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How to Choose the Right Sports Bra

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: How do I go about finding the right sports bra for me and my activities?  Lynn, Santa Barbara CA

Disclosure: We received compensation for this post, which worked out well as we can then refer you to a good sports bra site. The reader question is real and legit; the advice we offer is also legit and fit and full of wit.

Betty and Veronica

The girls want to work out while staying in.

Alexandra: Poor ol’ Betty and Veronica, sagging and dragging from so much work. Somebody please stop me from singing that awful junior high song.

Kymberly: In short, (or is that “in sport?”) you have two bra types to choose from:

1. Compression

The compression choice is best for A and B cup sizes and pretty much built on the concept of holding those babies in by smooshing them cuz’ there is not that much to spill out or squash down. You will know a compression bra by the fact that you usually put it on by pulling it overhead.

2. Encapsulation

The encapsulation sports bra type is more appropriate for C cups and bigger. You will recognize these bras by their hooks and adjustable straps. The goal here is to hold your breasts up and in, not just in as is the case with compression bras.

Alexandra: I was just part of a tweetchat last night that discussed this very issue. The participants were split 50/50 on whether we preferred wire or wireless. I don’t know your activities, but the 3 F’s should be considered: Function, Fashion, Feel. Look at the three choices and give them a ranking in order of preference. For example, I am fairly average in the chest, so I like Feel and Fashion. I don’t worry as much about Function.

Enell sports bra

This Enell sports bra is an example of the encapsulating style

I’m going to mention the HerRoom site, which has loads of sports bras. Plus, if you scroll down the page, you’ll see a link to a video about a Sports Bra Bounce Test,  as well as detailed info about the various features of the leading sports bra brands.

Retro bra

Cross my heart and hope to exercise!

Kymberly: Once you determine which bra type is right for you, then narrow down your choice further using these three criteria:

  1. Comfort – Part of my midlife mantra is that I am more interested in being comfortable when choosing my workout gear rather than caring about the color, lacy factor, or designer label. Price factors into my choice as well, which I will put in the comfort category as I am super comfy with a great price!
  2. Bounce factor – ‘Nuff said there. Nothing says “the sport for this sports bra is poker or golf” like too little support and too much bouncing as if doing a Tigger impression “Bouncy Flouncy Fun Fun Fun.” Without the fun.
  3. Look/ Style – Again, I am not so caught up in how the bra looks in and of itself. More significant to me is how I look in the completed exercise ensemble. Does the bra support my outfit in a slimming, youthening, life enhancing way? Oh wait, that’s the wonderyears bra, not a sports bra. And for the record, I am in that generation that believes a bra is underwear and should be under the other clothes, out of sight, doing its job quietly and effectively. Just like my sister. Mwah ha ha hahhh

Alexandra: You are saying I should be under your clothes? That’s creepy.

Kymberly: Anyway, take a peek at this titillating post we wrote awhile back: What NOT to wear to your work out.

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Photo credits: vintage bra: x-ray delta one

About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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17 Responses to How to Choose the Right Sports Bra

  1. Denise I. July 18, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    OMG I can write the book on picking out the right bra!!!

  2. Laura P. July 18, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    ok i just bought 4 bras. you should get a kickback! xo

  3. AlexandraFunFit July 18, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    If only, Laura. But we do feel happy when we share info that is helpful.
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Transformative Travel: 11 Helpful Tips for TravelersMy Profile

  4. Debbie @ Live from La Quinta July 18, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Reading about the bounce factor made me think of my mom who was very well endowed (unlike her daughter!). When she would run (and I’m just talking around the house, the woman was not an athlete) should would hold her breast so that they wouldn’t bounce. Not the best way to run a marathon, though.

    I on the other hand have simple needs, and just for the comfort fact, since these days my sports bra is hidden away discreetly underneath my top.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Running, Yoga, Wildfires and a 48 Hour KindRunner PromotionMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit July 18, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Yes, I remember when I was pregnant with my eldest. It was in the days of high-impact aerobics. I had to hold on tight! Then I got smarter and wore 2 bras. Not super comfy, but it worked.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..6 Practical Fitness Tips for Older AdultsMy Profile

  5. Myesha M July 18, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I’m glad that those days you can find so much information about sport bras. Awareness of young girl and mature women in this case is very low. But I think there is no better solution than go to braffiter (?). Not sure how is it in English. What I mean is an expert of bras, which will choose for you the right size. Last time it turned out that half of my life I was wearing bras too loose and not enough big cups. When I start to use the right size, didn’t have any problem when I was looking for sport bras with which I train right now with huge pleasure and no pain. Remember that every women is different, that is why measuring is so important.

  6. Melissa @ Melissa Running It July 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Now to get the whole of womanhood to read this. MY boobs hurt watching other girls bouncing in all sorts of directions. I’m convinced one of these days we’re gonna hear a story about a woman who was knocked out when her own boob bounced up and punched her in the face.
    Melissa @ Melissa Running It recently posted..#GoalGetter2013: June ReviewMy Profile

  7. Jody - Fit at 55 July 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    My comment disappeared.. UGH! OK I wrote that I wear a bra with a cup even though I am small – no underwire but I hate those compression ones! :) Been wearing the same style Champion for more years than I can remember! ;)

    comment luv has been to mean to me all day!

  8. Tonserio Fan August 21, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    I just wrote a guide for picking bras for breast augmentations. Some doctors do recommend sports bras for compression bras for women post surgery as well.

  9. Candace Lopez September 17, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    finding the right size is important especially for all size women great post good info

  10. best Workout clothes for women October 23, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    Sports wear is also a must on doing some exercise or sports activities. You gotta be comfortable and look good.
    best Workout clothes for women recently posted..Beatriz TopMy Profile

    • workout clothing for women October 27, 2014 at 5:43 am #

      Look for sports bras that encapsulate each breast in a separate chamber; they reduce bounce and support better than simple shelf bras.

      • exercise clothes for women February 3, 2015 at 5:22 am #

        Avoid any rough fabrics that could chafe or irritate your skin during repetitive movement. Choose materials that let you move and don’t constrict you. Pay closer attention to fit than size, as some workout clothes tend to be smaller and more form fitting than regular clothes.

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