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I'm not one to be too picky about most things, but sports bras? Y'all. If I'm going to sprint down a soccer field or run a half marathon or hike for days and live in my sports clothes then heck yeah I'm going to be picky about my sports bras.
Unfortunately I'm not the kind of person who can just throw on a little bit of elastic to keep the chest in check. Imagine an athletic body. Now scrap what you just imagined because what you imagined is a LIE - athletes come in all sizes and that means all bra sizes! And for those of us who have a little more tissue over our rib cages we need something to strap the ta-tas in and hold tight for the whole ride.
I've never skimped and bought a too-cheap sports bra that won't do the job (why would you ever double up or triple up sports bras?!), but it's also been a journey to find the perfect sports bra for my high impact sports. There are so many factors stacked up against you:
1) Most women wear the wrong bra size
Don't be one of the 8 in 10 women who wear the wrong bra size! Get fitted. You think an underwire is uncomfortable? Yeah, now imagine that discomfort with sweat, extra movement, and extra rubbing. Yikes! So get fitted properly by someone who knows what they're doing. And I don't mean "Hey, I googled how to do it so I know what I'm doing," but someone who ACTUALLY knows what they're doing. Don't believe me? Do a google search right now for how to measure bra size. I'll wait. Check out the first several search results. Notice how none of them offer the same approach for measurements? Yeah. Go find someone who knows what they're doing, or at the very least look for the basics:
- A nice flat band that isn't riding up anywhere and doesn't have any gaps. The band does most of the work in a sports bra. Don't neglect the band!
- Straps that are snug but not cutting into your shoulders. Your shoulders shouldn't be what's fighting gravity for you: that's the band's job.
- No gap between breast and cup. You should fill it.
- But "filling" doesn't mean "spilling." Don't spill.
- Make sure it fits on the outermost hook. The band will slowly lose its elasticity and you should slowly go to the tighter hooks. When you get to the innermost set of hooks you should think about replacing your bra. (Hint: your sports bra probably shouldn't celebrate a birthday.)
- Pro tip: Scoop those mammary glands into your bra. Yeah cleavage! Don't just throw the sports bra on and hope it works: go ahead and adjust to get everything sitting just right. It's worth that extra time.
You might be totally shocked by your bra size. That's okay.
2) Know that it's going to feel different when you're running
Oh sure, the bra feels great in the fitting room while you're not moving, but just wait until you get out on the trail! You should feel snug in that bra: if you're not snug then you'll get too much movement and possibly chafing. And seriously, a chafed section in the middle of your back is the last thing you want to find during your post-run shower. (Family members have been concerned I was in a real-life Psycho shower scene a few times after my runs.) I've usually found that when I've chafed it means I was wearing a bra that was too big. Try going down a size. It may feel tighter than you think it should. That's okay. Remember that the band is what's going to do most of the work; don't put too much stress on your shoulders and make sure the band is appropriately snug.
Ugh, "style." I know, I know, it's a vicious cycle: you're probably running because you want to look good, and you want to look good while you're running. Besides magically curing ourselves of social norms and expectations ("no uniboob!" "girls don't sweat!" "be skinny and have abs so you can run in just a sports bra!") let's just agree that it's more important to choose form over function. That said, look for encapsulation and compression bras:
Compression keeps the ta-tas from moving, and
Encapsulation serves two purposes:
1) it provides much-needed airflow around each separate breast (when you're gross and sweaty and want a little breeze through that boob sweat you'll be grateful for the separation), and
2) it prevents the dreaded uniboob. That being said, I don't give a crap if you have uniboob. (Who decided to come up with this crap to make us self-conscious even while we're running?! Isn't it hard enough to worry about if we look like we're about to keel over and faceplant on the pavement, and on top of that we have to worry about whether we have uniboob?! Please.)
Other things to look for? Consider a racerback style. It helps cinch everything together and works for a lot of people. (Plus there's the vanity aspect that you can wear a racerback bra with a cute racerback tank and not have your bra straps showing and end up with weird tan lines.) That said, racerbacks don't work for me at all: I chafe in racerbacks and I feel tight in the shoulders where the racerback comes together. So I embrace the weird tan lines and don't care if people see my bra straps: I'm going with the sports bra that's going to get me through the race or game over something that will move or chafe.
But hey, pick a sports bra that makes you feel powerful, no matter what it looks like.
After a bunch of years trying out different high impact sports bras I've found my goldilocks bra: the Brooks Jubralee*. (Note: the company used to be "Moving Comfort" but it was bought out by Brooks. By now you'll probably find it under the Brooks label, but there's a chance there are some Moving Comfort labels still out there. They're the same thing.) When I've got the right size bra in the Jubralee I won't chafe on even my longest and hardest runs, and no chafing makes me very very happy.
It's a nice, tight bra which is perfect for running and soccer, plus I like that it's a back enclosure: it's easier to put on (just clasp the hooks in front and then rotate the bra around so it's on the right way and slip your arms in), and it's sooooo much easier to get in and out of this bra while you're camping or backpacking and you don't want to totally strip down.
That said, you may complain about uniboob. The Jubralee isn't the worst shape for sports bras, but it's not the best shape either. Personally I'll take how perfect this bra is for high impact sports over any concerns about uniboob. Also, since it's not racerback you'll probably have some bra straps showing at some point in your life. Hey, at least the colors are cute.
I have now stockpiled this bra. If the zombie apocalypse happens this is the third thing I'm raiding from stores (after food and water of course).
I recommend checking out the Jubralee* if you're in the market for a new sports bra for high impact sports, but keep in mind that we're all different, and so we'll all have our own perfect bra soulmate out there. Feel empowered to try a bunch of styles and BE PICKY! You deserve the support of the perfect bra for you.