Sports Bra 101: A Guide to Importance, Types, Fit, and Care

You’ve been into working out forever and you love all different kinds of exercise. You’ve had an ongoing relationship with the same five sports bras forever, and you’re not completely convinced they need to be replaced… ever. Realistically, with regular use, a sports bra can be replaced approximately every six months. While that’s probably more often than you switch out any of the other items in your closet, your body will thank you for the support. Quality, type, fit, and care are all factors to consider when selecting the right sports bra for you.

What’s Your Type?

Different kinds of sports bras are made from all sorts of material to suit low, medium, and high impact activities. Low impact involves minimal bounce, like walking or yoga. Medium impact activities might include dance classes and biking, while high impact would refer to running and jump-roping. Click here to learn more about different impact levels. You may even invest in a variety of different materials if you do lots of diverse activities during a typical week.

Sports bras function through two types of movement: compression and encapsulation. Compression is typically best for smaller cup sizes, and helps to press breasts closer to the chest to minimize bouncing and discomfort. Encapsulation involves separate cups for each breast, and cups each of them securely so that they stay separated and cushioned. The latter typically works best for larger bust sizes, including C cups and up. Once you decide upon the type of sports bra you’d like, then you can move on to fit.

How Do You Measure Fit?

The band and straps of a sports bra should be secure enough that only two fingers can fit between you and the bra. Most athletic bra bands are relatively thick to offer the most support possible. Straps might cross in the back, come over shoulders like a tank top, or form an “X” racer-back. Depending on your preference, you may find more support in thicker straps. Most women wear the wrong size sports bra and should opt for a smaller band size. When in doubt, ask a professional at a retail store for help with measuring and fit.

How Do You Best Care for a Sports Bra?

Keep your sports bras out of the dryer. The heat can break down elastic fibers in the bra and result in a shorter shelf life. Keeping heat away from the garment whenever possible is a good idea; wash them in cool water with mild detergent rather than warm water with bleach or other harsh chemicals. Replace them when you’re able to fit more than two fingers between you and the garment, which can vary in time frame depending on how often you wear them and what sort of activities you use them for.

Understanding the importance of type, fit, care, and importance of sports bras will help you to make informed decisions about the best ones to suit your individual lifestyle and fitness routine. Remember to check for snugness and to replace them when needed so that your body stays as healthy as possible.