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How to Pick the Right Sports Bra for You

sports bra sneakers and headphones
Racerback sports bras keep breasts anchored to the body. Meanwhile, wide straps are usually best for bigger cup sizes because they provide more restraint and are adjustable.

by Cheryl S. Grant

Time for some real talk: Did you know breasts can bounce up to eight inches while we're working out? Yes, eight inches!

If you want to not only enjoy your workout but also get the most out of it, it's important to find the right sports bra for you. Oftentimes, wearing a regular bra while exercising just doesn't provide the support you need. When scientists surveyed 1,300 female marathoners, they found that exercise can play a significant role in causing sore breasts — a common complaint among women.

You should feel comfortable and confident as you take steps toward your fitness goals. Here are a few helpful tips on how to find a sports bra that fits you well and provides ample support, no matter your breast size.

Focus on Fit and Function

Sports bras come in many shapes and sizes but are ultimately designed to keep your breasts in place while performing low, medium, and high-impact exercises like lifting weights, dancing, or running. Finding the right bra for you means identifying one that not only fits but also keeps your breasts secure and comfortable — no matter your level of movement.

"A proper fitting sports bra is the most important factor for ensuring comfortable and healthy breast support," says Ali Cudby, author of the book "Fit My Bras."

The fit and function of the right sports bra will depend on your body and your activity level. If you want, you can consult an expert in-store fitter to ensure you find the right bra for you. Be sure to let them know what activities you enjoy, so they can find one that suits your specific needs. "Women who always have to wear multiple sports bras to minimize movement are amazed by the difference when they find one that is suitable," Cudby explains.

Consider Encapsulation vs. Compression

Encapsulation bras are designed similarly to a regular bra; they have separate cups to support both breasts. Encapsulation bras are typically better for women who have larger breasts. "They do a better job of allowing each breast to move naturally," says Cudby.

Compression bras tend to look like a cropped tank top (or shelf bra) and are designed to keep your breasts compressed to the body in order to limit movement. They are better suited for low-impact workouts and women who wear A and B cup sizes.

Strengthen Your Strap IQ

While shopping for sports bras, you'll notice there are various strap designs to choose from. Racerback straps typically meet in the middle of your back and keep your breasts close to your body. Wide straps are usually best for bigger cup sizes because they provide more restraint and are adjustable. This is crucial when it comes to comfort — adjusting your straps to be shorter (or longer) can help you feel more secure.

Pullover or tank styles don't always provide the rigidity and adjustability needed when working out, especially for larger chest sizes. "I never wear pullover styles because I like a bra size fit and function in my sports bras," says Elisabeth Dale, author of "The Bra Zone" and founder of the website The Breast Life.

As for those strappy, crisscross-style bras — keep in mind that having more straps doesn't necessarily translate into more support. If you opt for super cute bra with numerous straps, make sure they aren't too tight or dig into your back. While the straps do look fashionable peeking out from the back of a tank top, you don't want to find yourself uncomfortable (or in pain) mid-workout.

Examine the Band of the Bra

Don't underestimate the power of a secure back clasp. Back clasps secure the band of your bra — which is really important for larger breasts and anyone who wants to avoid a wardrobe malfunction.

"The band is responsible for 80-90 percent of your breast support," says Dale. It should be anchored firmly to your body at the narrowest part of your rib cage. "The bottom of the band should sit just under your breasts, level with the floor all around your body," she adds. If it moves up your back, the bra is too big.

Ultimately, the sports bra you choose is up to you. But, remember, breast tissue is delicate, so it's important to put some effort into picking the right sports bra. "No matter a woman's breast size, over time, the impact of bouncing can break down the connective tissues in breasts, which can lead to sagging," explains Dale. Not to mention, it's uncomfortable — and you deserve to feel good (and secure) while taking the time to work out and focus on your health.

"The name of the game is comfort, and banning the bounce is a big part of the answer," says Cudby. Finding the right sports bra can help ban the bounce and keep you in the gym!

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.