Choosing a Sports Bra in Perimenopause
Perimenopause is a time when exercise can be key to relieve some of the physical, emotional and mental symptoms many of us experience. Physical movement is a key piece in the midlife well-being puzzle. Breast pain, size changes and tenderness are common symptoms at this time, and an effective sports bra should be considered vital to women looking to get active in the perimenopause.
The right sports bra will not only prevent discomfort from chafing and excessive breast movement; but also long-term structural damage.
In this article, we will delve into the various styles of sports bras and we will guide you through the considerations when choosing the best sports bra for you during the perimenopause.
Styles of sports bra
Compression Sports Bras.
These work by pressing the breasts firmly against the chest, reducing movement through squishing. Although not a universal truth, compression sports bras are generally best suited to smaller cups sizes. They are also best for low to medium impact activities, such as yoga, pilates, or cycling.
Generally if you are suffering from breast pain or tenderness, wearing something constrictive or compressive will result in further discomfort, so probably best avoided. Similarly if you are struggling with hot flashes, having your boobs squeezed together will only add to the sweat and discomfort.
Encapsulation Sports Bras.
These use individual cups to support each breast separately, similar to regular bras. This style provides a more natural shape rather than the monoboob of a compression style.
They support each breast individually, minimizing both vertical and horizontal movement and the breast separation will reduce sweating and chafing. These bras are a much better option during the perimenopause as they do not compress the breasts.
Hybrid Sports Bras.
These combine the benefits of both compression and encapsulation styles. They typically have a lighter compression layer to reduce overall breast movement. Underneath this there are individual cups for additional support and shaping. These bras are also worth considering during perimenopause.
Where do I start finding the right sports bra for me?
First thing to remember- you are not buying the bra for anyone else, this is literally all about you. There are so many sports bras available all promising comfort, shape, support- where do you start in narrowing down your search options?
You need to think about what is really important to you as an individual. Focus your search around fulfilling those requirements.
1- What level of support do you need?
Choosing the correct level of support is essential and should the first aspect we should all consider when choosing a sports bra in perimenopause. Breast pain or tenderness will be exacerbated by excessive unsupported movement. A high impact bra will minimise breast movement and thus reduce breast discomfort.
A word of warning, a study* found that 31% of bras marketed as ‘high impact’ did not achieve the required level of breast bounce reduction to achieve that accolade. At KnockerLocker we have a specific sports bra high impact category, these bras we have personally tested and have found to be suitable for high impact activities for all breast sizes.
2- Shoulder strap orientation
Shoulder strap orientation is very much a personal preference. Whilst many of us feel more secure in a racer or crossback style, this can result in shoulder pain if worn for prolonged periods. The arrival of the J hook on straps now gives us the best of both worlds-. This allows us to convert from regular oriented straps to a racer style depending on your preference or workout impact. Freya, Elomi, Panache and Pure Lime all have this option. Have a look at our racerback sports bras.
The main reason bra straps dig into shoulders is because women are wearing an under band size too loose. What? 80% of your bra’s support comes from the under band. If it is too loose, to feel more secure, ladies will over tighten the shoulder straps, resulting in the gouging effect on shoulders.
How do you know if your under band is too loose? First- measure your ribs- pull the tape snug but not constrictively so, the band size you are wearing should be 0-2 inches bigger than your measurement. Any more- you need to go down band size.
Other tricks- does you band rise up as you raise your arms? Is band arching up in the middle at the back? Both signs of a loose under band. Check out our fitting blog article for some nice images and more fit guidance.
3- Underwire or no underwire?!
Underwires add another dimension in terms of structure to a bra. With fluctuating breast size a frequent issue in midlife, underwired sports bras may be ones to avoid. If the bra is not fitting well you can get problems with wires causing discomfort and digging in.
Non wired sports bras are much more forgiving of changing breast size and can, as a result, be a comfier option. Particular favourites include Panache Ultimate non-wired, Runderwear Power and Anita Air Control.
These featuring moulded cups that give great breast separation and shape that will keep you looking and feeling great. The Anita air control bra is amazing light weight, so if you are suffering badly with hot flashes this is a lovely cool option.
4- How much??!!
It might seem like an investment, yes. However a quality sports bra that actually does what it claims is worth 5 rubbish ones that will not support you and you will not actually wear.
Women also do not tend to renew their sports bras as often as they should. So it is a piece of kit you may well have with you for a good couple of years. Think of it on a cost per use basis.
So before you baulk at spending £50 or thereabouts on an essential piece of sports kit, remember. It will mean you can exercise in comfort and confidence, and make you feel good about yourself…. Ladies, let me assure you: YOU ARE WORTH IT.
Use LESLEY at checkout at knockerlocker.co.uk to get 15% discount.
The bottom line
Selecting the right sports bra is a crucial step in ensuring comfort, support, and confidence during workouts. Due to breast pain and tenderness, generally an encapsulation or hybrid style is best during perimenopause.
The rest is really up to your personal preference! What is the best sports bra for one lady will not necessarily be the best sports bra for her best friend.
Need a little more guidance as to what might provide great support for your breast size and chosen sport? Please take a minute to read about our unique Power Rating or book in for an online fitting to chat through some options. If your breasts have changed size through your perimenopausal journey, use our bra size calculator to give you a better idea of the size you currently are.
* “How the characteristics of sports bras affect their performance”
Michelle Norris, Tim Blackmore, Brogan Horler, Joanna Wakefield-Scurr. Ergonomics 2021 Mar;64(3):410-425
If you need help dealing with the perimenopause, contact Lesley Waldron, a certified women’s health coach specialising in this period.
Lesley can help you find the clarity and power you need to navigate your forties and fifties through perimenopause and beyond.