For women, the right sports bra is often the most important piece of gear no matter what sport you do. But because the requirements for running are different than those of yoga, or cycling, or Zumba, it’s hard to find one bra that works for everything you want to do. That’s why I have about 20 sports bras in my closet (I know, I know) and I’m not alone: When I polled my female friends I found that most had somewhere between 3 and 30+ sports bras (no joke!).
But it is possible to cull that number at least a little. LaJean Lawson, PhD, a sports and exercise expert who has consulted sports bra makers for a couple of decades, suggests trying on a sports bra before buying it so you don’t get strapped with a not-quite-right bra. (Ordering several from a shop with a liberal return policy works too!) Before committing, put your over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder through this series of tests:
- The bend over: Lean forward and see if your cleavage spills over the top. This is ultra important in yoga, which has a ton of upside down poses, but spillover can also be an indication that the bra doesn’t fit right and won’t contain your assets during jumping and running.
- The bounce: Jump up and down and watch your reflection in the mirror. If your cleavage moves more than one inch up and down this isn’t the right level or support or size for you.
- The arm swing: Pump your arms back and forth as if you were running. Feel any friction between your underarm and the side of your bra? Skip it if so; underarm chafing can be a real problem in any sport.
- The back press: Lean against the wall of your dressing room, pressing your back flat against the wall. If there’s a fastener in the back of the bra does it poke or otherwise irritate your mid back? If so, this bra might be a bad fit for anything that requires lying down, such as Pilates or stretching.
- The breath test: If you’ve passed all of the above, take a few deep breaths. If your bra holds you in place without any rubbing or chafing and it still allows you to take full deep breaths you’ve probably found a winner!
Here are 3 of my favorite bra brands that make bras to fit every size and sport:
Moving Comfort: This brand sizes most bras by cup size, with options ranging from A to E! The website offers a sports bra finder to help you find the right style and fit; Moving Comfort bras are also available at several sports retail stores, including REI and Athleta. My current favorite is the Juno.
Under Armour: Men swear by this fitness brand but they have a great women’s line too. Under Armour offers dozens of sports bra styles which are arranged on the site by low impact, medium impact, and high impact. The bras are also sold in sporting stores like Dick’s and Sports Authority. My current favorite is the Women’s Armour Bra.
Champion: Champion is the budget brand on this list—it’s largely sold by Target and Kohls—and their bras are a good $10 to $25 cheaper than most. But the bras are sturdy and stylish so they’re definitely worth giving a try. Sizes range from 32A to 42DDD (some sizes are only available on the Champion website). My current favorite is The Smoothie High Support Sports Bra.