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Best Sports Bras of 2020
Whether you run, take an aerobics class, or rock climb, a sports bra with proper support will leave you free to focus on your workout. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best sports bra that will stand up to your next exercise session.
Your Guide to the Best Sports Bras
A good sports bra will keep you comfortable during even the most vigorous exercise session. Whether you hit the running trail, dance up a sweat in Zumba class, or rock climb in the desert, a sports bra with proper support will leave you free to focus on your workout.
With so many sports bras available, finding the one that best fits your needs can be confusing. You have to take into account your bra size, your exercise level, and your style.
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For everything you need to know about sports bras, including the correct way to take your measurements for the best fit, you've come to the right place.
Proper Size and Fit is Crucial for Sports Bras
A supportive sports bra is an essential part of your workout. Not only can a lack of support be uncomfortable or even painful, but leaving your girls unsupported during an exercise can cause their suspending ligaments to weaken and stretch, leading to unwanted sagging. Before buying a sports bra, however, you have to know your correct bra size.
The same size from different manufacturers might fit very differently, so take your measurements before you buy.
- When measuring for a sports bra, stand in front of a mirror in your best-fitting regular bra, one with no padding or compression.
- Use a measuring tape to find the measurement across the fullest part of your bust. Make sure the tape measure is flat across your back, and hold the tape firmly but not tight. Write this number down.
- Now, measure right underneath your breasts, where your bra band rests. This number is your band size. For this measurement, pull the measuring tape fairly tight. Again, make sure the tape measure is flat across your back. Write down your result. Don't add four extra inches to this measurement as is often advised; that is based on old standards before elastic was used in bras. Add one inch to your measurement if it is an odd number. For example, if your result is 31 inches, write down 32.
- To find your cup size, subtract your band size from your breast measurement. If the difference is one inch, you are an A cup. Two inches equals a B cup, three inches is a C cup, and so forth. For example, if you measured 36 inches across your bust and 32 inches underneath, your bra size is 32D. Don't be surprised if your results indicate a band size smaller than what you are currently wearing and a cup size larger. Many women wear bras that don't fit properly, in large part due to old rules about adding inches during measurement.
Your properly fitted sports bra will not ride up in back, will not bunch or wrinkle over the cups, will not slip off your shoulders, and won't cut into or squeeze your breasts.
What is a Compression Sports Bra?
There are three basic types of sports bras, and the best type for you depends on your bra size.
Compression Sports Bras
This is the most common type and gives support by compressing the breasts tightly against the chest, minimizing movement. Though compression sports bras come in all sizes, they are best only for those who wear an A or B cup. This style usually pulls over the head without fasteners. Many compression sports bras are racerbacks, but there are also compression sports bras with traditional shoulder straps or crisscross straps that look trendy under a low-back exercise tank.
Compression/Encapsulation Sports Bras
These sports bras separate the breasts but also compress them against the chest for support. This is the best type for women who wear a C or D cup. Most compression/encapsulation sports bras have a fastener in front, a zipper or a clasp. Racerback or traditional shoulder straps are both common with this type of sports bra.
Encapsulation Sports Bras
Both breasts are individually supported in this type of sports bra, which is most like an everyday bra. Encapsulation sports bras are best for women with a D or larger cup size, and they usually have underwire for additional support. The fastener might be in the front or the back. Most have shoulder straps like a regular bra but some have racerbacks.
Choose Sports Bras Based on Your Exercise Level
Once you know your bra size and best type of sports bra, consider the impact level of your favorite forms of exercise. Some sports bras are designed specifically for high-impact exercise, with wider straps, heavier fabric, and a tighter fit. These sports bras provide maximum support that is especially important for women with large cup sizes, but they also keep smaller chests comfortable during vigorous workouts.
Low-impact exercise includes:
- Weight training
- Road cycling
- Rock climbing
Medium-impact exercise includes:
- Power walking
High-impact exercise includes:
- Mountain biking
- Step or high-impact aerobics
- Horseback riding
Extra Details: What Else to Consider When Buying Sports Bras
Breathability is important in a sports bra. Fabrics that wick sweat away from the skin will keep you cool and comfortable, as well as stop chafing or skin irritation. Because of this, 100 percent cotton is a poor choice for a sports bra. Look for blends of high-tech synthetics made for workout wear, such as Supplex, Lycra, spandex, CoolMax, or polyester with a touch of cotton for comfort.
The two most common strap styles for sports bras are traditional shoulder straps or racerback straps. Both can usually be worn with no need for an additional top. Racerback sports bras give more support to women with larger breasts or during high-impact exercise, and they leave the shoulders completely unencumbered.
Some sports bras have a light layer of padding, particularly around the bottom of the cups. This provides extra support and cuts down on bounce during high-impact activities.
Your choice of colors and patterns for sports bras is almost limitless. Black is always a good basic choice, but if you prefer primary colors, super-brights, geometric patterns, or neutrals, you can find those, too. If you plan to wear your sports bra without a top, look for opaque colors or sports bras with eye-catching designs.
Many sports bras, particularly those for high-impact exercise, fasten with a zipper in the front. This makes it very easy to put the sports bra on and take it off, even when you're sweaty.
While many sports bras simply pull over the head and have no clasp in the back or front, larger cup sizes fare better with a clasp.
As a general rule, the more support, the higher the price, but you can find good sports bras at any price point. Many low-impact sports bras cost less than $20. Good-quality high-impact sports bras are generally in the $25 to $40 range. You'll pay more for premium brands, as well as trendy designs and elaborate straps.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Sports Bras
- Take your sports bra off as soon as possible once your exercise session is over so it can air out and the fabric can dry. This also prevents skin irritation underneath the sports bra's band.
- It's best to wash your sports bras by hand with gentle detergent, but if you must wash them in the washing machine, use cold water and always line dry.
- If you exercise on a regular basis and usually do high-impact activities like running, plan to replace your sports bras annually. The elastic breaks down over time, lowering the support of the sports bra.
- If you lose or gain a significant amount of weight, you will likely need to replace your sports bras with a different size. Be sure to measure before buying a new sports bra.
Q. Can I wear the same sports bra for different activities?
A. That depends on the intensity of the activities. If you run and also take Zumba classes, for example, the same high-impact sports bra is fine for both. But if you wear a low-impact sports bra for yoga, you'll need a high-impact sports bra for days you do high-impact exercises like kickboxing.
Q. My breasts aren't large. Can I wear my regular bra for exercising?
A. If you're engaging in a low-impact exercise like walking or yoga, you can wear your regular bra, as long as you're comfortable and don't feel like your breasts are bouncing or unsupported. But if you wear a cup size larger than B, you'll likely feel best with the superior support and reduced bounce of a sports bra, even for low-impact exercise.
Q. How often do I need to wash my sports bra?
A. If you let your sports bra air out and dry in between exercise sessions, you can generally wear the sports bra up to three times before it should be washed. Don't go beyond that, however; bacteria multiply on sweaty fabric, and your sports bra will start to smell funky if left unwashed too long.