What's the most essential piece of equipment for the exercising woman? A sports bra, of course. Combine the passage of Title IX in 1972 with the 1977 invention of the Jogbra and women's sports have never been the same. Headquartered in Emeryville, Title 9 Sports does mostly mail-order business, but we're lucky enough to have one of its only three retail stores just behind REI in Berkeley. Here you'll find mostly togs for female runners and hikers, along with a few no-nonsense bathing suits and other accessories. But the real thing of wonder is the wall o' bras in the back: More than thirty different styles of sports bras are available to try on, and the knowledgeable staff can help steer you towards ones that are best for your size, favorite sport, and activity level. A weekday shopping trip ensures you have the clerk's full attention, and while the bras are pricey (averaging about $30, more for larger-breasted or maternity styles), the proper foundation garment will make you want to rip off your shirt like Brandi Chastain.
Readers' Pick for Best Sporting Goods Store: REI