It is the holy grail for many active women, finding the perfect sports bra! One that fits, supports and is oh so comfortable. And when you do, wow, you have reached workout nirvana!
In your search for the perfect sports bra, where do you start? I have put together a list of checks to work through that will guide you to this holiest of grails. Work through my list and find the path to exercise bliss!
The four foundations of a great sports bra are support, size, fit and comfort. If you get all four right, you know you have found the perfect sports bra for you.
Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Getting the right Support
Let’s face it the right sports bra starts with support. If it doesn’t support you, it’s not doing its job.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is ‘what activity am I going to wear this bra for?’. You will need a completely different bra for yoga than you would for running. One is low impact needing minimal support. The other is high/extreme impact requiring maximum support.
Sports bra support is measured as ‘impact’. Low impact; for yoga, walking & pilates. Medium impact; cycling, gym & golf, High impact; running, horse riding & netball. Some brands measure their bras as ‘extreme impact’. This is for those that want the best support.
Once you know the bra impact level you require you can narrow your search to those bras. Let’s say you need the bra for running. As such you will be looking for high/extreme impact bras.
2. Finding Your Size
Size is the next foundation. If it isn’t the right size it may be uncomfortable and is not going to support you as it should.
Seems obvious doesn’t it, but did you know that up to 8 in 10 women wear the wrong size sports bra? Finding your size isn’t that hard. Start with a tape measure and a mirror.
You need two measurements. Your under bust, the measurement around your ribcage directly below your breasts. And your over bust, the measurement around the fullest part of your breasts. Make sure the tape is snug but not too tight and is horizontal to the ground.
Armed with your measurements check your size against a bra size calculator. There are plenty available online. You check a calculator and find you are a 16E. Time to move on to the third foundation.
3. What About Fit?
If it doesn’t fit right it is not going to support you. Let’s take a look at how the different components of your sports bra should fit.
80% of the support provided by a sports bra comes from the under band. As such it needs to be snug but not too tight. You need to be able to breathe!
A good rule of thumb is you should be able to slide two fingers under the band whilst wearing your bra. Yes? The band is a good fit. No? Try a different clasp setting or try a different size.
If you swing your arms up over your head and the band moves up your back a little, you need to fasten the band tighter or move down a band size. Little movements in the band when you are hot and sweaty is what can lead to painful chafing.
If your band provides 80% of support the straps make up most of the remaining 20%. Many women make the mistake of thinking the straps hold you up and continue to tighten their straps in the quest for more support. This can lead to unnecessary shoulder and back pain.
Like your band, your straps should be firm but not to tight. If your straps are digging into your shoulders, consider selecting a style with wider padded straps. If you are experiencing shoulder or neck pain because of your straps, consider selecting a style with a racerback to help spread the load and take some weight off your shoulders.
There should be no glass half full here. Your cups should be full but not overflowing. When you put on your bra it is a good idea to bend over slightly and use your hands to position your breast tissue into the cups. Our breast shapes differ so much that they do not always naturally fill the cup material by themselves!
Check for gaps in your cups. These are areas where your breasts do not fill. Also look for wrinkles, another sign your cups are not full. Sometimes adjusting your breast tissue or the straps solve this, but if not, you need to go down a cup size.
At the other end of the spectrum make sure you have no spillage. Cups can overflow from the top and sides but also at the bottom. Check you aren’t popping out under your band. Go up a cup size so your breast tissue is fully contained and supported.
In theory if you have the fit right then the comfort should also be good. Well, partially yes. If only it was that simple!
Bra construction varies greatly across brands and styles. Some styles have moulded cups whilst others are constructed with panels with seams. This can not only affect the feel of the bra while you are working out, but also the breast shape it provides.
Some styles have a more prominent, uplifted silhouette while other sports bra cups are smooth and rounded. This can affect both your comfort and confidence whilst wearing the bra.
Materials also play a role is comfort. Sports bras are generally made from technical fabrics that vary from brand to brand. Some brands offer super soft materials that wick sweat away from the skin to keep you cool and dry.
This increase in comfort often comes at a higher cost but it may be worth it in your quest for the perfect sports bra.
Another big factor in comfort is personal preference. What do you like?
Do you like underwire or wire free? Do you prefer padded over non-padded? Are you a regular back fan or do you only wear racerback styles?
At the end of the day you want to be comfortable, so it is often a good idea to stick with what you know you like. That said the grass may be greener in the alternative. Sports bra designs have come a long way and many things we took as gospel are no longer the case.
We once thought only underwired gave high support. Now many wire free options outperform their underwired sisters in the support department. So, if you have the opportunity don’t be afraid to try on something different and see how the bra feels.
Time to go Shopping
OK, you have worked through the four foundations above and have found you need a high impact bra in size 16E that is wire free, non-padded & racerback. Armed with this information you can now confidently go shopping for your perfect sports bra.
Any sports bra store worth its salt should have a range of options for you to try that suit your specific requirements. If not keep looking until you find one that does. Just like your sports shoes, this is one area you don’t want to compromise in. Take the time you need to ensure you find your perfect sports bra.
So, there you have it. Everything you need to know on how to find the perfect sports bra for you. Sports Bras Direct has Australia’s largest selection of sports bras in a huge range of sizes. There is also a wealth of information to help you in your search. The extensive online fitting room includes a bra size calculator and the blog is full of helpful information. If you still have questions Sports Bras Direct bra fitters are also online to help. We will have you in your perfect sports bra in no time. If you have any questions get in touch, I am happy to help. Amy x