How to buy the perfect sports bra

By: Karen Kwan

Photography by Joe Kim/TC Media Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Joe Kim/TC Media


How to buy the perfect sports bra

By: Karen Kwan
Whether your fitness goal this summer is setting a new personal best for 10K or mastering the headstand pose in yoga, make sure you give proper support to your two breast friends.

Go for a snug fit
Your sports bra should fit like a bear hug: firm, secure and comfortable. "It should hold you tighter than your everyday bra, but not squeeze you," says Liliana Mann, owner of Linea Intima, a lingerie store in Toronto. It should also fit snugly at the loosest hook-and-eye closure when you're trying it on, says Joelle Michealoff, lead designer for women's intimates and bras at Lululemon. "All materials will stretch over time, so you want to be able to tighten it up."

Invest in a sports bra wardrobe
The bra you wear for yoga should not be the same one you wear for Zumba: you need to match the sports bra to the level of impact of each activity. Having a variety will give your bras a breather too, so that the fibres get a chance to relax, says Mann.

Test out each bra in the store

"This way you'll know whether you can move in it," says Michealoff. "If it's a bra for yoga, try some poses you normally do in class to see if you stay in the bra or not." If it's a bra for something high impact, such as running, jump up and down to check for any discomfort.

Select the style that suits you

A straight-strap bra that is sized by band and cup will offer more hold than a racer-back style. "It's best to support each breast individually rather than in one mass. If you have support on each shoulder, you're dividing the weight," says Michealoff. A racer-back style, however, is often chosen by yogis because the straps are less likely to slide off midpose. This style may also be more comfy if you have sloping shoulders. As for going with an underwire or not, that's just personal preference.

Check for smart design details
"You want a bra with a Lycra content of eight percent. Two to four percent will not provide enough compression," says Mann. And while it's comfy, cotton absorbs sweat and doesn't dry quickly. Look instead for quick-dry fabrics (such as Dri-FIT from Nike and Play Dry from Reebok). Adjustable straps allow you to custom-fit your bra, and smooth seams help prevent chafing. Lastly, while your breasts don't sweat, perspiration can pool on your back and around your chest from your armpits and head, so a bra with mesh in the front and back centre will help lessen that sweaty feeling, says Michealoff.  

Treat them with TLC
To prolong the life of your bosom's support team, wash your bra in cool water immediately after a workout and let it air-dry. When worn regularly, a sports bra should last six to eight months.

Make sure your milk supply has been established before you buy anything too constrictive, says Michealoff, herself a mom of two. "Your breasts are heavier and tender when you're nursing, so you may want a bra with more support," she says. Mann agrees, and adds that you should change back into your nursing bra after your workout is done, as the compression of a sports bra may interfere with milk flow. 

If you need help deciding which sports bra is best for you, check out our editor's pick: 3 best sports bras. Now that you're all strapped in, don't forget about your feet! Take a look at the 10 best running shoes for summer to complete your workout checklist.

This story was originally titled "Support system: Here's how to buy the perfect sports bra" in the July 2013 issue.

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How to buy the perfect sports bra