Here's How to Choose the Perfect Sports Bra

Buying Guide

Follow these tips on choosing the exact fit and style for a sports bra that meets your workout needs.

Last updated: 8 January 2022
6 min read
How to Choose a Sports Bra

A comfortable and supportive sports bra can make all the difference in your training. But knowing how to choose a sports bra is key to finding the right fit in the style that works for your workout.

There is a dizzying array of sports bras in the world, seemingly each with features suitable for different bust sizes and activities. Choosing a sports bra can feel overwhelming, but choosing the right sports bra is essential to helping you enjoy your workout and perform at your best.

The right sports bra has a snug fit while allowing for flexible movement. A sports bra that doesn't fit well may chafe, not keep you in place or feel restrictive around your ribcage. How much support you need depends on your cup size and the type of activity you're performing.

Use this guide for tips on how to choose a sports bra.

Align the Activity with the Impact

High-support sports bras

High-impact exercises such as running or jumping involve bouncing and bigger movements. The job of a good sports bra is to keep your breasts in place. High-impact exercise requires a high-impact sports bra.

Studies have shown that while running, the breasts move up and down and oscillate from side to side. According to research published by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, this movement can be as much as eight inches.

High-support sports bras are designed to support your breasts in every direction to limit the amount of movement. By limiting breast pain and possible distractions, the proper sports bra can increase your enjoyment of exercise and performance.

Nike Dri-FIT high-support sports bras have wide straps, secure back clasps, supportive cups and, in some cases, an underwire. This focus on support helps to prevent chafing and digging in, while providing the highest level of support. Some high-support Nike bras go up to size 44G, making them ideal for larger chests.

Medium-support sports bras

For lighter-impact exercise, opt for a medium-support sports bra. Lighter-impact exercise may include spin, power walking, hiking, aerobics or strength training. These types of exercise still require multi-directional support and compression, but less so than what is offered by high-support sports bras.

Nike Dri-FIT medium-support sports bras are made from soft, smooth fabric with enough support to keep everything in place. This type of bra is ideal for smaller cup sizes or those doing more stationary exercises. Those with larger chests may prefer wearing a medium-support sports bra for low-impact exercise for the extra support.

Light-support sports bras

Low-impact exercises like Pilates, yoga, walking or stationary cycling involve less movement and less direct force on the body. For this reason, a less supportive sports bra is suitable.

Nike Dri-FIT light-support sports bras are lightweight, comfortable and suitable for everyday wear, even if you're not working out. The soft, breathable fabric stretches to move with you. Some come with easily removable pads that you can change up your fit whenever you want.

A Sports Bra Tip for Larger Chests

If you have larger breasts, you may want to choose medium- or high-support sports bras, even for low-impact exercise. The extra support offers compression and security so you feel comfortable and supported during exercise.

Compression vs. Encapsulation Sports Bra

The terms compression and encapsulation are used to describe two different types of sports bra suitable for different activities and cup sizes.

Compression sports bras work by compressing the breasts. They are pullover sports bras made with a tight fabric intended to fit snuggly. The compression fabric holds the breasts down together to limit movement during exercise. Compression sports bras offer light to medium support. They are an ideal choice for lower-impact exercise and for those with smaller cup sizes (A to C cups).

Encapsulation sports bras fit more like a standard bra. They have moulded cups for each breast, keeping them separated and secure during exercise. They limit breast movement from all directions, offering a high level of support for higher-impact exercise. Encapsulation sports bras are recommended for women with larger cup sizes (D+ cups).

How to Choose a Sports Bra

Sports Bra Straps Should Be Snug

When it comes to choosing a sports bra, understanding fit is vital. "Support comes from three points on a sports bra: the straps, the cups and the band, including the side panels", explains Susan Sokolowski, apparel innovation director for Nike for 10 years. Here is how the straps, cup and band should fit.

  1. Straps. You should be able to fit two fingers between the straps and your shoulders. The sports bra should have a snug fit but not dig in or pinch the skin. Adjusting the straps tighter can create a lifting effect.
  2. Cups. If any of the breast spills out, it's a clear sign that the bra is too small. An encapsulation bra with moulded cups should cover each entire breast. A compression sports bra should cover the breasts from all angles, including near the armpit.
  3. Band and side panels. If the band rides up when you lift your hands over your head, the bra is too big. If the sports bra has a back clasp, it can be made smaller. Otherwise, size down. The band should fit flat against the ribs without feeling restrictive. Try taking a deep breath while wearing the sports bra to assess the tightness.

What Style Speaks to You

While it's important to find a well-fitting sports bra, it's equally important to choose a style that speaks to you. It's not all about function. You want to look good and feel confident in your sports bra.

Nike sports bras come in a variety of materials, colours and designs. Want a sports bra that's easy to get on and ideal for running errands? Look for a lightweight bra for daily use. You might choose a racerback pullover sports bra to wear for yoga or a brightly coloured high-support encapsulation sports bra for running shirtless. The choices are yours. What style speaks to you?

How to Wash Your Sports Bras

Experts at Nike recommend that you wash your sports bra after every wear to prevent unpleasant odours and a build-up of bacteria. Don't just toss it into your washing machine with your other clothing. And opt for gentle soap over a harsh detergent.

Ideally, you'll want to hand-wash your sports bras by soaking them in soapy water for 20 to 30 minutes and then scrubbing the fabric by hand. Once your bras are clean, drain the soapy water and soak and rinse your bras until they are free of soap. If you do put them in the wash, do the load on the delicate cycle and use a lingerie bag to prevent your bras from snagging in the machine.

No matter how you wash your sports bras, be sure to skip the dryer and instead air-dry your sports bras flat to avoid shrinkage and wear and tear to their elasticity.

How to Choose a Sports Bra

It's Time to Choose a Sports Bra

When it comes to choosing a sports bra, remember: function and fit are paramount. If a bra feels too tight, it will restrict you. If it feels too loose, it won't work. Choose a sports bra that is suitable for the type of exercise you'll be doing. When you feel supported and secure in your sports bra, it will show in your performance.

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