It’s a fact that most women are wearing the wrong bra. This seemingly inconsequential act can carry with it a multitude of penalties for the unsuspecting wearer including neck tension and pain, a lack of support, sagging, and for some women, a loss of confidence. Most of us don’t realize it, but finding a sports bra with sufficient support and the right fit is just as important as wearing the right pair of running shoes.
When you are exercising, your body moves through a wider range of motions and often sustains more impact than you would in your daily activities (read: more attention to how your bra fits is required). Just as you wouldn’t try to run on the treadmill wearing flip-flops, you shouldn’t be doing your workout routine wearing an under-wire from your local department store.
Breast size, body structure, personal preference, and activity will all come into play when purchasing your ideal sports bra. There are two main styles: pullover and encapsulation (constructed with two cups for better support.) Pullover styles work best for women sizes A or B cups. Encapsulation styles work well for larger cup sizes because of the two separate cups controlling two smaller masses rather than one large mass. With this style of bra you have a better chance at getting no-bounce support and it is easier to get on and off because encapsulation bras are made with either adjustable back straps or front clasps. This is an important feature for many women because if you have a larger cup size it is unlikely that any bra you can pull over your breasts will be firm enough around the ribcage to provide you with sufficient support.
Encapsulation-style sports bras are not typically available at standard sports clothing retailers, and so many women with a larger chest size will purchase a pullover-style bra not realizing that there are better options out there. Stores specializing in bras sell compression and encapsulation styles in sizes A through G with features including no-bounce support, all-day wear, separation with support, and easy on/off capability.
Also important, is locking in on the right size. While this may sound simple enough, wearing clothing that doesn’t fit properly is one of the biggest fashion faux pas women make, and this is never more true than when buying a bra. What many of us don’t realize is that our regular clothing size is really only a guideline. Find a sports bra you like in the size you think you are, but before you head into the dressing room also grab the same bra in a size smaller and one a size larger, and try on all three before deciding if it’s right or wrong for you.
How do you know that your sports bra is a good fit? Do the jump test! Though it may seem silly, test out the bra in the dressing room by jumping around to make sure the bra is secure and that there is little breast movement. If the back of the bra should ride up then a smaller size is needed. The bra should be comfortable around the armpits and not cut into the skin. If the bra is too tight it will cause discomfort and will be unpleasant to wear.
Unlike your favorite workout shirt (which you’ve affectionately been wearing for over a decade), your favorite sports bra has a much shorter lifespan. The elasticity of your average sports bra will last about 6 months or endure 30-40 machine washes. With wear and continual washes, the fabric of the bra will eventually lose its functionality. If you want your sports bra to last longer, hand washing and hanging to dry is best. Just remember: retiring a sports bra isn’t a bad thing. Just think of it as another excuse to go shopping!