Wearing a Sports Bra After Breast Surgery

A woman wearing a Brooks Fiona sports bra runs on a trail through the woods

Sports Bras and Breast Augmentation, Reduction, Reconstruction

Finding a sports bra that works is hard enough: It has to support you through your workout, feel good, fit in your price range and look cute. But the task becomes even more difficult after you’ve had breast surgery.

Wearing a sports bra after a breast augmentation, reduction, lift or reconstruction can be uncomfortable, or even downright painful. And the sports bra rack is full of options: high-impact, low-impact, compression, encapsulation, racerback.

So, how do you choose a sports bra after having breast surgery?

A woman wearing a Brooks Rebound Race sports bra

Wearing a Sports Bra After Breast Reconstruction

Nancy Staib, manager of Fleet Feet Hartford, was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 2011 followed by breast reconstruction surgery. Surgery changed the way her sports bras fit, so she had to find new bras that worked for her.

Staib says her doctor recommended she wear a soft sports bra with minimal compression for the first three to four months after surgery. She transitioned to a more supportive bra after her scars healed, but now she can't wear underwire bras because they hurt her reconstructed breast.

Now, her favorite bra is the high-impact Rebound Racer from Brooks. Staib's favorite bra uses compressive, molded cups that have limited stretch, which she says is supportive without being too tight.

“Since my reconstructed breast is smaller than my other breast, I find it easier to wear a bra without encapsulation,” Staib says.

While other women will find different bras that work for them, Staib recommends starting with a bra that feels good even when you’re not active—a bra that provides good support without uncomfortable constraint.

Brooks’ Fiona sports bra is another good option, Staib says, because it gives medium-impact support without using an underwire, and it employs a hook-and-eye closure so you don’t have to pull it on over your head.

A woman wearing a sports bra rests during a run

Are You Wearing the Wrong Size Sports Bra?

Even without breast surgery, though, many women might already be wearing the wrong size sports bra.

Researchers at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, studied breast size and bra fit and their correlations with upper back pain in 30 women. Part of what the researchers found, according to the National Institute of Health, was that 80 percent of the women studied were wearing the wrong size bra—70 percent wore a bra that was too small while 10 percent wore a bra that was too big.

Choosing the right sports bra will make exercising more comfortable and take the strain off of your chest. If your breast size increased or decreased after surgery, pregnancy or other body changes, it’s especially important to reexamine how your bras fit.

And once you find the right one, make sure you know how to wash your sports bra and take care of it to extend its life.

Two runners wear the Brooks Transcend sports bra

Find a Sports Bra that Works for You

Here’s how to start fitting yourself for a sports bra after breast surgery:

  • Find your size. Measure your band size, then your bust size to determine your cup size. Using these measurements, you can get into a sports bra that fits properly.
  • Determine activity level. Running causes more bouncing than yoga, but there are bras made specifically for each activity. Learning the difference between a high-impact sports bra and a low-impact model will give you the right support for whatever workout you take on.
  • Pick a type of support. Staib says compression bras are easier for her to wear than bras with encapsulation, but different bras work for different women. But start with Staib’s advice: Find a bra that is first comfortable when you’re not active.
  • Get fit by a professional. Bra fit experts at a local Fleet Feet location can discuss your activity level, figure out what type of support works best for you and will help measure you so you get into the perfect sports bra.

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