When it comes to finding the best sports bra for running, it can seem like an impossible task with seemingly endless options. Anyone who has gone bra shopping can attest that finding a bra for everyday wear is frustrating on its own, but finding the right sports bra for running can take that experience to another level.
Our bodies are incredibly diverse, and no one-size-fits-all bra exists for our various shapes, sizes, and activities. We may have come a long way from the original Jogbra, but sports bra design is far from perfect. An ill-fitting sports bra can lead to a miserable day on the run: sore back, chafed sides, sweaty ribs, and immense frustration trying to get it off. Sometimes, different bras will be needed for different seasons, weather, and activities.
We created this guide so that we could do some of the legwork for you. We researched some 120 bras, tested half of them on various body types, and came up with this list of the best sports bras for running available today. It was hard to narrow down to this list simply because we are so different in our shape and preferences! The Athleta Ultimate Bra topped our list for its wide range of sizes, style, and lightweight and supportive design. The Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra and Falke Madison Low Support Sport Bra were close runner-ups. And the Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra is our favorite budget option.
Best Sports Bras for Running
- Best Overall Sports Bra for Running: Athleta Ultimate Bra
- Best Overall Sports Bra for Running – Runners-Up: Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra and Falke Madison Low Support Sport-Bra
- Best Sports Bra for Running in Cold Weather: Smartwool Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra
- Best Sports Bra for Running in Hot Weather: Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra
- Best Longline or Crop Sports Bra for Running: Janji Long Bra
- Best Budget Sports Bra for Running: Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra
- Best Sports Bra for Running with Pockets: Oiselle Flyout Bra
- Best Sports Bra for Running – Small Breasts: Tracksmith Run Bra
- Best Sports Bra for Running – Large Breasts: Runderwear Power Running Bra
- Best Sports Bra for Running – Large Breasts – Runners-Up: Brooks Dare Racerback Run Bra 2.0 and Under Armour UA Infinity High Printed Sports Bra
- Best Sports Bra for Running – Lage Breasts – Unique Design: Shefit Flex Sports Bra
Best Overall Sports Bra for Running: Athleta Ultimate Bra ($49)
- A diverse size range will fit many body types
- Stylish, with an assortment of colors
- Supportive yet lightweight
- Removable pads can shift or trap moisture
- The chest strap is a little tight and slightly harder to get on and off than some others tested
It’s rare to find a bra with a style and sizing that will work from an A cup to a DD, but the Athleta Ultimate Bra has done it!
The compression-style racerback design has a back cutout, reducing excess fabric for excellent breathability and range of motion, and it looks stylish. The sizing is split between an A to C cup design (in sizes XXS to XL) and a D to DD+ version (XXS to 3XL). Both versions maintain the same racerback style and multiple color options.
The bra’s recycled nylon fabric is quick-drying and breathable. We found it to have excellent support for running throughout the entire size range. The band may be a little tight, but it was still reasonably easy to get on and off. The bra has removable pads, which can trap moisture — not ideal in any conditions. Removing them did not compromise the bra’s fit or support and helped with moisture control. We found this medium-support bra to provide more support than many others, making it an excellent option for running. This bra provided more support than others we tested, making it an ideal choice for running.
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Recycled Nylon/Lycra | Support: MediumShop the Athleta Ultimate Bra
Best Overall Sports Bra for Running – Runner-Up: Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra ($56)
- Simple yet stylish design
- Lightweight and breathable with no excess fabric or seams
- Easy on and off
- It runs small, and the chest strap can be restrictive
- Not supportive enough for larger chests
While flashy styles and the latest and greatest bells and whistles are all well and good, sometimes simplicity rules, and the Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra delivers. If a supportive, no-fuss style is what you are seeking, this compression-style pullover design with thin racerback straps is a great option. It is easy to get on and off and provides a secure fit with no excess seams or material to weigh you down. It has a mesh back insert that breathes well and kept us dry. The bra has cup pads that provide extra support and are easy to remove.
Our testers found this to provide good support for smaller cup sizes and adequate support for B to C cups. The chest band was noted to run small, so runners may need to size up to avoid rib compression for a better fit. It performed well in various temperature conditions, and there were no issues with pressure points or chafing while wearing a pack. A crucial quality of a good piece of running clothing is that you forget you are wearing it — and this bra hit the mark there!
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Polyester/Nylon/Spandex | Support: MediumShop the Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra
Best Overall Sports Bra for Running – Runner-Up: Falke Madison Low Support Sport Bra ($72)
- Soft and stretchy seamless material
- Flattering style with good coverage and a range of color choices
- Easy to get on and off
- Low support is not adequate for larger breasts
- High fabric coverage can trap heat on hotter runs
- Pads can shift in the wash and need to be repositioned
The under-the-radar Falke Madison Low Support Sport Bra is a classic compression-style pullover racerback bra that combines soft materials, stretch, support, and coverage in an attractive yet simple design.
Our testers found that it provided more than enough support for small cup sizes during running and higher-impact activities, even though it’s only listed as offering low-impact support for small to medium breasts. The seamless stretchy material is easy to get on and off, and the removable pads add extra support. There are several fun color options for those who want to add a bit of color to their running kit.
This bra is cut a little higher in the front and armpit area, which creates the potential for chafing points on some body types. The racerback is a bit thicker than other styles, so the excess fabric could run hotter than the more minimalist or mesh-paneled designs.
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Polyester/Spandex | Support: Low to mediumShop the Falke Madison Low Support Sport-Bra
Best Sports Bra for Running in Cold Weather: Smartwool Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra ($60)
- Merino fabric is excellent for moisture and odor control
- Soft, seamless design eliminates chafing
- Environmentally friendly materials
- Not supportive enough for larger cup sizes
- Can stretch out after wearing
- Removable pads shift around
When dressing for cold-weather runs, many go straight to wool garments. The Smartwool’s Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra combines the natural moisture-wicking and odor-controlling properties of merino wool with the stretch and compression of nylon to create a bra perfect for chilly conditions. The inner merino fabric absorbs and wicks moisture away from your skin and dries quickly, helping keep you cool in warm temperatures and avoid the chill in cold weather.
The simple, stretchy racerback design is a breeze to get on and off and provides good compression support for smaller breasts, with removable pads for additional support and coverage. To help avoid pressure points, abrasions, or chafing, this bra is made with a seamless design — great for long days on the trails, especially with a pack.
While this bra earned high marks for its comfort and soft fabric, it was noted that it stretched out a bit after wearing and needed a wash to return to its compressive baseline. Our larger-breasted runners also found that this bra did not provide enough support for comfortable running. The removable pads can shift around a little, particularly with washing, and some may just opt to remove them and avoid that minor annoyance.
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Merino Wool/Nylon/Elastane | Support: MediumShop the Smartwool Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra
Best Sports Bra for Running in Hot Weather: Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra ($55)
- Lightweight and quick-drying, comfortable in hot weather
- Easy to get on and off
- Environmentally friendly materials and brand
- Not supportive enough for larger cup sizes
- Possible durability issues with chest band
- Removable pads shift around
Made of lightweight stretchy material with a performance mesh cross-back strap design, the Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra stood out as a bra that provided plenty of comfort and support in a quick-drying, keep-you-cool package. With little material in the back, this bra stayed dryer and kept us more comfortable during hot and humid runs.
We love the stylish and functional open-back design and found it easy to get on and off, even after a muggy trail session. Patagonia is well-known for its fair trade and environmentally conscious approach to business, and this bra certainly reflects that.
The polyester fabrics are 85 to 100% recycled and sewn in a Fair Trade Certified factory. Add Patagonia’s longstanding participation in 1% for the Planet, where it pledges 1% of annual sales to preserve and restore the natural environment, and you can feel pretty good about hitting the trails in this bra.
This bra provides good high-impact support for smaller cup sizes but isn’t great for larger breasts. We found some possible durability issues with long-term use, with some stretching, seam loosening, and fading of the elastic chest strap.
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Recycled Polyester/Nylon/Spandex | Support: High for A to B cups, medium for B to C, and low for C to DShop the Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra
Best Longline or Crop Sports Bra for Running: Janji Long Bra ($66)
- Lightweight, breathable material
- Stylish, and looks excellent as a standalone top
- Socially conscious company supporting clean water initiatives around the globe
- Difficult to get on and off
- More material coverage could make it a bit warmer than others
For those who like the look and feel of a standalone crop top or just want a bra with more coverage, the Janji Long Bra is for you! The wide straps and racerback design provide support and comfort in a flattering package. With Janji’s bright patterned colors, this bra will add a little extra pizazz to your running outfit.
This compression-style crop combines smooth material, mesh lining, and removable pads to create a breathable, supportive, and comfortable fit. There is also a pocket between the shoulders that can carry a phone or other small items. Our testers found the bra very supportive in the smaller sizes, with removable inserts that add a little extra support for those of us who need it. Janji’s commitment to sustainability and supporting clean water access means you can feel good about your purchase and look stylish — win-win!
The longer crop style, wider straps, and extra material did mean that this bra was a little more challenging to get on and off than the strappy, open-back designs of others we tested. Those with shoulder issues or who are very averse to the occasional undergarment wrestling match may want to try this one on before you commit.
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Nylon/Spandex/Polyester | Support: MediumShop the Janji Long Bra
Best Budget Sports Bra for Running: Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra ($14)
- Very affordable price
- High-impact support with a wide size range
- Durable material and construction
- Not as stylish
- Runs small, so choosing the appropriate size could be tricky
While, in theory, running is a simple sport that shouldn’t cost a lot, adding up the price of an entire running outfit can make the entire endeavor less appealing. For those looking to save money on their running clothes without sacrificing functionality, the Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra is an excellent option at an affordable price.
This compression bra is also straightforward. It’s a pullover bra with thin but highly compressive material, and its only bell or whistle is a chest panel with slightly larger holes in the material for increased moisture-wicking and breathability. Decathlon’s site notes that this bra runs small, but we found it to run pretty true to size if you’re buying it for running. And with a price tag of $14 and the functionality to keep everything in place while running, it’s hard to argue with this bra.
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Polyamide/Spandex/Polyester | Support: MediumShop the Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra
Best Sports Bra for Running with Pockets: Oiselle Flyout Bra ($64)
- Wide straps distribute weight and are comfortable under packs
- Flattering style with good coverage
- Secure phone pocket in the back
- The pullover style is more challenging to get on and off
- High fabric coverage can trap heat on hotter runs
The lack of pockets is one of women’s biggest complaints about athletic clothing. Functional pockets are hard to find. It seems as though clothing companies are finally listening up, and pockets that can actually hold things are finally becoming a regular occurrence. Several sports bra manufacturers have gotten in on the fun, and our favorite of the bunch is the Oiselle Flyout Bra.
This is a pullover compression-style bra with wide shoulder straps designed to provide comfort under a pack. The back has full coverage with lightweight materials and an exterior mesh pocket that keeps your phone secure and bounce-free. It is billed as medium support for up to D cups.
The more extensive back fabric coverage and pullover design did mean this bra was a little harder to get on and off, but fear not — the bra comes in a zip-front style for those with shoulder or arm mobility issues — or those who just don’t want to perform acrobatic feats to change out of their sports bra after a long run.
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Polyester/Spandex | Support: MediumShop the Oiselle Flyout Bra
Best Sports Bra for Running – Small Breasts: Tracksmith Run Bra ($58)
- Soft, quick-drying material
- Classic, retro look
- Easy to get on and off
- Low support is not adequate for larger chests
- Thinner material shows through more
The Tracksmith Run Bra combines old-school style with new-school fabrics to create a sleek, classic racerback compression bra that will go the distance. The racing stripe on the chest strap has a very retro feel, and the nylon blend material is soft and supportive. Our testers found that the material dried quickly and was comfortable when running in humid conditions.
This bra is listed as having medium support for AA to C cups and low support for C and up. Our testers found it comfortable and supportive for smaller breasts and easy to get on and off, with just the right amount of stretch and compression. The material is thinner than others, and there is no extra padding, which means there is potential for some nipple outline to show up — something to keep in mind if you find that bothersome.
Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Nylon/Elastane | Support: Low to mediumShop the Tracksmith Run Bra
Best Sports Bra for Running – Large Breasts: Runderwear Power Running Bra ($70)
- Soft, quick-drying material
- Adjustable fit with two clasp closures in the back and adjustable shoulder straps
- Easy to get on and off
- Encapsulated style creates more of a busty look
- Proper sizing can be tricky; you may need to try on multiple sizes
For a long time, one of the biggest hurdles for runners with larger breasts to overcome in order to run comfortably has been finding a sports bra that actually fits, and the Runderwear Power Running Bra nails it. After years of sub-par offerings, research and development on the part of running and sports bra companies has yielded some great products that eliminate bounce and provide support without totally sacrificing style — or your ability to breathe. As stated on Runderwear’s website, the bras are designed “for runners by runners,” so they have really taken to heart the need for quality bras for larger-breasted runners.
This is an encapsulated bra that features molded cups to reduce breast movement. The bra lives up to its name, with two hook-and-loop style closures on the back to provide additional support through the band. This design makes it easy to get on and off. Wide, padded, adjustable shoulder straps further improve the fit and level of support.
The bra has a wide size range, with cup sizes from C to J and bands from 28 to 42, improving the odds of finding the right fit for your build. This high-impact bra will keep you secure and comfortable for all your athletic activities.
As with most encapsulated-style bras, this one creates a more busty look than traditional compression-only styles that tend to flatten and spread the chest more. Some runners who prefer to minimize their breasts might not like this style for that reason. Finding the right fit can require some trial and error — luckily, Runderwear offers free exchanges to help you find the perfect fit without compromise.
Check out our Runderwear Power Running Bra review to learn more about this sports bra.
Bra Style: Encapsulation | Materials: Polyamide/Elastane | Support: HighShop the Runderwear Easy-On Running Bra
Best Sports Bra for Running – Large Breasts – Runner-Up: Brooks Dare Racerback Run Bra 2.0 ($75)
- Soft, quick-drying, and nearly seamless material
- Adjustable fit with clasp closure in the back and adjustable shoulder straps
- Excellent support for a range of breast sizes
- Racerback straps and clasp band make it harder to get on and off
- Proper sizing can be tricky; you may need to try on multiple sizes
The Brooks Dare Racerback Run Bra 2.0 combines a standard racerback compression-style setup with adjustable straps, a molded encapsulated cup, and a hook-and-loop chest strap to create a supportive bra with more of a classic sports bra look that works well for larger breasts. The soft fabric is moisture-wicking and comfortable.
The sizes range from 32B to 44FF and are returnable and exchangeable if your first pick doesn’t quite fit the way you’d like. This bra is rated for high-impact activities and provides a snug, secure fit for everything from cross-training to bombing down a technical descent.
Bra Style: Compression and encapsulation | Materials: Nylon/Elastane | Support: HighShop the Brooks Dare Racerback 2.0
Best Sports Bra for Running – Large Breasts – Runner-Up: Under Armour UA Infinity High Printed Sports Bra ($60)
- Breathable, quick-drying
- Adjustable fit with clasp closure in the back and adjustable shoulder straps
- Stylish support bra
- Crossback straps and clasp band can be a little harder to get on and off
The Under Armour UA Infinity High Printed Sports Bra is a high-impact bra that combines a molded encapsulation-like one-piece padding with a compression-style cross-back design to provide excellent support for larger breasts. The hook-and-eye chest strap closure and adjustable straps allow for some customization of the fit, and their HeatGear fabric with mesh panels wicks sweat and dries quickly for comfort in all temperatures.
Bra Style: Compression and encapsulation | Materials: Polyester/Elastane | Support: HighShop the Under Armour UA Infinity High Sports Bra
Best Sports Bra for Running – Large Breasts – Unique Design: Shefit Flex Sports Bra ($75)
- Multiple adjustment points for a customized fit
- Free virtual fitting consultation available before purchase
- Easy to get on and off
- Velcro adjustment points can create possible irritation spots
- Multiple straps are more challenging to get on and off
Adjustability is key when dialing in a supportive fit; this is where the Shefit Flex Sports Bra shines.
The Shefit line uses their patented “Zip. Cinch. Lift.” system to customize the support to each wearer’s needs. The design provides a high level of support using both compression and encapsulation. The straps, with Velcro adjustment points, can be worn in a cross-back or more traditional H configuration, and they lift and compress exactly where you need it, eliminating bounce without restricting breathing or range of motion. The zip in the front makes it easy to take this bra on and off. Seamless cups and four-way stretch fabric keep you secure and allow the bra to move with you. Though the bra is billed as medium support, our testers found it had more than enough support for running.
The bra’s sizing ranges from extra small to 6Luxe, accommodating cup sizes from A to I. To ensure you get the best fit possible, Shefit offers virtual fitting consultations and text, email, or phone support to help customers find the proper size and fit. While bras catering to larger breasts tend to be a bit more cumbersome to get on and off, this bra is not tricky to get on or clasp. The bra is also on the more stylish end of the spectrum among bras made for large breasts, which often sacrifice looks for function.
Bra Style: Compression and encapsulation | Materials: Nylon/Spandex | Support: MediumShop the Shefit Flex Sports Bra
Why Do We Need a Good Sports Bra for Running?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to choose a sports bra, let’s talk about why we need a sports bra.
While we all know from personal experience that running with unsupported breasts doesn’t feel very good, it wasn’t until recent years that scientific research focused on how significant breast movement can affect athletic performance. The Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., headed by Dr. Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, is at the forefront of much of this research.
The group has published myriad studies on the biomechanics of breast movement, breast support, and its effects on athletes. They have worked with several high-profile companies on sports bra development and testing, most recently Adidas’s newly revamped sports bra collection — which is how we were introduced to Dr. Wakefield-Scurr and her research program.
Dr. Wakefield-Scurr’s research has shown that breast movement significantly impacts comfort, running economy, and pace. For instance, if you run a marathon and your chest is unsupported, your breasts can end up running an extra four miles! During activity, the breasts move in a figure-eight-like pattern, not just up and down, but side to side and in and out.
Depending on the size and density of the breasts, the bust can move as much as 19 centimeters (about 7.5 inches) in any direction during a run if left unsupported (1, 2) — not exactly conducive to an excellent performance. In addition to breast discomfort, multiple studies by Dr. Wakefield-Scurr and her research group have shown that runners with unsupported breasts had a shorter stride length, slower leg turnover, and slower overall pace as compared to their performance with high support (3, 4, 5).
Now, other than being extremely uncomfortable and a distraction from what we want to be doing — running! — a poorly supported chest is also not good for the tissues themselves. The muscles in our chest wall, the pectoral muscles, sit underneath the breast tissue and provide very little support to the breast tissue. The breasts have no muscle and are made up of the overlying skin, fat tissue, and mammary glands — none of which support keeping them in place.
Cooper’s ligaments function as a sort of fibrous webbing that attaches to the pectoral muscles and supports the breast tissue and mammary glands. However, this support is limited to static situations, like when our breasts remain up on our chest wall when we are just sitting around. They don’t provide any meaningful support during activity. They also stretch over time, and their support diminishes, a phenomenon many of us are quite aware of!
Thus, a high-quality, supportive sports bra is imperative to support delicate tissues, keep us comfortable, and improve our running performance mile after mile. While different body types and breast sizes require different styles of sports bras, many members of our testing team chose Athleta’s Ultimate Bra as the best sports bra for running.
How to Choose a Sports Bra for Running
A good sports bra can make or break your run. Finding the right bra for your body balances support, comfort, sizing, and style. We hope this information can help you choose the best sports bra for running for your specific body type.
Type of Support
Support can come in the form of compression or encapsulation. Compression bras are usually a simpler squish style and work best for runners with C-cup or smaller chests. Our testers found that Athleta’s Ultimate Bra provided excellent compression support for various breast sizes with their two different sizes.
Encapsulation bras, like the Runderwear Power Running Bra, work similarly to a standard bra in that there are individual cups for each breast to lock down movement.
There are downsides to each: Compression-only bras may not work for larger-breasted folks, and encapsulation bras may not work well for everyone, depending on the size and shape of the bust.
Encapsulation bras also tend to emphasize the chest visually — not quite circa 1990 Madonna-esque, but you get the idea. Depending on your preferences, this may or may not be an appealing look.
In addition to the overall structure of the bra itself, support can also come in the form of adjustment features such as chest strap clasps and shoulder straps that can be tightened. This allows the wearer to lift and cinch the chest rather than just relying on the support of the front and cups.
Depending on the size and morphology of each wearer’s chest, breasts have different ranges of movement. While smaller breasts may move just a bit up and down, bigger busts move in multiple directions, putting extra strain on the back. As a result, most larger-breasted people find encapsulation bras much more comfortable.
Level of Support
The level of support provided is arguably the most important element when choosing a sports bra, and for those of us with larger busts, this will be the biggest deciding factor. A bra with poor support can lead to sore breasts, a sore back, and the annoying bouncing feeling we all know and hate.
Replacing your sports bras regularly is another vital factor in maintaining adequate support — don’t wait until they wear out and are fraying at the seams!
Many bras are categorized by brands as low, medium, or high support (or impact), but that is highly subjective and will vary depending on your bust size. Low-support bras are typically supportive enough for daily use, yoga, Pilates, or any activity with minimal bouncing. They generally have thinner straps, less constrictive elastic, and are compression-based rather than encapsulation-based.
Medium support bras are billed as good for boxing, weightlifting, cycling, or hiking, though they are often supportive enough for running for smaller busted people.
High-support bras are the best for running, plyometrics, and any activity with a lot of bounce. They often have the thickest straps and the most padding, and they occasionally have underwires and other elements like clasps or adjustable shoulder straps that can lift and cinch to give the highest level of support.
Just because a bra is billed as low support doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t provide enough support for running, particularly for those of us with smaller breasts. One bra we tested in particular, the Falke Madison Low Support Sport-Bra, was one of the most supportive for one of our testers despite its low-support description.
Conversely, some medium-support bras came up short in the support department for even our smaller-breasted testers. The moral of the story is it all comes down to what is most comfortable for you.
Comfort is just as important as support for most. It doesn’t matter how locked down the breasts are if the bra itself is uncomfortable. Discomfort can come in many forms: chafing from rough seams, straps cutting into the shoulders or back due to a style that doesn’t work, poor sizing that is too big or too small, lack of support, material that isn’t quite soft enough, material that does not wick moisture appropriately, and any number of other things. Our testers loved the soft and supportive material of the Tracksmith Run Bra and found the bra to be incredibly comfortable.
What is the most comfortable bra for each person will vary wildly, and the best way to find this out is to try it on directly. Luckily, many companies have realized this and have flexible return and exchange policies — convenient for those who can’t access the bra of their choice in a nearby store. You can try on and return the Runderwear Power Running Bra as many times as needed until you can find the right fit for your body.
If you thought buying the right jeans size was a chore — why can’t women’s jeans have standard waist and length sizes like men’s jeans?! — then you are in for a real treat in correctly sizing your sports bra. Finding the right bra size can take a masterclass in measuring, and sizes can vary so widely between and even within brands that it’s hard to standardize.
Some bras are in a standard size of XS to XL. Others go with the common bra measurements of 30AA to 40DDD+, while others use numbered sizing, like dresses and pants from 2 to 14. Some brands change the sizing between bra styles even within their own company.
Again, the best way to figure out what works best for you is to try on the bra, as sometimes the sizing does not align with what is most comfortable for each user. While you might measure as a medium, you might want to size down if you prefer greater breast compression. Yet, sizing up might be appropriate if you are highly sensitive to rib cage entrapment. Choosing a bra with adjustable straps, like the Under Armour UA Infinity High Printed Sports Bra, can help dial in the fit more precisely.
There are a few different elements that go into this style category. First, the bra’s style partially goes hand in hand with the level of support — compression or encapsulation. Also, do you want a standard sports bra or a longer crop-top style one like the Janji Long Bra?
Secondly, will you choose a bra that slips overhead or one that clasps in the back like a regular bra? Do you need or want one that has adjustable straps to cinch things up a bit? Those are the functional elements of style.
The other element is not just style but s-t-y-l-e. Look good, feel good, right? I’ve — Alex Potter here — tried several sports bras that were comfortable and supportive, but being a shirtless runner as often as possible, how the bra looks on my body type is just as important as all the other elements.
I like bras that are flattering to my shape and look good solo. If it’s above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I am sans shirt most of the time. Others may never take off their shirt, and that’s ok! It’s important that the bra you choose feels good and looks good for you.
Some of us are sweaty gals, and some of us are not, but even for the driest body, it’s nice to have a bra with breathable panels, sweat-wicking material, and padding that doesn’t pick up moisture so that we can stay as dry as possible. While the bra style does factor into its sweat-controlling capabilities, with bras with less overall material having less moisture absorption, the bra’s fabric is the star of the show.
We tested several bras made of wool and found that when it comes to moisture and temperature control, merino does a great job of wicking sweat and maintaining temperature in both hot and cold conditions. Almost all of the bras we tested — and certainly everything in this guide — did a great job of wicking away sweat to keep us cool or warm, and dry.
As a rule, the sweaty Bettys out there will likely want to avoid a bra with high coverage, like the Janji Long Bra or Oiselle Flyout Bra, in favor of a more minimalist style like the Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra.
If a sports bra fits you correctly, it should be fairly easy to put on and take off if dry. That can be another story if you’re coming back inside from a particularly rainy or sweaty run. This is why some folks prefer sports bras that clasp in the back like a traditional bra — no writhing around trying to get a sticky bra up and over our sweaty shoulders. This is particularly important for those with shoulder mobility issues. If you struggle with your shoulders, you’ll want to avoid the pullover styles in favor of a more traditional bra clasp setup.
Getting a pullover bra on and off doesn’t always have to be a struggle. If it is constructed well with elastic that stretches enough and has just the right amount of underbust support, it should be easy enough to take off, no matter how wet it is. Most of the traditional racerback or pullover styles that made our cut were fairly easy to get in and out of. The Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra has a cross-back strap design that keeps the back of it from getting too sweaty, making it easier to take off, even after a muggy run.
We have come a long way from a sports bra made from two sewn-together jock straps or an ace bandage-like compression strap. As women’s participation in sports has steadily increased over the past several decades, particularly in running, the technology behind sports bras has exploded. Companies have invested in significant research and development to make sports bras more comfortable and functional.
While you can still buy a simple squishy sports bra that lets you smoosh it and forget it, several bras have thoughtful details that make your bra more comfortable, breathable, and stylish. Many bras now have storage capacity, and several are made with sustainable materials. The Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra uses 85 to 100% recycled materials in its polyester.
Some bras have an internal panel between the busts that is more breathable than the rest of the bra, decreasing boob sweat. Apparel companies are finally listening up and have put a lot of time, research, development, and cash into creating quality sports bra products with top-notch look, feel, and performance.
Several bras out there have built-in pockets for phones or gels. While we might be wearing a hydration pack with a plethora of pockets for a long trail run, for the easier days when we don’t want to carry anything, it’s nice to be able to stow a key, a card, maybe our phone, and go.
A couple of the bras we tested, and what seems most common in the pocket-endowed bra world, have a vertically situated pocket on the back of the bra. While this pocket was big enough in most bras to accommodate your phone or a couple of snacks, one bra we tested would fit a lot more, including a water bottle or clothing layer. Another option we tested was a vertical pocket in the front, situated between the bust on the outside of the bra. Others have small pockets under the arms, including one with a key clip in one of the pockets. One had an internal pocket large enough to stow not only your phone but gels, a key, and a credit card. Chest size, sweat rate, and what you may want to try to stuff your pockets with will all factor into which will be right for you.
After testing several sports bras with pockets, we named the Oiselle Flyout Bra the best in this category.
This is a tough one. Generally, in the clothing world, more technology applied equals a higher price. This means that sports bras for bigger-busted folks especially will be more expensive, often ranging from $70 or more if you want something with great support and longevity.
In the budget category, what we call $30 or less for sports bras, we found the Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra to be the highest performing.
Common Sports Bra Problems and How Sports Bras Have Improved
In 1889, women worldwide breathed a proverbial sigh of relief when the first bra was invented. They could also literally sigh, with bras enabling the corset to start making its way out. The bra style and shapes we know today didn’t become popular until the late 1920s, and over 50 years later, the first sports bra was invented.
The popularity of running blossomed in the 1970s, and along with that came the desire for a comfortable, supportive bra that could hold up to the bouncing that came with our daily run. Glamorise offered the first commercially available sports bra in 1975, marketed to tennis-playing ladies.
In all honesty, the Free Swing Tennis Bra didn’t look or function much different than the daily-wear bras of the 1970s: it still had cups, thin straps, and a clasped back, but it promised “net action sides and Lycra Spandex sides … for active women on the go.”
A few years later, in 1977, the first true running bra was born, the Jogbra. What started as Hinda Miller, Lisa Lindahl, and Polly Smith’s creative use of sewn-together jock straps to cobble together a more supportive option for running has turned into a multi-million dollar industry, with more options than they could have ever imagined.
And now, in 2023, more than 20 years after Brandi Chastain shocked the soccer world by celebrating on the field by tearing off her shirt during the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Women’s World Cup, it’s no longer uncommon to see women running sans-shirt, and sports bras have advanced more than ever.
While very simple bra styles still exist — and may still be the most popular — the one-size-fits-all ethos is gone. Sports bras now consider band and bust size, bust morphology, sweat rate, level of support, and style.
They are available with or without cups and inserts, straight and racerback straps, pullover and clasp-behind options, pockets in various locations, and with every type of technology you can imagine.
Still, because every woman’s body is entirely different, the problems that exist in the regular bra world exist in the sports bra world as well: straps that dig, band sizes that are too tight or too loose in comparison to the bust support needed, and thick and sweaty material. A large part of this has to do with fitting.
Researchers at the aforementioned University of Portsmouth Breast Health Research Program found that nearly 75% of female athletes had never been properly fitted for a sports bra. For athletes with a bust of any significant size, an ill-fitting sports bra can cause back and chest pain, not to mention the pain of trying to wrestle into some bras in the first place. Luckily, many companies are investing in making running more comfortable for women with larger breasts. Our team couldn’t decide on the single best sports bra for running for those with larger breasts, but we narrowed it down to our three favorites: the Runderwear Power Running Bra, Brooks Dare Racerback Run Bra 2.0, and Under Armour UA Infinity High Printed Sports Bra.
Why Trust Us
Here at iRunFar, we gathered a group of six testers with varying bust morphologies in sizes from 32AA to 38DD. We started by researching every possible brand of sports bra we could find, creating a list of over 120 bras. We then narrowed that list to 60 bras of varying styles: compression, encapsulation, pullover, clasp, and more, to test every possible style for each body type.
Our testers tried out these bras on runs from three miles to 12 hours on terrain in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, and the U.K., in weather varying from zero to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, in wind, rain, and snow, on sweaty-hot and sweaty-cold days, in both dry and humid climates.
We realize it is impossible to choose the best sports bra for every body type, as we are all unique in our morphologies and preferences, but we did our best to test the widest variety possible so that we could provide accurate recommendations for the best sports bras for running.
There are exceptional circumstances for which we could not test: post-mastectomy, nursing, and pregnancy. We aim to test these circumstances for future updates to this living guide.
Please note that product models are routinely discontinued in the running world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often keep using our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes, that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this — product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures — in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. Most products will likely remain the same when we update any buyer’s guide. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sports Bras for Running
There are so many sports bras for running; how do I choose the best one for me?
Unlike a T-shirt or running shorts, buying the best sports bra can be pretty complex. No one runner’s body is 100% like another’s, and no one is going to fit perfectly into a standardized brand size. If you’re a relatively small-chested runner, you might love the Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra, while runners with larger breasts will want something with significantly more support, like the Runderwear Power Running Bra, which we named the best sports bra for running for women with more significant busts.
The best way to find what’s right for you is to check out guides like these and ask a friend with a similar size and morphology what has worked for them and go from there.
Trial and error will likely be necessary. Stick to it once you find a sports bra that works best for you! Brands often cycle out or change styles, even popular ones.
What is a compression sports bra? What is an encapsulation sports bra? What’s the difference between the two?
Encapsulation bras, like the Runderwear Power Running Bra, are constructed similarly to a traditional non-sports bra: with a cup for each breast to minimize side-to-side and up-and-down movement and prevent the “uni-boob.” These bras usually have a clasp in the back and adjustable straps.
A compression bra, like the Oiselle Flyout Bra or the Tracksmith Run Bra, is just that — one that provides support through elastic below the bust and on top, with varying levels of space for the bust. Limiting motion by compressing breast tissue against the rib cage is the idea.
How should my sports bra fit? What is a sign of a poorly fitting sports bra? What is a sign of a sports bra that fits well?
A sports bra for running should be tight enough to keep the breasts in place with minimal bounce but should leave enough room for you to breathe. It shouldn’t be so tight that the straps dig painfully into your shoulders or back.
One that is poorly fitting either doesn’t provide enough support, is too constrictive on the chest or rib cage, or cuts into the soft tissue around our shoulders and back.
It may take some trial and error to find the best-fitting bra. Always use the size guide provided by the brand for the specific bra model you’re interested in. The best way to get the best fit is to try one on yourself or talk to a friend who is similarly sized to compare. Generally, it’s harder for larger-breasted women to find a properly fitting sports bra. The Runderwear Power Running Bra comes with free exchanges, so you can try on as many sizes as needed to find the right one for you.
For those of us with rib cages that are proportionately bigger than standard, finding a bra can be challenging, as it can be for those with tiny rib cages. With a bigger rib cage, often, if the chest is compressive enough, the bra band is too loose. With a smaller rib cage and bigger busts, your boobs might be crying for freedom if the band fits properly.
Since most sports bras are, by nature, compressive, it can be a real challenge to find a bra appropriate for your cup size, as sports bras don’t often come with separate band and bust measurements or sister sizes, like normal bras.
What are some of the materials sports bras are made of?
Generally, most sports bras are made of some technical material combination: nylon, spandex, or polyester, often in a proprietary blend. However, we tested some sports bras with a wool blend, which is great for colder days out on the trail. We found Smartwool’s Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra to be the best sports bra for running in cold weather. These technical fabrics are great for wicking moisture and keeping you dry and comfortable in a variety of weather conditions.
Do I need a specific sports bra material for hot or cold weather?
Not particularly, but finding a breathable and fast-wicking bra so that you don’t become drenched with sweat and either chafe in hot weather or freeze in cold weather is key. Some bras we tested were comfortable but had too much moisture-holding material to make this list.
Others have cotton blends that feel particularly cold when wet, so you’ll want to steer away from those. A wool-blend bra can be an excellent option for very chilly days.
The sports bras we found that performed best in cold weather, being able to wick sweat while keeping us warm, were made of a wool blend, with the Smartwool Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra coming out on top.
What we’re looking for on hot and sweaty days are bras made of more technical materials so they don’t get too soggy, with breathable panels, with more minimal coverage on the back, and that can wick well. For us, the Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra came out on top.
How often should I replace my sports bra?
Conventional wisdom claims between 30 and 70 washes. However, this highly depends on how often you wear it, how much the bra gets worn down, and your comfort level. A ratty old sports bra is not the same as a ratty old T-shirt. The biggest element to watch is when the seams and supportive material break down.
A bra with sewn seams around the chest and shoulders can get stretched out pretty easily, especially with more budget bras, and that leads to a lower level of support, which can be painful for the breasts and back. Our team found some durability issues with the Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra.
You can go by feel, but if the bra starts becoming threadbare or you start bouncing around, it’s probably time to replace it.
Why are sports bras so expensive?
Ahh, technology. We tested sports bras ranging from $10 to $80, with an average price of around $50. This seems out of reach for a piece of underwear, if not exorbitant.
In general, the more technology and material that goes into the bra, the more expensive it will be — but also, it’s likely to last much longer. Bras incorporating breathable panels, wicking material, pockets, padding, zippers, or clasps will likely cost more.
Brand name recognition also comes into account. Since some companies now consider sustainability in manufacturing their sports bras, those costs are also included.
There is a cost versus time versus support trade-off when selecting a sports bra. Unfortunately, for folks with bigger busts, you’ll likely have to pay at least $50 for a supportive bra for running, especially on the trails.
If you have a smaller bust and don’t mind a bra with lower-quality material that needs to be replaced more often, you’ll likely be comfortable in a very affordable budget bra, like the Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra, which topped our budget category.
Can I use my running sports bra for different activities?
Since running is one of our most high-impact activities, a sports bra for it will have to provide a high level of support. Other activities, like walking, hiking, weight lifting, and yoga, may require much less support. While there’s no issue with wearing a high-support bra for low-impact activities, many women prefer different sports bras to maximize their comfort during activities that don’t need as much breast support as running does. A moderately supportive sports bra, like the Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra, can be an excellent option for a variety of activity types.
Call for Comments
Despite our extensive search, we’re sure there are sports bras out there we aren’t aware of, and there are plenty we tested that are excellent but didn’t make our tip-top list. Share your favorite sports bras below!
And if you feel comfortable, please share your size so others can compare what might work best for them. This is a living article, and we’ll continue to test new models and model updates and update this guide as appropriate.
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- Scurr, J., White, J., & Hedger, W. (2011). Supported and unsupported breast displacement in three-dimensions during treadmill activity. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(1), 55-61. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2010.521944
- Burbage, J. L., Mills, C., & Scurr, J. C. (2013). Breast support implications for female recreational athletes during steady-state running. In Chinese Journal of Sports Biomechanics, Vol. 5(S1), pp. 426-429. https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/cpa/article/view/5600
- Milligan, A., Mills, C., Corbett, J., & Scurr, J. (2015). The influence of breast support on torso, pelvis and arm kinematics during a five kilometer treadmill run. Human Movement Science, 42, 246-260. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.humov.2015.05.008
- White, J., Scurr, J., & Smith, N. (2009). The effect of breast support on kinetics during overground running performance. Ergonomics, 52(4), 492-498. https://doi.org/10.1080/00140130802707907