No matter your cup size, if your sports bra doesn’t show up to your workouts with support and comfort, you can bet your bottom dollar you’re in for red marks and a sore back.

That said, wearing the right sports bra is more than just a cute design. The goal is to find a sports bra that works with your body, not against it, as gravity and motion are already doing so.

From running to box jumps, HIIT to jumping rope, the bra you choose to support your chest, makes all the difference in each and every workout.

The Job Description of a Good Sports Bra

A sports bra serves a few purposes, “To support the breasts for high impact movement so they are not moving around too much and feel uncomfortable, and to provide moisture wicking so that you can work out and not become too hot and sweaty,” says Theresa Marko, board-certified clinical specialist in orthopaedic physical therapy, and CEO and owner of Marko Physical Therapy.

The right sports bra should also provide support to your back (thoracic spine), via the compression it gives to your upper torso. “One needs to feel comfortable and supported so that they can focus on their exercise and or activity, and not be preoccupied with how their body is feeling uncomfortable,” says Marko. In short, a sports bra needs to: support, wick sweat, comfortably compress, and feel good on your body.

Because sports bra sizing is inconsistent across different brands, following these tips, (along with trying on several different sports bras) will help you narrow down the best-fitting sports bra for you!

Women trying on different sports bras

How to Find the Best Sports Bra for Your Body

  • Sizing matters: Getting the correct size is very important. “Measure the width of your chest under the breasts to know how many inches this is,” explains Marko. This measurement is the traditional “34, 36, 38” etc. in bra sizes. It will be helpful to know for sports bras as well. Sports bras can go by cup sizing like traditional bras or they can go by an S, M, L, or XL sizing. “If it goes by the letter sizing, there will generally be a fit guide with the inches around the chest to match the sizing, Marko says. That said, it’s best to use a tape measure to find your true chest size.
  • Consider the activity for compression needs: Different activities require different compression levels. “Do you want high compression (think tight for jumping and running), medium compression (think going to the gym), or low compression (think relaxing at home or doing some yoga)?” Marko asks. “Most stores now like Gap, Athleta, Lululemon have the high-compression, medium-compression, to low-compression sports bras so you can choose the one that is right for you,” she says
  • Material: In considering the materials, (besides compression), think of the fabric feel. “Do you want the elastic stretch, do you want the smooth silky second-skin feel, or do you want the gentle cotton feel?” asks Marko. Being comfortable in your bra via the material is just as important as the other job requirements of a good sports bra.

Sweat-wicking material is a bonus as well: If you’re going to sweat, go for a material that shows up to work and fights moisture.

  • Strap style: There are as many strap styles as there are bras today—which is a good thing. Trying on a variety of bras with varied strap styles will help you gauge what works best for you. Opting for adjustable straps is a no-brainer as it allows you to adjust to your individual body. “Consider how the straps will make your neck feel,” Marko says Will the straps dig in? “Think of your shoulder and neck health,” she encourages.

Although the crisscross style straps do feel very supportive as this type of sports bra holds you snuggly in, Marko warns that “something to consider with this type of bra is that you definitely don’t want it too tight because the straps can dig into your muscles in your neck (upper traps) and feel really uncomfortable, causing pain, and possibly headaches.”

  • Consider Shoulder Health: If you have shoulder problems like impingement or have had trauma at the shoulders, Marko suggests that “perhaps you need a sports bra that opens to the front so that you do not have to contort your shoulder in a weird way which might aggravate it.”

The same applies to those who have larger breasts – an open-in-the-front bra makes it easier getting putting on and taking off.

The easiest way to find a sports bra that best suits your body and activity is, once you know your size and are ready to buy, take your time trying a variety of brands one. Move freely in them, stretch, do a few jumping jacks, anything that will let you know this is the fit for you!

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