Like many people, over the course of the pandemic, I took up running as both a form of exercise and as a way to get out of my house during a time when barely anything was open. I grew to love the activity, but I found that the sports bras I'd long been using for lifting and yoga were not suitable for running: They wore down quickly and didn't provide enough support for my large bust, causing my breasts to not only look saggy but also to bounce around, attracting the unwanted attention of random passerby. I became obsessed with finding the right sports bra to keep me comfortable during my workouts and safe from painful strain on my chest, which is how I found myself in touch with Kristyn Polin (opens in new tab), Customer Service Supervisor at Bare Necessities, and Tracy Freno (opens in new tab), the brand's Senior Manager of Customer Service. During our conversation, they were able to demystify bra sizing, help me understand what to look for in a sports bra, and identified some of their favorite products and brands.
"The majority of women are wearing a bra with a band that's too big and a cup that's too small," says Freno. "About 80 percent of women are not wearing the correct size."
Indeed, the pair diagnosed my sports bra issue straightaway: My bras were too small, and I was opting for low- and medium-impact styles during my runs instead of wearing more supportive high-impact styles.
To resolve the first issue, I learned from Freno and Polin how to actually find my bra size. "The number is the size of your band or the measurement around your back, which you can find in two very simple steps," says Polin. "Take a soft tape measure and wrap it around your ribcage while wearing your best-fitting bra—though preferably not a sports bra—and that's your band size. Then, measure around the fullest line of your bust (usually the nipple line). The difference between those two measurements is going to give you what the cup size will be. If there is a one inch difference, you're an A cup; if there's a two inch difference, you'd be a B cup; a three inch difference is a C, and so on."
Through this process, I learned that I've been wearing the wrong bra size for years, and am now better-informed about how to find better-fitting products. All that was left to do was understand how to shop for sports bras for large breasts that provide optimal comfort and support for different workouts. Freno and Polin walked me through this and more.
Finding the Right Sports Bra for a Large Bust
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With the wide variety of sports bras on the market, shopping for the right product can feel overwhelming. Freno and Polin, however, remind us to keep the same values in mind when shopping for sports bras as we do when we're shopping for everyday bras. "You want the band to fit as snug as possible on the loosest hook-and-eye so that as the band stretches, you can bring the hook and eye inward," says Freno. "This expands the shelf life of your bra. Plus, the majority of the bra's support comes from that nice snug band. With sports bras in particular, the band is meant to fit a little bit more snug because you're doing higher impact activity than your everyday activities."
How do you select a bra based on your activities? Great question.
"If you were to do something that was more low-impact, like yoga or Pilates, you'll want to look for something with medium control—maybe something that doesn't have to compress your bust as much. You'll want to be able to move around comfortably, and you'll be able to get that with a medium-impact sports bra or a wire-free option," says Polin. On the other hand, "if you're doing more high-impact activities such as cycling, running, or horseback riding, you would want a more high-impact sports bra, which does tend to have a little bit more compression in the cups in the bust just to prevent bouncing as well as neck and shoulder pain."
Caring for Your Sports Bras
You may already be familiar with the recommendation that all bras be hand-washed, but, according to Freno, sports bras "are a realm all unto themselves, because they're getting such a beating. They're really doing a lot for you by holding up your breast tissue in the most extreme of circumstances, so it's not like a regular bra, where we'd suggest handwashing or a light cycle." Instead, she recommends using a washing machine for a more thorough, sanitizing wash.
"Use the cool or warm setting along with other delicates. You'll also always want to put your garment in a delicates bag, and if it's a hook and eye bra, make sure that you close the hooks before throwing it in the washer," adds Polin. "If you leave it open, those hooks are going to snag onto other fabrics and pull and bend."
In terms of detergent, they recommend using Bare Necessities' Forever Delicate Fabric Wash (opens in new tab) or any formula labeled "free and clear." They caution, however, against using popular brand Woolite, which works wonderfully on delicate fabrics like silk and wool, but can wear down the elastic in bras, specifically.
Finally, Polin warns, "I would never recommend throwing your bras in the dryer. Always hang-dry."
When to Toss a Sports Bra
Because sports bras require maximal washing, Polin says, "You have to realize that it's not going to last as long as a regular bra might."
So when is it time to call it quits with your go-to style? Freno suggests, "It depends on how often are you working out, what activities you're performing, and how are you laundering it. But what it really comes down to is this: When that sports bra is no longer providing you with the comfort and support that you deserve, it's time to get a new one." She says to regularly ask yourself: "Am I getting the support that I need? Are the straps fallilng off my shoulders? Am I on the tightest hook of the band? All of the signs of wear on a regular bra would also apply to a sports bra. You just need to keep in mind that you are prob working it harder than you are working a regular bra."
The Best High-Impact Sports Bras
"If you talk to women who run, ride horses, or participate in any kind of high-impact activity, they will confirm that they get a better workout when they wear a bra that they don't have to think about so that they can focus their attention and energy on their workout," says Freno.
Indeed, I know for a fact that I run faster and have better stamina when my bust is pressed securely against my chest. This not only prevents bounce, but it also keeps me from experiencing pain, discomfort, and feelings of heaviness that slow me down when I'm jogging or doing burpees.
Check out some of our favorite high-impact sports bras for products that'll have you moving faster, more efficiently, and more comfortably.
According to Freno and Poli, this bra is the consistently the best-selling sports bra in the United States, minimizing bounce by 85%. Polin says, "Customers come back for it time and time again, because they know it and they love it."
"Lately I have been finding success with wired Wacoal sports bras," recommends Freno.
Before switching to Wacoal's wired styles, Freno swore by wire-free options, like this one from Anita.
The Best Medium-Impact Sports Bras
As Polin and Freno pointed out, medium-impact sports bras are excellent for those participating in activities like yoga and pilates, in which the wearer makes a number of strenuous movements but doesn't necessarily require the compression of a high-impact option. Below, see some of our favorite options.
Reviewers rave about this product. One in particular writes, "This bra is the best thing for runners since it holds me in without being too restrictive."
This bra's modest cutout above the band makes it excellent for working out in the summer heat, because it provides just a bit of ventilation (preventing the dreaded boob-sweat phenomenon).
Kinflyte's bras promise to improve posture—something that I've gotten to experience with my own. And unlike other posture-improving products, this bra lets me move freely comfortably throughout my workout.
The Best Low-Impact Sports Bras
Freno herself admits that, recently, she's been opting for lower impact styles that don't compress her chest so much. "I feel the difference when I wear a sports bra that compresses and one that doesn't," she says. "I don't personally like the feeling of compression—it makes me feel like I like I can't breathe. I just want to be supported so that I don't bounce."
And many women with big busts agree. Keep scrolling to check out some of the best low-impact, non-compressing sports bras on the market today.
The latch on the front of this bra makes it easy to take off—particularly after a sweaty yoga session, when everything seems to stick to your body.
Just about every review of this bra lauds its incredible comfort and fit. Plus, the cooling fabric promises to regulate your body temperature during even the most intense workout.
This light support bra is beautifully designed, and reviewers love the comfortable fabric it's composed of.
Best Budget Sports Bras
We all know that bras are expensive, which is a tough pill to swallow when, as aforementioned, they need to be replaced so regularly. For that reason, we've looked into some of the highest quality options that you can buy on a budget, so you can work out with maximum support and safety without breaking the bank.
Ever since I tried All Fenix this past spring, I've become obsessed with everything they carry. Their bras minimize bounce and are incredibly durable, plus they look and feel incredible even after a few months of laundering.
The fabric of this top is shockingly luxurious considering the price, and works great for yoga, walking, and other low-impact activities.
"Glamorise, for large busts, is an inexpensive but effective option," Freno recommends.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal since 2018. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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