These exercises can certainly blur into the category of the everyday bra.
  • Moderate impact exercise includes hiking, more aerobic styles of yoga, gentle jogging. These exercises generally call for some added support so a sports bra that offers more coverage is generally preferred. However some everyday bras (depending on style and cup coverage) may still suffice here. 
  • High impact exercise includes running, most sports and HIIT workouts, dancing, skipping etc. Generally this is where we feel like a sports bra is really called for and an everyday bra just won’t cut it from a support, performance or pain-prevention standpoint..

sports bra

Types of Sports Bras

There are lots of compelling reasons for wearing a sports bra and even if your exercise level is low to moderate, you may prefer to have dedicated bras for activity to prolong the life of your favorite everyday bras.

When it comes to choosing a sports bra, there are actually three main options of styles:

1. Compression

Compression bras focus on doing exactly that - compressing your boobs against your chest wall, so they lie as flat as possible against your body. By compressing you, they minimize movement and bounce.

However, compression bras do not have cups built in for each breast and can also cause an appearance of “uni-boob”. Many women won’t be bothered by this, but others will want to preserve their breast shape even when working out.

2. Encapsulation

Encapsulation bras do have cups that surround and shape each breast. There is generally no compression with these bras, which makes them ideal for low impact activities.

Because each breast is “cupped”, encapsulation bras do a good job preserving your natural body shape.

3. Encapsulation-Compression

Don’t want to choose? You don’t have to. There are bras that do both! These bras usually have an inner layer that provides cupped support and an outer layer or band of material that compresses your boobs against the chest wall.

These bras provide the best-of-both-worlds in terms of both appearance and support and can be good for high impact levels of exercise and all sizes of chest.

Other Sports Bra Features to Consider

In addition to compression or encapsulation as types of bras, there are other features that provide more options for you. Depending on your size, style and exercise impact level, some of these features may be more important than others.

  • Adjustable straps: Adjustable straps allow you to lengthen or shorten straps depending on your torso size and shape. For larger bust sizes (C cup and above), adjustable straps are more important as more support is required.
  • Strap style: As sports bras have become more fashion-forward (and are often worn revealed, or even without tops), different styles of straps have emerged. There’s the traditional tank top style (often a pullover bra). There are also racerback—if you experience slipping shoulder straps a lot, you may love this style. There are also crisscross straps that make a bigger style statement.
  • Underwire: As with regular bras, sports bras come with and without underwire. While underwire is often considered to offer more support, it can also be uncomfortable for many women. Underwire bras are also more likely to require handwashing. With many technical fabrics and designs on the market, underwire is a personal choice rather than a support necessity.

Should You Wear a Sports Bra Every Day?

When you find a sports bra you love, you may find yourself wanting to wear it more often. We all do it; ath-leisure gear has definitely infiltrated our weekends, lounge time, even some offices!!

But if you find a sports bra more comfortable, is there anything wrong with wearing it every day? Again, we want to say that it’s a personal choice, but there are some notes worth considering for your skin and breast health.

  • Coverage: Sports bras cover more surface area than regular bras — not just the bust but also wider straps on the shoulders and backs. While this may be part of the reason they’re more comfortable, it can also mean that your skin doesn’t get to breathe as much, which can cause irritation and even acne. Even if you don’t mind this, you may not always want as full coverage as a sports bra gives.
  • Compression: Compression style sports bras keep your breasts “smushed” against your chest wall. While this may make you more comfortable while you’re exercising, it can be less comfortable daily. There has been speculation that compression can cut off lymphatic flow, however no connection between compression and cancer has been established. At the same time, it feels almost intuitive that no body part should be regularly compressed or squished into an unnatural shape. If you want to wear a sports bra every day, then, consider an encapsulation style bra rather than a compression one.
  • Breast shape: Sports bras can sometimes create a “uniboob” appearance which some dislike. Again, if this is a concern but you still want to wear a sports bra every day, consider an encapsulation style sports bra.

No Matter What: Fit is Essential

If you’re choosing to wear a sports bra every day because you find them more comfortable than a regular bra, might we suggest that fit might be the problem?

If you’re wearing an ill-fitting bra, you’ll probably be very aware of it because you won’t feel supported, comfortable or have the shape you want.

Here are some of the telltale signs that your bra is the wrong fit for you:

  • Your straps slide off your shoulders, even after you’ve tightened them
  • You shift around in your cups
  • Your breasts bulge out of your cup or sides
  • The band rides up your back
  • The underwire hurts your ribcage
  • Your bra leaves painful marks on your skin
  • You’re plain uncomfortable

At Knix, we really wanted to help more women avoid this experience altogether. As an online retailer, we know it can be especially daunting to make a bra purchase online. That’s why we developed our virtual fit program. Learn more about it today and book your appointment!

What to Expect from a Knix Virtual Fitting:

  • Book your virtual fitting here
  • We’ll connect you with one of our expert Knix team members for a 1-on-1 fitting session over video chat. 
  • For your bra fitting, we recommend you wear a bra with little or no padding and a fitted t-shirt to make sure we get an accurate measurement. You’ll also need either a) a soft measuring tape or b) a piece of string or cord and a tape measure or ruler.
  • With different styles and sizes for 30A to 42G in the world’s most comfortable and supportive wireless bras, our fit experts can help you get into something that you will love to wear every single day.