Searching for a sports bra that fits comfortably can be difficult, especially if you’re not sure what to look for.
Kristi Andrews, managing owner of Austin-based lingerie and swimsuit store Petticoat Fair, shares her expertise in finding bras for every body type so you can be prepared for summer with a comfortable sports bra.
While you may not always have the time, Andrews recommends getting an official bra fitting. It may be helpful to have someone who can help explain the different types of bras and their purposes. Andrews suggests department stores for fittings if you don’t have access to a specialty store.
“(Department stores) have brands that actually have the band and ratio that can help,” Andrews says. “Really anywhere that has an extensive lingerie section (works).”
You can also browse a store’s online lingerie section, as many provide tutorials on getting correct measurements.
Most stores begin fittings by measuring your ribcage, under your breast tissue. Andrews says this is because the band around your ribcage is where most support comes from, not the straps.
Andrews says no sports bra will be completely stiff; all will have a bit of a bounce because breasts are tissue. Therefore, they are not firm like bone or cartilage, so they’re bound to move. However, Andrews says this isn’t a bad thing.
“You want (the bra) to be fully encompassing the breast tissue and not just compressing,” Andrews says. “Basically, support — not smash.”
That being said, there is a delicate balance between supporting and smashing. Andrews says it is important to search for supports around the ribcage, similar to a corset, as they were precursors to bras. The support from corsets was centered around the ribcage, holding the breast tissue up. A good sports bra will do the same.
No matter how perfectly your bra fits, there will always be redness. Andrews likens bras to a wrist elastic. A loose elastic isn’t much help — you must twist it many times to keep your hair up, and once it becomes too loose, an elastic cannot hold up your hair. However, a good elastic will always leave a red mark around your wrist.
The same concept applies to sports bras. Andrew says many women believe support comes from the straps so if the band feels too loose, they will tighten the straps. However, this creates a seesaw situation, going back and forth with the straps when, in reality, the bands should be tight around your body. Then, when you have an oversized cup, it only worsens the fitting, as the band should be what’s holding the cup against your breasts.
“The band needs to be snug to hold that bra in place, hold that wire behind your breast tissue and keep everything where it’s supposed to be,” Andrews says.
If breast tissue is spilling out of the sides or top of the bra, then the cup size needs to be bigger. If the band leaves some redness behind, it’s OK.
Some stores will also offer different types of sports bras. Petticoat Fair offers three types: low-impact, medium-impact and high-impact.
Andrews says the type of sports bra correlates with the activity. For instance, if you’re doing activities that require a lot of bounce, you’ll need a high-impact sports bra. On the other hand, if you’re doing slow-moving activities like yoga, you’ll need a low-impact bra. Anything in between would be considered medium-impact.
Andrews also says bra wires may or may not be bothersome, depending on your activity. Even high-impact sports bras have wires inside, which help provide structure.
“If you’re doing a lot of stretching, that wire may not be as comfortable because you’re moving your body in a different way,” Andrews says “But if you’re running, you’re not stretching and leaning over, so that wire won’t bother you.”
Ultimately, finding the right sports bra can change your fitness experience. Andrews enjoys her job because she’s able to help women feel more comfortable with their bodies.
“With busty women who have had back pain all their life and struggled with bras, and you get them in a good fit (that) lifts their breast tissue, makes their breasts look smaller (and) relieves their back pressure,” Andrews says. “The hugs, the tears at the end — it’s so rewarding.”