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how to choose the right sports bra

Repeat after us: All sports bras are not created equal.

It makes sense if you think about it. You don’t wear the same bra for every outfit — instead, you opt for a demi-cup bra when you want to show off a little decolletage, a plunge bra when you’re sporting a low cut top and a T-shirt bra when you need some seamless shaping under a form-fitting tank. So why should you wear the same sports bra for every workout? The fact of the matter is that each type of physical activity puts different kinds of demands on your body, meaning it requires a specific kind of bra to ensure your bust is sufficiently supported. By wearing the right sports bra for the job, you can keep bounce under control and most importantly, protect your boobs from any damage.

So before you head out to your next sweat session, follow this guide for finding a bra that fits your workout.

Take impact into account

It’s crucial to consider the level of impact your workout requires when choosing a sports bra. Vigorous cardio workouts, for example, cause the breasts to bounce up, down and all around far more than strength training sessions — and that bounce causes strain on the ligaments under breasts, which leads to sagging over time.

A lightweight, wire-free bra will likely work just fine for lower impact workouts such as yoga, Pilates and weightlifting. For medium-impact exercises that cause a moderate amount of bounce, such as cycling, hiking and power walking, you may opt for a style with some more structure, especially if you don’t have small breasts. When it comes to high-impact exercise, such as running, plyometrics (jumping), aerobics and dance, you’re dealing with a very intense degree of bouncing so you’ll probably want to seek out a bra that has underwire and separated cups. Wider straps are best for high-impact exercise as they distribute weight better than skinny ones.

Ultimately, if you’re only investing in a couple sports bras, rest assured that a high-impact bra is the most versatile as it’ll provide adequate support for any kind of exercise.

Pay attention to the features

Your bust size matters perhaps even more when it comes to sports bra shopping, because you’re putting your body under more strain than usual during physical activity.

If you’re on the small size (looking at you, A cups) this is less of a concern. However, for C cup sizes and above, it’s important to note that there are several kinds of sports bras that can minimize breast movement in different ways.

Compression bras contain no separated cups, and simply hold your boobs in place by pressing the tissue firmly against your body. They also tend to only come in standard sizes like small, medium and large (as opposed to a band and cup size). That makes this style best for either small-breasted women  or those who are participating in very low-impact exercise that doesn’t cause a lot of bounce.

On the other hand, encapsulated bras are designed to support and secure each breast separately with individual cups.

If you’re a large-busted gal or engaging in high-impact exercise, your best bet is to opt for a sports bra that combines encapsulation and compression for optimal comfort, shaping, and support.

Speaking of support — no matter which style you choose, keep in mind that the band is what does most of the work, and the wider it is, the more support it offers. Also, it’s a good idea to seek out sports bras with hook-and-eye closures on the band. That way, you can adjust as needed, ensuring that the bra is always fitting snugly and keeping you secure.

Remember: The material matters

Cotton may work just fine for your casual T-shirt bras, but it simply won’t do for most kinds of physical activity as it can lead to chafing when it gets wet. Whether you’re lifting some weights or hitting a spin class, select a sports bra that’s made of sweat-wicking material. These fabrics are specifically engineered to bring moisture to the surface, where it evaporates into the air. By lifting that sweat away from your body, you’ll avoid any skin irritation from a buildup of bacteria and also stay as cool and dry as possible during your workout (which could seriously impact your comfort and thus, your performance).

If you’re engaging in a particularly high-intensity cardio class, you may want to look for a sports bra that has additional ventilation features. For example, mesh paneling can lend some much-needed extra breathability for a long run or a grueling boxing class.

The bottom line? The right bra will only enhance your workout by allowing you to feel cool, confident and supported. So be sure to invest in styles that complement your bust size as well as the kind of activity you’ll be participating in, and you’re bound to get more out of any exercise.

We Highly Recommend

Whether you’re shopping for new everyday bras or lingerie for a special occasion, it’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion. We know how hard it is to find bras that fit well and feel good, especially when you’re doing it on your own. If you’ve ever felt unsure about your bra size or you just don’t know where to go to find good bras, it’s time to let a bra fitter help.

Many specialty lingerie boutiques offer bra fittings. Their expert bra fitters will take the pain and frustration out of bra shopping and do all the work for you. Even better, their product knowledge can save you time and money. Plus, they know where all of the best bras are hiding.

If you’ve struggled with finding bras in the right size, it’s time to make a change. Visit our specialty store locator to find a store near you and schedule an appointment.

Happy bra shopping!


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Published by

Rebecca Strong

Rebecca is a Boston-based freelance writer who focuses on style, fitness, food, and travel. She has contributed to such publications as HuffPost, Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. When she's not writing, she can be found at home or in the studio working on the songs for her upcoming album. Her favorite bra is a black demi-cup style with all-over-lace — timeless and feminine.

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