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Sports Bra Fitting Essentials – Part 1: Shoulder Straps

This article is the first in a three-part series titled ‘Sports Bra Fitting Essentials’. This week I am going to take an in depth look at shoulder straps. In the coming weeks I will look further in depth at ‘Bands’ and ‘Cups’.

When fitting a sports bra, the ‘Three Pillars’ of fit are the straps, band and cups. Get all three pillars successfully in place and you should have a perfect fitting sports bra. The holy grail for many women!

If one pillar fails, the whole fit will fail. So, let us look at the first pillar, shoulder straps. Read on to find out how to get perfect fitting shoulder straps.

Adjusting Your Sports Bra Straps

Did you know there is a right way and a wrong way to adjust sports bra shoulder straps? If not, well you’ve learnt something new. Let’s have a look at the right way.

For Front Adjusting Straps: Whilst wearing your sports bra adjust one straps at a time until they are comfortably snug but not to tight. To reduce elastic stretch it is a good idea to take the pressure off the strap when you adjust it. Try and lift your cup while you tighten the strap. Depending on your breast size you may need a third hand for this.

For Back Adjusting Straps: Take your sports bra off and adjust it a little. Put it on and check the strap fit. Not quite right? Repeat the process until you have the perfect fit.

Don’t stress over adjusting your straps evenly. It is common to have slightly different sized breasts and as such your straps may need to be adjusted differently to accommodate this difference. The important thing is a comfortably firm fit.

Once you feel everything is good do a quick check. Check the strap tightness. You should be able to slide two fingers under it. Check the band does not ride up at the back. Lift your arms and check you front band does not come up over your breast.

If the straps feel good but you experience other problems, it may be the band or cup fit which we will cover in coming articles.

Stopping Your Sports Bra Straps from Slipping

There are many reasons your straps slip. They aren’t tight enough; the size is wrong, or the style of sports bra does not fit your body shape. Lucky for you I have written an entire article on this subject, ‘How to Prevent Sports Bra Straps from Falling Down’.

The article goes through the common reason’s straps slip. As well as looking at options to ensure your straps stay in place. I examine racerback styles, strap width, bra clips and a bra strap holder.

If sports bra straps slipping is a common problem for you then this article is well worth a read.

Stopping Your Straps from Digging into Your Shoulders

Many of us know the feeling. You finish a workout, and you cannot wait to take your sports bra off. Taking off your bra is a welcome relief to your shoulders. Ahhhh!

What can you do? First, check your straps are not too tight. Uncomfortably tight straps will pull through your shoulders potentially causing you pain. Find that comfortably tight fit. Don’t just ratchet your straps up to the max.

Second, check the under band is tight enough. 80% of the support your sports bra provides should come from the band with only 20% provided by the straps. If you band is to lose it will not hold your breasts up. Leaving them to ‘hang’ from you shoulders. Ouch!

If things are good but they still dig in try a style with sider or padded straps. These styles help spread the load, especially if you have a bit more up top.

Common Causes of Poor Fitting Sports Bra Straps

Let us take a look at the possible reasons for poor shoulder strap fit.

  1. Your Body Shape. We are all different and the sports bra you wear may simply not be suitable for your body shape. If you have narrow or sloping shoulders a Racerback style may be best. For those with wider shoulders, a Regular Back style with wide set straps could be for you. If you are long in the torso look for a style with longer straps. The opposite if your torso is short.
  2. Your Cup Size is too Big. Your bra straps work by holding you and your sports bras cups up. To do this successfully your cups need to be full. If your cups are too big then there is nothing for your bra straps to hold up and they are effectively pulling on loose material. All tightening does is pull the loose cup material up. The solution? Go down a cup size or two.
  3. Your Band is too Big. Like the above if you band size is too big then your straps will not work effectively (remember the three pillars?) Your straps need something to anchor against at the back and that is your bra band. If it is to lose all your straps will do is pull it up your back. Not good! The solution? Go down a band size.
  4. Worn Elastic. There comes a time in every sports bras life when no amount of adjusting will return your bra to its once perfect fit. Time and the weight of breasts stretch even the absolute best of elastic. Unfortunately, there is only one solution to this problem. A new sports bra!

My Final Thoughts

Your sports bra shoulder straps form an important first fit ‘pillar’ in your quest for the perfect fit. Get this pillar right and you are well on your way.

Next week I will take a look at the second pillar of fit, the band.

Yours in Support.

Amy x

Amy Jaffers

Amy is the face behind Sports Bras Direct, Australia’s largest sports bra website. She's a mother of two, outdoors lover and sports bra expert. Her life mission is to help active women get the support they need as well as assisting women in need through her charitable donations.

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