Têra Kaia Collective
Têra Kaia ambassador and female rock climber Kathy Karlo leading a trad route in her TOURA basewear top outdoor sports bra

The Female Rock Climbers Guide to Choosing Sports Bras

The number of female rock climbers hitting the crag is increasingly growing (hell yeah!), with women making up 42 percent of indoor climbers and 38 percent of outdoor climbers, according to the 2019 State of Climbing Report. The number of uncomfortable sports bras, however still remains unsettlingly high. Ready to say goodbye to discomfort at the crag or climbing gym? Read on to find out how.

To feel confident as you climb, you need a sports bra to support you in all the right places.

You’re already out of your comfort zone while you climb, so fighting against an uncomfortable sports bra only makes things more difficult! While there are hundreds of retailers to shop with, not every bra will be suited to your specific shape and style. Quite the contrary, finding the perfect fabric, fit and style can be hard as we all have unique body types and requirements when it comes to support.

Let’s be honest, when you’re built like a climber it can be hard enough to find well-fitting clothes.

If you’re struggling to find a sports bra that fits your body type and matches your love of climbing, use the guide below to find it. We’ll help you figure out sizing, features and style choices so you can finally get the girls into a sports bra that feels as good as you do. 

Têra Kaia ambassador and female rock climber and guide posing in Moab with climbing gear in a TOURA basewear top outdoor sports bra with strappy criss-cross racerback
Photo by Jessica Olson @jessielyse

#1: Get the Size Right

While the NY Times debunked the idea that 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size, they do say retailers have admitted to using that statistic for one reason: women don’t know how to choose the bras that best fit their body. 

A bra that doesn’t fit right can lead to a range of potential problems. If it doesn’t provide the necessary support, you may begin feeling back and neck discomfort. Our lats are sore enough after a long day of try-hard, thank you very much. Conversely, a bra that’s too tight can also be problematic:

“Compression of the nerves along the shoulders can even cause numbness and tingling in the fingers,”

according to Cleveland Clinic.

Which, may sound tempting for that finger-splitter you’ve been projecting… but we wouldn’t recommend it. The only reason you shouldn’t feel your fingertips should be crispy climbing temperatures or sharp crimps.

At Têra Kaia, we redefined the standard sports bra sizing when we designed the TOURA basewear top.

That’s because to get the right fitting sports bra for climbing, you need to consider both chest and band size. Your chest size measures the fullest part of your breast. This is just above or on the nipple, above your lats. For modern female rock climbers, these measurements can be very different than what average companies plan for when sizing their garments.

Bring your lats, traps, and boulder shoulders because our basewear size guide will be sure to include them all.

The female climber's guide to choosing a sports bra - Têra Kaia ambassador Aicacia bouldering in an overhanging arch over the ocean in Hawaii in a basewear top sports bra with strappy criss-cross racer back
Aicacia Mei @memoires_of_aicacia beach bouldering in Hawaii

Once you know your chest size, you also need to measure band size. For female rock climbers, this measurement might be larger than the average size, which is why so many sports bras just don’t fit correctly. If this part of your bra is too small or too large for your frame, you’ll find yourself constantly pulling at it—not exactly easy or safe for female rock climbers who are trying to adjust halfway up a route. We hear underboob is in these days, but it might not be the best timing when you’re in the middle of the crux sequence.

Our basewear size chart accommodates an additional measurement: your Cut Size.

This number will tell you whether a Low Cut or High Cut style is best for your breast and body size, along with whether you need extra small, small, medium or large. So, it’s time to do some math. To find your cut size, subtract your band measurement from your chest measurement. 

Chest Measurement – Band Measurement = Cut Size

Cut SizeRecommended TOURA Cut
0 – 2″TOURA Low Cut
3″TOURA Low Cut Flattering Fit
TOURA High Cut Supportive Fit
4″ – 6″TOURA High Cut
6″ + Extra Support (coming soon!)

If you’re too busy adventuring for all these calculations, don’t worry – we got you covered. Just use our Bra Size Calculator, which uses your cup size to determine your sports bra, or basewear, size. If you do go the old-fashioned route, don’t forget to use our Basewear Guide to get your measurements right.

#2: Put Comfort First

While size dictates some comfort, there are many other features that make a sports bra more or less comfortable for female rock climbers who are constantly stretching, moving, swimming, and hiking. We’re guessing outdoor adventure wasn’t really considered when they designed the world’s first sports bra. Here are a few important factors to consider when looking for a bra that’s as comfortable as it is well-fitted.

Underwire: Underwire provides support for each individual breast, but when the fit is wrong or the design of the bra is poor, this can be uncomfortable at best or at worst, disastrous.

Underwire: If you choose a bra with underwire, make sure that it lies flat against your skin to avoid poking or pinching. Note: Some masochism may be required to be able to tolerate an underwire. Crack climbers may have the best chance of tolerating the dreaded wire poke.

If you want to avoid underwire altogether, choose a seamless style and start breathing easier. Our Têra Kaia basewear tops are all made without wire, which allows you to move freely without pinching or poking. Plus, when you get the fit right, you may not need the added support of an underwire. Not getting stabbed at the crag sure sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Fabric: The most important thing to consider is whether your skin can breathe.

In our modern world, sports bras are made with many different materials, including high-tech, moisture-wicking fabrics, like “Coolmax.” Do certain fabrics irritate your skin when sweating, making it itchy and uncomfortable? We all know that dreaded river of sweat that starts a-flowin’ in between the gals after climbing all day in a sports bra that isn’t breathable (think swass, but for your boobs). If you’re not sure, take a look at the fabric of your current bras to figure out which ones feel best on your skin.

At Têra Kaia, our fabric, 82% Nylon and 18% Spandex, is also hydrophobic and anti-microbial, ensuring that it feels good and stays dry, even when you’re climbing in the hottest heat of summer.

Perfect for van life, you can wear your basewear top for weeks without it getting gross (trust us, we’ve tried).

You can also take our bras from summer to winter—because they’re hydrophobic, you’ll stay dry under your ski gear. For example, if you toss your damp, well-worn TOURA in your bag it won’t “must”, if you must. It might, however, freeze solid on the hood of your car on a frosty night after a dip in the hot springs.

Compression versus Encapsulation: Compression bras provide support by fitting snug to your body while encapsulation bras provide support with cups.

Our compression-based Têra Kaia bras provide support and comfort for female rock climbers of all shapes and sizes.

For larger cup sizes upward of DDD+, we are currently developing a new basewear style that will include Encapsulation titled Extra Support. To stay up to date on the release of Extra Support, sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Instagram.

Back closure: If choosing a bra that hooks in the back, choose one that fits best when clipped on the furthest notch.

This way, if the bra stretches with washes and wears, you can tighten it to the second and first latches and the bra will still fit well. Personally, we prefer to keep things minimal to avoid that “football player in a straight jacket” look.

You won’t find any metal buckles or clips on the TOURA basewear top.

Woman racking up trad rock climbing gear Têra Kaia TOURA basewear top sports bras with strappy criss-cross racer back

#3: Choose the Sports Bra That Matches Your Style 

This is the fun part: choosing the sports bra that not only fits great and feels good, but matches your unique style. Get every detail right so you feel amazing at the crag.

Our goal at Têra Kaia is simple: the bra should never overshadow the wearer, and instead, accentuate what makes her beautiful, naturally.

As we say, “If the wearer is the art, the basewear is the frame.” Now let’s make sure you find the perfect frame so you feel confident being your outside self.

Reversibility: Reversible bras allow you to play with style while also getting more for what you buy.

Holy hell what a concept for a bra – it’s like buying two bras for the price of one! All Têra Kaia basewear tops are reversible, so you can wear the same one for upwards of a month of climbing (yes!) and feel fresh without a wash!

Straps: There are many types of strap styles to choose from nowadays, including criss-cross, tank top, and racerback.

More than just a choice of style, the right sports bra will have straps that don’t dig into your muscles as you move. We love how a cute strappy back also adds a touch of color and style that creates a visual “pop” on against the rock—perfect for that new ‘gram post!

When we designed the TOURA basewear top we placed the straps just right, so there will be no dreaded lat-pinching.

Note that the racerback tends to provide more support for large-chested women. If you love the strappy style, don’t forget to check out our bras, which pair the two together for the ultimate fit.

Têra Kaia ambassador Jessica Olson and friend hugging and looking at the view in Moab Utah after a day of rock climbing in their TOURA basewear top outdoor sports bras with strappy criss cross racer backs
Photo by Jessica Olson @jessielyse

Coverage: This will be dictated not only by activity but also by what makes you feel confident and empowered.

The amount of coverage you need is entirely up to you. For example, a High Cut basewear top sports bra will provide greater coverage yoga inversions. A Low Cut bra is best if you like accentuating the contours your muscles with minimal coverage. If you feel more confident with a full coverage top, the High Cut is the way to go. We recommend this regardless of activity or cup size. Either way, the ethereal feel of our bras will have you feeling effortless on the wall.

Sustainability and Ethics: If you’re as concerned about the sustainability of the planet as we are, choosing a bra that’s as good for your body as it is for the environment will make every wear feel that much better.

When choosing an environmentally-friendly bra, start by finding a well-designed product from a brand whose values align with yours. You can then look to their production and design processes. Research how their fabrics are made and sourced, how they handle shipping, and what steps they’re making to improve the future of our planet’s sustainability.

For example, Têra Kaia has signed the Diversify Outdoors Pledge. We also practice plastic-free shipping and use 100% recycled post-consumer shipping materials. We’re also currently researching fabric that uses recycled nylon to reduce our impact.

Most importantly, choose a sports bra that is designed to last a long time. As a consumer you have the power to shape the future by how you purchase and spend.

Don’t go for the better deal just because it costs less. Deals are great, sure – but not if it means sacrificing what you believe.

Purchase a sports bra that fits you perfectly, makes you feel amazing, and most importantly that you will want to wear into the ground. The longer the lifespan of your garment, the less apparel waste is introduced into the environment. 

Learn more about our commitment to ethics and sustainability, including our timeless design, sustainable lifecycle, and recycled packaging. Don’t forget to check out our 2019 Têra Kaia Time Capsule to check out what we have planned for the coming year.

Photo by Maiza Lima @maizalimarock

Female Rock Climbers: Feel Like the Unique and Confident Badass You Are

The right sports bra can make all the difference in how you feel when climbing. Not only does it provide support, but looking great makes you feel confident on the crag. No longer should we suffer in those straight-jackets of the past. Use this guide to find the best sports bra for your body and get right back to doing what you love, knitting. Just kidding, sending!



Jessica Thiefels

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