Choosing a sports bra shouldn't be difficult. Yet most women aren't wearing the right style or size because they haven't been properly fitted. Even if you can't get to a store that offers professional sports bra fittings, take the time to measure at home before you shop.
Why do I need a sports bra, anyway?
From breastfeeding to running a 10K, our breasts go through a lot each day. Since breasts are made of soft tissue rather than muscle most of the supporting task is taken on by skin and internal ligaments (called Cooper's ligaments). But gravity, motion and even family genetics take a toll over the years, which can cause your breasts to droop or sag. Wearing a sports bra during medium to heavy physical activity provides extra support for your breasts that can hopefully help delay drooping, in addition to making your workout more comfortable.
Compression vs. encapsulation
Before you start grabbing bras off the shelf, you need to know the difference between the two types of sports bras. Compression bras are a shelf-style bra that provide support for low- to moderate-impact exercise and work best with smaller cup sizes like A and B.
Encapsulation means that the sports bra has separate cups for each breast, which means they generally provide better support for larger-breasted women as compared to compression bras. For maximum comfort during extreme activity (such as running or aerobics) this may be your go-to bra.
Pullover vs. clasp style
While some sports bras pull on over your head, there are also sports bras that clasp in the back like a regular bra. The benefit of a clasp style is that you can adjust it to fit you perfectly, which makes it a better choice for larger breasts.
What about the straps?
Straps that cross in the back, or racerback straps, tend to lend more support to your breasts by holding things closer to your body. Try one on and you will see the difference. Racerback sports bras almost make you have better posture the way the straps pull everything together. Regular shoulder straps are better for larger cup sized because they more properly distribute the weight of your breasts. For maximum comfort, look for a sports bra with adjustable shoulder straps for the best fit for you.
Find the perfect fit
Ready to find the perfect fit for you? Check the strength of the straps by gently tugging the top of one strap and the middle of the corresponding cup. The less you are able to pull them, the greater the support they will provide. Now put the bra on. The bra cup should hold the entire breast, with no part of your breast peeking out. You should try the next larger cup size if your breast is trying to sneak out on the sides or underneath the cups. Check to see that the side panels and band are snug enough to provide support. If you raise your arms and the band rides up, you need a smaller size.
Need more help?^
The Champion USA site is a great resource and offers fitting tips and great videos about choosing the proper sports bra.