How to Buy a Sports Bra

What to Look for in a Sports Bra, for Every Cup Size

This sports bra by Shock Absorber is designed to provide maximum impact.
Photo courtesy of Shock Absorber

There are lots of sports bras out there, and wearing one is very important. But deciding which one is right for you can be hard work.

No matter what size you are, support and comfort are most important — but the level of support and type of comfort features you need depends on your cup size. Need help finding one in your size? We're here to help.

For A to C Cup Sizes

While you may not need a sports bra that provides maximum support, getting a good fit and adequate support is important. You still have unique needs. One complaint from petite busted women is that many types of sports bras will make you look extremely flat-chested — or even squashed. It can be easy for you to not notice movement when you're a petite cup, because it may not be that obvious or uncomfortable, but it's still not good for your bust. Make an extra effort to make sure your sports bra is supportive.

Look For: You need one that you can move in — not one that makes you feel too covered up and confined. If you're looking for added shape, look for a sports bra with molded cups or even push up. Take special note to find a sports bra that offers some support and bounce reduction. Sports bra shopping should be all about finding the right balance between comfort and support; when you have a small to moderate bust size, look for them in equal measures.

Finding the right sports bra for you can be tricky when you're a C cup. You're kind of in the middle — too large for some of the brands that cater to small sizes, and you may be too small for the styles that are specifically designed for larger sizes. You may find that sports bra styles that have encapsulated cups to separate your chest work for your shape. This type of sports bra will provide a better fit, and the support a C cup needs.

Stay Away From: Styles designed to provide extra or full coverage, especially if you want to enhance your shape or add volume to your bust. These types of sports bras will make you look extremely squashed. To create a more contoured shape, look for an underwire or molded style that separates and lifts. Also, avoid styles that are too constricting, which won't be comfortable at all when you're playing a sport or exercising.

For D or DD Cup Sizes

There's no doubt that support is essential for this bra size range. The good news is that you have a lot of options to choose from in sports bra brands. Many brands make sports bras in sizes that stop at DD - and others specialize in larger sizes, often starting at a D cup size and continuing up from there.

Comfort is much more of an issue for this size range. Try on different brands until you know more about the features that are best for your body type — and the styles that fit you most comfortably. It's important to adjust your bra properly, making sure that the band fits well, straps are in place, and bust is adjusted inside the cups.

Look For: Sports bra brands that specialize in larger sizes. Or, look for brands that include extra supportive and comfortable features on their larger size bras, such as wider bands, side panels, and padded straps.

Stay Away From: Sports bras that are stretchy and comfortable but lack structure and support. Don't ever sacrifice one for the other, even if it is tempting. D and DD cups need a high level of both support and comfort.

If You're a DDD or Larger Cup 

No matter what your activity is, even for low-impact exercises, you need a sports bra that provides a lot of support. And for you, support and comfort are very much dependent on each other. When you're a DDD or larger cup size, you can't have one without the other.

Look For: The sports bra brands that specialize in large cup sizes, because many brands don't go above a D or DD cup. Don't be tempted to squeeze into a sports bra that's too small for you — it won't give you the right type of support you need. You might want underwire support, especially if your activity is high impact or includes lots of bouncing.

However, you can find great support in a well engineered, non-underwire sports bra like the bra shown above from Shock Absorber. Additionally, it's important to find a bra with hook and eye closure instead of one that goes over the head. This allows the band and bust to fit snug and firm, providing the best support possible.

Stay Away From: Sports bras that aren't supportive enough. If they are made of a stretchy material or don't have hook and eye closure, they're not best for your bust. Or you will feel side effects, which can include back pain, chest pain, shoulder pain, or neck pain. If that's the case, try a different style.

Keep in mind, your sports bra needs are also based on the level of activity. If you're doing low impact exercise like yoga or pilates, you can opt for a casual less supportive style. For activities like aerobics or running, stick to something with maximum support. And always wash them well to help them last longer and keep you looking your best.