How to Buy a Sports Bra

Why is fit so important?
Figuring out your correct sports bra size can be as difficult as finding a shoe that fits properly. However, it is important to spend time identifying your correct bra size so that you do not risk damaging your breast tissue during workouts. Impact activities jolt the skin on your chest, which can in turn cause tissue breakdown, sagging, and stretched ligaments. Sports bras are the best way to prevent these uncomfortable and damaging injuries.

What are the benefits of a good-fitting sports bra?
A good-fitting sports bra minimizes the movement of your chest. It has the ability to wick moisture away from the skin and allows for a cooling flow of air between the breasts. A properly proportioned and contoured sports bra also minimizes chafing and doesn't have straps that dig into the shoulders. The band around the lower chest isn't too loose or too tight, and the garment's thread is soft enough to minimize skin irritation.

What are the most important things to consider when buying a sports bra?
The first two things to consider when purchasing a sports bra are (1) your body type, and (2) the activities you will be doing while wearing the bra. Different body types have different bust movements that will effect the type of bra you will need. How much perspiration an activity generates determines the amount of moisture management you will need in your bra. In fact, you might even need several different sports bras if you are involved in a wide range of athletic activities.

Are there different types of sports bras, or are they all the same?
There are three types of sports bras: compression bras, encapsulated compression bras, and adjustable encapsulated compression bras. The compression bra is the most common sports bra and is designed to minimize movement by pressing the chest flat as a single unit. The compression bra works well for small- to medium-chested women. Encapsulated bras are best for larger-chested women. Encapsulated bras resemble regular bras-some even have underwires-but they offer even more support by compressing each breast individually rather than compressing them as a single unit. Adjustable encapsulation bras provide maximum support for the larger-breasted runner. This bra type incorporates encapsulation, a wide adjustable band, and wide/rigid adjustable straps to create a custom fit and full support.

What is the correct way measure my chest?
To increase your chances of buying a properly fitting sports bra, follow these general measurement instructions:

  1. 1. Band Measurement: While standing straight take a snug measurement around your rib cage, BELOW the bust. Pull the tape until it is taught, but not restrictive or pinching, and round to the nearest whole number. Add 5" to this measurement. If you get an odd number, round up to the nearest even number. Example: 30" + 5" = 35". 35" is odd, so + 1" = 36".
  2. 2. Bust Measurement: Take a loose measurement around the fullest part of your bust while wearing a bra but with your clothes off. Round to the nearest whole number. Example: 38".
  3. 3. Determine Cup Size: Subtract your even-numbered band size (step #1) from your bust measurement (step #2) to find your cup size according to the chart below. Example: 3" = C Cup.

How does band/cup sizing compare to small/medium/large sizing?
See the Women's Apparel Sizing Charts in our learning center for information about how your regular bra size (e.g. 34B) compares to your apparel size (e.g. medium).

How do you know if a bra fits?
First of all, keep in mind that a good sports bra will fit more snugly than a regular bra. Test for motion control by doing a few of jumping jacks or running in place with the bra on. Does the bra minimize your chest movement comfortably? Next, clasp your hands above your head. If the elastic band around your chest moves up, the bra doesn't fit properly. Finally, check to see if the seams are smooth and soft so that your skin will not become irritated during movement.

How do I care for my sports bra?
How do I know when I need a new bra? The functional life of your sports bra can be lengthened by several months or even years just by caring for it properly. The best way to extend the life of your bra is to wash it by hand and have it air-dry. Washing machine cycles are usually too rough, and dryers can destroy the elasticity and support of the fabric. Some signs that your sports bra is at or near the end of its functional life are: (1) restriction against vertical movement decreases considerably, (2) the fabric begins to pill, or (3) the fit seems to be too loose or too big but your measurements have not changed.