When it comes to buying the best fitness equipment, few pieces are more essential than a good sports bra, particularly when undertaking high intensity exercise like running. But what should you be looking for when it comes to the best sports bras for running? It may even be as complex a decision as finding the best running shoes, with many women experiencing breast pain when running without a good sports bra to support them.
We've tried and tested some of the best sports bras for running, putting them through their paces (quite literally) to find brands that offer unparalleled support, longevity and style for the best prices. We take pride in our extensive testing protocol, and the Live Science fitness team know exactly what to look out for in a good sports bra, ensuring that you can trust our honest recommendation.
While bras are an essential bit of kit for most female runners, according to a study published in Chiropractic & Osteopathy, a staggering 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. It's important to remember that your body changes over time and breast size fluctuates throughout a woman's life, so ensuring that the comfy sports bra you bought six years ago actually does still fit you is a must. In the same way that runners know how running shoes should fit, your breasts should also get adequate support.
But why does it matter? Surprisingly, your breasts don’t have muscles. Instead, your bust comprises connective tissue called Cooper’s ligaments, and skin. This means that any excessive movement during exercise— often caused by a lack of bra support — will cause irreversible sagging, and it could also cause pain and injury in the long run.
Choosing a sports bra can feel overwhelming — from racer backs to encapsulation or compression — the list is exhaustive, and there are many factors to consider, like materials, cup size, and workout preferences. You won't need the same level of support for a Pilates class as you might for a session of trampolining.
We tested a range of the best sports bras for running to help you cut through the confusion and find the right fit, so you can avoid your bust actually going bust later down the line. You can also learn how to run properly, find sports bras for running deals, or read on our guide on the best sports bras for running.
How we test the best sports bras for running at Live Science
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.
What struck us most about Sweaty Betty’s Ultra Running Bra is that while it lacks many of the traditional qualities of a high-impact support bra, it’s deceptively supportive. The fabric is delicate and lightweight, rather than thickly padded, and there are no removable cups. Instead, the support mostly comes from the band and a network of panels over each breast that both ventilate and cradle your chest. The band is slightly snug, but it’s not too constricting – we put the bra to the test during an interval session on a particularly warm day, and experienced no rubbing or chafing.
The Ultra Running Bra also comes with fully adjustable straps, so you can wear it as a U-back (meaning you don’t have to pull it over your head) or a racer back if you do want extra support. Both options provide a really flattering fit. It also comes in a wide range of sizes, from an A-F cup, and over 10 attractive colors. In fact, when it comes to style, this is one of our favorite sports bras for running.
So what’s the drawback? Well, price wise, it’s not the cheapest. But if you’re fairly new to running you’ll want a reliable piece of kit to keep you supportive – and if you’re prepared to invest, you can’t go far wrong with the Ultra Running Bra.
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.
Designed specifically for runners, Runderwear’s Original Run Bra v5 combines comfort and support. A fully opening back makes the bra easy to get on and off, and similarly to the Shock Absorber and Sweaty Betty bras in this guide, it’s made from lightweight fabric with no added bulkiness. The straps are really easy to adjust too.
It’s worth noting that the Original Run Bra is designed for cup sizes A-D. We’re modestly sized, but found ourselves at the upper end of this threshold; it’s not that we needed more support, rather the bra runs slightly small, so we felt a little ‘pushed up’ and exposed without a top on. We’d recommended sizing up, but if you’re larger breasted, you’ll want to opt for Runderwear’s Easy On bra instead, which caters for sizes C-H.
As this is the fifth version of the Original Run Bra, there have been a few changes to the design. Firstly, there’s additional mesh paneling to improve breathability and control temperature. Enhanced performance fabric also provides a super-soft feel against your skin, with very few seems in contact with the skin. The result? Absolutely no chafing (with and without chafe gel). We rate this bra for high-intensity interval sessions, as well as running, never feeling overly constricted.
As always, the bra comes in Runderwear’s signature blue, pink and black colorways. While not the cheapest option in this guide, you can often find it on offer, saving yourself a few dollars. Plus, it’s machine washable up to 40C (124F), which saves the hassle of multiple different washes.
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?
We asked the brand manager at Pocket Sport (opens in new tab), Jess Kitson, for her advice on picking between types of sports bras. According to Kitson, sports bras fit into three main categories:
Compression bras resemble a crop top that can pull over your head. Women with smaller breasts can benefit from these sports bras, as the compression ‘hugs’ your breasts to your chest — less suited to larger cup sizes.
Molded and encapsulation bras look like regular bras with built-in cups for support and comfort.
Combination bras mix the two, offering support and compression.
How to choose the best sports bra for running
We spoke to Charlotte Davies, the global design and buying director at Hunkemöller, to find out how to choose the best sports bra for running.
Davies advises considering the material, sizing, and support levels first, as a “good sports bra will be breathable and quick-drying and should also have some stretch to it,” she says. Davies also recommends materials that don’t restrict your breasts, so they can still “move with your body”, which helps avoid “pain and damage to breast tissue.”
The correct size is crucial. Rubbing, gaping, or discomfort means you’ve got the wrong size. The lower band needs to sit comfortably, too. “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,” she advises. A great test is to jump around or go for a run to see if your bra absorbs movement.
Lastly, Davies recommends looking at support levels. Yogis won’t benefit from feeling restricted and will need more room to stretch, whereas sprinters will require a tighter fit.
Best sports bras for running high-impact
For those who prefer high-intensity exercise, Davies recommends ramping up the support. “Your sports bra should absorb your movements and stay in place while exercising,” she says.
Brand manager Kitson advises opting for a thicker everything, including straps and a supporting band around the ribcage. You’ll also need a more compressive fabric, too.
Combination bras are a great pick, providing comfort and support without allowing excessive movement during high-intensity training.
Best options for large breasts
Shopping around for good sports bras for large breasts deals can help you save big on a bigger bust.
The larger your breasts, the more support you’ll need, and the smaller your bust, the less support necessary.
Combination bras that inject encapsulation and compression qualities into their designs are a safe bet for solid and reliable support. Davies recommends a high-compression bra for larger breasts, which helps “prevent back pain and encourage better posture.”
Kitson favors a reliable back clasp bra. “They’re great for those who like the option to adjust the fit of their sports bra,” she says. According to Kitson, it offers a tailored fit for those between sizes or with a larger bust.
Wider adjustable shoulder straps also help create a tailored fit and help to secure your bra. “The option of removable pads is also nice for different cup sizes,” Kitson adds.
How often should you replace your sports bras?
It comes down to personal preference, but the type of bra you wear, your exercise preferences, and how often you work out will all affect the longevity of your sports bra.
Rotating your bras is a clever way of extending their lifeline, but if you exercise every day, you’ll need to replace them more often.
Signs of wear and tear or a loss in elasticity indicate that your bra is on its last legs. A once snug and reliable sports bra that now allows excess movement indicates a lack of support. Adjustable bras may last slightly longer because you can tighten them, but it’s worth noting that this signals a change to your breasts or that your bra is reaching its sell-by. Check your cups for loss of shape, as this also means it’s time to reinvest.
As you age, your body will go through natural periods of change, including hormonal shifts and weight fluctuations, so make sure you regularly update your bra as and when you need to. If unsure, many outlets will measure for you and recommend a bra specific to the brand you’re shopping for.