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6 questions you should ask when buying a sports bra

Posted on January 9, 2019

The key to winning workout-wear is a combination of comfort and quality. Many of us want sweat-resistant materials, which also provide adequate support to help us perform at our best.

This is no truer than when it comes to your sports bra, but with the global market and international sales rising, so too does the range of options available.

With so much variety it can be confusing to know exactly what you need from a sports bra.

Here are our top tips for finding the perfect fit:

Why your sports bra matters

Exercise takes its toll on your breasts, with anything from HIIT and running to more gentle sports having an impact. Left unsupported, you could end up damaging the soft tissue that supports your breasts, which is why finding a well-fitting sports bra is so important.

Fit is even more crucial for new mothers and women who are breastfeeding. It’s important to get a professional fitting when returning to the gym after birth, as a sports bra that is too tight-fitting, can sometimes pinch or block milk ducts, and even lead to an infection.

Similarly, if you have breast implants make sure you’re always supported when exercising, to stop scar tissue tearing.

How you know there’s something wrong with your sports bra

An ill-fitting sports bra not only makes your workout painful but can cause health problems.

So, what are the signs you need a new one?

You’re on the tightest hook

When you first start wearing a new sports bra it should provide support on the loosest hook, as they lose elasticity over time, so that’s when you should start to tighten it.

Fit for any activity

Breasts move anywhere from 4cm to 15cm during exercise, so it’s important to choose a well-fitted sports bra to minimise painful movement. The problem is, most women wear the wrong bra size, or the wrong fit for their level of activity.

Sports bras come in low to high-impact support levels. Low-impact sports bras provide enough support for activities like yoga, while medium and high-impact bras keep you covered for more intense exercise like cross-training or running.

Depending on the size of your breasts, the level of support you require from your sports bra may differ. Smaller breasts may be supported by a compression bra, while larger breasts may need an encapsulation bra to prevent painful squeezing.

Encapsulation bras provide individual cupped support for each breast, with a more natural fitting shape to prevent tightness or pinching.

Time for a change?

Sports bras don’t last forever. Just like normal bras, they stretch over time and fail to provide the necessary support. One way to check if it’s time to replace yours is to check in the mirror to see if you’re getting enough support when you bounce up and down or move from side to side.

If you are active and wear a sports bra regularly, you should replace it every four to six months.

If the band is riding up your back, or you’re using the tightest hook, it’s a sign that your sports bra’s too big and isn’t providing proper support.

The straps are digging into your skin

How you wear your straps is down to you, but they should never hurt. If they do, it means your band’s not giving you enough support.

It’s cotton

Cotton sports bras don’t deal well with sweat. Unlike special technical fabrics which wick away moisture, cotton simply stretches and soaks up the sweat. So, look for a bra with air holes under the breast and across the back.

You’re in…and out

Give your sports bra the downward dog test. If you’re spilling out, you need a bra with greater support. However, it shouldn’t be so tight that taking it off becomes a tricky task. Find one you can easily slip on and off.

Get a professional fit

To find a perfect fitting sports bra, it’s important to get a professional fitting. Strip down to just your bra and make sure you’re measure around your rib cage – where the band would sit – and note the nearest even number.

Next, have measured the fullest part of your bust and count a letter for each inch of difference to find your cup size. Knowing your true size will help you find a perfect fit.

How your bra should feel

Your sports bra should fit pretty much like your normal bra, with the band tightly around your rib cage and firmly around the breasts. If it fits right, it shouldn’t dig or leave marks on your skin.