How We Take Care of Ourselves: Buying a Sports Bra

Finding myself staring at a wall of sports bras, I always feel utterly overwhelmed. The array of colors, cuts, and materials is vast; I don’t even know how to begin to evaluate which is right for me. And, I feel too embarrassed to ask. Shouldn’t I know this already?

Enter Amy Spierling, bra guru at Title Nine in Berkeley. Amy is professionally trained in bra fitting, and is passionate about educating women about how to pick out a perfectly fitting bra. She spoke with me at her store on a recent afternoon about common bra misconceptions, bra care, and how to take an accurate measurement.


What are some things that people should consider when choosing a sports bra?

How much coverage you want. What activity you’re doing it for. If you have any shoulder injuries. How many days a week you’re going to be working out. And how often you want to come back for more.

How often should you come back for more?

At least once a year. What you want to be paying attention to is how tight that back band is. If the back band is getting kind of loose, that’s when you need to swap them out.

If you’re a runner, a really good rule of thumb is, whenever you change your shoes out, change your bra out. Because they’re both kind of dictated by how many miles you’re putting on them.


What are some of the common misconceptions, or, what are the top mistakes that people make when they’re picking out a sports bra?

Fat and flat. Everybody in America thinks they’re a 36C, and they’re not. For the most part. Sorry – no hate on the 36Cs out there! But a lot of people try and buy a band size or two too large. And a cup size to two to three too small.

So, just as an example, most of my 36Cs that come in are really 34 DDs. Some of them are even 32 triples. But a lot of people think a D and a DD and a DDD makes you really obscenely huge. It really doesn’t. Try not to focus so much on the letter and the number. And just go with what’s really going to work for your activity.


How do you know if you have a good fit? What should you be looking for when you’re trying on a sports bra?

You should be looking for only being able to fit two fingers underneath the back band when it is on your body. If you raise your arms above your head, nothing should slip or move. You should mimic the activity you’re going to be doing, and see if anything is sliding.

You want the cup to cover up to the side and up in the front, and you also want, if there is an underwire, for that underwire to be following the shape of your breastbone, all the way behind all breast tissue. That’s where you can really check the cup. It should be resting on bone and not any tissue. And it should be tacking, which is pressing firmly in between your breasts.


Anything to keep in mind when you’re taking measurements? Are there any mistakes that people make?

Oh so many. Even if you get fit professionally, a lot of places will fit you too big in the band. Because it cuts down on returns. The looser the band is, the more comfortable it is, and you’re not going to get a ton of pushback if the bra is really comfortable.

For sports bras, while comfort is important, you want it to be on the firm side. So when you’re measuring around your band, right below your bust line, you want to pull that tape tight, and add only two inches. If that comes out to not a real band size – so, one of the odd ones, like a 33, or 37 – you just want to add one more inch, until you reach a band size that is available. Don’t be adding four or five inches like some places do. And know your band size. Don’t compromise on that.


How do you take the best care of your sports bra?

If you’re spending a ton of money on them, you probably want to hand wash them. If you don’t want to hand wash them, you think that’s a pain – which, it kind of is – at the very least, throw them in either a lingerie bag, or, if you don’t want to buy one of those, a zippered pillowcase.

If you can, wash them with lingerie wash instead of your regular detergent. Because that’s going to keep them the longest. Do not throw them in the dryer. And do not wash them on hot. If you throw them in the dryer, you might as well just throw them in the street.

Do you have a favorite bra?

Yes. The Marvel.

What do you like about it?

The Marvel is by Panache. They mainly do bras, but they also do swimsuits. It is an underwire bra, but you can barely feel the underwire – if at all. It is convertible in the back, it comes in cute colors, and it keeps me as still as The Last Resort – which is this giant safety vest style bra that is crazy ugly. You also get separation which – I like to look like a girl when I run.



What about for other women?

1. “The Last Resort, made by Enell. This is the other one I recommend for my DDD to G cups. The really nice thing about Enell is they’re an independent company. They only do a couple different types of very heavy duty sports bras. They will custom make you a bra, if you don’t fit within their guidelines, for barely more than retail. So I super believe in them. If you are my 32 J cup gal, and you can’t find anything else, they are so on your side.”

2. “Hallelujah, by Glamorize. It is the only non-wire bra I recommend for DDs and above. Most of the time, if you are trying to find a non-wire for a bigger cupped gal, they just don’t work or hold up very long. Which is a bummer, because you pay a lot of money. This guy’s $44. And it keeps ticking. A lot of my gals that do very active jobs – EMTs, doctors, nurses, some school teachers that work with kids– live and die by this bra. Especially if you work long hours.”

3. “My newest favorite for the little gals is Form First. It has a very light molding. It has the cutest back strap detail I’ve ever seen. And it’s convertible, to make it even cuter.”

4. “We have a couple of bras that we say you can use for both work and workout. So if you’re one of those girls who doesn’t get your workout in unless you’re already dressed for it, you should try the Because She Says So, the Super Lace, or the Seismic. I like the Seismic. It also looks like a pretty disco ball.”

I told Amy that I was interested in bras with good coverage and no underwire, for pilates and yoga. I left with the Tech Athena and Moving Comfort’s Form First, and could not be happier!


Thanks so much Amy, for taking the time to answer my questions, and for helping me pick out a comfy sports bra!

What about you? What questions would you ask Amy? And what is your favorite sports bra?



Categories: Health & Wellness

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