Which Sports Bra is Right for You?

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Sports bras can be a real pain in the neck, but they don’t have to be! With so many options, it can be overwhelming trying to sift through all the choices to find a sports bra that keeps everything in place, lets you breathe, and doesn’t look like a torture device from the Victorian Era. Understanding some of the terminology used for sports bras and knowing how to make sure one fits can save you a lot of frustration and motivate you to get moving.

What type of exercise are you doing?

It is important to first determine what types of workouts you will be doing in order to buy a sports bra that best supports your activities.

Low-Impact Exercises

For exercises that have few rapid movements but need more flexibility, look for a low or minimum impact/support bra. This type of bra will keep you from spilling out but doesn’t usually have underwire or excess padding to get in your way during a workout. These bras are ideal for exercises such as  yoga, Pilates, and walking.

Medium-Impact Exercises

If your exercise will consist of cycling, strength training, or jogging, check the tags for a medium impact/support sports bra.This type of bra will give you more support, but still room to move about freely and be comfortable.  

High-Impact Exercises

If you are doing intense HIIT workouts or running long distances, high impact/support bras are best for you. These types of bras will make sure everything will stay compressed and you can run, jump, and compete without worrying about painful bouncing.

What style is best for you?

In addition to the type of impact, you will want to consider the style of the bra. The two main styles are compression and encapsulation. Many times store labels will label bras based off of the support level and cup size, but some labels also have the style so it’s important to know which one is best for you.

Compression sports bras are made of thinner, elastic material that is usually pulled over your head and into place. They do not have thick cups or hard underwires, making them ideal for low impact/support exercises. Encapsulation bras look more like your everyday bra with cups, sometimes with underwire, and usually a clasp either in the front or back. These are usually designed to provide support for medium-to-high impact workouts.

If you are looking for extreme support, try to find a combination sports bra. This includes the cup design of the encapsulation for support and the over-the-head flexibility of the compression bra to keep everything in place for your most intense gym days. Many brands offer low, medium, and high impact options for all the cup types, helping you to find what fits your body and your exercise needs.

How do I know if my sports bra fits?

Nothing will ruin a workout faster than an uncomfortable sports bra. If it chaffs, you can’t breathe, or it’s difficult to move through your workout, it can weigh down your motivation. To avoid that problem, make sure to try on any sports bra you purchase, using several size options and types to make sure you find your perfect fit.

Check for chafing by circling your arms back and forth, twisting at the waist, bending over to touch your toes, and even doing a few jumping jacks. This will allow you to see if the bra rubs uncomfortably under your arms, along the straps, or around the chest band.

To make sure the band fits across your torso, place two fingers underneath and pull the band away from your body. You should not be able to pull it more than an inch away. Then raise your arms above your head and slowly lower them back to your sides. If the band rides up to expose the bottoms of your breasts, this bra is too big.

Straps also need to be checked. Some sports bras have adjustable straps, but the majority do not. Place two fingers under a strap and slide them back and forth along the length of each strap. Your fingers should be able to move easily, but feel the resistance of the straps. Make sure you can easily roll your shoulders forward and backward.

Finally, consider if the bra was difficult to put on or take off and if it left behind any marks. If you have to dislocate a shoulder to get in or out of the bra, try a bigger size. Red, irritated marks left behind after just testing the bra can be signs of more extreme discomfort in the future. Always test a few different sizes, even if you think you’ve found the one. This will give you a frame of reference and help make sure you won’t be cursing the bra in a week.

Our Writers

Callie will graduate this May from Texas State University with a degree in Creative Writing and will then move to California to pursue a career as an editor. She loves F. Scott Fitzgerald, Once Upon a Time, her dog, swimming, books, red velvet cupcakes, and peppermint tea.

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