Question of the Week: “What kinds of fabrics should I look for in a sports bra? I work and sweat hard and I’m confused about which is better, cotton or synthetics?”
March 11, 2011
Ah, sports bras…those small pieces of light, flexible gear that that we expect huge miracles out of! When you’re kicking it hard, you are pushing your body closer to its limits in multiple ways. In addition to creating body pounding and breast bounce, your metabolism is stoked and (unless you’re working out in chilly conditions) you’re naturally going be hot and sweaty.
High-performance fabric capable of handling this torture and hard work is one of the key factors that separate a great sports bra from her more delicate sisters. Here’s the job description:
Anti-Bounce! If keeping the girls under control is your #1 priority, you also need to cast a critical eye on the materials your bra cups and straps are made of. Basically, you’re looking for firmer, less stretchy fabrics that don’t let your breasts zoom into unwanted action.
Here’s how to do a quick ‘stretch test’: Grab the bottom band of the sports bra just below the cup with one hand, and the top of the shoulder strap above it with your other hand. Give a firm pull—the less easily and far you are able to stretch the bra in this area, the more vital support it’s going to give you.
Anti-Chafe! Any sport that requires running means that a lot of your movements are repetitive. One part of your body may rub against your bra in the same spot hundreds of times in a row, which creates major potential for skin irritation! A silky smooth fabric surface can spare you a ton of chafing and pain.
When you’re checking out a sports bra, here’s a simple test for any fabric, seam or binding that touches the skin: Grasp the area in question, stretch it firmly and rub it against the tender skin on your cheek. If it feels rough there, it’s not going to be your best choice for a long workout.
Anti-Sweat! While sweating is a positive thing for your physiology during a workout, it can feel darn uncomfortable without a little intervention from your sports bra.
When it comes to defeating sweat, you can get your first clue by looking at fabric textures. ‘Open mesh’ zones let air and sweat pass more easily between your body and the outside world to keep you cooler and drier.
To handle the extra load of heat and moisture, bra fabrics need special ‘moisture management’ powers. Technical wicking fibers and treatments such Champion’s Double Dry® aggressively move moisture away from drippy sweat zones toward the outer bra surface where it can evaporate. The more quickly and easily your sports bra can dry, the more comfortable you will feel during and after your workout.
I’m often asked about cotton vs. ‘synthetics’ in active gear. We all love the soft, cuddly feel of our favorite cotton towels, and how quickly they pull dampness off of our skin after a shower. But for a tough workout, 100% cotton can compromise performance and comfort because it gets stiffer (more abrasive) when it gets wet and tightly hangs on to sweat instead of moving it out where it can evaporate.
Today’s synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, tend to be lighter, stronger, better at wicking/drying, and less likely to stretch out of shape. But if you’re a cotton-lover, you don’t have to give up your favorite fiber—just look for new-and-improved versions such as Champion’s Double Dry® high-performance cotton with a special treatment that speeds up wicking/drying and a touch of spandex to help maintain shape.
But this is just the ‘scientific’ side of the fabric debate. At the end of the day, we all pick what we truly feel best in, and I’d love to hear your voice and your vote!
So, what’s your favorite, most comfortable fabric for a sports bra—cotton or synthetic? Your opinion matters!