3 sports bra mistakes to avoid: Best options for running, yoga and more

Mixed-race woman doing sport in city.
Expert tips to make sure that you get the best sports bra fit. (Getty Images)

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Poorly-fitting and uncomfortable sports bras are an experience than many shoppers are familiar with, leading to annoying adjustments and distractions when you could be focusing on your workout. While the garment may not always get the attention it deserves, it's an essential part of any workout that shouldn't be overlooked.

Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, a professor of biomechanics at the University of Portsmouth in England, notes that in addition to providing support, a sports bra can be a useful tool in preventing premature sagging and breast pain during workouts.

"If we don’t support the breast properly and it’s moving excessively, there’s danger of causing damage to the soft tissue in the breast. That stretch on the supporting structures can be really painful and can end up stopping women from exercising," she explained curing a call with Yahoo Canada.

To ensure that you're getting the best fit and support possible from your sports bra, we got Wakefield-Scurr's top tips on what to look for when you're shopping.

Not all sports bras are created equal

Close up of woman back with flexing her muscles in sweat on skin after workout. Female bodybuilder with perfect biceps
You'll want to look for the right sports bra for the right type of workout. (Getty Images)

When it comes to sports bras, there's a lot more to them than being a crop top made from a bit of stretchy fabric.

From her studies performed at the Research Group in Breast Health, Wakefield-Scurr found that breasts can move up to 19 cm during a workout depending on the type of activity, meaning you'll want to look for a bra that's tailored to your needs.

"In the run category, we need high support, we need less stretch, we need separation," she says. "For activities that are more studio-based or more strength training-based, there’s less movement of the upper body. We might not need quite as much support and instead we might need a bit more flexibility."

Who should be wearing a sports bra?

While there's a common misconception that women with larger breasts are more in need of support from sports bras, Wakefield-Scurr is adamant that women of all sizes can still benefit from a sports bra.

Since breasts of all sizes and shapes do move during physical activity, they can all experience a degree of stretching to the skin and supporting structures of the chest that can result in premature sagging.

"Smaller-breasted women can gain just as much benefit from appropriate sports bras as larger-breasted women. It’s about prevention rather than cure," she says.

Sporty woman with measuring tape.
There are three key areas you should be testing your sports bra to ensure proper fit. (Getty Images)

How should a sports bra properly fit?

Bras that don't fit correctly can contribute to breast pain, which according to Wakefield-Scurr is a common problem that affects approximately half of women.

When shopping for a sports bra, you'll want to make sure that you're looking for styles that fit correctly through three key areas: the underband, the straps, and the cups.

"The underband is the foundation of any bra," Wakefield-Scurr says. "It’s the part of the bra that determines whether it’s going to be supportive because [it] should act as a shelf that fits firmly around your ribcage, and then the cups or the body of the bra then sit on that shelf."

To ensure that a bra is fitting correctly, you should be able to pull at the sides and result in a gap that's no more than 5 cm from your ribs. The same rule applies to the straps, which shouldn't stretch more than 5 cm when pulled up from the shoulders.

As for the cups, there shouldn't be any spilling over the top or under the arms, with a fit that helps to lift and separate breasts.

To help get you started, we've gathered some of the best sports bras for a range of different workouts below.

Best sports bra for running: Adidas Fastimpact Luxe Run High-Support Bra

Fastimpact Luxe Run High-Support Bra. Image via adidas.
Fastimpact Luxe Run High-Support Bra. Image via adidas.

With this high-impact sports bra, you can say goodbye to struggling when it comes time to get undressed. It features adjustable straps and hooks on the elastic chest band to release tension where you need it.

$100 at Adidas

Best sports bra for yoga: Lululemon Like a Cloud Bra

Like a Cloud Bra. Image via Lululemon.
Like a Cloud Bra. Image via Lululemon.

Designed with light support, this yoga bra is made with marshmallowy-soft foam cups to keep you comfortable during your practice.

$64 at Lululemon

Best sports bra for HIIT: Knix Catalyst Sports Bra

Catalyst Sports Bra. Image via Knix.
Catalyst Sports Bra. Image via Knix.

This bra delivers high support for the most active workouts like high intensity interval training, and is designed to keep you feeling securely held in place. It also comes in an inclusive range of sizes to fit from a 32A to a 42F.

$98 at Knix

Best sports bra for spinning: Girlfriend Collective Paloma Racerback Bra

Paloma Racerback Bra. Image via Girlfriend Collective.
Paloma Racerback Bra. Image via Girlfriend Collective.

For a sustainable option, this medium-support sports bra made from recycled plastic bottles fits the bill. It's also a shopper favourite having earned thousands of five-star reviews.

$46 at Girlfriend Collective

Best sports bra for weightlifting: Sweaty Betty Stamina Workout Bra

Stamina Workout Bra. Image via Sweaty Betty.
Stamina Workout Bra. Image via Sweaty Betty.

This sweat-wicking bra has a seamless design that prevents chafing, along with plenty of stretch. This bestseller comes in a rainbow of colours to choose from, so you can have one for every mood.

$56 at Sweaty Betty

Best plus size sports bra: Nike Rival Women's High-Support Sports Bra

Rival Women's High-Support Sports Bra (Plus size). Image via Nike.
Rival Women's High-Support Sports Bra (Plus size). Image via Nike.

The Nike Rival Sports Bra features a compressive fit with moulded cups for a secure feel that helps minimize bounce. As an added bonus, adjustable straps and back closure make it easy to get the right fit.

$80 at Nike

Best everyday sports bra: Everlane The Perform Bra

The Perform Bra. Image via Everlane.
The Perform Bra. Image via Everlane.

Whether you're running errands, relaxing at home, or taking a relaxing stroll, Everlane's Perform Bra is up for it all. Shoppers say that it holds up to light exercise yet is also "comfortable enough for wearing throughout the day" and is "just so soft."

$53 at Everlane

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