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How To Buy A Sports Bra

Sports bras provide support, motion control and a comfortable, snug fit during workouts. New fabrics and designs have transformed sports bras into women's workout essentials. Finding a sports bra that best meets your requirements for comfort and support means choosing one that accurately fits your bust size, matches your activity level and offers you a soft feel with moisture-wicking performance.

Determining your Size

More than 70% of women don't know their proper bra size. For maximum comfort and motion control during exercise, a proper fit is important. To ensure you choose the correct size, you should take the time to measure yourself before you buy a sports bra. Natural changes in women's bodies, including weight gain or loss, childbirth or menopause, can affect bra size from month to month or year to year, so choosing a size based on the last bra you purchased isn't advised.

  • Use a tape measure.(A piece of string or ribbon can also be used and measured against a ruler or yardstick.)
  • It may be helpful to stand in front of a mirror while measuring
  • Make sure to stand straight while measuring
  • Make sure the tape measure is straight across your back and is not twisted
  • Take your measurements while wearing a regular bra with either no padding or minimal padding
  • To get an accurate measurement, the tape measure should be snug, but not pinching or tight

Step One: Finding Your Chest Size

  • This is the number measurement in your bra size
  • Measure around your chest, under the arms and just above the breasts
  • If your chest measurement is an odd number, round it up to the next even number

Step Two: Finding Your Cup Size

  • This is the letter measurement in your bra size
  • Measure around the fullest part of your bust
  • If this measurement is between numbers, it should be rounded, either up or down, to nearest whole number
  • Now, subtract your chest measurement (the number from Step One) from the your bust measurement. The difference between these two numbers will determine your cup size. Use the chart below to determine your cup size.
Find Your Cup Size
DifferenceCup Size
Less than 1"AA
1"A
2"B
3"C
4"D
5"DD

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Determining Your Level of Activity

Sports bras support the breasts and minimize breast motion during exercise. Finding a bra that provides enough support for your level of activity is essential. The higher the level of activity, the higher level of support you'll need. Most sports bra manufacturers indicate the level of activity for which their various sports bras are best suited.

Determine Your Level Of Activity
Low ImpactMedium ImpactHigh Impact
WalkingSpinningRunning
Weight trainingSkiingMountain biking
Road cyclingIn-line skatingStep/high-impact aerobics
Rock climbingStair climbingSoftball
YogaFast walkingSoccer
 Tennis/RacquetballHorseback riding
 GolfBasketball

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Choosing the Style That's Right for You

Construction

There are three basic sports bra constructions.

  • Compression
    • This style supports and keeps breast motion to a minimum by pulling the breasts firmly in
    • It is best suited for A and B cup women.
  • Encapsulated/Natural shaping
    • The added structure in this style provides a more natural shape than classic compression bras
    • Typically offers women with larger busts more support
  • Underwire
    • Underwire is typically found in encapsulated or natural shaping bras
    • Provide an additional level of support for women with fuller busts

Style choices

There are also several styling and fabrication choices to consider.

  1. Underwear or outerwear
    • Many sports bra styles are suitable for wearing without a cover up
    • These styles typically will provide more body coverage
    • Others are clearly intended to be worn under a top
    • Determine in which style will be most comfortable and appropriate for you
  2. Back styles
    • The racer back provides the most support for women with larger busts
    • If you are more comfortable with a traditionally styled bra, look for scoop back or more traditional strap back styles
  3. Closures
    • Styles that allow for easier on-off are the traditional hook closures which can be found with both front and back closure styles
    • Another option are hookless styles which can be pulled over the head or stepped into

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Fabrics

Today there are many different fabrics to choose from. Here's a list of the most popular sports bra fabrics, along with a brief explanation of their benefits.

  • Supplex® Nylon/Lycra® Spandex - Offers soft, luxurious feel and incredible fit, support and shape retention.
  • Cotton/Lycra® Spandex - Soft, moisture-managing cotton combines with shape-retaining Lycra® to create a very comfortable fabric with just the right amount of stretch and support.
  • CoolMax® Polyester/Lycra® Spandex - This high-performance fabric blend delivers you all the moisture-wicking benefits of CoolMax® plus the comfort, stretch and shape retention of Lycra®.
  • Polyester/Cotton/Lycra® Spandex - This 3-fiber blend offers polyester and cotton for softness and moisture management while Lycra® provides optimal fit and support.
  • Polyester/Cotton - Classic blend provides gentle softness and powerful moisture management for all your workouts.

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When to Buy a New Sports Bra

Women who wear a sports bra 3-4 times per week usually need to replace the bra within 6-12 months due to the loss of elasticity in the bra's support materials. Because of the high elasticity content, a sports bra that is hand washed and hung dry will typically last longer than a bra that is machine washed and tumbled dried.

  • Signs that a sports bra should be replaced
    • A noticeably looser fit
    • Increased breast motion during exercise
    • Fabric pilling

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