Confession time: I’ve been a runner for over 15 years and I hit the road several times a week, but I’ve never had a sports bra fitted. As a health journalist I often get to review fitness gear and I am guilty of wearing whatever I get sent without giving it much thought.
Admittedly, I have become a parent and survived a pandemic since the last time I went shopping for running kit, so a professional fitting was long overdue. At a virtual session with an expert from UK sports bra retailer Boobydoo, I learned some surprising things about the world of breast support.
1. Size Is Everything
The rumor that 80% of women wear the wrong bra size has been circulating since my school days. I have been fitted for an everyday bra, so I assumed that my normal bra size correlated with my sports bra size and shopped accordingly. Thankfully Boobydoo taught me how to use a measuring tape and it turns out I have indeed been wearing the wrong size for decades. And yes, wearing the right sports bra does make running feel a lot more comfortable.
2. Work Out Your Bra Size Using The Under-Over Method
A breast health expert advised us to use the best fit method (and gave us lots of tips on fitting yourself for a sports bra). That’s all very well when you’re in a shop surrounded by bras to try on, but if you want to check your size before ordering online, Boobydoo recommends using the under-over method. Simply measure around your rib cage, directly under your breasts. The tape measure should be horizontal and not drop at the back.
The number on the tape can be converted into your band size—Boobydoo’s how to find your bra size page has a useful band conversion chart. Then to work out your cup size, hold the tape measure firmly around the fullest part of your bust. Make sure the tape is taut and straight all the way around. Take both numbers, head back to the Boobydoo page and use the cup conversion chart to find out your bra size. Bingo!
3. Ask For Brand Info
As with running shoe brands, sports bra brands interpret the numbers in their own way and don’t always come up with the same results, so it is worth shopping around to find the bra that fits. This is where virtual sports bra fittings play second fiddle to visiting a shop, because nothing beats trying on bras IRL. That said, who has time to go into town these days? Fortunately virtual fitting staff have been trained in product knowledge (size up at Shock Absorber if you want to breathe, for example) so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
4. Handle With Care
It’s hard enough to find the time to head out for a run, never mind spending time separating my smalls, so I chuck everything into the washing machine. But all bras including the sports variety are rather delicate. And washing them gently by hand will extend their life which, perhaps most importantly, will save you money in the long run.
5. Sports Bras Don’t Celebrate Birthdays
Unless your boobs literally punch you in the face when you move, you could keep wearing your trusty old sports bra forever. But then, like pumping up flat bike tires, when you slip into a well-fitting sports bra you suddenly realize what you’ve been missing. To know when to replace your old kit, Boobydoo has a simple rule: Sports bras don’t celebrate birthdays, so replace yours before the year is up.
6. Don’t Let Big Boobs Beat You
If (like me) you are blessed with a big bust and avoid high-impact training as a result, I have good news for you. Sports bras now come with compression, encapsulation and even underwiring for structural support, so your heaving bosom will never prevent you from achieving your fitness goals again.
Looking for tried-and-tested sports bras for high-impact activities? Head over to Coach’s best running bras page for reviews of our favorites.
Get the Coach Newsletter
Sign up for workout ideas, training advice, reviews of the latest gear and more.
Rhalou Allerhand is a journalist and editor specializing in health and wellness with more than 15 years’ experience in print and online publishing, working for Runner’s World, Women’s Health and Netdoctor, among others. She also worked as a social media specialist for several major sporting events including The London Marathon, Breca Swimrun, The Westminster Mile and Prudential Ride 100. Rhalou discovered long-distance running in her 30s and has run 15 marathons and even a few ultra-marathons since.