Next-generation sports bras

The latest iterations can track your heart rate, posture, and breathing patterns.

Sports bras are becoming more and more technologically advanced for good reason. They need to do way more than their regular counterparts; they’re expected to wick sweat, stay intact after frequent washings, and be durable enough to withstand all types of activity. “Sports bras are not just meant to hold up the breasts, they are an essential piece of athletic equipmentmeant to protect them from the effects of gravity, velocity, and impact,” says Laura Tempesta, founder of the bra education and sports bra review website Bravolution. “Scientists are involved in the design of the best sports bras for all of these reasons,” she adds.

Here’s what’s new, and on the horizon, in sports bra tech:

Heart Rate Monitoring 2.0

Heart rate trackers are nearly ubiquitous now, but products like OmSignal’s sports bra make it possible to gain deeper insight into your heart rate data, plus provide added information about your respiration rhythms, balance, and stamina. Sensoria also makes a heart-rate-monitoring bra that is compatible with Garmin and Polar watches. Though Tempesta doesn’t love the placement of the heart rate monitoring devices on either of these bras (right under the arm and on the band, respectively, where women need the bra to expand the most to accommodate breathing) or the level of support they provide, they may work well for certain people, especially those with smaller busts, she says. There’s definitely room for improvement in this area of bra tech, but it’s exciting that it’s available and will continue to develop.

Postural Assistance

With the prevalence of 'tech neck' in today’s world, the Vitali bra, which reminds the wearer to sit up straight and breathe deeply through biofeedback (it vibrates), is a welcome development. And it makes sense that sports bras would help correct these things, since poor posture can lead to less-than-ideal performance in the gym and limited range of motion. Meanwhile, breathing correctlycan help keep your energy levels in balance.

Though these up-and-coming technologies aren’t quite ready to hit the market, here’s where bra experts think sports bra tech is headed:

3D Printing

You’ll definitely be able to get a completely custom sports bra in the future. “Mass customization is the future of manufacturing,” Tempesta says. “Although we are still in the early stages of 3D printing, there is no doubt that its future impact will be significant.” Most women’s breasts aren’t symmetrical, so custom bras will be a game-changer in terms of fit and support. “The 3D printing materials currently available are not appropriate for bra cups, but these materials will eventually be developed,” she says. “3D breast scanning is still not as accurate as scanning other parts of the body, however this will also continue to evolve and improve.”

Disease Prediction and Diagnosis

There are regular bras available that can detect breast cancer and heart attacks, and experts think this type of tech will blow up into a much bigger trend. “We are just beginning to explore the possibilities of combining wearable tech and intimate apparel,” says Erin Harris, founder and CEO of Intimatology, a digital agency that specializes in intimates marketing. “I believe we’ll see a big trend toward ‘wellness wear’ as machine learning models improve and more data is compiled.” Though heart- and lung-monitoring technology already exists in bras, it’s the data that really needs to catch up before sports bras can viably be used as health monitors or predictors. “There are fascinating research and technology developments that will allow the detection of subtle patterns associated with developing medical conditions, providing early warning signs for heart disease and other health conditions,” according to Harris.

Advanced GPS Tracking and Performance Metrics

“You have probably seen the ‘man bras’ worn by professional athletes to track their speed, distance, performance, etc., individually and as an entire team,” Tempesta says. A company called Sports Performance Tracking is now bringing this technology to amateur athletes. Though it’s not actually incorporated into a bra, the garment that currently houses the tech looks like a sports bra or crop top. Tempesta thinks it’s likely this tech will be incorporated into proper sports bras, allowing wearers to not only get great support, but also GPS tracking, advanced heart rate data, heat mapping, and more. Plus, this could help women understand whether their sports bra is actually cutting it. “Although I haven’t seen any company do this yet, it seems logical that, in the future, sensors in the bra could also be used to track if the wearer is experiencing excessive breast movement,” Tempesta says.
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