Wearable technology is on the cusp of a breakthrough. Never before have more people been willing to strap on some technology and begin tracking all manner of health metrics. While this “quantified self” movement is largely rooted in fitness-tracking devices like the Fitbit, Nike Fuel Band, Jawbone, and others, breakthroughs in fabric design and textile-based sensors could soon change that. A new fitness clothing company, Sensoria Fitness apparel, is just one brand hoping to break the current mold in the wearable technology marketplace with the Sensoria Fitness Sports bra, which does away with more cumbersome sensors.
Features and design
Sometimes scratchy and occasionally restrictive, wearing a traditional heart-rate-monitor (HRM) strap is your ticket to fitness data that will keep your training moving forward. The Sensoria Fitness sports bra utilizes textile electrode sensors paired with an external HRM that is designed to replace the traditional elastic strap that wraps around the user’s chest. With the Sensoria products, the annoying elastic strap is replaced by the garment itself.
Made from Heapsylon fabric, the Sensoria Fitness sports bra utilizes a dipped v-style front, ribbed support panels, and a wide racerback design. Textile electrode sensors are integrated into the bra’s chest band that gauge the user’s heart rate with supreme comfort and accuracy.
With Sensoria products, the annoying elastic strap is replaced by the garment itself.
Unfortunately, the bra is offered in limited colors and sizes. Available in either black or red, the bra has a large oversized and aesthetically unpleasing embroidered “S” in contrasting stitching on the center of the chest. In terms of sizes, there are only three. Size small is aimed the wearer of a traditional bra in the 32 AB to 34 AB range; the medium is rated for 34 AB to 36 AB; and the medium/large aimed at women with a bra size of 34 CD to 36 CD. This three-sizes-fits-all approach could leave many women stuck in the middle scratching their heads on proper sizing.
At $79 a bra, the limited choices in size, color and style are all sticking points. For that price, you can score any number of options from high-end fitness brands like Lululemon, Nike, Adidas, Athletica, or Lucy (of course, you would still need to strap on a traditional HRM and chest strap to get the same amount of fitness data).
What’s in the box
The unit we tested, the Sensoria Fitness sports bra with integrated textile sensors, comes with the bra and no HRM. In order to track heart rate, a heart rate monitor must be attached onto the snaps located on the lower breastbone portion of the garment.It’s compatible with Polar and Garmin brand HRMs, but will work with nearly any sensor with 4.5cm between the snaps. We had success pairing it with the Wahoo brand HRM that we usually pair with a traditional chest strap.
Performance and use
The Sensoria Fitness Bra is simple to use. Once you put the bra on, there are only two things left to do: Wet the textile electrode sensors and snap on a compatible heart rate monitor. From there, you can pair the HRM with a variety of fitness apps or computers to read the data output by the monitor itself. During our test we paired it with a Garmin Edge 500. Had we used a Bluetooth-compatible HRM we could have also used it with a variety of smartphone-based fitness apps like Walkmeter, Strava, RunKeeper, and others.
We tested the bra while cycling, running, yoga, and during kettlebell training, and each time the garment worked well for outputting heart rate data. Once the sensors are sufficiently wet, the data delivered was as consistent as the Wahoo electrode sensor strap we typically wear. While our Wahoo strap has taken an occasional slide and lost contact with the proper spot on our chest, even during particularly strenuous and sweaty workouts the Sensoria never missed a beat.
The Sensoria never missed a beat.
While the heart-rate functionality of the bra was equal — or even superior — to that of our traditional heart rate chest strap, its performance as an actual bra was somewhat lacking. Due to the Heapsylon fabric weight, lack of breathability, and wide-backed bra design, the piece was simply too warm for our normal use. Additionally the racerback styling stretched too far across the shoulder blades, which made it uncomfortable during weight training and yoga. Together, these two combined prevented both breathability and our overall comfort.
A HRM strap is constrictive by design, because it must be worn tightly around the user’s chest to get an accurate read. Pair this with a sports bra and there is a lot of fabric pressing down on a person’s rib cage. For this reason, it’s not surprising that Sensoria Fitness apparel has offered to eliminate the redundancies by combining the two into one seamless product. Unfortunately, while the idea and product seem great in theory, in practice it has some issues.
The small amount of gain in comfort offered by the Sensoria Fitness sports bra, doesn’t erase a woman’s need for options in style, fit, price points, and color. We found it easier to just pair a traditional HRM and strap with the ordinary sports bra of our choice.
While the Sensoria Fitness Sports Bra is a comfortable, medium-support bra, it is not our end-all, be-all sports bra option. The fact is we don’t have one of those. We have a drawer full of sports bras, and a different one comes out depending on what activity we’re tackling that day and what outfit we’re wearing. And, all of them work with our Wahoo HRM strap. With a larger selection of fits, colors, and sizes in the Sensoria Fitness sports bra we might be swayed into giving up our HRM strap altogether. But for now, we’re sticking with the strap.
- No extra strap around your rib cage
- Textile heart rate sensors are soft and comfortable
- Singular design
- Limited sizing for very specific item
- Not compatible with all heart-rate monitors