Far too many of us are putting up with ill-fitting sports bras — or doubling up to get the support our breasts need. But you really don't have to! It is possible to find the perfect sports bra for your body and activity. To figure out how, we turned to the pros:
"There are two main styles of sports bras, and both offer different support to the wearer," explains Victoria Shelton, junior garment technologist at lingerie and swimwear company FigLeaves. "Compression bras compress the breasts flat against the chest wall. And encapsulation bras hold the breasts in the same way as a normal bra, but with a higher center front for extra coverage." Usually you'll want to reserve compression bras for lower-impact activities and smaller cup sizes, because they offer a lower level of support. But break out your encapsulation bras when you're doing higher-impact activities or if you have a larger cup size, because they support each breast separately.
So, the first question is what kind of workout you're planning on doing. "A sports bra that you wear for yoga might not be the best choice if you’re going to run a marathon!" says Clare Robertson, head of innovation at lingerie, swimwear, and activewear company Panache. "This is increasingly important as you get into larger cup sizes, as you need to make sure your sports bra is providing the optimal support and you’re wearing the correct size so that you’re comfortable and supported."
Keep in mind that almost all of the support should be coming from the band and cups — not the straps, Shelton says. And to get the perfect band/strap balance for your individual shape, Robertson suggests looking for sports bras that come in normal bra sizes (e.g. 36E) rather than just small, medium, large, etc. Helpfully, some bras come labeled with an activity rating, which lets you know the amount of support to expect for your particular type of workout (e.g. "light support").
Sadly, that means many of our favorite fashionable styles aren't going to make the cut when we actually hit the treadmill (sorry, crop tops). But there are plenty of other cool options to choose from out there.
Ahead, learn the three most common signs that your sports bra isn't working for you, get some advice from our experts on how to fix it, and see a few of our favorite supportive styles.