The best sports bras for running all have one thing in common – unparalleled support. And in the same way that runners need to know how running shoes should fit (opens in new tab) to prevent injury, your sports bra should be no exception.
Ill-fitting sports bras may leave you frustratedly tugging at chafing activewear mid-jog, but they can also impact your health. According to a study published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews (opens in new tab) in 2020, excessive breast displacement (movement) during exercise can result in breast, shoulder, and back pain and can even negatively affect your running biomechanics.
There are no muscles in your breasts, which means there’s very little internal structural support; in fact, your skin and the cooper’s ligaments (connective breast tissue) are responsible for just about all the shape and support in your breasts. Once the skin and ligaments become stretched – often through movement – there’s no going back, and you’ll start to notice that dreaded sag. That’s why the best sports bras for runners are a crucial bit of kit to consider before pounding the pavement.
A study published by the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (opens in new tab) says that 85% of women misjudge their bra size, so while reducing bounce is half the battle, there’s more to finding the perfect fit than meets the eye.
Whether you’re a multi-time marathon master or a seasoned sprinter, it’s time to find your sports bra savior. Boost your bust and performance with some of the best sports bras for running deals (opens in new tab), pick up some of the best running watches (opens in new tab) to track your next workout, and read our tried and tested guide to the best sports bras for running.
How we tested
We put each of the sports bras through a series of testing procedures. First, we looked at how easy the bra was to get on and adjust, noting if it took an usual amount of time or level of difficulty. We did a standing bounce test to see how much the breasts stayed in place. Each sports bra was then worn for a minimum of three different running sessions too; a mixture of shorter, interval sessions, relaxed short runs and longer runs. We tested each sports bra with and without chafe gel, and also washed each bra as per the care instructions.
Best sports bras for running
Under Armour’s Infinity High sports bra has been designed in tandem with breast health expert Dr Joanna Scurr and the University of Portsmouth, UK, to work around the way that breasts move while in motion. Whereas most sports bras are made by cutting two breast-shaped cups from flat padding, then gluing and layering pieces of foam on top, the Infinity High bra injects the foam with liquid to create a natural shape that is supposed to move with the breasts. In our testing, we found that the bra fitted around the breasts comfortably and securely, and really did seem to mold with the body’s natural shape and movement.
An encapsulation style, the Infinity High bra has a smooth, sweat-wicking band that secures with a hook and eye closure. Of all the bras we tested, it was one of the easiest to get on, and the elastic straps were simple to adjust. We tested the bra with and without chafing gel, and found that neither the strap nor band dug in or left any visible marks.
Despite offering high-impact support, the Infinity High is really breathable – in fact, it was the bra of choice for one tester’s latest marathon. Although, it’s worth noting that the dash pink/french gray design can leave visible sweat marks on the band after a hard session. The cups are also cut quite high under the arms, which might not be to everyone’s liking.
If you’re relatively small-chested, then the support from the Infinity High bra may be unnecessary. For those with a cup size above a C, however, this is a fantastic running bra that provides an impressive level of support, without feeling suffocating.
Of all the sports bras we tested, Brooks’ Dare Crossback Run Bra 2.0 surprised us most. Like the Under Armour Infinity High, it’s been designed in tandem with researchers at the University of Portsmouth’s Institute for Breast Health. And the results speak for themselves.
Brooks uses DriLayer Horsepower fabric, which is both stretchy and sweat-wicking. The band closes with a hook and eye, while the straps can be adjusted with swan hooks – similar to the Adidas FastImpact Luxe. Whereas the FastImpact Luxe only has five hook options, however, the Dare Crossback Run Bra 2.0 has nine, allowing for more variability if you’re broad shouldered. Despite the band claiming to be longer and stronger than the previous model, we did find that the size ran slightly small, so you might want to opt for a larger band size if you don’t enjoy quite so much compression.
The design is minimalistic and seamless, and sits well under a running vest or t-shirt. We tested the bra on a particularly long run without chafing gel and found that it didn’t rub or dig into the skin. The ventilated material also allowed the skin to breathe easily.
The cups are built into the bra, so you don’t have to worry about removable cups that slide and fold over in the wash. We found that they provided just the right amount of padding too, creating a flattering fit without too much bulk.
The Dare Crossback Run Bra 2.0 isn’t the most stylish design, but it is a fuss-free sports bra for running that offers just the right amount of support.
The Lululemon Enlite is certainly an investment, but having taken the brand two years to develop, it’s clear why. It’s made from the brand’s ‘Ultralu’’ fabric which is soft and smooth, and we found it easily wicked away sweat during a tough session. It’s slightly heavier than other bras we tried and the cups feel a lot more padded, so if you’re slightly smaller chested you may find this a little overkill.
Fastening the bra up was the trickiest part. The chest band is very tight, which can leave you wondering if you should have sized up. Once you have the hook and eye in place, however, you’ll be grateful for the tension in the band because your breasts stay nicely in place. The straps aren’t adjustable, which was an initial concern. However, we didn’t find this to be a problem once the bra was actually on.
We tested the Enlite during interval sessions and longer runs, and found it provided an excellent level of support, with breasts feeling secure but not restricted. No chafe was noted.
The Enlite has a scooped neckline, but an otherwise minimalistic design. We tested the true navy, but you can also get it in black, grey sage and speckle grey black. The cups are non-removal, which is a bonus for those who can’t stand rogue pads getting lost in their washing machine. Lululemon also caters for a wide range of sizes, with its ‘DDD’ suitable for those with an E cup.
At $98, the Lululemon Enlite isn’t cheap, but if you can afford it this is a well-made, high-quality bra that can withstand any running session.
Shock Absorber are known for delivering high-impact support, regardless of your chest size, and their much-loved Ultimate Run Bra is no exception. In terms of access, this was one of the easiest bras to get on of all of those we tested. It has a full back opening as well as a hook and eye band, making it great for those with larger breasts who can struggle to get some bras over their head. Although bear in mind that on its website, Shock Absorber recommends trying a band size up from your normal size. So if you wear a 34D, it recommends a 36D. We did find this to be true, with the bra coming up a little small.
Designed specifically for runners, Shock Absorber claims its Ultimate Run Bra reduces bounce by up to 78%. We did find that the breasts held firmly in place, even during an intense interval session. The Y-cut back also fits nicely around the shoulder blades, which makes it really comfortable to wear.
The Ultimate Run Bra perhaps favors functionality over style, although it is available in a few different colors, including pink/purple and waterfall purple. The fabric is moisture-wicking and breathable and has a surprisingly silky feel. Plus, it’s available right up to a size 38G, making it a great option for those with large breasts.
Overall, Shock Absorber’s Ultimate Run Bra is supportive and comfortable, with two clasps and adjustable shoulder straps making it one of the best sports bras for running.
The FastImpact Luxe from Adidas was one of the most unusual sports bras for running we tested. It pulls on over the head like a compression bra, but instead of a traditional hook and eye closure you’d get with an encapsulation bra, it has swan hooks on the elastic chest band and straps. This allows you to customize the fit and shape to how you want it.
We did find the FastImpact Luxe tricky to wriggle into, so this is perhaps not the easiest bra to get on for those with larger breasts. Other user reviews also cite difficulty figuring out how the bra works and adjusting it to the right size. Once it’s on, however, the breasts are held firmly in place and it’s an incredibly comfortable fit.
The material is probably where the FastImpact Luxe excels. Made from at least 60% recycled material, the bra has a sleek, lycra-like feel to it. It’s available in four colors – magic gray, orange, black and bright blue – and has a scoop neckline. Of all the bras we tested, this was one of the most flattering designs. We were also surprised to find that the fabric was quite moisture absorbing, and even the orange design left minimal sweat marks.
Overall, this is a quality bra with great support and has the added element of being made from sustainable materials. It can be difficult to get on, however, so if you prefer minimal faff, a traditional encapsulation style running bra might be better for you.
The New Balance Fuel Bra provides medium-impact support, making it a great option for those with smaller breasts who don’t need the extra support that an encapsulation style bra provides. Those with larger breasts will want to stay clear, however, because while the bra promises to be a ‘no-bounce fit’, we didn’t find this to be true for bigger sizes.
The NB Fuel Bra pulls on over the head. Neither the band nor the straps can be adjusted, but we didn’t find this to be a problem with the overall fit. It does run slightly small, however, so we’d recommend sizing up. The fabric is extremely comfortable and uses New Balance’s wicking technology to ensure it’s fast-drying and sweat-absorbing. There are no seams, so it sits well under a tank top or t-shirt, and we didn’t experience any chaffing during our testing.
The bra comes in three colors – white, black and pink – and at $44.99, it’s one of the most affordable options we tested.
The NB Fuel Bra is a great option for those with smaller breasts who don’t need high-impact support, but those with a fuller cup size would be better off investing elsewhere.
What are the different types of sports bras?
Jess Kitson, Brand Manager at Pocket Sport, (opens in new tab) explains there are three main types of sports bras to look out for: encapsulation bras, compression bras, and combination bras.
Molded or encapsulation bras look like regular bras and often have built-in individual cup support for added stability and comfort during exercise. Compression bras look more like a crop top and can be pulled over your head; this is ideal for women with smaller cup sizes, as the bra uses compression to hug your breasts to your chest. Combination bras offer a mix of the two, offering both support and compression during movement.
How to choose the best sports bra for running
Charlotte Davies, Global Design and Buying Director at Hunkemöller, gave us some top tips on how to find the best sports bra.
“When looking for a sports bra, there are many important elements to consider, such as material, sizing, and support levels,” says Davies. “A good sports bra will be breathable and quick-drying and should also have some stretch to it. The correct materials will allow your breasts to move with your body – reducing pain and damage to breast tissue.”
Davies also emphasizes the importance of the correct size. “Your sports bra should not rub or gape, and the band should sit comfortably against your body,” she explains. “It should feel tighter than a natural bra to give the best support and functionality, but make sure it’s not so tight that it hurts to wear.” Jumping up and down or going for a practice jog can help you check the bra is absorbing your movements.
According to Davies, it’s also important to determine what level of support you need. For instance, those practicing yoga should choose a sports bra providing plenty of room to stretch with no fastenings on the back.
Best sports bras for running high-impact
“If your focus is on high-intensity exercise, we’d recommend choosing a sports bra that offers maximum support,” says Davies. “Your sports bra should absorb your movements and stay in place while exercising.”
Kitson encourages choosing a bra with thicker straps, more compressive fabric, and a thicker supporting band around the ribcage.
Sports bras that offer a combination of both encapsulation and compression can provide more comfort and support for the wearer and help to prevent movement in different directions during high-intensity exercise.
Best options for large breasts
The general rule of thumb is that the larger the cup size, the more support you’ll need. The smaller your bust, the less support necessary.
A combination of encapsulation and compression is ideal for large breasts in the same way that it serves high-intensity exercise – you’re guaranteed extra support and minimal movement throughout exercise.
“A high-compression sports bra is a great investment for those who have a bigger bust, helping to support your chest, prevent back pain, and encourage better posture,” recommends Davies.
Kitson advises women to invest in a reliable back clasp bra. “Back clasp bras are great for those who like the option to adjust the fit of their sports bra,” she says. “This offers a more tailored fit, which is particularly useful if you are between sizes or for those with a larger cup size.” She also recommends seeking out bras with wider adjustable shoulder straps which allow you to create a tailored fit for your personal needs while also offering support. “The option of removable pads is also nice for different cup sizes,” Kitson adds.
How often should you replace your sports bras?
How often you need to update your bra mainly depends on how often you’re wearing them. The more active you are, the more often you’ll need to replace or rotate your sports bras.
If you begin to notice signs of wear and tear or a loss in elasticity – it’s most likely time for the bin. Increased movement during exercise also indicates a lack of support, and while tightening your bra might give it a little longevity boost – it’s usually a sign that your bra is reaching its sell-by.
Loss in shape, particularly in the cups, can also mean it’s time to reinvest. Remember, your body can change in many ways, including through aging, weight fluctuations, and hormonal shifts, so it’s crucial to update your bras in line with any changes to your body to ensure you have a properly fitting bra.
McGhee, Deirdre E.; Steele, Julie R., “Biomechanics of Breast Support for Active Women”, accessed May 2022.
Deirdre E McGhee 1, Julie R Steele., “Optimising breast support in female patients through correct bra fit. A cross-sectional study”, accessed May 2022.