By Kate Siber
MANY sports bras just compress the chest to prevent uncomfortable jiggling. But a new wave of bras encapsulate each breast for improved lateral and vertical support and a look that comes close to mimicking the shapeliness of nonathletic bras.
"In the last two to three years, companies are making more bras that have separate cups on the inside of the bra," said Jen Elise McKey, a buyer for Title Nine, a national women's sports store. "People are using fabrics, constructions and seams to give women better support" without the unibreast look. Encapsulation sports bras are designed to be breathable and comfortable in the middle of a workout, but some are so shapely that they could be worn to the office. Some apparel maximizes support for large-chested women. Other bras perk up athletes with A cups so that they don't look flat-chested.
To see whether encapsulation made a difference, women from Durango Motorless Transit, a running club in Durango, Colo., tested the bras, worn here by models. KATE SIBER
CHAMPION DOUBLE DRY DISTANCE UNDERWIRE BRA $39, www.championcatalog.com. Made for women who are C cups or larger, this bra has underwires covered in padding and molded cups lined with a soft polyester-spandex fabric which "helped wick moisture," said Maureen May, 51. She also found a band that encircled her torso "didn't chafe at all."
MOVING COMFORT CARA BRA $38, www.movingcomfort.com. The Cara has underwires encased in padding, an adjustable back strap and seamless molded cups with lightweight nylon-spandex mesh. "I felt great running in it, and it was very breathable," said Shannon Simmons, 22. But the bra lifted her breasts so much, she said, she felt that she was on "Baywatch."
HIND FLEX BRA $48, www.activasports.com. These special underwires bend with movement, which Mindy Stern, 34, found "comfortable" and nothing like regular underwires. Silicone padding on the hook-and-eye closures prevented the metal from poking the tester's back. The wide straps have ridges to maximize breathability.
BROOKS PRO-FIT BRA $40, www.brooksrunning.com. This bra has molded cups that encapsulate each breast and a thick fabric that compresses the chest to prevent both vertical and horizontal movement. Carrie Szumnarski, 25, thought it was very supportive but too tight to wear all day. She added, "The straps were too short for me, and they weren't adjustable."
NIKE REVOLUTIONARY SUPPORT BRA $70, www.nikewomen.com. This customizable bra can be adjusted in three places, including in between the breasts, which Robin Phelps, 44, said gave her support, a superior fit and a flattering bust line. Ms. Phelps said the bra's thin material didn't "hold moisture like thicker sports bras do" since the polyester-spandex blend is slightly textured on the inside to wick away sweat.
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