How to Find a Comfortable, Supportive Sports Bra in 6 Expert-Backed Steps
Including cup size, straps, and material.
Finding the right-sized bra can be challenging—let alone, finding the right-sized sports bras, which typically come in generic sizing (small, medium, large, etc.), can feel like a whole different league. Sports bras are supposed to be comfortable enough for you to do a range of activities—whether that’s lounging at home, running errands, practicing yoga, or doing a high-intensity workout. When you have a sports bra that doesn’t fit correctly, you can be left with a bra that’s too tight, experience a gap between your chest and the cup, or have annoying shoulder pain from having a bra that’s not supportive enough.
So, how can you find a sports bra that fits comfortably and still offers support—no matter your size? Ahead, we share how to measure your sports bra and offer more tips on finding a comfortable and supportive fit for any activity.
1. Make sure you know your size.
Finding your correct size may seem like a no-brainer tip, but it’s worth mentioning as knowing your measurements can help you navigate how to find the right sports bra. Luckily, finding your bra size at home is simple—all you need to do is figure out the measurements of your underbust and overbust says Athena Kasvikis, founder and CEO of Behave Bras.
To measure your underbust (which determines your band size), Kasvikis says to run a soft tape measure around your ribcage from the back to the center of your bust, and make sure the measuring tape is tight and secure underneath your breast. “To measure your overbust, which determines your cup size with your underbust, run the measuring tape around your back to the largest part of your breast, usually right over the nipple,” she suggests.
Once you have those two measurements, it’s time to figure out your cup and band size. Kasvikis explains that to get your cup size, subtract your overbust number from your underbust number. The general rule of thumb, she says, is that every cup size is about a one-inch difference. For example, A is 1, B is 2. C is 3, D is 4, DD/E is 5, F is 6, G is 7, H is 8, and I is 9.
Once you’ve found your cup size, take your tight underbust measurement and add one to two inches to it to find your starting band size. “Adding a few inches in so that you can breathe properly in a bra,” adds Kasvikis. This also helps to avoid shoulder pain.
2. Test the band.
Most sports bras use sizing based on the ribcage (aka the underbust), explains Jaclyn Fu, CEO, and founder of Pepper. “A great fitting sports bra should fit snugly around your ribcage, so it doesn’t ride up and gives you the support you need to be comfortable,” she says.
One of the biggest culprits for discomfort and shoulder pain when wearing a sports bra is issues with the band. “It supports at least 80% of your breast weight in a bra,” says Kasvikis. “I find that many misunderstand this and are wearing band sizes that are too large thinking that will make them more comfortable, but when the band is too large, the weight of the breasts distributes more on the straps, causing shoulder divots and pain.” The solution is to find a bra with a band that’s one to two inches bigger than your original underbust measurement. Test it by putting on the bra and then pulling off one strap, says Kasvikis. “Your breast should still stand up and be perky, regardless of the strap not bearing weight.”
3. Choose a style that works for your breast size.
It’s no secret that those with large breasts need a different kind of support and bra from someone who’s an A cup. When choosing a sports bra, the same logic applies. “For larger breasts, look for sports bras that cover most of your cleavage to reduce bounce and jiggle, and consider a brand with padded straps for extra comfort,” says Kasvikis.
Girlfriend Collective Midnight Simone Bra
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“For those with a smaller chest, certain styles like scoop neck can be very flattering while providing the appropriate support,” says Fu.
Sweaty Betty Ultra Run Sports Bra
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4. Opt for a sports bra with cups.
If you don’t like the look of the “uni-boob” (as Kasvikis calls it) search for a sports bra with cups rather than ones with a thin piece of fabric. Sports bras with cups don’t smash your breast against your body and help to accentuate and define your curves, she explains.
Wacoal Simone Underwire Sports Bra
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5. Choose a sports bra for your activity.
Whether your day consists of chill activities, like yoga, or high-intensity workouts, like HIIT, there’s a sports bra for you. For low-impact tasks, Kasvikis says wire-free sports bras are both comfortable and supportive. The Athleta Embrace Bra is a great wire-free option that Kasvikis says supports smaller breasts.
$54.00Shop it Athleta
If you prefer high-impact workouts, such as running, you need a sports bra that offers a lot more compression. “I find that tank-like sports bras, like the Panache High-Impact Sports Bra, keeps the girls snuggly in place and doesn’t let my assets bounce,” says Kasvikis. “It’s the only bra I’ve personally found for a large chest that allows me to do jumping jacks without wanting to die,” she adds.
Panache High-Impact Sports Bra
$70.00Shop it Bare Necessities
6. Never try a bra in one size.
Finally, both Fu and Kasvikis say you should always try more than one size when bra shopping. There is so much to consider when shopping for a sports bra, including the brand, fabric, and sizing guides, so even though you may be one size with one company doesn’t mean you’ll be the same in another. “Get your starting size from measuring and then be flexible as all brands fit and size their items differently,” says Kasvikis. “Overall, if something doesn’t fit you, know this—it’s not your boobs that are the problem. It’s the bra.”