Just in case you didn’t already know: If you have breasts and you exercise, you need a sports bra. “A good sports bra has one primary job—beat the bounce,” says Ali Cudby, author of Fit My Bras, a book on bra fitting.
Just as it’s important to find the right everyday bra, finding a sports bra that works for you can be just as essential. “Breast tissue is delicate,” Cudby explains. “Workouts with a lot of repetitive jarring mean stress to that delicate tissue—this is pretty obvious to any woman who’s felt her breasts bouncing while working out in a less-than-supportive bra.”
Over time, this repetitive stress can break down the connective tissues in the breasts, which can cause sagging. In addition, because the bouncing can make exercise uncomfortable for some women, it can even make them want to stop exercising altogether. Read on to learn how to choose a sports bra that will support your breasts—and your exercise goals.
What to Consider When Seeking Out a Supportive Sports Bra
Your body is more important than your workout
“The right sports bra for you is all about you,” Cudby says. “A low-impact workout may not create the same requirements for reducing bounce compared with a high-impact workout. However, every woman has to consider her own body when choosing a sports bra.”
Depending on your breasts—regardless of whether they’re large, small, soft, or sensitive—you may be more prone to exercise pain. If this is the case, even a low-impact workout may require a sports bra with a good deal of support. “The name of the game is reducing bounce so you can be comfortable,” she says.
Consider your breast size
For those who carry more on top, there are some features to look for in a sports bra that will help provide more support to large breasts:
- Look for bras that encapsulate each breast separately—in other words, something constructed more like a regular bra as opposed to an over-the-head kind. You may even want to opt for an underwire sports bra.
- Find a bra made with quality materials and fastenings to stand up to the rigor and heat of your workout.
- Consider the straps. Some have features that may up the comfort factor, such as padded straps or a “J-hook” in the back, which lets you clip straps to convert a regular bra into a racerback.
And a word to the wise: Shop in places with a wide selection of sizes. Online stores often carry more sizes than brick-and-mortar ones. So if you're struggling to find a bra that fits, consider shopping somewhere new.
When Buying a Sports Bra, Ask Yourself…
1. Is this the right bra for my body?
There isn’t any reason for you to wear two, three, or more bras to provide your breasts support while you’re exercising. Technology has evolved in the land of sports bras—especially when it comes to a wider array of sizes, Cudby says. With options for sizes up to a 50-band and an N-cup, more women are finding one sports bra that can do the job right without layers.
The best way to know if a bra will work for your body is to try it on. When it comes to sports bras, trying on can save you literal pain when you hit the gym.
To know whether a bra fits, start with the band. Eighty percent of your breast support should come from the band. “You want your band to be firm but not tight. You should be able to fit two fingers between your body and the sports bra, and you should be able to tug it about an inch from your body. If it is too big, your bra won’t stay anchored in place while you work out,” Cudby says. But sports bra bands that are too tight could lead to discomfort and irritation.
Once you establish that the sports bra fits correctly, question…
2. Is this the right bra for my workout?
Consider how much support you require for your activities. Your yoga needs are probably different from your running needs. To test the bra’s support, perform the activity with the bra on. If you need to a bra for yoga, do a downward dog. If you need it for walking or running, do a lap in the dressing area or jumping jacks inside your dressing room. Your breasts shouldn’t be falling out or you shouldn’t feel like they are shifting around a lot.
Is finding the right sports bra important? You bet. If you’re uncomfortable doing your workout, you won’t do it. Stack the exercise deck in your favor by finding a comfortable bra that feels amazing.