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Finding the right sports bra is not easy. A little too loose and you’ll be left with uncomfortable breast movement. A bit too tight and your breathing will be restricted and your skin may chafe. The right fit and style can be the key to an enjoyable workout.

How to choose the proper sports bra for particular activity

Sports bras fall under support categories of low, moderate or high support. Choosing the proper bra for your particular activity will keep you most comfortable. It is better to use more support than your activity requires than to not have enough support. 
  • Low: Yoga, walking, hiking
  • Moderate: Biking, strength training, spin class
  • High: Running, cardio circuit training, jumping rope

What kind of sports bra is best for breast movement reduction? 

  • Compression sports bras are best for those with smaller cup sizes. The compression bra pushes the breasts up against the chest to keep them in place without cups in the bra.
  • Encapsulation sports bras are better for larger breasts. There are separate cups that support each breast individually, and they are better for low to moderate impact activities. 
  • A combination of compression and encapsulation is the most supportive style, so a combination is best for high-impact activities. 

Understanding the pieces of sports bra

  • The band wraps around the bottom and is the most supportive part of the bra. A thicker band makes for a sturdier bra. 
  • Some sports bras have underwire, while others do not. Underwire is more commonly found in encapsulation bras to support each breast and cup individually. The underwire should never be poking you. 
  • Though many sports bras are pull-over, there are some that have back clasps. If the bra is new, use the first hook of the bra. Sports bras typically stretch with use, so you should tighten it to the second and third hook over time. 

Racerback, Wide strap and Crisscross back (back styles), which is better for you?

  • Racerback bras have shoulder straps that come together at the level of the shoulder blades to form a Y-shape. This shape offers more support than most other sports bra styles, but it is not adjustable. 
  • Wide strap bras have a similar structure to a traditional bra. They tend to have an adjustable back clip, and the straps are sometimes adjustable as well. 
  • The crisscross back has a very supportive X-shape. The straps can often be adjusted, which allows for the best fit.

How to wash

Wash your sports bra in cold water with detergent. Dry the bra flat or on a clothes lines. Heat damages the spandex within the bra. The sweat-wicking fabric and supportive spandex that most sports bras are made of can only stay sturdy is it is not damaged by heat. 

Things to consider while picking one out

  • Make sure that there is no poking underwire or chafing straps. Stopping your workout early to deal with the rash that your bra is giving you is extremely frustrating. 
  • The band should not move when you lift your arms. If it slides up, you should look for a tighter band. 
  • Adjust the straps before you make your purchase to make sure that you can find a proper fit. 
  • Though the compression will feel tighter than most bras, your breathing should not be restricted. 
  • Don’t be afraid to jump around in the store to test the support of the bra. 


There are tons of different sports bra designs out there, and there is no one best bra. Testing a few out and seeing what works best for you is the smoothest way to pick a sports bra. Whether or not you want more support, back clasps, adjustable straps, or encapsulation is all up to you. Your preferences and your particular type of exercise will guide you to the proper bra.

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Written by Katie Carsky , B.S. in Medical Humanities from Boston College | MD/MPH candidate at Tulane University School of Medicine
Katie runs everything from road 5K’s to trail 50K ultramarathons, and she is the captain of Eagles Club XC at Boston College. She enjoys using research to make comprehensible articles for readers.

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