Be the 20% Who Wear Bras That Fit With These 12 Best Sports Bras

Womens Health

The discomfort is all too real. When you wear the wrong sports bra while exercising it can be excruciating. It can have a huge impact. Despite this fact, the chances are that you haven’t given much thought to this piece in your workout gear wardrobe. That’s normal, but it has to change. If you’re ready to up your exercise regime, wearing the best sports bra is vital. Here’s everything you need to know, from why 80% of women wear ill-fitting bras, to how to find one that suits you (including a guide to plus size sports bra options!).

Why Most Women Wear the Wrong Sports Bra

Before we get started and look at the best sports bra for your body shape, it’s worth taking a brief look at the garments in general. Research from the University of Portsmouth found that half of school girls avoided taking part in sports classes as a direct result of pain or embarrassment caused by their breasts.[1] According to the study, many of the girls who took part in a lot of sports were unaware of whether they were wearing the right size.

The majority of women wear the wrong bra size

African American woman wearing trendy orange sports bra holding a cup of orange juice

As we move into adulthood, you would think that women would be more clued up about bra sizes. However, the evidence suggests otherwise. A massive 80% of women wear the wrong bra size, according to some surveys.[2] Let’s put that into perspective – the majority of women out there are wearing ill-fitted and uncomfortable bras.

When you lack the support and comfort you need, even the simplest of physical activities can feel like something of a trial. As you move, your breasts bounce, causing you pain and irritation with each movement. Needless to say, choosing the best sports bra for your shape and size is essential. Before we look at how you can find the right piece for you, it’s worth understanding why and how your size may change.

Why most women are not wearing the right size

Woman in a plain black sports bra standing against a black background

Why do so many women wear the wrong size? The truth is that there could be a variety of reasons. Everything from your weight to your hormone levels could play a role in what bra size you actually are. In fact, the average woman will see a shift in her body shape around six times in her life.[3] The reasons for this will vary greatly depending on the individual, however, the fact is that your breasts won’t stay the same time for your whole life.

What’s more, as you age,you may find that you notice even bigger changes in the way that your breasts look. After the age of 40, a drop in your hormone levels means that your breasts become less fatty and the tissue becomes less glandular.[4] Your breasts may also feel less full and firm. While these are known as healthy changes, it means that you will likely need a different bra size. The best sports bra for you depends not only on your bra size, but also the composition of your breasts.

How often should you get fitted?

Woman in pink sports bra with a measuring tape measuring her bust size to find the best sports bra for her

Finding the best sports bra is not only about choosing a reliable brand and high-quality garment, you also need to ensure that your size is correct. One of the questions that comes up time and time again is: how often should you get fitted for a sports bra? While there’s not one definitive answer to this question, you should aim to have a qualified fitter measure you around once every three months.

As your breast size can change at any point, getting regular fittings means that you will certainly stay on track. The best sports bra for you has to be one that fits you well and supports your breasts. It cannot do that if you’re wearing the wrong size for your body. The band size and the cup size are both important when choosing a sports bra. That’s because both of these elements work together to give you security and comfort.

Key Sports Bra Terms You Should Know

Looking for the best sports bra for you? Before you think about going any further, you might need a quick lesson in terminology. There are loads of words and phrases out there that describe these vital pieces of sports gear. If you’re unsure of what any of them mean, you could find that it’s hard to find the most ideal one for you.

Luckily, it doesn’t take long to have a quick rundown of the various terms and their descriptions. Here are some of the essential words that you need to know before you hit the shops and look for your dream sports bra.

Woman in teal green sports bra and grey exercise pants doing squats with dumbbells

Band size

If you’re completely new to the world of bra measurements, you need to know what the various terms mean. Your band size is the name given to the measurement that goes around your rib cage area. The size is given in inches and will let you know what sports bra you need to get. For example, if your bra size is a 34 DD, your band size would be between 29 and 31 inches.

Cup size

Of course, your cup size is a little harder to understand. The various measurements are given letters, rather than numbers. That means that they haven’t got the obvious correlation to inches that your band size has. You can find your cup size by measuring the circumference of the fullest part of your bust and then subtracting your band measurement.

For example, if your band measured at 30 inches and this new size is 35 inches, your cup size is five inches. That means that you would be a B cup. Of course, while you can measure your breasts and back at home, it’s not the most accurate way to go. Should you hope to get the best sports bra, you need to ensure that this measurement is accurate. Heading to a boutique or department store and having a fitter measure you would be safer bets.

Woman in black sports bra drinking from a blue water bottle outdoors

Encapsulation

When you start looking at various sports bras, you will see one term again and again — encapsulation. So, what does this phrase mean? It might help you to understand that almost all everyday bras as, in fact, encapsulation bras. The reason is that they have two separate cups, each of which encapsulates one of your breasts. It’s true that some of the best sports bras out there boast this particular feature.

Before you decide whether you need an encapsulation bra or not, you should consider what type of sports and activities you will be doing. These bras are ideal for low-impact activities such as yoga, walking, or even stretching exercises. They tend to offer some support and stability while giving you a natural-looking silhouette. However, they are not always durable enough for more intense or high-tempo sports.

Compression

On the other hand, compression bras don’t tend to have two separate cups. Instead, you will find that the entire bra consists of just one piece of material. True to its title, this type of bra is specifically designed to compress your breasts, i.e. hold them down. While that may sound uncomfortable, it actually has the opposite effect.

If you’re planning on engaging in high-impact training, this could be the best sports bra for you. For example, compression bras tend to work well for sports including heart pumping cardio workouts and fat-burning strength training. They are also ideal for many types of dancing, including salsa and pole dancing. Giving you an extra level of support and security, this style is ideal for activities that require fast and stealthy movements.

What’s more, should you have larger breasts, you should most certainly consider getting a compression sports bra. These make fantastic plus size sports bras as they help to decrease how much your breasts move and bounce during physical activity. Of course, getting the right size is vital to ensuring that the compression element of the bra works effectively.

Blonde woman wearing red sports bra in the gym

Combination

You hardly need to be a detective to work out what this other type of sports bra is. The combination bra offers elements from both the compression and encapsulation bras. Much of the time, these bras will have two separate cups, but will also be tight to the chest. That should mean that they restrict bounce and give you a comfortable level of security.

Sometimes, these bras will be labeled as combination (or combo) bras, while other times they might not have any term given to them at all. If you’re engaging in medium-impact sports, such a simple lower body workout or some light jogging, you might find that this versatile type is ideal for you.

Cross-back (or racerback)

The type of back your sports bra has will play a role in how supportive it is. One of the most popular styles of bra is the cross-back look. This design is just what it says on the tin – the straps are aligned in a criss-cross pattern at the back. One theory is that this extra feature adds support and structure to the bra itself. It’s worth trying on a bra that has this design to see whether it makes a major difference to the support you get.

Benefits of Wearing One

But wait a moment – why should you bother to wear a sports bra at all? If you’re new to the world of sports and working out, you may question what the purpose of this piece of gear is. The truth is that the best sports bras serve a variety of functions. Here are some of the key benefits you get when you choose an effective bra.

1. Reduced breast pain

Blonde short-haired woman smiling in light purple sports bra with earphones, an iPhone, and a water bottle after a run

Breast pain is a problem for one in three female runners according to research published in the British Medical Journal.[5]

That in itself could be a reason that some women shy away from high-impact sports, such as running, cycling, and aerobic exercise. Choosing to wear a sports bra can help to decrease any pain or discomfort that you might feel.

2. Improves posture and sports performance

fit woman in pink and black sports bra doing bicep curls in the gym

Finding a perfect-fitting one for your shape won’t only make you feel more comfortable, it could also improve your ability. Sports Medicine Australia notes that heavy breasts can pull your posture forward during exercise.[6] That leads directly to poor posture, and could hinder your performance when you’re competing. Choosing a bra that gives you the right level of support and helps to lift your breasts means that you will no longer have that problem.

3. Minimizes breast bounce rates

Woman in grey sports bra and grey pants jogging outdoors

Failing to wear the best sports bra for you could mean that your breasts bounce and move a great deal during your workout. In fact, research shows that bare breasts move up and down as much as 12cm during physical exercise such as running and jumping.[7] With that in mind, getting the support that you need is absolutely essential.

While a decent one won’t stop movement altogether, it is certain to lower its impact on your body. The same research shows that wearing a supportive bra can reduce breast bounce so that it is only between four and six centimeters. Of course, it goes without saying that the better the bra you choose, the less likely you are to have problems.

Common Problems When Trying to Buy One

If you’ve ever struggled to find the right sports bra when out shopping for one, you’re not alone. There’s a wide variety of reasons that most women wear ill-fitting bras, and it’s often down to the common problems we’ve listed below. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest bra buying issues women encounter, and learn how you can quickly and easily solve them for yourself.

It’s hard to find a plus size sports bra

Woman in grey and pink sports bra smiling and doing arm stretches

If you happen to have a large bra size, you may find that choosing a plus size sports bra is tricky. One of the biggest problems is that you will need a lot of support,but gaining it is not always easy. The key to solving this problem is to buy a bra that comes in specific bra sizings (rather than just small, medium, or large). You should also look for a compression bra that has thick straps and a thick band.

Some lead to under arm chafing

Woman in dark grey sports bra and black shorts sports bra doing arm and leg exercises with weights

One of the most common sports bra related issues that women find themselves up against is chafing. When you’re working out hard, you may find that underarm chafing is a real problem. The best thing you can do to solve this problem is to opt for a seamless bra, rather than ones with seams. Doing so will minimize your discomfort levels and means that you will be able to exercise without fearing this problem at all.

Scrimping when it comes to quality

Asian woman practicing yoga and meditation in black sports bra and yoga pants

You should never scrimp on your sports bra. Choosing a garment that suits you is a tough process and, if you’re trying to save money, it can be a real task. The fact of the matter is that you get what you pay for. When you’re looking for the best sports bra for you, you need to be willing to invest in a high-quality garment. Since you will wear the bra for hours on end, you should ensure that you choose a bra in which you can trust.

Nipples showing through the material

Woman in a white sports bra sweating from lifting weights in the gym

Do your nipples show through your sports bra? If the answer is yes, there’s likely a very simple reason why. When you wear a thin bra, you may well find that your nipples start to show. The most obvious and straightforward way to avoid this issue is to pick one that has padding or thicker material. Luckily, there are many available on the market, which means that you should have no problems here.

The Best Sports Bra: 12 Different Types & Expert Recommendations

You’re almost ready to start your search for the best sports bra. Before you do, it’s probably wise to do a little research ahead of time. There are many different types of sports bras out there, which means that you may not know where to start when you first begin to look. Never fear! The truth of the matter is that choosing a bra is all about determining what it is that you want. So, without further ado, let’s take a moment to look at 12 designs and what each of them has to offer.

1. Best Plus Size Sports Bra: Wacoal Sports Bra

Woman wearing gray Wacoal Countour Zip Front plus size sports bra
Image credit: Walmart.com
  • Combination bra
  • Try this if you need extra support for large breasts

If you’re on the hunt for a plus size sports bra that holds everything in place, the Contour Zip Front sports bra might be the answer. This particular contour design is ideal if you need extra support for larger breasts. The Wacoal sports bra is both comfortable and versatile. It can be worn for both high-impact and low-impact sports, which means that you should have no problem adapting it for your needs.

The combination style of the bra means that each of your breasts is encapsulated while around the back, you have a sturdy design too. While many women find it hard to choose a plus size sports bra that will give them everything that they need, this Wacoal option that can be found at Walmart proves that you really can have it all. Note the thick straps and band too. Perfect!

2. Best for High-Impact: Under Armour Sports Bra

Woman wearing red high-impactUnder Armour UA Breathelux High sports bra
Image credit: Under Armour
  • Breathable fabric
  • Try this if you worry about sweating too much

Whether you’re running, cycling, or boxing, you need a high-impact sports bra that fits the bill. If you’re looking for the best option for these activities, it could be worth opting for something from Under Armour. For example, the UA Breathelux High Sports Bra offers support and security, along with flexibility. That means that you can get on with the sports that you love the most without ever feeling restricted by the garment.

Aside from that, it’s worth noting that this particular sports bra offers built-in breathable cups that will provide you with an extra level of comfort. When you’re engaging in high energy sports, you will often find that you sweat. This level of breath ability means that you won’t be caused any discomfort while you’re working out hard.

3. Best Zip Front: Victoria’s Secret Sports Bra

Woman wearing Victoria's Secret  Incredible Knockout Ultra Max sports bra with a zip front
Image credit: Victoria’s Secret
  • Patterned sports bra for the fashion-conscious
  • Try this if you want support while looking great

For the sake of ease and comfort, many women prefer a zip front sports bra to other models. While many brands sell this type of design, it may be worth checking out the stunning range at Victoria’s Secret. The company has a wide range of zip front pieces that may well suit your needs and sports style. For instance, the Incredible Knockout Ultra Max design is a highly structured piece you may want to consider.

The design uses the patented “bra-within-a-bra” technology, which means that you get more of an encapsulation style with all of the pros of a compression bra. Plus, it comes in a variety of patterns and colors. That means that you can look and feel your best every single time that you head to the gym, a sports class, or even when you’re working out at home.

4. Best Front Closure: Enell Sports Bra

Woman wearing Enell front closure sports bra
Image credit: Enell
  • Cross-strap fit
  • Try this if you need a good plus-size bra

There’s no doubt about it, a front closure sports bra offers its fair share of pros. When you decide to opt for one like this one, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of clips, grips, and buttons. Instead, you can slip the bra on, do it up at the front, and start your work out. One of the best options out there is a cool Enell sports bra with a front closure.

Packing a wide band, across-strap fit, and hook and eye closures, you can hardly go wrong with this type of bra. Aside from working well for most sports, you should find that this bra also makes an excellent plus size sports bra option. The brand has a wide range of sizes available, which means that you can always feel 100% confident in the fit.

5. Best Strappy Sports Bra: Panache Sports Bra

Woman wearing black Panache  strappy sports bra
Image credit: Panache
  • Subtle straps
  • Try this if you like a minimal chic look

Fancy wearing a strappy sports bra? There’s a common misconception when it comes to this type of garment. Some people are under the impression that this type of bra can’t give women the support they need. That is not the case. You don’t get support from the straps. Instead, it’s about the quality of the bra overall and how thick the band is. With that in mind, choosing a fashionable strappy option might not be a bad idea.

For instance, a standard Panache sports bra offers a sturdy compression fit with small, simple straps on top. Choosing a bra like this one means that you will get the coverage that you need as well as a slimmer-look bra. The design is ultra minimal too, so you can wear the bra with any given piece of sportswear that you want.

6. Best Padded Sports Bra: Nike Sports Bra

Woman wearing black colored Nike padded sports bra
Image credit: Nike
  • Padded bra
  • Try this if you worry about your nipples showing

Let’s not beat around the bush here. One of the most trusted brand names when it comes to sportswear has to be Nike. The company has been at the forefront of active wear for decades, which means that you can always rely on them to offer the highest possible quality. So, with that in mind, if you’re on a search for the best padded sports bra, you may want to consider a Nike garment as the way to go.

The Nike Indy Sparkle is one of the most effective sports bras in the collection. It features removable pads, which simply slot into the cups. That means that you can wear this bra with or without that extra level of padding. Should you be after the best sports bra for a low-impact activity, you need look no further than this one.

7. Best Nursing Sports Bra: Loving Moments by Leading Lady Sports Bra

woman wearing a black walmart sports bra with white polka dots
Image credit: Walmart
  • Nursing bra
  • Try this if you’ve just had a baby

Working out when you’ve just given birth is an essential step toward getting your pre-baby body back (if that is a goal of yours). However, if you’re still in the midst of breastfeeding, you might need a special nursing sports bra to support you. Why not give this Loving Moments by Leading Lady sports bra a whirl here? The company specializes in selling comfortable nursing and maternity clothing items, including sports bras that are ideal for low-impact sports and gym sessions. It may also be worth getting some nursing pads to slot inside the bra so that you get that extra level of cleanliness and security.

8. Best Push-Up Sports Bra: PINK Sports Bra

Woman wearing white strapless PINK victoria's secret sports bra
Image credit: Victoria’s Secret
  • Supportive push-up bra
  • Try this if you need an extra lift

Want a bra that gives you that extra oomph? Choosing a push-up sports bra is one way to boost your confidence and make you feel like a million dollars when you hit the gym. The key to finding the right one is to look for one that offers a thick band, support, and a little lift as well. It’s a tall order, but there are some bras that measure up.

The cool and comfy seamless push-up bandeau from Victoria’s Secret’s PINK range is a fabulous bra that might just do the job. It ticks all the boxes when it comes to fashion, as well as offering you a high level of functionality too. What more could you want? Plus, as an added bonus,the garment is strapless too, making it more versatile.

9. High Neck Sports Bra: Lululemon Sports Bra

Front and back view of blonde woman wearing Lululemon high neck sports bra
Image credit: Lululemon
  • Sturdy yet flexible
  • Try this if you need security during high-tempo sports

When you head to the gym, you need to look your best as well as feeling as supported as possible. The Free To Be Serene Bra High Neck is a fashion-forward sports bra option that you may want to consider. The high neck look has become more and more popular in recent years and it’s clear to see why. Combing the athleisure trend with a functional twist, it’s one of the best sports bra styles of recent times.

This particular style offers you the flexibility you need to move around while also ensuring that your breasts stay firmly in place. As though that weren’t enough to get your heart racing, the bra also comes in five different color styles. The unique and fresh strappy back style also adds to the appeal and security of the garment.

10. Best White Sports Bra: Calvin Klein Sports Bra Set

girl wearing best white sports bra calvin klein
Image credits: Calvin Klein
  • Stylishly simple sports bra
  • Try this if you have smaller breasts

Of course, one thing you will notice when you start looking for the best sports bra is that there’s a very wide selection out there. However, you might be hard stretched to find a sports bra that doesn’t come in a range of bright colors. We get it – sometimes you want something plain and basic. If you’re looking for a white sports bra, the Monogram Bralette from Calvin Klein is an excellent option. The beauty is in its simplicity.

The only detail you can find on this particular sports bra is the small monogram. While it may look relatively straightforward, it’s worth remembering that this bra offers a whole load of support thanks to its high-end material. A low-impact sports bra like this one is ideal for back exercises, yoga, or pilates. Make sure you try it for yourself if you need a new bra.

11. Best Sports Bra Bikini: Adidas by Stella McCartney Sports Bra

Athletic woman wearing pink and black Adidas by Stell McCatney sports bra bikini
Image credit: Adidas
  • Swimming bra
  • Try this if you have large breasts and love swimming

Make no mistake, swimming can be a seriously high-impact sport. When you’re in the water and working out hard, the last thing you want is for your breasts to be a problem. For that reason, it’s vital that you get a sports bra bikini for the pool. While most brands offer a sports bikini, you should look for one that has the structure of a typical sports bra.

Opting for a waterproof garment, such as this Adidas swim top, means you can be sure that you will get the right gear for you. This sports bra bikini is actually from Stella McCartney’s popular sports line for Adidas. True to her eco-friendly design philosophy, it is made from recycled fibers. Being a designer product, it is of a premium quality so you can be sure it will stand the test of time. Of course, you may wish to get a complete swimsuit set to finish the look off properly.

12. Best Adjustable Sports Bra: Shefit Sports Bra

Woman wearing blackshefit sports bra with adjustable straps
Image credit: SHEFIT
  • Ultra adjustable bra
  • Try this if you do many different sports

Adjustability is key when you’re looking for the best sports bra. On a day-to-day basis, you may change the type of sports you do. That means that you need a bra that is as versatile as your workout schedule. Luckily, the Shefit sports bra range has you covered. Boasting a highly structured look along with a beautiful design, these bras are ones which you should never overlook when you’re shopping.

The Ultimate Sports Bra is one of the highlights of the collection. Not only does it boast a front closure, it is also fully adjustable too. You can wear the bra as a racerback piece or as a strappy sports bra instead. Add that to the fact that it has the very latest lift and cinch technology and you might be onto something of a winner.

12 Best Sports Bras For The Active Woman

Conclusion

Finding the best sports bra for your workout regime doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. Now that you’re armed with the latest information and knowledge, what are you waiting for? Whether you need a high-impact, low-impact, or ultra-intense bra, you should have no problem finding it somewhere online or in the stores. There are many out there to fit whatever specific need or body shape you have, from plus size sports bras to breastfeeding-friendly ones. Just remember when you start shopping to buy one that gives you everything you need to kill it at your next workout!

References

  • [1]  https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(15)00400-0/fulltext
  • [2] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/80-of-women-still-wear-the-wrong-bra-size-106595733.html
  • [3] PR Newswire. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/80-of-women-still-wear-the-wrong-bra-size-106595733.html
  • [4] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/breast-changes-in-older-women
  • [5] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130420110653.htm
  • [6] Sports Medicine Australia. https://sma.org.au/resources-advice/injury-fact-sheets/exercise-and-breast-support
  • [7] https://sma.org.au/resources-advice/injury-fact-sheets/exercise-and-breast-support

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