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What’s the Difference Between Padded and Non-padded Sports Bras?

Sports bras can be a woman’s best friend when it comes to exercising. With the right support sports bra, you can get unparalleled comfort and support for your workouts. With so many sports bras on the market, it can be confusing to choose from them. Especially between a padded and non-padded sports bra!

To begin with, working out and choosing a bra is already particularly daunting – especially if you’re bust is on the bigger side. There’s been a misconception around bra styles and sizing that puts plus-sized women at a disadvantage. Padded sports bras, most especially, have a reputation for highlighting heavier chests because of their design.

The truth is that any woman, no matter their shape or size, can find their perfect sports bra. In this article, we list down the pros and cons of both options and help you decide which one is better suited for you and your lifestyle.

What is Padding?

Padding is often a thin, soft, and cushioned material that is typically added onto clothes to enhance or emphasise a certain part. Padding is usually made of cotton or a lightweight material to ensure comfort when used. Some of the most common uses of padding are on the shoulders and, of course, on the chest area.

Padding in a bra is usually found inside the cups. Padded bras are especially good at making the bust appear larger and fuller. Although some padding can definitely be used to provide some extra support or cushioning, more often than not, padded bras are there for aesthetic purposes. Of course, padded bras still have a variety of styles and designs to choose from.

What's the Difference Between Padded and Non-Padded Sports Bras, Image 01

Padded Sports Bra vs Non-padded Sports Bra

Sports bras are designed to support the breasts during intense activities. With comfort and functionality as the basis for their designs, sports bras have a multitude of styles and features that can fit different women’s lifestyles. One of the most popular style choices and distinctions among sports bras is being padded or unpadded.

There aren’t really major differences between the two, except of course, the presence of padding. Unlike bustiers and lingerie, the padding in most sports bras is removable. This is because quite a number of people prefer non-padded sports bras over padded ones.

But how do padded sports bras fare against non-padded sports bras? Let’s find out.


Both padded and non-padded sports bras have a range of styles to choose from. Racerback, convertible back, underwired, wirefree, to name a few of the many options available.

Most padded sports bras have compression style cups that ‘compress’ the breasts against the ribcage. These are nearly always wirefree. Compression style cups do not suit everyone. Especially those of us with a bit more up top.

Non-padded sports bra cups are most often encapsulation or both compression and encapsulation. These hold or ‘encapsulate’ each breast individually and are often preferred by bigger busted women.


Sports bras are meant to be simple and supportive, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make the girls look extra good! Both padded and non-padded sports bras have an array of designs that women can select based on their preferences.

However, padded bras do have a tendency to make the bust look fuller and bigger. This can be an added bonus if you’re not particularly big up top, but well-endowed women may want to steer clear of padded sports bras because of this.


When it comes to bras, support is what truly matters in the end. After all, even with the cutest design, if a sports bra fails to give the girls their much-needed support then it’s not worth your time.

Padding can affect how supportive a bra is, especially because it comes pre-formed. Unless your breasts are perfectly moulded to the pads, they can move around more freely which can cause some discomfort on your end. Additionally, padding adds a barrier between your body and the compression or moisture-wicking fabric, which can potentially make you lose some support.


The functionality of a sports bra generally comes from the support that it provides. However, additional features come from the various add-ons that a bra could have. Padded sports bra adds an aesthetic function to a bra as it prevents the nipples from being noticeable, especially during the colder seasons.

On the other hand, the removable pads may be quite a bother when washing padded sports bras as the padding can move around and twist while in the laundry.

Can I Wear a Padded Sports Bra?

The common misconception that plus-sized women or women who are more endowed in the bust area shouldn’t wear padded sports bras is not entirely accurate. As we’ve realised above, padded sports bras can be quite tricky if they’re not the perfect fit. That’s because the additional layer of padding gives you another point for consideration. Just because it’s tricky, does not mean that you can’t wear them though!

The most important thing to consider when selecting your padded sports bra is the fit. Of course, this rule also applies even when you’re buying a non-padded sports bra, but it is doubly important with the former. That’s because aside from the bra sizing, you also need to make sure that the cups fit you perfectly.

Like we’ve said, a padded sports bra can highlight and add onto your bust size when you wear it. If you have a well-fitting sports bra, then you don’t have to worry about unpleasant oversizing. With correctly sized bra cups, the padding won’t be too much of a bother.

As always, the most important thing to consider when you’re selecting a bra is your comfort. Always keep in mind your activity levels and what you want in a bra, then choose from your options! A padded sports bra can still provide you the perfect fit that you want, despite being a little more difficult to correctly buy. Once you do get it right, however, you get a supportive and sturdy bra that should stand the test of time.

The Final Verdict?

So, how does the padded vs non-padded sports bra debate fare?

Well, we can’t really give a definitive verdict–after all, each woman will have a preference. When it comes down to it, picking the right bra really does boil down to personal preference. If you’ve made sure that the fit and sizing is just right, then at the end of the day, you will choose the bra that you feel most comfortable and confident in.

Whether you’re wearing a padded or non-padded sports bra, make sure that you have the support and comfort you need. Look through the different styles, different fabrics and materials, and different sizes, until you find the perfect bra for you. At the end of the day, the best bra is the one that supports you…no matter what!

Yours in Support.

Amy x

Amy Jaffers

Amy is the face behind Sports Bras Direct, Australia’s largest sports bra website. She's a mother of two, outdoors lover and sports bra expert. Her life mission is to help active women get the support they need as well as assisting women in need through her charitable donations.

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