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If you're trying to up your fitness game, you might be surprised to know your sports bra can play a huge role in the success of your workout. After all, a slipping strap during Downward-Facing Dog or an uncomfortable amount of bouncing during a run can easily be the thing that makes you want to quit.
No matter what you're doing, you should feel comfortable and supported. That's why the best sports bras are the ones that you don't even have to think about.
How to shop for a sports bra
"If you are thinking about your breasts or your bra, you are in the wrong bra," Laura Tempesta, founder of Bravolution, a sports bra education and review site, told Shop TODAY. "The right bra should be 100 percent distraction-free."
Finding the best one for you depends on what your exercise routine looks like — someone who's going on regular walks around their neighborhood is going to need something different than the person who is turning up for HIIT classes.
"Although you could wear a high-impact bra to a yoga class, you’d probably find it uncomfortable and restrictive," Tempesta said. "You could also wear a low-impact bra for running, but the risk of breast pain greatly increases."
Carrie Schechter, owner of the Brooklyn-based boxing gym Jukebox, echoed similar sentiments to Tempesta when it comes to choosing the right sports bra, with one little caveat. “For anyone over a D cup, it should always be middle and higher [impact],” she advised.
Once you’ve decided which type of sports bra you need, Schechter recommends making sure you can fit two fingers underneath the straps and underneath the band at the bottom to make sure there’s enough room for you to move comfortably. While you’re in the bottom band area, also double check to make sure it’s sitting on your rib cage and not on your actual breast, she told us.
After the perimeter is checked, take a look at how the cups are sitting on your body. “If there are wrinkles in your cup, it’s not the right size. It’s too big for you. There should never be wrinkles in the bra; that lets you know that it fits improperly,” she explained. She recommends bras that have a hook in the back and general levels of adjustability.
Ebonny Fowler, fitness expert and creator of FunWithFit, has two methods for picking the right sports bra. The first is thinking about what she calls the two S’s: snuggle and support. “You want it to feel like it’s snug on your breast and your chest without giving you any pain because the straps can be digging into your shoulders or your neck area, [which] can cause headaches or neck pain,” she said. Also make sure that the band of your bra isn’t rising up in the back and the straps are the right length for you, she offers.
When thinking about support, she says to make sure you’re not spilling out of your sports bra and that you feel comfortable in it. “It helps if it’s something you like. I do find that if you have an outfit that you like or feel good in, it’s going to help motivate you to go to the gym even more,” she noted.
If you can’t remember the two S’s, Fowler has another method for you. She recommends her clients choose sports bras based on the acronym FIT:
- F: Choose something that feels good. “Is it comfortable? Does it make me feel motivated to work out?” These are questions she suggests asking yourself.
- I: Intensity of your workout. Like Tempesta and Schechter, Fowler emphasized that the intensity of your workout is going to largely determine which type of sports bra is best for your needs.
- T: Time. How long do you plan on wearing this bra? “If you’re going to be using it for multiple workouts a week or different types of workouts…then you need to think about maybe having a variety of sports bras that you can rotate from day to day so you’re not wearing the same sports bra over and over again for like a week or a month,” she said.
How to choose the right size sports bra
Sports bra sizes can vary from normal bra sizes across brands and depending on the fabric, like most other clothing. Overall, Fowler and Schechter agree there’s not much difference between your sports bra size and your normal bra size, but Fowler has one main piece of advice.
“I think a lot of women don’t know their current bra size,” she began. It can be easy to assume that you’re the same size year over year because that’s what you’re used to, but the reality is that our bodies change all the time, and you should be getting regularly fitted to make sure that you’re up to date on your proper bra size.
If you don’t want to or are unable to get fitted by a professional, you can measure yourself at home to get an updated and accurate bra size. This is especially helpful if you plan on ordering a sports bra online and want to get it right the first time without the need for pesky exchange or return processes.
How often should you wash your sports bra?
Fowler and Schechter both said that you should be washing your sports bra after every use or every day, especially if you have a favorite that you wear often. Sweating during your workout makes the fabric a breeding ground for bacteria, fungus and yeast, so it’s in your best interest to wash it regularly.
Schechter recommends starting by filling your sink with cold water and a cup of white vinegar, soaking your sports bra for 15 minutes before moving it to the washing cycle to get rid of any lingering bacteria and reduce the smell that comes from sweat trapped in the material.
“I think it’s really important that we give our bras a little TLC and remember that they need maintenance just like your favorite pair of shoes,” Fowler told us. If you have the time, she recommends hand-washing your sports bras with a mild detergent. If you don’t, no sweat! (No pun intended.) When machine-washing, her advice is to be cognizant of the other items in that load and consider throwing your sports bra in a lingerie bag first to keep it from getting caught on other hooks or fasteners.
Even the best sports bras will lose their quality with improper care. Always air-dry your bras after washing so you don't wear down the elasticity, and never wash with fabric softener as it can block the fabric's sweat-wicking abilities, Tempesta said. If you prefer to use a dryer, Fowler says to use a lower setting and warns against using dryer sheets because certain ingredients can be harmful to the fabric.
With all of these expert tips in mind, we rounded up the best sports bras for every workout. Whether you're a runner or a yogi, you'll find ample support from these top-rated, expert-approved picks.
Best low-impact sports bras
Wear this comfortable bra for a barre class or underneath your go-to loungewear. It features a flattering scoop neckline and moisture-wicking fabric to keep you cool whether you're running to the grocery store or sneaking in a mid-afternoon yoga flow.
For those days when you want to take it easy, sometimes you just need a sports bra that will do the basics to get you through it. According to Girlfriend Collective's description, this is that bra. They call it "ideal for low- to medium-impact workouts like Pilates and yoga."
Lightweight compression will help keep you just secure enough to get through your favorite yoga moves or through everyday errands. One five-star reviewer called this Everlane find "the absolute best bra they've ever had."
Maddy Ciccone, a master instructor at SoulCycle, called this bra from Lululemon her all-time favorite. The strappy, open back allows you to move freely, which makes it perfect for yoga, stretching or everyday wear.
Schechter also called out Lululemon for their high-quality sports bras.
Ivorie Jenkins, a yoga instructor for the digital fitness platform Glo, said she tends to stick to simpler sports bras — ones that provide just enough support, but won't hurt her shoulders after all-day wear.
"[This one] is my favorite," she said. "It’s super simple, fits in all the right places, has little straps and really nice fabric."
This light-support bra is loved by shoppers with an almost perfect five-star rating from over 550 reviewers. Details like a low scoop neck, a scrunched front and a racerback combine to give you a look the brand calls "studio-to-street superstar."
Best medium-impact sports bras
This Amazon bestseller features a flattering cross-strap back and sweat-wicking fabric. The brand says it provides medium support, perfect for active yoga sessions or weight lifting. One verified reviewer said, "I love it. It is not too tight, I can move and breathe [in it] and forget about my bra altogether."
Available in seven band sizes, nine cup sizes and a dozen colors, this seamless sports bra holds your girls in place with minimal bounce and chafing over time. "If you are a large breasted woman like me, you know how important a supportive bra is and this one delivers," added one shopper who gave it five stars.
Old Navy's activewear section is filled with affordable bras that don't skimp on comfort. According to the brand, this option provides medium support for strength sessions or spin classes. The built-in molded cups and light compression will keep everything in place without making you feel suffocated.
Schechter mentioned Sweaty Betty after hearing praise of its sports bras from some of her clients. Made for medium-impact workouts, this bestseller is made with sweat-wicking fabric and is designed to prevent chafing.
The best part about a longline sports bra like this style is that it can also double as a crop top. It has features like a high neckline, built-in support band and full coverage that are sure to make it your new favorite go-to.
Sweat-resistant material and a criss-cross open back design join forces to help keep you as dry as possible without restricting your movement as you workout. Additionally, the adjustable straps and back clasp allow you to create a custom fit.
Shefit sports bras are made with four-way stretch fabric and patented "Zip. Cinch. Lift." adjustability so that you can have the best fit possible while looking good and staying comfortable. With 15,300+ reviews, shoppers of all shapes and sizes are raving about how they can't wait to get their hands on another one.
"Even though I haven’t tried them, Shefit seems to be the bra right now," Schechter said after learning about the brand during her search for a new sports bra of her own.
This Free People option features a square neck and wide, comfortable straps, which makes it super versatile. It also comes in more than 20 color options and is equipped with SPF 30 UV protection.
"I wear this to virtually all my workouts," Ciccione said. "It caters more to lower-impact activities, not running and jumping. I have worn it for cycling in the past, but I think I'm also on the smaller side."
While it's more expensive than other picks on the list, this bra can double as a shirt thanks to its longline fit. Jenkins liked this bra for its double functionality (one less thing to wash!) but also mentioned how supportive and stretchy it is.
Best high-impact sports bras
This sports bra from Under Armour has a deeper V-cut to match its sleek look that will help it fit well under your workout gear or regular clothes. It has all the features of a classic bra including hook clasps, underwire cups and fixed padding.
This sports bra has an open mesh back for ventilation, which you'll appreciate when you work up a sweat during your cardio or HIIT session. While it's listed as best for B-DD cups, sizes offered range from 32B to 38G.
Bras that have to be pulled over your head need an underband stretchy enough to get past the shoulders, Tempesta said. These can get worn down easily and stretch out, losing essential support in the process. She suggests looking for a bra with a front or back closure like this option from Nike. It also has ventilation in the front and back, so you won't get overheated.
In order to have proper support during runs or HIIT sessions, you want a bra that feels like it's made for your body. While those can be hard to come by, Tempesta recommended looking for one with adjustable straps "for the best fit and support, because every woman has a different shoulder to bust length." This pick from Carrie Underwood's activewear line features straps, as well as a back closure and built-in cups for support.
The bra also has a high cut, which Tempesta said is important. "There should be no cleavage showing whatsoever," she said. "Exposed breast tissue equals moving breast tissue."
Ciccione recommended this Lululemon sports bra for most workouts since "the high neck keeps things where they need to be." It features the brand's signature Luxtreme fabric which is breathable and sweat-wicking, great for those who run hot.
For a wallet-friendly pick that checks all the boxes, try this option from Old Navy. It zips in the front, has adjustable straps and features moisture-wicking technology to keep you dry even during your sweatiest workouts.
For high-intensity workouts like running and cycling or those that require a lot of jumping (think: HIIT classes), Ciccone recommends this option from Under Armour. The padding molds to your body to provide ample support, as well as freedom of movement. Schechter is also a fan of the brand.
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