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what does impact mean for sports bras

When it comes to sports bras, the reality is that there’s no such thing as “one style fits all.” Ultimately, finding the right one all depends on what type of exercise you’re doing, as different workouts put varying levels of strain on the ligaments and connective tissue around the breasts. Put simply: You need to choose a sports bra that will control the bounce factor — not just so you don’t feel self-conscious during that cardio dance class, but also so you don’t do any damage (which, it’s worth noting, can lead to sagging).

There are three types of sports bras: low-impact, medium-impact, and high-impact, and each offers a different kind of construction and set of features that are designed to meet the needs of specific kinds of physical activity. If your workout plan includes a variety of exercises, it’s likely that you’ll need one of each of these sports bra styles in your collection to meet the unique requirements of every level of activity.

So, what are the differences? And how do you know which is right for your workout? We compiled this guide to make shopping for sports bras super simple.

Low Impact Sports Bra

difference between low impact and high impact sports bra

Some examples of low-impact exercise include yoga, Pilates, and strength training. Basically, a low-impact sports bra is meant for activities during which your feet aren’t pounding the ground whatsoever, and therefore don’t cause a lot of bouncing. That means that while the bra is certainly designed with comfort in mind, it may offer less support than other styles. A low-impact sports bra is typically lightweight and unpadded, with super soft stretchy fabric and slightly narrower shoulder straps. This style is stellar for any activity that demands flexibility and involves slower movement. It’s also a great option for the gal-on-the-go who likes wearing a sports bra while running errands or doing housework.

Medium Impact Sports Bra

what is a medium impact sports bra

Parfait Active Sports Bra P5541 in Claret Red

A medium-impact sports bra is tailored to activities that are slightly more intense, such as spinning/cycling, skiing, using an elliptical trainer, power walking, Zumba, and hiking. These sports bras may or may not contain individual cups, but regardless, will restrict movement more effectively than low-impact bras. Look for styles that feature moisture-wicking cups, as you’re more likely to work up a sweat while engaging in medium-impact workouts. Ideally, a medium-impact sports bra will contain underwire to separate the breasts and keep them in place, as well as a wider underband for added support.

Related: How To Choose The Right Sports Bra

High Impact Sports Bra

what is a high impact sports bra

This kind of sports bra is definitely a necessity for workouts that entail a high level of impact on the floor or ground — think running, boot camps, aerobics and plyometrics (jump training). A high-impact sports bra will likely contain underwire (sometimes referred to as an encapsulation sports bra), padded cups, and wider shoulder straps. The cups are typically defined, thus surrounding and supporting each individual breast. The fabric will feel firmer and denser, and the overall bra will feel heavier than a low-impact sports bra. There may be boning in the sides, and the neckline may come up higher to offer additional coverage.


No matter which level bra you choose, there are certain factors to keep in mind while shopping — especially if you’re full-busted. Sports bras that feature adjustable straps will allow you to get a more accurate fit, and ensure that your breasts are well supported no matter what type of sweat session you’re participating in. You’ll also likely want to seek out a sports bra that contains hook-and-eye closures in the back so that you can tighten or loosen it as needed (thus getting more wear out of it in the long run). The fact of the matter is, if you can pull a sports bra over your shoulders (which are much wider than your chest), it’s unlikely that it can lend adequate support for your breasts.

Since fit directly impacts support, and support affects your posture, appearance and also the health of your breasts, you may want to seek out a professional fitting to make sure you purchase a sports bra that minimizes strain on your bust.

Related: How To Wash Sports Bras

what does low impact sports bra mean

Parfait Active Sports Bra P5541 in Infinity Blue

We Highly Recommend

Whether you’re shopping for new everyday bras or lingerie for a special occasion, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion. We know how hard it is to find bras that fit well and feel good, especially when you’re doing it on your own. If you’ve ever felt unsure about your bra size or you just don’t know where to go to find good bras, it’s time to let a bra fitter help.

Many specialty lingerie boutiques offer bra fittings. Their expert bra fitters will take the pain and frustration out of bra shopping and do all the work for you. Even better, their product knowledge can save you time and money. Plus, they know where all of the best bras are hiding.

If you’ve struggled with finding bras in the right size, it’s time to make a change. Visit our specialty store locator to find a store near you and schedule an appointment.

Happy bra shopping!

Featured image lingerie:
Parfait Active Sports Bra P5541 in Black
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Published by

Rebecca Strong

Rebecca is a Boston-based freelance writer who focuses on style, fitness, food, and travel. She has contributed to such publications as HuffPost, Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. When she's not writing, she can be found at home or in the studio working on the songs for her upcoming album. Her favorite bra is a black demi-cup style with all-over-lace — timeless and feminine.

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