Welcome to your ultimate guide to choosing the right sports bra! A great sports bra is a powerful ally in any woman’s wardrobe, crucial not just for comfort but for protecting breast health and boosting workout performance. This guide will take you step-by-step through selecting a sports bra that feels as though it was tailor-made for you. From understanding the importance of a good fit, and exploring the different styles of sports bras, to teaching you how to measure yourself at home; we’re diving deep to help you find the perfect sports bra.

The Importance of a Good Sports Bra

Having a good sports bra is a game-changer.

For many women, it is the difference between a comfortable workout where your boobs do not even cross your mind or a workout full of re-adjusting at every opportunity, and pain when moving.

Choosing the right sports bra is more than a matter of comfort, it is essential for maintaining the health of your breasts and improving how you experience your workouts. 

And yes, sports bras are completely different from your day-to-day bras. 

The right sports bra will prevent discomfort and pain by reducing excessive breast movement during exercise. Not only this, but it also prevents long-term sagging and stretching of your breast tissue.  

When you’re not distracted by the bouncing, discomfort or constant adjustments, you can focus better and perform your exercise more effectively. Whether that is running, spinning, boxing, or doing Pilates, the right sports bra ensures that you’re not being hindered by your breasts.

Investing in the perfect sports bra is investing in your health, comfort, confidence, and exercise performance. 

 

What happens to our breasts when we exercise?

Your breasts move when you exercise; this includes women with small breasts too!

Research from the University of Portsmouth shows that even an A cup breast can bounce up to 4cms when exercising, and women with a G cup can bounce up to 14cms!

When running, your breasts create a unique figure of eight motion. The larger your breasts are, the more they move.

 

photo credit: Shock Absorber

Within every breast, there are Cooper’s ligaments – thin collections of connective tissue that help support your breasts throughout every movement. Without the correct support, these ligaments can break and it is likely you’ll begin to experience soreness in the breasts when exercising and could even cause long-term damage.

photo credit: Shock Absorber

Facts about Breasts and Sports Bras

  • 72% of women experience breast discomfort when exercising
  • Women report exercise feeling harder when breasts are not properly supported
  • Without the right sports bra, the increased movement in the upper body may cause women to fatigue quicker than normal during exercise.
  • Women who wore an ill-fitting sports bra decreased their stride length by 4cm when running, causing slower running times.
  • By wearing the right sports bra, you can reduce the amount your breasts bounce by 83%

 

How to Choose the Right Sports Bra

You won’t be surprised to hear that choosing the right sports bra is not straightforward. You need to consider the type of sports bra, the impact of the exercise you will be wearing it for, and how to measure yourself to find that perfect fit.  

We’ve got you covered, just keep reading!

 

The Different Types of Sports Bras

First things first, you need to understand the three different types of sports bras:

Compression Bra

The typical sports bra you see in high-street shops that looks like a crop top. These compression sports bras do exactly what the name suggests – the breast tissue is compressed against the body to minimise movement and provide support. This option is ideal for women with A-C cups.

Encapsulation Bra

The encapsulation bra provides structure to breasts individually, similar to a traditional bra. Designed to give maximum support whilst still maintaining a feminine bust shape. This type of sports bra is ideal for women with a larger bust. 

Hybrid Bra

The perfect combination of separate cups and a layer of compression fabric over the top. Some describe this as ‘the best of both worlds’! Opt for this style for the most support and comfort.  

Sports Bra Impact Levels Explained

There are three types of impact levels:

  1. Extreme or high-impact 
  2. Moderate or medium impact
  3. Low impact

 

82% of women who wear a sports bra agree that the proper support improves their exercise experience

Extra Features of a Sports Bra

There are many additional features of sports bras out there that will be available to you. To name a few: 

Front fastening. Ideal for ease of getting on and off.

Racer back. This style of bra provides extra support due to the additional angle holding up your breasts. 

Non-padded. Perfect for those who feel they have enough padding already and want to avoid any fullness from their bra.

Moulded cups. If you want a slightly more feminine fit, or perhaps you’d like more coverage in the colder weather – this is an option. 

Maternity sports bras. Maternity-specific sports bras do come with a heavier price tag, but are great for Mum’s who need to breastfeed their little ones on the go. You can even wear them day-to-day!

Double fastening. Sports bras for women with larger breasts may offer double fastening. This looks like two hook and eye clips, the same as what you’d see on a normal bra. This is to provide extra support. 

Underwire vs Non-underwired. As with your everyday bra’s, You also have the option of sports bras that have underwire for extra support.

 

How to Measure Correctly for the Right Sports Bra

For this, you are going to need a measuring tape. 

Step One

Measure under your breasts, and around your rib cage. This is your underband measurement. Note down this measurement in inches.

 

Step Two

Measure around the fullest part of your bust. This is typically across the nipples. This is your bust measurement. Note this down in inches, too.

 

Step Three

Subtract the underbust measurement, from the bust measurement and compare your result to our chart.

 

It should look something like this: 

*This guide is suitable for UK sizing. This is an estimate. 

To ensure that you are getting a sports bra that is the perfect fit, it is best to go to your local bra shop to have a size assessment done in person. We also recommend trying on a few sizes to see what fits best! 

 

Tips for the Perfect Fit Sports Bra

  • The underband of your sports bra should sit on your ribs and only 5cm away from your body when stretched. The majority of the support in a sports bra comes from the underband so be aware of this.
  • If the bra causes your breasts to be squished, bulge, or gaping between your breasts and the cups then it isn’t suitable for you. Try another size or brand. 
  • The straps of your sports bra shouldn’t dig in or leave marks behind. The straps aren’t there for support, they simply hold the bra in place.
  • Think about the exercise you’ll be doing. Match the sports bra to the intensity. However, there is no harm in wearing an extra supportive sports bra for less intense movement. 
  • Your sports bra should be comfortable! This means no rubbing, no pinching, and no chafing whatsoever. It also shouldn’t restrict your breathing. If it isn’t comfortable then it is the wrong sports bra for you. Try a different size, type, or brand.

Before you go

Before you go we want to remind you that the hunt for the right sports bra isn’t always straightforward…and that is okay. Our breasts fluctuate throughout our life time, and your preferences may change along the way too. 

Sports bra’s can also be expensive, especially when it is a cost we have to fork out alongside our day-to-day bras!

There will likely be some trial and error, so make sure to go in store and try on the options available to you. 

Don’t be afraid of trying on some sports bras or getting a fitting either. Breasts come in all shapes and sizes, and we really have seen them all! 

You and your breasts deserve all of the support!

Frequently Asked Questions

Read more about this topic

Do I need to wear a sports bra?
Yes! You need a sports bra as well as your day-to-day bras. When you exercise your breasts move more than they normally would and in a different way than what is normal. Because of this you need extra support, and the right kind of support that only the right sports bra can give you.
What are the different types of sports bras available?
There are three different types of sports bras: encapsulation, compression, and hybrid which is a mix of the two. Which one is best for you depends on the type of exercise you are doing, the size of your breasts and what feels comfortable for you.
How do I choose the right sports bra for high-impact activities?
The best sports bra for high impact exercise is a hybrid sports bra. This type of sports bra provides the most support because it has encapsulation and compression features – perfect for the jumping, sprinting, and big movements!
Can sports bras prevent sagging?
Technically, yes they can. Within your breasts you have something called Coopers Ligaments which are thin bands of ligaments that hold your breasts up and keep them as perky as possible. Without a sports bra, your breasts will bounce and the Coopers Ligaments can snap. A sports bra will support your breasts to prevent sagging, but also protect your breast health.
Are sports bras supposed to be tight?
Your sports bra should be tight to the point where it doesn’t move when you exercise, but it shouldn’t be tight where it feels uncomfortable, restricts your breathing, or causes bulging. Another red flag of a too-tight sports bra is the straps digging in and leaving marks on your shoulders.
Can I wear a sports bra while pregnant or breastfeeding?
Absolutely! In fact, some women prefer to wear sports bra’s all of the time in the postnatal period.
Can a sports bra be worn for everyday activities?
If you prefer a sports bra to your normal bras, there is no problem with you wearing it every day. We like to wear a sports bra when cleaning, because we know how much of a workout that can be!

References

Where we got some our information from

References
Boyd NF, Martin LJ, Bronskill M, Yaffe MJ, Duric N, Minkin S. Breast tissue composition and susceptibility to breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2010 Aug 18;102(16):1224-37. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djq239. Epub 2010 Jul 8. PMID: 20616353; PMCID: PMC2923218.

Haworth L, May K, Janssen J, Selfe J, Chohan A. The impact of breast support garments on fit, support and posture of larger breasted women. Appl Ergon. 2022 May;101:103701. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2022.103701. Epub 2022 Feb 9. PMID: 35151120.

https://www.port.ac.uk/research/research-groups-and-centres/research-group-in-breast-health

https://boobydoo.co.uk/impact-levels-explained/

https://shockabsorber.co.uk/our-research/

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