Looking to start a fitness regime this year? Join the club. Even if you’re already a dedicated gym rat, January is always a good time to upgrade your clothes and equipment to help put a little extra bounce in your step.
But one place you don’t want any extra bounce? Your chest. (Ha, see what I did there?) If you’re just grabbing any random sports bra off the shelf, you might not be getting the right amount of support. The right sports bra can help prevent the slow, inexorable pull of gravity on your most important assets, along with, you know, incredible back pain. There are a ton of different options out there—here’s what to know to find the best one for you.
A Skinny-Strapped Bralette
These options are cute, but they provide little in the way of support. They’re best for small-chested chicks who do low-impact activities. (Here’s the test: If the activity involves any kind of jumping or repetitive floor strikes, a bralette just isn’t enough. Might as well wear a regular bra.) Tops with built-in bras fall into this category—although they keep you cool by cutting own on the amount of clothing you have to wear, they’re generally not terribly supportive.
Halter bras offer a huge range of motion in the arms and shoulders, but they don’t provide the same level of support that across-the-shoulder straps do. A halter places the weight of your breasts on your neck, so save them for low-impact pursuits like yoga, Pilates, and light weight-lifting, and if you’re a C-cup or above, you might want to move to something more supportive entirely.
A Standard Tank Shape
With elasticized bands and stretchy, wicking fabric, these are a good all-purpose sports bra for any medium-impact activity like dancing, step class, cross-training, or cycling. Regardless of exactly how the straps are configured (racerback, T-back, etc.), the general rule is that the thicker they are, the more support it provides against painful bouncing. Small-chested women often find traditional styles to have all the support they need; medium busts may need a little extra compression. If your chest tissue feels sore after a workout in one of these bras, you’re one of them.
If you’re medium-busted, with a need for more support than a flimsy bralette provides but not big enough to graduate to specialized large-bust bras, you may find that the best option is buying a tank bra in a size smaller than whatever you usually wear. The extra tightness will hold breasts in place more snugly.
Sports bras with molded cups are to help large busts stay in place during medium- and high-impact sports like running. The cups separate and contain breasts, providing more support than compression alone. Generally, molded-cup bras are made in sizes for C-cups and larger.
Hook-and-Eye Closures and Underwires
Often found in combination with molded cups, a traditional adjustable hook-and-eye closure provides the surest, snuggest fit.
Whichever type of bra works for you, help keep it in top shape by washing it on the delicate cycle and letting it air-dry (heat breaks down elastic and moisture-wicking tech fabrics). Skipping fabric softener on workout clothes helps preserve their powers of evaporation, too.
When it comes to sports bras and price, you definitely get what you pay for. If you’re looking for a bra that will provide the right support and last a long time, be prepared to shell out a few extra bucks for it. Fifty bucks may seem like a steep price to pay now, but in just a few short years, you’ll be glad you did.