No matter what size your chest is, a sports bra is an important — if not the most important — part of a workout wardrobe. But, so many women, including plenty of us at Cool Mom Picks, don’t really have an idea of how to pick the right sports bra for our fitness routine or what constitutes the perfect bra for your body type. And, don’t even get us started on how to decide whether it’s the right fit or not, other than being smacked in the face with a boob. (ED: Ha, I wish. -Kristen)
So we enlisted the help of Fit Specialist Jillian Wiedere from Fleet Feet Sports to help us navigate how to find the right sports bra. We think her tips will help you too, because if you’ve ever worn a bad sports bra you know that the struggle is real.
Let’s lift these girls up where they belong, shall we?
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What are the biggest mistakes women make when purchasing a sports bra?
1. Buying bras that simply don’t support you. And every woman knows, even when just chasing kids around, you need a good bra. While there are many sports bras to choose from today, not all of them are made equally. Depending on your size, bras may feature hidden, built-in stabilizers so you don’t bounce. Others are made seam-free so you will not chafe. Plus, they last longer than sports bras used to, so the right bra will give you support and comfort many months after wearing and washing.
2. Buying a sports bra that is too big. Approximately 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. In most cases, the band (which is the most supportive part of the bra) is too big, while the cups are too small. The best advice I can give a woman looking for a new sports bra is to go get fit by a professional. Sports bras need to fit differently from your everyday bra.
How is sports bra fit different or similar to your everyday bra fit?
The most supportive part of a sports bra is the band, but many women are used to the more loosely-fitting band of their everyday bra, so this may take some getting used to. For a sports bra, we recommend a snug fit, where you can only put 1–2 fingers between the band and your body.
The struggle to get out of a sweaty pullover sports bra is definitely real. Many women think a sports bra has to be pulled over your head. And while good pullover sports bras do exist, you can also find sports bras that are similar to your everyday bra, with adjustable straps and hook and eye-clasps, like the Brooks Fiona Bra, above. This makes a sports bra easier to get in and out of. Yet, still supportive. There are even racer-back bras that are fully adjustable.
You don’t need to choose fashion over function when it comes to picking a sports bra. Yes, you can still wear that cute top and be supported.
Over the head or back/front closure — what are the pros and cons of both?
They are both great options — if you’re wondering how to pick a sports bra, it usually depends on your size and/or your preference. Today, many sports bras are engineered to go over your head and also clasp in the back. This makes them easier to get in and out of, and the manufacturers have found ways to do this without compromising support.
Front zip closures on sports bras may offer decent support for smaller cup sizes. But for larger gals, we recommend the ENELL Sport. This bra has been specifically built with a wide, extra snug band (for maximum support) and with front hook and eye closures to keep everything in place. Even up to a 52DDD!
Do you need a different sports bra for different activities, like cross-training, running, or dancing? How do you decide which is best?
Yes! Absolutely. The bra you wear to yoga and the bra you wear for running are likely going to be different. You can usually get away with a lower-impact sports bra for lower impact activities; but if you are running, jumping, or dancing, you want to look for a bra that provides maximum control — especially if you have larger breasts.
The best way to choose the best sports bra for your activities is to get measured, talk to a fit specialist about your activities, and then try on several bras to find what works best for you. You should also run in place, jump, or even try downward facing dog in the dressing room to ensure the right fit for your activity.
How can you tell if your sports bra fit is right (or wrong)?
Most women will know right away if something feels funny, but there are a few things to look for:
1. The right band. A good sports bra band should not move on your body. You should only be able to fit 1–2 fingers between your body and the bra. It should feel snug, but not be painfully tight. If you jump up and down or run in place and you feel movement, adjust the bra. If there is still significant movement, try going down a band size and up a cup size. If you notice the band riding up your back, loosen the straps. Or, you may need a different band size altogether.
2. The right straps. They should not dig into your shoulders and they should not slip off. Use the same test you used for the band. Can you fit 1–2 fingers between your body and the straps? That’s enough! Many straps can be adjusted so you can achieve a customized fit.
3. The right cups. Make sure your breast tissue is fully encapsulated and the tissue is not spilling out over the top or the sides of the bra. If that’s the case, you should go up one cup size. If you notice gapping between your breast and the bra, that means the cup is too big. Go down in cup size. Put these three together and you should get the perfect fit!
Thanks so much to Fit Specialist Jillian Wiederer from Fleet Feet Sports for her fantastic tips for how to find the right sports bra. And visit their site for a ton of great sports bras you can buy.