If you possess two X chromosomes and have undertaken a form of physical activity at some point, you’ve probably also logged some time in fitting rooms attempting the exhausting gymnastics of trying on sports bras. And if you’re the average woman, it’s likely your level of affection for the humble sports bra falls somewhere in the lukewarm territory: at best, it does its job; at worst, it’s an excruciating device that requires Houdini-level escape artistry to get out of (especially after a tough upper-body workout). But lo! There actually are sports bras out there that keep everything in place (even during burpees) and — bonus! — don’t resemble ancient torture devices or straight jackets. Finding them just takes a little finesse. We chatted with Donna Burke, Director of Operations at Atlanta Activewear, for tips on how to find the right sports bra for you.
Find out your correct bra size — for real.
This crucial first step may sound totally obvious, but it’s frequently overlooked. According to Donna, most women are sporting the wrong bra size because they got measured in high school and have not been remeasured since. If you were rocking braces and scrunchies the last time you got measured, it might be time to revisit those numbers. You can do this by going to a specialty store (somewhere like Atlanta Activewear, Fleet Feet Sports, Big Peach Running Co., or Intimacy, not Victoria’s Secret) and asking for a measurement, or do it yourself by following the instructions on Donna’s blog. “The majority of the support comes from the band of the bra, not the straps,” Donna tells us. “The fit plays a huge roll.”
Larger chest? Less room for error.
Women with larger chests need to know their exact bra size and shop for bras that are cup-size specific, Donna says. “They also need to have a full understanding of the exercise they are participating in and whether they need a low-impact, medium-impact, or high-impact sports bra.” Busty gals doing high-impact activity should also note that there won’t be quite as many “fashionable” options available to them. Luckily, we’re pretty sure no one’s judging the trendiness of your workout wear in the gym — and if they are, who truly cares?
Think less about style and color, more about brand, quality, and fit.
Unless your trainer is named Miss J, there’s no reason to sacrifice good quality, fit, and comfort for trendy styles or flashy colors. “You need to look for bras that are customizable to your size, like Moving Comfort bras, which have adjustable straps to fit your shoulder height,” Donna says. Moving Comfort is the number-one brand in the industry and Donna recommends both the Juno and Fiona styles. Oh, and try to resist the temptation of those alluringly cheap bras from a certain big-box store. “Target bras are not acceptable for running or high-impact sports,” adds Donna. “They just aren’t made for it.”
Once you find it, take good care of it.
Donna recommends laying bras flat to dry, since the heat of the dryer will make the elastic wear out faster. Oh, and know when to say goodbye: depending on how frequently you use it, your sports bra should be replaced about every three to six months, as the elastic wears out (read: becomes less effective) over time. Trust us: You don’t want to learn this the hard way.