How to Choose the Right Sports Bra

HowToChoose MH

Our Nifty Little Guide to Finding the Perfect Fit

You know the importance of proper fit when it comes to your running footwear. That’s why you do your research to choose the right running shoes. You also understand one pair of running shoes won’t last forever, which is why you replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles.

Do you approach your sports bra the same way? It’s OK, don’t feel bad if you don’t. A lot of women underestimate the value of a properly-fitting bra when it comes to supporting the girls. But, it’s time that ended ... because wearing the right bra is essential no matter your size, activity, or shape. Wearing an ill-fitting bra has the potential to not only create breast pain mid activity, but it could also cause long-term damage.

What’s more, like shoes, sports bras don’t last forever. Every time you wear and wash your sports bra, the elastic stretches. Given that the elastic in the band is often the most supportive part of the bra, that's a pretty big deal. If you participate in a moderate amount of physical activity a week (four days of running, for example), you should aim to replace your sports bra every six to eight months. Want to increase your bra’s life? Buy a few at once, so you always have one on hand to wear that’s clean, one in the wash, and one to spare.

To help you prepare, here's our step-by-step guide to finding the right fit. While it may sound intimidating, we also recommend working with a fit expert. Most women don’t know what size bra they should be wearing! So, chances are, if you haven’t ever been fitted for a sports bra, you’re probably running in the wrong size. At best, this is slightly uncomfortable and, at worst, it can damage breast tissue.

A woman wearing a sports bra while running

Gather a few measurements

A sports bra sizing chart

To find the optimal size, use a measuring tape to assist you with the following measurements. You’ll also need to do a tiny bit of math.

1. Find your band size. Take the measurement just above your breasts. Round down to the nearest whole number and record the measurement.

2. Your bust. Simple as it sounds, measure around the fullest part of your bust. Record that number, too.

3. Find your cup size. Now for a little math: Subtract the two measurements. The difference in inches translates to your cup size (see chart to the left).

Understand the type of bra you need based on your activity level and impact

Your activity determines your level of support.

Sports bras come in several categories: low support or low impact, medium support or medium impact, and high support or high impact. As you might guess, a low-impact sports bra is ideal for squats at the gym or a hot yoga class. A medium-impact sports bra works well for hiking and cycling. However, many smaller-chested women will have no problem performing high-impact activities (like running) in a medium-impact sports bra. And, for the majority of women out there, a high-impact sports bra is ideal for running, mountain biking, dancing, and other intense cardio activities.

Breast size determines the type of support you need.

Bras come with a variety of support options ranging from encapsulation to combined compression and encapsulation. Not sure what you need? No problem.

1. Encapsulation bras are ideal for low-impact activities. Individual cups support breasts separately in encapsulation bras. This offers minimal breast support. (Everyday bras are often purely encapsulation bras.)

2. Compression bras are ideal for medium-impact activities. Compression sports bras work by compressing the breasts to prevent movement. Most compression bras don’t have hook and clasp closure. Instead, they’re easily pulled over the head.

3. Combined compression and encapsulation bras are ideal for high-impact activities. Just as the name suggests, these bras offer a combined support system that makes them ideal for running.

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