How to Choose a Sports Bra

At Title Nine, we believe that there are no bad boobs, just bad bras! It's easier than most people realize to find a great fitting sports bra given the right knowledge. We've bundled everything you need to know in our Sports Bra FAQ - so you can find the right bra and amount of support to get you in the game and keep you there.


What is a sports bra and why do I need one?

Sports bras are not the same as everyday bras and we can't put up our best performance if we're distracted by the wrong bra! A sports bra is specifically designed to deliver proper support and comfort during everything from high-impact activities like trail running and mountain biking, to low-impact activities like yoga and hiking. Made of performance fabrics, they wick away moisture, which prevents chafing during workouts. It's important to invest in a quality sports bra so that our Cooper's ligaments (connective tissue in the breast that helps maintain support, i.e. where the perk comes from) are not permanently stretched.

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Why plunk down big bucks for a sports bra?

Too many of us won't think twice about dropping $5 every weekday on a latte, or $100 plus on a pair of running shoes, but balk when it comes to buying a bra that costs more than a to-go pizza. We believe a sports bra is an investment not just in good Cooper's ligament health, but in our overall health and fitness. Why double up on two mediocre bras to get support when you can have one great one? Our most supportive, silent training partner—a great, well-engineered sports bra—can make or break our workout.

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Why get a sports bra at Title Nine?

Yep, you can buy a "sports bra" from Victoria's Secret or you can buy one from Nike or Target or even Dick's Sporting Goods, but only at Title Nine will you get the expertise that comes from decades of selling, testing, and designing bras. Only at Title Nine will you find sports bras from dozens of manufacturers. Only at Title Nine will you get expert fit advice from women who actually wear and test each and every sports bra, and only at Title Nine do you get the take-it-for-a-test-drive, 360 Guarantee.

Here at Title Nine we don't just sell sports bras: we try them on and test them ourselves by the hundreds. The bras we reach for time and time again are the ones you'll find in our selection: bravangelist-tested and approved.

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How do I know how much support I need?

In short, the larger the cup size and higher the impact level of the activity, the more support you'll likely need—so don't send a low-impact A cup bra to do a high-impact job for a D! Use our handy barbell Barbell Rating System to help you find the right support for your impact level.

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What impact level is my activity?

There are three main types of impact levels: high, medium, and low. As noted under "How do I know how much support I need?" the wearer's cup size is an important factor. A B cup doing a high impact activity may not need as much support as a DD cup doing the same activity. The following are some examples of each type of impact level:

  • Low impact:  hiking, weight training, yoga, mat exercise
  • Medium impact:  cross-country skiing, vigorous walking/light jogging
  • High impact:  running, basketball, mountain biking

Use our handy Barbell Rating System to help you find the right support for your impact level.

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What do compression and encapsulation mean?

The girls don't just move up and down but in a figure-eight movement: it's not just bounce we need to renounce, but multi-directional movement. That's why it's important to get the right bra style for your size and activity. Sports bras sometimes say that they offer compression and encapsulation. Here are some basic definitions.

Compression: the sports bra has firm yet stretchy fabric that presses the breasts against the body kind of like a hug while you run, jump, or hike. This is usually found in 'classic' pullover racerback styles.

Encapsulation: supports each breast individually and gives you better support from underneath. These may look more like everyday bras.

Bras that offer both encapsulation and compression are often used by high-impact activity lovers and those with larger breasts. (Use our handy Barbell Rating System to help you find the right support level for your impact level.) Sports bras offered by Title Nine use both encapsulation and compression, some using more compression, others relying more on encapsulation.

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How do I determine my sports bra size?

No longer are we restricted to just "small, medium, large" when it comes to sports bras. In most cases, your sports bra size will be the same cup and band size as your everyday bra. Sports bras are designed to fit a bit firmer/snugger than your everyday bra, eliminating the need to downsize for more support or compression. (That could be doing more harm than good!) While most of our sports bras come in specific band-cup size combinations, some do come in size ranges. For these bras, we will always give the equivalents. For example: S(32BC-34B), M(34BC-36B), etc. If you need help figuring out your sports bra size, try our Sports Bra Fit Calculator. Our bravangelists are also happy to help!

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If I'm an A Cup, do I need to wear a sports bra?

The short answer: yes. A cups may not need as much support and construction as C and D cup gals, but some lightweight support helps keep the A cups perky and those Cooper's ligaments healthy for a good long time. Plus, a sports bra can provide us with nipple coverage while eliminating that long-run, chafing problem.

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How often should I replace my sports bra?

The very general guideline is never let a sports bra celebrate a birthday. But if you are a C, D or double D who runs then we recommend replacing your sports bra every time you replace your running/sports shoes. If you're wearing out your running shoes, you're also unknowingly wearing out your sports bra at the same time. No matter how often you wear it - and no matter how much you love cake and candles - a sports bra should never celebrate a birthday. If you are exercising more than four times a week, you'll need to replace it before the year is up. For more information on when it's time to replace a sports bra and how to take care of it, check out our sports bra care tips.

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Can I wear two bras instead of one sports bra?

Say goodbye to the old-school methodology of doubling-up: sports bra advancements mean gals can be one-and-done at any size (yes, even you, DD+ gals)! Advanced technology and engineering means that sports bras can give all chest sizes the support they need in a single bra.

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My breasts are so big, I wear two sports bras to go for a run. Is there one sports bra that will give me enough support?

One well-fitted sports bra should do the job, period. Regardless of cup size, doubling up lesser sports bras will not deliver the same support that one properly sized, impact-level appropriate sports bra can give. So, no more wearing a sports bra over an everyday bra, or wrapping oneself in bandages or tape. Getting in and out of all that is a workout unto itself! Try out our Bra Genie to find one bra to rule them all.

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Is there any sports bra that can control my D-cup bounce?

Absolutely! We often hear from larger cup gals that it is difficult to find a sports bra with enough support for high-impact activities like running and horseback riding. For this reason, we carry the largest selection of DD-DDD+ high-impact level sports bras on the market.

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What's the best sports bra for horseback riding?

Our top picks for horseback D-cup gals riders are our Trade-Up Sports Bra (which is great for wire-free bra fans) and our Intrepid Underwire Sports Bra (for underwire fans who prefer to stay away from the uniboob look.) Those who are DDD+ may instead consider our The Last Resort Sports Bra.

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Hey, what’s your brablem?

Is your bra a pain in the…girls? Let us be your bra whisperer and help troubleshoot what ails you—poking, slippage, close-but-not-quite and other common bra fit problems. And remember, there’s always extra help if you need it: our bravangelists are ready to coach you through tackling even the biggest bra challenges.


Problem: How can I stop my bra straps from digging into my shoulders?

Solution: Straps should only be doing about 10 percent of the support work, with the other 90 percent going to the band. If they’re digging into your shoulders they’re working too hard! If loosening the straps doesn’t fix the problem, it’s possible that the band is simply too big. A loose band is a band that is slacking in the support department, making the straps shoulder the load. Try sizing down one band size to see if this fixes the issue (Sadly it won’t fix our love for bad bra jokes). Don’t forget that the band should be low across the back and perpendicular with the floor — no rainbow arches. Bras with wider straps or padded straps may also help.

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Problem: How do I stop bra spillover?

Solution: Does your cup overfloweth?! Try going up one cup size or going up one band size - this is called Sister Sizing (Check out Bra Wear Tips for more on this). If that doesn’t do the trick, it may be that you need a bra that offers better coverage. Our bodies are all different and some bra styles just won’t work as well as others. Try a full coverage style like the wirefree Tech Athena Bra or the Seismic Underwire Bra.

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Problem: Is my bra cup too big?

Solution: Do your breasts have so much room in the cup that they could throw a dance party? Make sure the bra is properly adjusted (it’s a good practice to always check and re-adjust a bra after washing). If that doesn’t do the trick, try going down one cup size. A bra style that doesn’t have as much coverage might help too, such as going from a full-coverage every day bra to a demi-cup style everyday bra.

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Problem: My bra bulge is showing my back fat!

Solution: We know how annoying this can be—we all want the strap to be supportive, but it can become a problem when it creates unflattering bulges in the back. Counter-intuitive as it may be, try going down band size, which should sit snugly and lower on the back, or choose a bra that has wider wings.

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Problem: How do I keep my bra band from riding up in the back?

Solution: You’re smaller than you think! The band size is likely too big for you, so the straps have to do more than their standard 10 percent of the lifting. If it wasn’t like this when you bought the bra, it could possibly be stretched out and that it’s time to replace it. Is the bra new? If you are wearing a 34D and have the issue of the band riding up, try sizing down in the band to 32, while going up in the cup for the equivalent amount of coverage. Instead of your measured 34D, try a 32DD. This is called Sister Sizing (see Wear Tips for more on this).

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Problem: My bra wears out fast OR my bra fits only on the tightest hook.

Solution: The band does 90 percent of the support work, so it’s important to have one that is working well. The standard three sets of hooks on a bra actually correspond with sizes. On a size 38 bra, the hook that makes it the largest is a ‘39,’ the center hook is a ‘38’ and the smallest hook is a ‘37.’ If you fit best into a size where you’re on the smallest hook when the bra is new, try sizing down a band size and starting on the largest hook. This way when you buy a new bra, you can be sure that it is still fairly snug on the farthest hook so that you can tighten it as it begins to stretch.

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Problem: Do you have any bras with nipple coverage/built-in modesty?

Solution: Many women tell us they don’t like the look when their nipples show through their bra. If your headlights are always on, try finding bras that have extra lining in them, or a bra with a contour cup (a shaped cup made of spacer fabric). Some bras offer double and triple-lining to prevent this. A contour cup is not the same as a molded cup. While a molded cup has been molded to have a predefined shape, this does not necessarily mean that it has spacer fabric for modesty. One example of a molded cup bra is our 24-7 Bra. Our bras that offer modesty can be found here.

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Problem: The center yoke of my bra is sticking out.

Solution: Even if your girls naturally live in separate zip codes, the center yoke (the piece in the center where the cups connect) on a well-fitted and adjusted bra should sit flush against the body. There are a few things that may cause a yoke to not lay flat. One possibility is that your cup size is too small and thus the cups are too shallow. It could also be that the band is too large. Try going up one cup size OR down one band size, and don’t forget to adjust!

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Problem: The bra’s underwire is poking me.

Solution: A too-small cup may cause the wire to lay against a sensitive area, which is not only distracting, but means we’re likely not getting the best possible fit. If going up a cup size doesn’t do the trick, try a style that has fuller cup coverage and/or wider wings, which will help to push the breasts away from the arms.

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Problem: My bra is chafing and rubbing my skin raw.

Solution: Chafe-free bras are the Holy Grail of sports bra design. There are three components to a chafe-free bra. Choose silky polyester/spandex for best results and avoid cotton at all costs. Seam-free styles also help minimize chafing. Finally, careful design and placement of seams can eliminate chafing. When all else fails, and on a long runs it often does, we rely on Body Glide.

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Problem: My bra straps keep slipping.

Solution: In the cup-band support arena, bands do about 90 percent of the work with the other 10 percent going to the straps. If tightening the bra strap didn’t work, try finding a style of bra that has the straps located closer to each other in the back. It could be that your shoulders slope in a way that makes straps slip easily. One example of a bra with inset straps is our Super Lace Bra.

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Sports Bra Care & Wear Tips

When we find the perfect bra, we want it to last as long as possible. While no one bra will last a lifetime, you can extend the life of your bra by taking proper care of it. We’ll also tell you when it’s time to give your bra the boot.


How to Care for Your Sports Bra

It’s a good idea to have three sports bras that you rotate: think one on your body, one in the drawer, one in the wash. This will extend the life of your bras, as will having a variety in your drawer (varying impact levels call for different types of bras). If you are very active, you’ll likely need more sports bras, so there is always one ready to go while the others are in the laundry. Here are some key tips to prolong the use of all your bras.

  • Hand wash if you can: All bras should be washed by hand. It is gentler on the fabric and helps to retain elasticity.

  • Machine wash if you must: We know that not everyone has the time to wash their bras by hand. If you do put them in the washing machine, use a lingerie bag and set the machine on its gentlest cycle. Always fasten bras so that they don’t get caught on anything in the machine.

  • The dryer will fry them: Melting, melting, oh, what a world! While they save time, dryers are the Wicked Witch in the land of bras. Heat from dryers will wear out your bra much more quickly and can warp the elastic of the bra. Instead, lay your bras flat (or hang them) to dry.

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Out with the Old, In with the New

All good things must come to an end. Many of us have that favorite bra that we don’t want to part with, but it’s important that no sports bra celebrate a birthday. Our Cooper’s ligaments (the ones that keep our breast tissue in place, the home of perk) can be stretched permanently without proper support.

To keep your girls happy and healthy, look for these signs that it’s time to send your bra to the big laundry pile in the sky:

  • The underwire is poking out.
  • The band in the back is loose.
  • The hooks are broken.
  • You’ve had a significant weight change.
  • Obvious signs of fraying.

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How the Heck Do You Put This Thing On?

Filed under “things Mom didn’t sit us down on the bed and teach us,” here are some of our bravangelist-approved tried and true wear tips:

  • The Double Adjust: Ever grab a bra off the hanger, put it on and immediately pull it off? Adjust, adjust! Straps and hook and eye closure adjustments can make or break the fit. Remember to check and re-adjust your bras after washing.

  • Hook and Spin: For non-pullover bras with a hook-and-eye closure, wrap the bra around your body so the hooks are in the front, hook yourself in, then spin the hooks around to the back. This makes it easy to pull the bra up. Then you’re then ready to Scoop and Swoop.

  • Scoop and Swoop: Once you’re hooked in and adjusted, and have pulled the bra up so the straps are on your shoulders, scoop up each breast and swoop it into the center of the cup. Ensuring the breast is properly cradled in the cup can make a big difference in fit and support.

  • Sister Size It: Is the measured size super close, but not quite right? Try on the same bra in a sister size. This is done by going up a band size and down a cup size, or up a cup size and down a band size. For example, the sister sizes of a 36C are 38B and 34D. Only one move can be made to make this work; a 36C is not the same as a 32DD.

  • Quick Escape: For pullover styles that also have an adjustable hook-and-eye closure in the back, like our Updated 7 Wonders Bra, it IS possible to make an unassisted quick escape out of your sweaty sports bra. Simply unlatch and remove one strap completely, so that it is no longer through the hole in the top of the cup, before unhooking the back of your bra. This will make pulling it over your head much easier.

  • The Trade Up Bra: For styles like our Trade Up Bra, which has a band hook as well as a hook at the nape of the neck, try securing the top hook, pulling it on, and the hooking the band. Swoop and Scoop once you’re in it.

  • The Last Resort Bra: Our Last Resort Bra is likely sure to be unlike any other bra you’ve ever worn, and it may take a little practice getting in and out. It’s actually considered a sports vest, so put it on like a vest. Before trying to fasten the hooks, hold the front bottom edges in your hands and pull down firmly, then forward quickly. Fasten the bottom hook first and work your way up. Once all the hooks are secured, then Swoop and Scoop.

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Glossary of Bra Terms

Anatomy of a Bra

Bra Straps:
 For those of you who have never seen a bra, bra straps are the elastic straps that attach to the front and back of the bra. Adjustable bra straps are the most common, chosen so that they will not slip off our shoulders. Straps are not the primary support for our breasts - they only do about 10% of the lifting.
Chest band:
 The part of the bra that goes under your bust, around your ribcage. Responsible for carrying a majority of the weight of the breasts - about 90% - it is crucial that the bra band size fits properly and snugly.
Clasp:
 A critical component of getting great fit and support from our sports bra. The clasp on back-clasp bras allows you to secure the bra around your ribcage. It is usually located in the back, but some bras have the clasps located in the front (such as front-closure bras). There are typically three rows of hooks on the back of the bra that allows you to customize your level of support.
Cup:
 The part of a bra that holds the breasts and helps give them shape. (See also contour cup and molded cup.)
Wing:
 On back-clasp bras, the part of the bra that comes away from the cup. The wing attaches to and ends in a hook and eye closure.
Yoke:
 The piece in the center of the front of the bra where the two cups connect. Its size may vary depending on the type of bra, but it should always lie flat against the chest and not squish or wrinkle. If the yoke doesn’t touch the body or hovers above the chest, this is a sign of an ill-fitting bra.

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Glossary of Bra Terms

Bonded-seam bras:
 Bras like our Booby Trap Sports Bra make use of a high-tech, “gluing” technology to eliminate the chafing caused by needle and thread seams. They are generally smooth, sleek and lightweight and are often used for long-distance running.
Body Glide:
 Body Glide skin protectant balm is the reliable last resort for all who suffer from long run chafing. We swear by it for inner arms, at the chest band of our sports bra and our inner thighs.
Bra Whisperer:
 aka Title Nine bravangelist; specially-trained women who can solve almost any bra or support problem; their bra knowledge is deep and their magic is powerful. See also June Fox.
Bralette:
 We call ‘em barely bras. Perfect as a sleep bra or for members of the IBTC. Bralette bras are often made with lace and have no structured cups.
Bravangelist:
 those specially trained Title Nine bra experts who can fit any “body” for any sport in the perfect sports bra. If you have support questions, our bravangelists have answers.
Chafe-free bras:
 These bras are the Holy Grail of sports bra design. There are three components to a chafe-free bra. Choose silky poly/spandex for best results and avoid cotton at all costs. Seam-free bra styles also help minimize chafing. Finally, careful design and placement of seams can eliminate chafing. When all else fails, and on long runs it often does, we rely on Body Glide. Also known as no-chafe sports bras or comfort bras. See also seamless bras.
Compression sports bras:
 Bras designed to press the breasts against the chest to reduce the bounce factor. See also uniboob.
Convertible bras:
 Convertible bras have detachable straps that allow the bra to be worn in various styles, such as strapless, in an x-back or a racerback style. Can also be used to provide varying levels of support. See also j-hook.
Cooper's ligaments:
 The connective tissue in the breast that helps maintain structural integrity and prevents breasts from sagging. Our Cooper’s ligaments keep our breast tissue in place and can be stretched permanently without proper support.

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Cup size:
 Bra cup size is referred to in alphabetical letters (A, B, C, D, E, F, etc.) and is a measurement of breast volume. While there are differences in how some manufacturers refer to bra sizes greater than D (such as DD sometimes be called E), at Title Nine we do our best to make sure we define the cup size equivalences for every style.
Demi bra:
 A bra with a short cup height, covering just above the nipple. Demi bras provide moderate coverage. See also full coverage bra, cup size.
Encapsulation bra:
 Encapsulation bras separate and support each breast individually to provide maximum support for high impact workouts.
Full coverage bra:
 These bras give full breast coverage and also provide the greatest amount of support; also known as full-cup bras.
Front-close bra:
 Bras that fasten in the front, between the cups, with a clasp or hook. They can make taking off a bra much easier--no straining behind your back for that pesky clasp.
J-hook:
 A clasp on the back of the bra that allows you to turn your bra into a racerback-style bra. See also, racerback bra.
June Fox:
 the original “bra whisperer,” by whom all our bravangelists have been trained; capable of solving even the most intractable of bra support and fit issues.
Masher bra:
 A compression-style bra that presses the breasts firmly against the rib cage, like our Frog Bra.
Modesty:
 When we say modesty, we are talking about bras that offer nipple coverage. Sports bras noted as “contoured for modesty” have layered fabric or removable spacer fabric that eliminate nipple show-through.
Molded-cup bra:
 A molded cup is one that has been given a predetermined shape. This is often confused with contour cups, which include a shaped spacer fabric to deliver shape and modesty.
Nursing bra:
 Nursing bras and nursing-friendly bras allow women to nurse easily without needing to remove the bra.
Pullover bra:
 Basic pullover bras have no connectors or clasp in the back and require you to simply pull them over your head to put them on.
Racerback bra:
 Racerback bras have straps that become a singular strap centered in the back for support, curving between the shoulder blades leaving the shoulders more exposed. This makes them ideal for tank tops and other styles that are sleeveless. A cross back bra delivers similar support but have an x-back appearance. See also j-hook.

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Separation:
 The horizontal distance between the breasts at the center of the chest. There are many types of separation (touching, separated, splayed, etc.), and what type of separation you have will play a part in how bras will fit you. Bras that offer separation use encapsulation. See also uniboob, encapsulation bra.
Seamless bra:
 Encapsulation bras separate and support each breast individually to provide maximum support for high impact workouts.
Shelf bra:
 A bra that is built into a dress, tank or swimsuit. They can often provide enough support to forego a bra. Built-in shelf bras are suitable for almost everyone in low impact and everyday activities. However, we have tried and failed to find a built-in bra top that is supportive enough for Ds to run in!
Side support:
 Not feeling the “tasteful side boob” look? Some bras offer side coverage, often using sturdy sewn-in stays called boning, which help support the sides of your breasts.
T-back bra:
 A style of racerback bra which has straps that meet at the top of the shoulder blades.
Underwire bra:
 Bras with either metal or plastic sewn into the inside of the bra cup, right below the breasts. It provides additional support, shape, and lift. Bras without an underwire are known as softcup or wirefree bras.
Uniboob:
 The shape of the breasts that can occur when wearing a compression-only style bra. Some gals like it, some gals don’t; those who don’t prefer separation. See also separation.
Wicking bra:
 This usually refers to sports bras that have moisture-wicking abilities, which means that they wick the moisture away from the body to keep you dry. This breathability allows for proper ventilation, which also keeps the moisture out.
Zip-close bra:
 Zip close bras have a zipper instead of a clasp and it is usually located in the front rather than the back. Also known as zip front bras.

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Common Bra Fabrics

Cotton:
 Cotton bras are made of natural cotton fabric. They are soft and provide breathability, providing a high level of comfort in everyday wearing. We do not recommend cotton for anyone who perspires a lot. Cotton is slow to dry and damp cotton leads to chafing, chilling and nippiness.
Elastane:
 A synthetic fiber known for its high degree of elasticity; one component in the support structure of most sports bras; usually blended with nylon or polyester to provide lightweight compression. Also known as spandex or Lycra. Our Frog Bra has the highest amount of elastane (32%) of any sports bra.
Lycra:
 A synthetic fiber known for its high degree of elasticity; one component in the support structure of most sports bras; usually blended with nylon or polyester to provide lightweight compression. Also known as spandex or elastane. Our Frog Bra has the highest amount of Lycra (32%) of any sports bra.
Microfiber:
 Microfiber is a vanishingly thin, synthetic fiber commonly used in bras because of its softness, toughness, elasticity, and moisture-wicking abilities. Microfiber can be either nylon or polyester. While both fibers help with bra moisture management, we prefer polyester when wicking is most important and nylon when strength is the over-riding concern.
Power Lace:
 Our sports bras and work-to-workout bras use a reinforced powermesh “lace,” a highly technical fabric with a lace-like appearance, which provides support and breathability.
Spandex:
 A synthetic fiber known for its high degree of elasticity; one component in the support structure of most sports bras; usually blended with nylon or polyester to provide lightweight compression. Also known as elastane or Lycra. Our Frog Bra has the highest amount of spandex (32%) of any sports bra.

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