Sports bras are essential pieces of apparel for any woman, no matter your breast size. Not only do they add more comfort, they can improve your performance by reducing friction and discomfort. Sports bras are typically sold as low, medium, or high impact coverage and come in a range of band and cup sizes. Depending on your breast size and the types of activities you are doing, you’ll want to choose a sports bra that keeps your chest snug while providing maximum comfort. Below we’ve outlined some key tips to help you find the right sports bra, as well as our favorite picks for different types of coverage.
- How to Find the Right Sports Bra
- Best Sports Bras for Low to Medium Impact
- Best Sports Bras for High Impact
Finding the right sports bra is all about comfort. High-impact exercises like running cause the breasts to move in a figure eight and drastic up and down motions, which can leave your chest, neck, and back feeling sore after a workout if you don’t have the right coverage. A loose-fitting sports bra puts strain on your Cooper’s ligaments, the connective tissue that helps support your breasts. Over time, this can lead to sagging in the breast tissue, which can’t be reversed. In fact, a study done by the University of Portsmouth found that women change the way they run depending on their sports bra.
Finding the right sports bra is similar to finding a regular bra, since you’ll need to know your rib cage measurement and cup size.
Sports bras with embedded cups will typically have sizes similar to regular bras, while compression sports will go from extra-small to extra-large.
The goal is to find a sports bra that keeps your breasts from feeling sore and uncomfortable.
Sports bras are typically divided into 3 categories:
- Compression: Compression sports bras hold your breasts closely against the chest to limit movement. These bras may have padding, but they don’t have individual cups, since they don’t separate the breasts.
- Encapsulation: Encapsulation sports bras support each breast separately, much like your everyday bra. You’ll get a more natural breast shape, since the chest is not flattened by compression. These bras typically provide more support than compression bras for lateral breast movement.
- Compression and encapsulation: These sports bras combine the best of both worlds. You’ll get a close fit from the compression, while supporting each breast individually. These bras are excellent for high-impact activities.
Once you know what kind of support you need, you can choose from a range of styles. Sports bras come with different types of straps, such as crisscross, tank, top, or racerback. Some bras have underwire, while others rely on thick bands around the chest. You can also find sports bras with adjustable straps.
Low to medium impact activities include walking, yoga, cycling, rowing, strength training, dancing, and skiing. These activities require plenty of movement, but you’re not experiencing the bouncing and bounding motions of running or jumping. They typically have a cup-less design and compress breasts tightly against the chest.
These are some of our favorite lower impact sports bras:
- Lululemon Free to Be Elevated Bra
- Girlfriend Collective Paloma Racerback Bra
- Nike Dri-Fit Swoosh Bra
- Athleta Ultimate Bra
- Athlete Exhale Bra
- Outdoor Voices All-Time Bra
- Under Armour Seamless Long Heather Bra
All of these lower impact bras use soft, moisture-wicking fabrics and are not too heavy with padding or extra frills.
High impact activities such as running, aerobics, mountain biking, and HIIT movements involve significantly more vertical movement. Therefore, it’s important to have a sports bra with a defined cup structure and compression to protect your breasts from jarring motion and keep them supported. These are the best sports bras for running with large breasts, as they will reduce movement and potential soreness.
These are some of the best sports bras for high impact activities and for women with a cup size of D or more:
- Lululemon Enlite Weave-Back Bra
- Athleta Advance Zip Front Bra
- Nike Dri-Fit Alpha
- Shock Absorber Women’s Ultimate Run Bra
- MAAREE Solidarity Bra
- Elomi Energise Bra
- Brooks Dare Crossback Run Sports Bra
These high impact bras have thicker padding, thicker chest bands, and some have adjustable straps. Some also have adjustable hook clasps on the back.
What is the best nursing sports bra for running?
If you’re a nursing mother, the thought of taking off your entire sports bra mid-workout is not ideal. Luckily, many brands make nursing sports bras that are functional and easy to use. The Caden Shae Smoothie Crop Bra, for example, allows you to unclasp the cup from the front, exposing your breast for easy feeding. Front-zip bras like the Lululemon Enlite are also great choices for nursing mothers. When looking for the right nursing sports bra for running, consider zip-up front closures, adjustable or detachable straps, and stretchy bras that provide room to grow.
Are sports bras supposed to be tight?
Sports bras should be snug, but not so tight that they cause discomfort. You want to make sure your breasts are held close against your chest, but if your bra causes chafing or red marks, it is probably too small, or too tight. However, bras should not be loose enough where you can easily put your fingers between the padding and your chest, nor should you see any wrinkles or space in the cup (indicating that the cup is too loose).