Women standing in a line wearing sports bras from Adidas’s spring-summer 2022 collection

(Image credit: Adidas)

How do you find a well-fitting sports bra? Do you get measured as you would for your normal bra size?

80% of women wear the wrong bra size, but it doesn’t have to be this way. From support, to fitting and construction – here’s what you need to know to pick the best sports bra for you…

Step 1 – “Check the band that sits under the breast tissue – 80% of your support comes from the band, so this is important to get right. The band should sit flat under your bust and around your rib cage. If it digs in, go up a band size. If it gapes, or the back rides up, go down a size.”

Step 2 – “Check the strap length. If they are too loose, they will slip off your shoulder; too tight and they will dig in and be uncomfortable. If the straps are adjustable, tighten them, so they feel comfy, snug and supportive.”

Step 3 – “Check your cups, where your breast tissue sits. Lift and scoop the breast tissue into the cups. Check this in the mirror. If you are spilling out at the top, or sides, the cup is too small. If you see gaps anywhere it’s too big – go down a size.”


To find the right size for you, it’s a good idea to check the size guide of the bra you’re buying against your bust measurement (use measuring tape to find this). Don’t be tempted to size up – bras designed for running or HIIT training are often designed to be tight, or slightly compressive, to minimise movement as you run and jump.

There are three kinds of sports bra so you need to pick one that suits you best

Surprise, surprise! Yes ladies there are three kinds of sports bras in the activewear section of your fave store. Compression, encapsulated, and combination.

  • Choose a compression sports bra, if you have small breasts
  • Choose an encapsulated sports bra if you have large breasts and/or you indulge in high-intensity workout sessions.
  • Choose a combination sports bra if you want 100% support and proper compression.

What size sports bra do I need?

There are sports bras sold in S, M, L, XL sizes, but just like your everyday bra, we recommend that you tailor the size of your sports bra to your actual bra size. Exercising can be one of the most physically stressful and active events you can do and protecting your breasts is extremely important, plus the right size will feel infinitely more comfortable. So, start with your everyday bra size and adjust slightly if necessary.

Sports bra fitting guide

Step 1: Rib cage measurement:  Measure around your rib cage, just beneath your breasts. The tape measure should be snug, but loose enough that you can fit two fingers underneath. Round down to the nearest full inch.

Step 2: Use the table below to find your corresponding band size based on your rib cage measurement.

Rib cage Band size
25″ – 27″30
27″ – 29″32
29″ – 31″34
31″ – 33″36
33″ – 35″38
35″ – 37″40
37″ – 39″42
39″ – 41″44

Step 3: Bust measurement: Measure around the fullest part of your breast. Again, the tape measure should be snug but not so tight that it restricts breathing.

Step 4: Subtract your rib cage measurement from your bust measurement. The difference is your cup size. If you’re in between sizes, round up.

Difference in cup size Your cup size


An alternative to steps 3 and 4: Try a few different cup sizes for fit. Cups should fit without gaps or wrinkles, they should feel snug and secure but shouldn’t be so tight that your breasts spill out the side or over the top of them.

How should the cups fit in a sports bra?

Just as with traditional bras, it is important that your breasts fit well in the cup area. You do not want any spillage over the front or side edges of the cup. Your breasts should feel very comfortable and supported.

Should sports bras have hook closures?

For many years sports bras were designed as pullovers which could be awkward to get both on and off. Today you can still find pullover styles, but thankfully there are also zipper and hook closures as well. These are infinitely more simple to get on which can, in even a small way, encourage you to get moving.

Do the Shoulder Straps Matter on a Sports Bra?

Yes, they do, for a number of reasons. First, if you have a larger chest and are wishing for extra support, look for straps that are spaced more widely apart, this style may be preferable.

Second, pay attention also to how the straps feel on your shoulders. Look for straps that are not too narrow and that have some padding for extra comfort.

Third, when you are wearing your sports bra, make sure the straps don’t slip off during movement, this is an indication that you may not be wearing the correct size or that they need to be adjusted.

Conversely, if you have strap marks on your shoulders when you take your bra off, this may be evidence that you are wearing the wrong size bra.

Remember, the band provides most of the support in a properly fitting bra so it shouldn’t hurt your shoulders. The band should lie flat and be snug but not uncomfortable.

Do Sports Bras Have Underwires?

Some encapsulated styles of sports bras do have underwires which can increase the level of support they provide, especially for larger cup sizes.

Are there Sports Bras with Padding?

Yes, some sports bras do offer light padding for modesty while exercising, which can be quite nice if you prefer to not wear anything extra like a tank top over your sports bra.

How often should I replace my sports bra?

Depending on how often you are wearing it for workouts and how you are caring for it when you wash it can affect the lifespan of your sports bra. A good rule of thumb is, at a minimum, replace your sports bra every time you get new running shoes. For some, this may be every three months. Again, it depends on the wear and tear your sports bra is getting, so pay attention to the fit every time you put your bra on and adjust as necessary.

Don’t forget to test out your bra in the trial room

Tried and tested should always be your fun when it comes to buying a sports bra. After wearing a bra, ensure that you do a few jumping jacks or push-ups to ensure that the bra is comfortable and there is minimum spillage and maximum support.


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