Ask The Binding Coach

Answers to your questions about healthy chest binding and trans health from Frances Reed, author of Healthy Chest Binding for Trans & Non-Binary People.

Is wearing a sports bra safer than wearing a binder?

Ask The Binding Coach: Is wearing a sports bra safer than wearing a binder?

Q: My child is 15 years old and well into puberty. They are asking for a binder and I am concerned. They currently wear sports bras to flatten their chest but they are leaving a permanent mark on the side of their rib cage. Is it safer for them to keep wearing a tight sports bra or to change to wearing a binder?

A: Wearing tight sports bras or doubling up sports bras can actually be just as dangerous to the body as an overly restrictive binder, if not more. The marks that you are seeing are likely from the tight band at the bottom of the sports bra. When this band is very tight, it commonly causes three complications.

  1. The tight elastic exerts heavy pressure on just 2-3 ribs and can cause rib pain, bruising, displacement, or dislocation. Binders do not have these elastic bands and are made to distribute compression over the entire ribcage. When the correct size is worn, binders are usually safer for the ribcage.
  2. The elastic can cause skin irritation that can become raw and painful and leave hyper-pigmented marks which can take years to fade. Since there is usually no elastic band on a binder, this type of skin irritation is uncommon. The arm holes of binders can rub in the armpits which indicates that the design of that binder is not a good fit for their body type. Binders can also cause skin irritation from trapping sweat against the body. Skin irritation with any binding method should be addressed and allowed to heal before resuming any binding method, including sports bras.
  3. The straps on a sports bra are usually made of the same fabric as the rest of the bra which means that they exert more pressure into the neck and shoulders than most binders which make the straps out of a much lighter spandex. If someone experiences headaches or neck or jaw pain when wearing tight sports bras, then switching to a binder will likely alleviate these symptoms.

Looking for the perfect binder?

Want to ditch the sports bra but not sure which binder is right for you? Our Binder Finder tool catalogs 52 characteristics of binders so you find the perfect size, shape, and material.

Headshot of Frances Reed, a white, non-binary person with a bright purple and blue mohawk. They are wearing glasses and a patterned blue and white shirt and smiling into the camera.

Frances Reed, The Binding Coach

About The Binding Coach

I’m Frances Reed (they/them). I’m the author of Healthy Chest Binding for Trans & Non-Binary People: A Practical Guide, and the creator of

I’ve been a licensed massage therapist since 2011, and I support people at all stages of gender transition. I’m here to answer your questions about binding, no matter how big, small, silly, or serious.

Frequent topics include healthy chest binding, finding or wearing a chest binder, self-massage for people who bind, self-care for trans folks, or other topics on trans health.

More Healthy Binding Resources

Buy The Book

Buy The Book

The book Healthy Chest Binding for Trans and Non-Binary People: A Practical Guide contains best practices for binding and 23 exercises that you can do on your own to reduce and prevent pain.

Binder Finder Tool

Find The Perfect Binder

Our Binder Finder search tool helps trans and non-binary people discover the ideal chest binder to fit their unique body and budget. Explore diverse styles, prioritize safety, and express your authentic self with this essential search tool.

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