For bra-wearing runners, finding the right fit in a sports bra should be as important as finding the right fit in a shoe. Unfortunately for many of us, first-time 5k-ers to veteran marathoners alike, the sports bra often goes overlooked. Around 80% of women are in the wrong bra size. Check out these seven indicators that it’s time to hit the fitting room again.
There is a certain level of discomfort inherent in exercise – if there weren’t more people would do it! Breast pain, however, is not something you just have to muscle through. A properly-fitted sports bra designed for your activity level will minimize the movement of breast tissue, alleviating the pain and strain.
If each step hurts and you’re in danger of knocking an eye out every time you run, it's likely your bra is either too big, or it’s not designed for high impact activities. Either scenario will allow too much movement, straining the structural lligaments in the breast and causing pain.
Most of a bra’s support comes from the band, fitted just under the breasts. If there’s a gap between the band and your body, or you can easily fit more than two fingers under the band of your bra, it’s not doing its job. The cups should also fit completely flush against your skin, with no gaps; if you can pinch excess fabric over your bust you need a smaller cup size.
More often with sports bras, people err of the side of too tight. However, it’s not just for vanity’s sake that you should avoid the dreaded quad boob; a too-small sports bra can hinder breathing (have you ever tried running when you can’t breathe?) and spillover means you have breast tissue that isn’t being supported.
Your bra, when new, should fit snugly on the first (widest) row of hooks. The material will stretch out with use, and as it does you’ll have room to adjust down.
It’s not because your bust is just “too heavy.” If your straps leave dents in your shoulders even after you’ve adjusted them, or if you need to cinch the straps down as tightly as possible to feel supported, it’s likely your band is too big, leaving your bra straps to do all the work.
If the band feels great but your shoulders still hurt, opt for crossback or racerback styles, or look for bras with padded shoulder straps.
We know that size inconsistency is everywhere, and it’s no different for sports bras. Different cuts or materials can mean you’re a 36C in one bra but a 34D in another. Sometimes it takes a fair amount of trial and error in the dressing room to find the right size(s) in several different styles. Unless you’ve worn that exact style before and are sure of the size, take the time to try on a few sizes adjacent to your “usual” size.
This is not a strict rule, and there are plenty of high-quality sports bras that come in small-medium-large sizing. But unless you are the dress form on which those sizes are produced, you’ll get a more precise fit, and thus better support, from a sports bra with traditional band and cup sizes.
The life of a sports bra is about six months to a year. After a year of sweating, washing, the material is stretched and worn, and it can’t provide the same level of support.
As for that bra you found in the back of the drawer that you only wore a couple of times three years ago: unless you’re using witchcraft, your body has probably changed. Donate that old bra to a women’s shelter and get measured for a new one.