OWhether or not it was prescription sports bras that led the Lionesses to victory on Sunday night, the term remains “a new and underreported phrase for many women who play sports or exercise,” says Priya Downes, founder of sustainable underwear brand Nudea.
A step up from a regular bra fit, a “sports bra prescription” is comparable to the kind of gait analysis you might get when shopping for a running shoe : watch how a player moves, then match them with the right type and size of bra. In the case of England-winning striker Chloe Kelly, it appears to be a Nike Dri-Fit Swoosh, which she plans to frame.
When shopping for sports bras, most of us tend to choose the standard compression type. Designed to prevent movement by flattening the breasts and bringing them closer to the body, they come in a range of sizes” but are not designed to have a perfect fit, so [it’s not surprising] a lot of professional sportswomen have their sports bras fitted,” Downes adds. “It’s just that we don’t normally see them on the big screen.”
The Lionesses had access to ‘breast biomechanics’ Prof Joanna Wakefield-Scurr and the English Institute of Sport; instead of that kind of access, here are five ways to get the next best thing to a prescription sports bra
Get equipped more than once
“To get the right size, your best bet is to try on as many as you can,” says Downes. “Your breasts are continually changing. Most of us go through six different sizes in our lifetime. It’s worth fitting in throughout your life rather than staying with the same size forever. Bras compression pants are made from a thick microfiber, so “they’re designed to cover part of your ribcage as well as your breasts, and they’re incredibly stretchy, which is good if your breasts change,” but sometimes adds she, “we need something a little more adapted to our own morphology”.
Don’t just follow your traditional bra size
“It’s not necessarily a question of cup size,” advises Bravissimo fitting expert Laura Franklin. Downes, meanwhile, says 80% of the support comes from the backband — the fitted strip of fabric that goes under your breasts. It’s the most important part of a sports bra, “so making sure it fits properly is key to avoiding injury and minimizing movement,” she says. “If it feels a little tight, bordering on uncomfortable, then this is the right size.”
Consider adjustable straps
“They’re surprisingly hard to find on a sports bra, and you definitely won’t see them on a regular basis. [compression] nice, but if you have a fuller bust or a small back and a big bust, it’s definitely worth looking for a bra with them,” says Downes. The focus is on comfort, as well as support. “They shouldn’t dig in, because they shouldn’t support the weight of the breasts,” she says. Likewise, if you get red marks when you take it off, “it’s the wrong size too.”
Choose a bra that suits your form of exercise
“What works for something high-impact like soccer or running may not be necessary for something like yoga or pilates,” says Downes. Most sports bras are made with microfibers and synthetic fabrics, which wick away sweat better than slow-drying cotton. But wicking away sweat isn’t the priority with something like pilates. “You don’t need industrial-grade stretch microfiber; you just want a little bit of giving,” she said. Franklin recommends something soft with a wrap-around front and thinking in terms of light support rather than, say, binding. Downes suggests ribbed cotton, or Tencel, which is a bit stretchy. “Nobody wants to be uncomfortable doing a downward dog.”
Even women with small breasts should wear one
“Bras are necessary for all women, regardless of cup size,” says Charlotte Morgan, senior womenswear designer at independent sportswear brand AYBL. “Without the right support, the ligaments in your breasts can stretch and over time be susceptible to irreversible damage.”
Can you wear two bras instead?
Arrived on the field but you forgot your sports bra? “I mean, you could double up and wear two bras together, if that were possible for you,” says Downes. “But again, it depends on the fit.” If one of them is an underwire, forget it: “Underwires are going to inhibit your performance,” says Morgan. Downes agrees: “Two wrongs don’t make a right, and the same goes for ill-fitting bras.”