Sports bra use, preferences and fit issues among exercising females in the US, UK and China

Nicola Brown*, Jenny Burbage, Joanna Wakefield-Scurr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Previous research suggests that many active females are not engaging in sports bra use, despite the positive health benefits. The aim of this study was to establish and compare sports bra use, preferences, and bra fit issues for exercising females in some of the largest and most diverse global underwear markets (US, UK and China).

Design/methodology/approach: A survey covering activity levels, sports bra use and preferences, bra issues, and demographics was administered via Qualtrics and completed by 3147 physically active females (aged ≥ 18 years) from the US (n=1060), UK (n=1050) and China (n=1037).

Findings: In general, participants were 25 to 29 years, 121 to 140 pounds, 34B bra size, and pre-menopausal. ‘I can’t find the right sports bra’ was the most frequent breast barrier to exercise (25.4%). Three quarters of women wore a sports bra during exercise, with significantly higher use in China (83.9%), compared to the UK (67.2%). A third of all participants reported sports bra shoulder straps ‘digging into the skin’. Sports bra preferences were; compression sports bras, with a racer back, wide straps, thick straps (in US and UK), thin straps in (China), adjustable straps and underband, no wire, maximum breast coverage (in US and UK), including nipple concealment, and with padded/moulded cups.

Originality/value: Information provided on differences in sports bra use, preferences and bra issues across three major global markets could be utilised by brands and manufacturers to optimise bra marketing and fit education initiatives, and inform future sports bra design and distribution strategies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Fashion Marketing and Management
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 17 Nov 2020


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