Shopping for a sports bra? Women who log several kilometres every week know that getting sports bras the suit all needs is just as important as getting the right shoes. And for many, it’s just as complicated. Not feeling properly supported can be uncomfortable or even painful. For some women, bad experiences with ill-fitting bras even prevents them from running. After reviewing and running in many of the bras on the market, we’ve gained a wealth of knowledge on how to get the right sports bra. Here’s what you should think about:
Cup size. Before shopping, it’s pertinent you know what your regular bra size is. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, many brands use those sizes. Secondly, cup size can help determine the needed support level. Knowing your regular bra size takes a lot of the trial and error and guesswork out of shopping.
Preferred support level. A general guideline is that women who wear a B cup or smaller can go low impact. Those who fit in the B and C range can opt for a medium impact bra and women who wear a C to DD are likely going to want to go high impact. Those who are D, DD or beyond, are often looking for something extra. Those runners are going to needs a sports bra where brands have given extra attention to the structure, padding and placement of the straps to make sure it’s actually supportive enough (we recommend Shock Absorber, Adidas or 2XU bras).
Is it adjustable? Sports bras that you can adjust to get the exact right fit are worth investing in. Have a tiny rib cage? A generic “small” is often too lose in the band. Models that do up in the back with three size options (just like your classic bra) are better. Adjustable shoulder straps are another key feature. A runner with narrow shoulders or a small frame, for example, is probably someone who often finds that straps of cookie cutter bras often slip. If that’s the case, you just won’t get the full support.
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Know your deal breakers. Pay attention to what made past sports bras uncomfortable. Some common complaints are: not enough support, no breath-ability, thin straps that cut, loose bands that cause chafing with movement or straps that slip off every few kilometres.
Padding doesn’t always necessitate high support. If a sports bra is constructed properly, it doesn’t necessarily need tons of padding. A sturdy, snug-fitting band and strong straps that don’t stretch too much are smart features showing quality. Many companies build extra panels into the body of the bra to give more support or construct it out of durable fabrics that won’t stretch or give in to weight. Another handy dandy design element: a strap that does up in the upper back as well as the mid back to distribute weight load more evenly. So don’t turn your nose up at bras that have little padding– try it first.
It’s labelled “high support” but is it actually? Companies that stuff in padding, add thick strap and label it high support are not going to fly with full-busted runners. Learn to spot bras that are masquerading as “high support.” Pull the straps. Are they too flimsy? Is the body of the bra made out of a cheap, stretchy material that could lose shape? Usually if a sports bra is really high support, it’s adjustable to ensure that runners can customize it to their unique shape (we’re not all the same!). Finally, are the cups removable? A high support bra doesn’t usually function well when the support is removed. Designing real bra support is much more complex than adding lemon-shaped inserts.
Canadian Running top picks
Best extra high support: Adidas Maximum Support Energy Bra.
It’s adjustable in the back and in the straps. What’s nice about this one is that Adidas has modified the design of this bra as the sizes get larger. That shows that they understand that women who wear larger cup sizes simply need more support. For this model, with sizes D and beyond, Adidas has added more coverage, increased structure to the cups and a padded under wire.
Best high support: Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra
Shock Absorber has created an extra high support bra. It’s not heavy on the padding, extremely ventilated and does up at the mid and upper back distributing the weight in two places. While it’s extra high support, the design is sleek rather than frumpy. Oh and the material feels like silk.
Best medium support:
This bra is proof that Oakley knows style. For runners looking for a medium support bra, this is a good choice. Perhaps the best feature other than style, is the smoothness of the bra– no irritating clasps, sleek seams and wide straps means there is nothing to dig into skin.
It also is made with durable fabric and gives trustworthy support.
Best low impact: Moving Comfort Just Right Racer
This bra is seamless and soft meaning it’s not going to cause red marks or chafing. Moving Comfort has taken the classic sports bra cut but updated it with lightweight fabric, cups and added compression. This would be especially ideal for easy runs, strength workouts or a go-to for women who want to go low impact. A bonus with this one is that it’s also great to change into after a run for lounging at home.