There's more to sports bras than adding a pop of color to your gym gear (although, I'm definitely guilty of owning one in every variation of neon). A sports bra can make or break your workout — with a good one, everything's in the right place and you look as hot as one can while breaking a sweat on the Stairmaster; wear the wrong fit, and you'll leave the gym with sore muscles and sore boobs, which is a bummer all around.
To purge our underwear drawers of unhelpful sports bras, we turned to Tracy Byrnes, Senior Innovation Manager at Athleta. She breaks down all the red flags that tell you if your sports bra is the wrong fit.
It fits like a regular bra.
Don't automatically buy the sports bra that matches your size at Victoria's Secret. "A sports bra should feel snug on your body," says Byrnes. "You should be able to breathe comfortably, but feel supported. It should fit more snugly than a lingerie bra."
It rides up.
"The band should fit straight across your rib cage. If you feel it riding up in the front or pulling up in the back, you will not be getting the full benefit of support and comfort that a sports bra should be providing you," says Byrnes. Most activewear stores, like Athleta, have specialists that can help you find the right size, so you're not guessing.
Do you ever wear two sports bras at once? Byrnes says there's nothing wrong with that, unless you're doing it because you're lazy. "Many women have bras that are old and need replacing, but they continue to wear them long after they have stopped providing support. Replacing your bras on a yearly basis will help for overall support," she says.
You're bouncing — a lot.
No matter what, there will always be a little bounce when you're working out. But "a sports bra will help to minimize both the up and down and side to side bounce that happens when we are in motion," explains Byrnes. "You should feel 'contained' but still be able to breathe. If you notice a lot of bounce, you need to replace your bra and find one more suitable to your body and your activities."
You're sporting major cleavage.
There's nothing wrong with a little cleave, unless it's at the gym. "You shouldn’t see cleavage in a sports bra. Your breasts should be fully covered in the cup and there shouldn’t be spillage under the arm or cleavage showing," says Byrnes. "If this happens, you should look at trying on a size up or a different design of sports bra. Many bras are labeled with the ideal cup size (B-C, or C-D and so on). Look for this to help guide you. The uniboob is created by the fabric compressing [the breasts together] against the body. There are bras that provide more shapely support where the breast is encapsulated in a cup. There are options if you don’t want a uniboob!"
You're buying the cheapest option.
The sports bra is an item on which one should splurge — at least a little bit. "The materials used in some of the more expensive sports bras help provide support and reduce bounce — the main reasons you are buying the bra in the first place," explains Byrnes. "An inexpensive bra may feel fine at first, but the materials can quickly fail and leave you stuck buying another real soon, or just leaving you without support."
You don't wash it regularly.
Gross, but some people do skip washing to keep sports bras from shrinking. Don't do that. "It’s important to launder your bras after each workout to remove the sweat and deodorant —they can cause the materials to break down," says Byrnes. "Still, your sports bras should be replaced every year. Mark the internal label with a date to remind yourself!"