Although those carrying XY chromosomes might not understand, the number one, most important piece of gear for a woman runner is a sports bra. Don’t believe me? One expert I interviewed once likened unsupported breasts to consistently wearing large, heavy earrings. “Just like your ear lobes will stretch and sag,” she said, “so will your breasts.”
In order to concentrate on your run and not your chest, you need a bra that stops bounce (and sag), transports moisture, keeps your skin chafe-free, and maybe, just maybe, doesn’t make you look like a prepubescent in gym class.
Oh, and we’re betting you’d also like it to fit perfectly. With that in mind, here are eight tips for finding your ideal bra, which might just be waiting for you in the Saucony bra store (just sayin’):
1. Get measured. You may think you’re still a 34 C, like you were back when George Michael had his solo career, but things can shift and grow (or shrink!). Ask a salesperson to measure you, or grab a tape measure and find your up-to-date digits. Then check out this fit guide.
2. Bring boatload of styles into the dressing room to try on. (Or order several styles online.) When a label says 36 B, it could be a solid, comfy 36 B. Or it could be a boa-constricting 36 B. Or it could be a 36 B that has enough room for when you augment to a 36 D. You don’t know until you try.it.on, friend.
3. Don’t necessarily go with the same-old, same-old. Sports bras used to just come in one variety: over the head, uni-boob style. Now they’re supremely engineered with adjustable straps and encapsulated cups and all sorts of other bells and whistles. If you’ve never tried a slightly padded bra, definitely give it a whirl. You’ll never notice your headlights in race photos again. Not sure about underwire? If you’ve got a D or larger cup, you may appreciate the extra support.
4. If you’re a C or larger, think wide and separated. The wider the shoulder straps, the more it’ll disperse the weight of the world, uh, your chest. Similarly, the wider the band under your chest, the more stable you’ll feel. Finally, researchers have found that encapsulated cups, or a separate cage for each girl, tend to minimize movement best, especially for those in the C+ categories.
5. Once in a new style, realize the fit should feel slightly snugger than your lingerie bra. That said, you should be able to take a deep, make-my-yoga-teacher-proud breath with the bra fastened on the middle hook, if it has a clasp. Can’t do it? Size up. If the straps are stretched thin–and are not adjustable–then it’s too small. And if the fabric in the front puckers or wrinkles, it’s too big.
6. When you’ve got the right size and style, it’s time to get your heart rate up: Jump around. Jump up, jump up and jump down. Then jog in place, windmill your arms, do downward dog, and otherwise put that puppy through its paces.
7. Anything that initially annoys you about the bra–too highly cut in the arms; not enough coverage over the chest; a back that rides up, to name a few–will not, like wine, get better over time. It will gnash either into your skin or into the general loveliness of your run. Put it back and try again. Running is hard enough: Don’t let the wrong bra make it tougher.
8. After you make your purchase, treat your Lycra lingerie with care. Fasten the hooks, if it has ‘em, before tossing it in the machine. Forgo the dryer. (If you must expedite its drying in to get a run in, toss it into the can. Just skip fabric softener sheets, which wear down the material’s sweat-wicking properties.) And when you can no longer read its care label, it’s time to get a new bra or two. Alas, just like the second-most important piece of equipment—shoes— a bra breaks down and needs to be replaced.
Check out Saucony’s five brand new bra styles to find your perfect—and most vital—piece of running gear.