A guide to buying a sports bra

1. Why does your bra matter?

Any kind of exercise, particularly high-impact fitness like HIIT, running or tennis, places tension on the supporting muscles of your breasts, so it’s important to take the time to have a professional fitting.

Fit is doubly important for new mothers and women who are breastfeeding should avoid tight-fitting sports bras. One that’s too tight can lead to milk ducts becoming pinched or blocked, which could lead to an infection further down the line.

If you have breast implants, it’s in your best interest to wear a sports bra during workouts to prevent scar tissue from tearing.

2. How can I tell if there’s something wrong with my current sports bra?

No matter what size you are, a sports bra that fits incorrectly can totally ruin your workout and affect your health. Here are some tell-tale signs your sports bra is the wrong fit:

The band rides up in the back, or you’re using the tightest hook – This shows the bra is either too large or stretched out, which means it won’t provide proper support, even if the straps are intact.

The straps dig into your skin – While strap style is a personal preference, straps shouldn’t hurt. If they do cause pain, it’s because the band isn’t offering enough support.

It’s made of cotton – Special technical fabrics are designed to support the breast and wick away moisture, while cotton just stretches out and sops up sweat (ick!). Seek out sweat-wicking fabric with air holes, ideally under the breast and across the back.

There’s spillage when you bend over – Do a downward facing dog in the dressing room. If it ends in a nip slip, the bra isn’t for you.

You’re stuck in it – A sports bra should come off as easily as it goes on. If you struggle to remove it when you’re clean and dry, think about how uncomfortable you’ll be when in a sweat after a workout.

3. What makes a good professional fitting?

To find out your correct sports bra size, remove your top but keep your bra on. Have a professional fitter measure you around the smallest part of your lower bust, where the band sits and round up or down to the nearest even number.

Then, measure the fullest part of your bust. Go through a letter for each inch of difference and you’ve found your cup size. Beware of the stores who are just after the sale; they’ll tell you you’re whatever size they go up to, thus doing you a major disservice.

4. How should the bra feel?

Research has shown breast tissue can move up to 15 cm while running, tracing a figure-eight pattern. So, when it comes to a sports bra, you need to find one that offers good support in every direction.

Roughly 80 percent of women wear incorrect sizes, which is probably due to bras being adjusted to fit the cup and ignoring the band size. The band of your sports bra should sit where the band of your everyday bra does, firmly around your chest at an even level.

Cup sizes are not scientific measures, so it’s important to follow these rules to make sure you are getting them right.

Your shoulder straps should provide support without digging in or leaving marks. You should be able to set the hooks on the loosest setting when you first begin wearing your bra, so you can tighten it as it begins to naturally lose elasticity.

5. Should I pick my sports bra by activity?

Most sports bras are designed to provide three general levels of support, namely low, medium and high.

Low-support bras are best for low-impact activities like walking, yoga and strength training; medium-support is suitable for brisk walking, rollerblading and cycling; high-support is designed for sports like running and aerobics.

Compression style bras do not have cups and are usually worn by pulling them over your head. The structure of it compresses the breasts against the body to limit movement.

This type is usually more suitable for smaller breasts, or for low to moderate impact workouts. If you have augmented breasts, avoid this style, which may squeeze implants unnecessarily.

Encapsulation designs have individual cups surrounding each breast and providing shape. Women with larger breasts or those doing high impact sports should go for encapsulation because it offers maximum support.

6. When should I upgrade?

Just like all bras, sports bras stretch out over time and it’s recommended they’re replaced after four to six months, depending on the frequency of wear and quality of care.

Have a bounce up and down in the mirror every month to check if the fabric has lost some of its elasticity, if the cups are rippling (a sign they’re too big) or whether the band shifts as you move.

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