To get a sports bra that fits well, it's a good idea to determine your band size and cup size. Grab a measuring tape and follow these steps:
Step One: Measure Your Bra Band Size
There are two ways to measure your band size:
- Wrap the measuring tape snugly around your torso, just underneath both breasts. Be sure the measuring tape is level from front to back. Take a measurement of your torso circumference (in inches), rounding down to the nearest whole number. If this measurement is odd, round up to the nearest even number.
- Instead of measuring under the breasts, wrap the tape around your upper torso, just above the bust at the point where the shoulder straps of your bra would normally meet the cups. The back of the tape should be at the same location as the back strap of your bra. Round up to the nearest whole number. If the number is odd, round down to the nearest even number.
Note: These two measurements may not be the same. If the second measurement results in a much larger number than the first, you can split the difference. For example, if your above-the-bust band measurement is 37” and your under-the-bust band measurement is 34”, a size 36 bra band may be the best fit for you. Remember, bra band sizes are always even. Some sports bras have an adjustable band. Others do not. If you're choosing a sports bra without an adjustable band, the margin of error will be smaller, so getting the right band size will be more important.
Step Two: Measure Your Bust Size
Wrap the measuring tape around your torso and across the fullest part of your bust. The tape should be snug, but not too tight. Round this measurement up to the nearest whole number (in inches). This number will help determine your cup size.
Step Three: Determine Your Cup Size
Subtract your band measurement from your bust measurement and consult the chart below. For example, if your bust measurement is 38" and your band measurement is 34", use this equation: 38 - 34 = 4. According to our chart, 4 is a D cup. Keep in mind that many sports bras are designed to fit a range of cup sizes, so your exact cup size may or may not make a big difference when shopping for certain sports bras. Your band size will most likely be the biggest determining factor, especially for compression sports bras.
Difference Cup Size 1 inch A Cup 2 inches B Cup 3 inches C Cup 4 inches D Cup 5 inches E Cup (DD) 6 inches F Cup (DDD) 7 inches G Cup (DDDD) 8 inches H Cup 9 inches I Cup 10 inches J Cup
Fit Tip: You may choose to wear a traditional bra when measuring your band and bust size for a sports bra. However, be sure to choose a bra that supports but doesn't minimize or offer extra padding, otherwise your measurements may be less accurate.
A good sports bra will minimize breast movement during physical activity by compressing, encapsulating or both. Depending on your bust size, the style of sports bra you choose can have a big effect on your comfort level. There are several types of sports bras:
Compression Sports Bras
Compression bras press the breasts against your chest to minimize movement. This style is best for women with small- to medium-sized busts.
Racerback Sports Bras
Racerback bras have shoulder straps that merge together into a single strap at the back of the neck, between the shoulder blades. This design provides a slightly more secure fit. However, most racerback straps are not adjustable, so it’s even more important to make sure you choose the correct size with this style. Most racerback sports bras fall under the compression category.
Encapsulation Sports Bras
Encapsulation bras surround and support each breast individually, in addition to offering more shape. This style is ideal for women with larger busts who need light to moderate support.
Adjustable Encapsulated Sports Bras
Adjustable encapsulated bras provide maximum support for women with very full busts. This bra type features encapsulation cups to support each breast, along with a wide, adjustable band and wide, adjustable straps to create a custom fit and full support.
Combination Sports Bras
Combination bras combine compression and encapsulation for maximum support. This style is ideal for women with larger busts who need high-impact support.
If you buy a sports bra online, you'll want to try it on once it arrives to make sure it fits properly before heading out for any sports or activities. Below are a few things to look for when trying on your new sports bra:
- Your sports bra should fit a little more snugly than a traditional bra but still allow you to take a deep breath without discomfort or too much pressure.
- You should be able to move freely without being pinched or feeling constricted.
- Your sports bra should not ride up in the back. If it does, the band size may be too loose.
- Your breasts should be completely held within the cups without overflowing. You should be able to jump up and down a few times without spilling out of the bra. If you're spilling out the top, the cup size is most likely too small.
- The fabric on the cups should appear smooth when being worn. Wrinkles or puckers often indicate that the cup size is too large.
- If the bra has underwire, it should rest comfortably against your ribcage below each breast and follow your body's shape.
Shoulder Strap Fit
- The straps should not fall off or dig into your shoulders. Wider straps will be more comfortable and disperse weight better. However, most of the weight should be situated at the band, not on the shoulder straps.
When shopping for a new sports bra, there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind aside from size. Most sports bras can be divided into three impact level categories: low, medium and high. Impact level generally refers to how much compression a bra is designed to provide. Just be aware that there are no industry standards for sports bra impact level. Below are some examples of activities that each impact level may be used for. Keep in mind that some women may prefer more or less compression for these activities, depending on personal preference.
- Low-impact sports bras are ideal for walking, yoga, pilates and weight training.
- Medium-impact sports bras are ideal for elliptical training, cycling, moderate aerobics, hiking and power walking.
- High-impact sports bras are ideal for intense aerobics, running, soccer, basketball, tennis and other fast-paced sports.
Smooth, lightweight synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are ideal in the construction of sports bras. These materials provide excellent moisture management and dry quickly. The addition of Lycra® or spandex provides enhanced freedom of movement and support. It's generally best to avoid cotton bras for sports and physical exercise.
All bras will usually last longer when hand washed. If you prefer to machine wash your sports bras, be sure to use a delicate setting and always fasten any hooks before washing. (This will hopefully prevent the bra from getting caught on any other clothing in the wash, which may stretch out the bra faster). It's also best to hang dry your bras. If you find a sports bra that fits really well and feels comfortable, consider buying at least one more so you can rotate and extend the life of your bras.
When to Replace Your Sports Bra
Expect to replace a sports bra about every 6-12 months, depending on how frequently you wear it and for how long. Once a sports bra begins to wear out, you may notice that it doesn't support as well. This usually indicates that the fabric has started to lose some of its elasticity. You should consider replacing your bra if you notice:
- A noticeably looser fit
- An increase in motion during exercise (less support)
- Frayed fabric or straps, or loose stitching
- Your bra simply doesn’t feel as comfortable as it used to