How to Choose the Right Sports Bra

The right sports bra is just as important as the right shoes for how you move, and knowing how to choose the style and fit that aligns with your activities is essential to being comfortable, confident, and able to perform your best. Here’s why comfortable and supportive sports bras matter, and how to go about finding the best one for you and your workout needs.

Why the Right Sports Bra is a Must for your Bust

Too often, women are wearing bras that are old, not the right size, or not the right kind, and that’s not good! Breasts are supported by skin and what’s called Cooper’s ligaments which can easily stretch without proper protection. This can result in irreversible sagging, as well as breast, back, and neck pain. Luckily, there is a simple way to sidestep these issues: Find a sports bra with the right support and fit, in a style that’s comfortable, and works for how you workout! Don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think. In fact, it’s as easy as 1-2-3!  

Step 1: Consider Compression vs. Encapsulation

There are basically two different types of sports bras – one that probably sounds familiar called compression and another called encapsulation (sure, it’s a word you don’t hear every day, but we’ll explain). The type of bra that is best for you depends on cup size and the support you need for the way you move.

Compression Sports Bras

Compression bras work exactly as the name suggests – they compress your breasts, holding them together and close to your body, minimizing movement during exercise. This type of sports bra is: 

  • Typically pullover style
  • Intended to fit snugly
  • Best for light to medium support needs
  • Ideal for small to medium (A-C) cup sizes, or…
  • A good option for those with larger busts doing low-impact activities

Encapsulation Sports Bras

This type of sports bra has molded cups that keep breasts separated but secure, kind of like how your standard everyday bra fits only with a higher level of support. These limit all-around movement and usually:

  • Have adjustable bands and straps
  • Provide underwire support
  • Are best suited for high-impact activities
  • Are recommended for larger (D+) cup sizes 

Step 2: Match Impact with Activity 

You’ve likely noticed on sports bra tags the terms high-, medium-, or low-impact. This refers to the amount of support provided corresponding to the level of movement and impact of the activity. The more impact on your body, the more support you need. Makes sense, right?

High-Impact Exercise = Highest Amount of Support 

Running and any exercise that requires jumping are examples of high-impact activities since they involve big movements, direct force with the ground, and inevitably some bouncing. We like to say, bounce is only good when it’s in your step, so a highly supportive sports bra is needed for high-impact activities to ensure that the only bouncing going on involves your feet!

Shop High Support Sports Bras 

Medium-Impact Exercise = (You guessed it!) Medium Support

Activities like hiking, low-intensity aerobics, or strength training still require a bra to be supportive, but since these types of exercises have a lower impact than running and jumping, less support is needed than that provided by high-impact options. At the same time, more support is needed than is for low-impact activities. These bras meet you in the middle.

Shop Medium Support Sports Bras

Low-Impact Exercise = Light Support

Exercise is considered low-impact if it has little direct force on your body and involves minimally intense movements – think yoga or walking. Because movement and impact is low, only light support is needed. 

Shop Low Support Sports Bras

Now, odds are  you enjoy more than one activity, which means (ding, ding, ding!) you need more than one sports bra! We’ll go into that more later, but first, let’s talk fit. 

Step 3: Find the Right Sports Bra Fit

Sports bras that are too loose are not able to provide proper support. On the other hand, bras that are too tight make it tough to breathe and can rub you the wrong way — literally! You need a bra that fits just right and offers the right support for the way you move, but how can you be sure? Well, follow these tips to get the perfect fit, so you can focus on your workout and not the uncomfortable bra you’re wearing. 

  • Make sure the bra covers the entirety of your breasts – there should be no gapping, bulging, or falling out in any direction, including the sides and tops of cups.
  • If you can fit more than two fingers sideways under the band, the bra is too big.
  • If the band rides up when raising your hands above your head, this is another sign you need to downsize.
  • The band should lie flat and not feel restrictive. You should be able to take a deep breath without the band feeling tight around your ribs.
  • Straps should also lie flat and feel secure but not dig in — if getting out of your bra takes some major acrobatics, or your bra leaves behind its imprint on your body, it’s not right – it’s too tight!
  • If there are multiple sets of clasps, make sure you purchase the bra with it clasped on the outermost hooks — you can always go tighter if need be, but you can’t go looser!

Caring for Your Sports Bra Correctly

You can get the most out of your sports bra by caring for it properly and knowing when it’s time to replace it. Here are some sports bra basics to ensure you not only have the right bra, but it’s also able to keep doing its job (and doing it well).

  • Sports bras should never celebrate birthdays! Retire old bras yearly to avoid stretched out bands and straps that lose their ability to provide support.
  • It’s a good idea, as mentioned earlier, to have bras of varying support appropriate for varying activities and impact. 
  • Make your bras last by purchasing multiple bras (on the loosest setting) for longer wear (and less laundering!) A good rule of thumb is the rule of three: Have at least one to wear, one in the wash, and one to spare.
  • Speaking of laundry…ideally, it’s best to wash sports bras by hand with mild soap and water. If you do machine wash your bra, use the delicate cycle, gentle detergent, and a lingerie bag. Oh, and no matter what, skip the dryer! Air dry your sports bras flat to avoid shrinking and loss of shape and elasticity.

Get the Right Sports Bra at Gazelle Sports

You know what they say, if the bra fits…okay that’s not really the saying, but what’s true for shoes is true for sports bras too — having the right type and fit for your needs is essential to preventing injury and comfortably moving however you like. So, guess what? Not only do we offer free, personal shoe fittings, but we provide complimentary bra fittings, too! 

Can’t make it into the store? No worries. You can still purchase online with confidence – if the sports bra you ordered isn’t working for you and how you move, you can return or exchange it within 30-days, free of charge. That means, when you shop sports bras at Gazelle Sports, you can feel safe, secure, supported, and confident – in more ways than one! 

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