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Have you ever gone to the gym after work, realized you forgot to bring a sports bra, and just sort of…gone home? If this scenario hasn’t happened to you, it’s likely the result of being a good packer. Wearing a regular bra while exercising is a special torture reserved for occupants of hell.
Because a good bra is essential to a good workout, choosing one that both looks and feels amazing is essentially an investment in your overall health.
So, whether you’re into running, yoga, CrossFit, cycling, climbing, lifting, or any activities that require some extra love for your girls, we selected the best sports bras to keep you in place and in style.
A lot has been written lately about letting go: letting go of the past, letting go of things that don’t bring you joy, and letting go of what you can’t control. As a little needed relief from this philosophy, there are things you can and should control. One of those things is how much your boobs move around when you exercise.
Controlling bounce protects your breast tissue from pain, discomfort, and damage. The key to finding your holy grail holder comes down to fit: You need to find something that fits both your body and your lifestyle.
The question is, how much support do you need? Will you be wearing it to a slower paced yin yoga class or to do an Ironman? Were you blessed with big or small boobies? Not all sports bras are created equally, and to put it simply, the type of bra you choose depends on both your breast size and exercise demands.
A sports bra has one raison d’etre, to keep your breasts in their rightful place. There are three ways sports bras carry out their life’s work: compression, encapsulation, or a combination of both.
Compression bras work by flattening breasts, hugging them close to the body and minimizing movement. These bras can work well for smaller chests, as they’re less obtrusive than other models. They also tend to be less expensive, which is a plus if you don’t require much support in the bust area.
However, because compression bras tend to come in fewer sizes and generally offer less support, they’re not ideal for larger breasted women. They can also be uncomfortable if you need the extra support, and tend to give a uni-boob look.
Encapsulation bras, on the other hand, look similar to a standard bra. They separate the breasts with a central piece of fabric, underwire, and seaming. They are also more adjustable and come in standard bra sizing, so it’s easier to find the perfect fit.
Encapsulation models are ideal for larger breasted women, as they not only provide more support, but their sizing is more precise, offering band measurement and cup sizes rather than small, medium, or large. They’re also a good choice if you do high-intensity workouts.
Finally, combination sports bras can be that middle ground you’re searching for. They use compression to hold you in place and cups to keep you separated. They’re super supportive, and work well for high-intensity workouts.
Now that you’ve considered the level of your sports bra needs, you can start to think about the fun part: style. Before you get too excited though, the style of bra you choose comes down to more than just how it looks.
Larger straps help distribute the weight of your breasts, and a racerback adds lift and support. Most sports bras are designed to be put on overhead, but if you need a lot of support, keep an eye out for bras that clasp in the back or zip in the front.
Underwire also comes into play when choosing between bra styles. You may like to use your sports bra as a welcome escape from your regular bra’s underwire, but if you need a lot of support or just like extra lift, look for an underwire sports bra.
Finally, a huge part of the style of the bra is how much coverage it offers.
If you enjoy cycling or activities with a lot of bending over, opt for a bra with a higher neckline for added security. If you like hot yoga or exercising shirtless, try a long line bra that extends down the torso.
And, of course, if you’re comfortable working out with full tummy or cleavage exposure, more power to you! Here at RAVE, we believe you should wear what makes you feel your most fierce.
So, when considering our top choices, remember to put your needs first. Maybe get rid of that painting your mother in law gave you five years ago that’s been hiding in your closet, but keep the sports bra that protects your breast tissue while you bounce around. Find your support system that gives you that perfect fit. The future of your health — and your boobs — depend on it!
When testing sports bras, we looked for a few factors that separated our top choices from the rest of the pack.
Support: Like a lot of things in life, support comes on a spectrum. We looked for the best sports bras of all impact levels to find a match for a wide range of readers.
Comfort: Comfort really comes down to what fits your body well. That said, we looked for bras that are like a good boyfriend or girlfriend: They’ll hold you close without suffocating you. High-quality fabrics go a long way here, as well as straps and bands that don’t dig into your skin.
Price: The amount you spend on a bra often comes down to your demands. Larger breasted women may have to invest in a more supportive, higher quality, and possibly more expensive product.
Breathability: Breathability is key, not only for comfort, but durability as well. Sweat contains bacteria that break down the fabric and elasticity of your bra, rendering it unusable. We looked for bras with moisture-wicking fabrics such as nylon, spandex, and polyester, with mesh panels and cut outs for ventilation. Lined bras got extra points for controlling moisture. Cotton bras were docked points: They might look cute and feel comfortable in the store, but you’ll be full of regret as soon as you start sweating.
Look: Sports bras aren’t exactly your sexiest piece of lingerie, but that doesn’t mean they have to be totally hideous either. Unfortunately, a lot of companies haven’t grasped this concept. We sought out bras that are flattering for all impact levels, so you don’t have to feel like you’re wearing a linebacker’s pads.
How do I know what size to get?
If I were to run for president, I would run on a platform of Universal…Sizing. The truth is, manufacturers take certain liberties when it comes to the ABC’s of sizing. That, plus the fact that no two ta-tas are created equal, is enough to give you chest pains when it comes to figuring out your perfect fit.
If you think you already know your bra size, you’re probably wrong. And, in this case, ignorance isn’t bliss. We recommend not just trying on bras, but bouncing around in them, too.
If you live somewhere with a high-end lingerie boutique, go in for a fitting — most are complimentary. Or, there’s always Reddit if you can be handy with a tape measure while lying down. Order a bunch online and return the ones that don’t make the cut. And whatever you do, don’t settle!
How can I tell if it fits?
First, your sports bra shouldn’t feel terribly uncomfortable. From there, here are a few tricks to ensure it fits you properly:
One of the best measurements for an ill-fitting sports bra is the band that runs around your ribcage. If the bra is riding up in the back and rests higher than your chest, size down. The same rule applies if you can fit more than one finger between the band and your skin.
Finally, no part of the sports bra should dig painfully into your skin or restrict breathing. And, if you opt for an encapsulation bra, make sure the center piece lies in the middle of your chest.
How should I take care of my bra?
Keeping your sports bra clean is the name of the game. Yes, grabbing a beer — I mean green juice — after working out is one of life’s simple pleasures, but you’re doing so while a festering pool of bacteria silently makes love on your boobies.
That may have been a little dramatic, but sweat and bacteria do degrade the material of your bra and cause unnecessary wear and tear. So, always take off your bra after working out and rinse it out with water. Maybe let the girls fly free while you enjoy your hard earned endorphin boost!
You’re technically supposed to hand wash your bras with detergent in warm water. We say this knowing that most of you will never actually do it.
But, washing all your unmentionables together on a gentle cycle really isn’t too much to ask in the grand scheme of things. Using a lingerie bag helps reduce a lacy-hook-lycra-tangled mess. And, always air dry your bras by draping them or laying them flat. Don’t put them in the dryer, and don’t hang them by their straps.
I’m pregnant/breastfeeding. What should I do?
The quick answer is: support, support, support! You need all the support you can get, especially when it comes to your breasts.
Opt for a super supportive sports bra that’s adjustable, as your body will change frequently. And, consider wearing a compression shirt over an extra supportive bra, since your boobs are extra sensitive right now.
Finally, get yourself a babysitter, take yourself on a date, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Now that you’re ready to sweat, check out the following products to keep you smelling fresh and working out in style:
- Tenrei Delicates Laundry Bag: These ultra durable mesh bags separate your delicates and regulars in your washing machine, protecting them from both stretching and snagging.
- Rockin’ Green Active Laundry Detergent Powder: This biodegradable detergent uses natural enzymes and tea tree oil to not only clean your workout gear but also fight odor. We call that a win-win.
- Under Armor HeatGear Compression Shirt: This second skin compression shirt will give you an all around feeling of security and support. Plus, it uses HeatGear fabric to hold you in without making you sweat.
- BodyGlide Anti Chafe Balm: Hopefully this review helped you find the perfect bra with absolutely no chafing. Use this balm for your inner thighs, toes, or any other areas that are prone to feeling the friction when you exercise.