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Best Sports Bras for Running of 2024

This comprehensive guide to the best running sports bras was created by a six-person test team and over hundreds of hours of testing.

By , and on July 16, 2024 | Comments
Best Sports Bra for Running - running in sports bras - feature photo

A good sports bra is critical for running comfort and performance. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Finding the best sports bra for running 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, you’ll need different bras depending on seasons, weather, and activities.

We created this guide so that we could do some of the legwork for you. We researched 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, styles, and lightweight and supportive design. If you’re looking for a bra that can carry your phone or keys easily, try the rabbit UtiliBra-vo Sports Bra. And if you’re looking for a high level of support, consider the Brooks Racerback 2.0 Sports Bra.

For more background information on sports bras for running, see our buying advice, testing methodology, and frequently asked questions below the picks.

Best Sports Bras for Running

Best Sports Bra for Running - running in the Janji Long Bra

iRunFar’s Alli Hartz tests a crop top style sports bra during a sunset run in the desert. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Overall Sports Bra for Running: Athleta Ultimate Bra ($49)

Best Sports Bra for Running - Athleta Ultimate Bra - product photo

Pros:

  • A diverse size range will fit many body types
  • Stylish, with an assortment of colors
  • Supportive yet lightweight

Cons:

  • 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 splits 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. It also comes in many different colors to choose from. We found it to have excellent support for running throughout the entire size range. The band may be a little tight, but taking it on and off was still reasonably easy. 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.

Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Recycled Nylon/Lycra | Support: Medium

Shop the Athleta Ultimate Bra

Best Sports Bra for Running in Hot Weather: Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra ($58)

Best Sports Bra for Running - Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra - product photo

Pros:

  • Simple yet stylish design
  • Lightweight and breathable with no excess fabric or seams
  • Easy on and off

Cons:

  • 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 included cup pads provide extra support and are easy to remove if you don’t want them.

Our testers found this to provide good support for smaller cup sizes and adequate support for B to C cups. Testers noted the chest band runs 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 pressure points or chafing issues while wearing a pack. A crucial quality of good 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: Medium

Shop the Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra

Best Sports Bra for Running in Cold Weather: Smartwool Intraknit Racerback Bra ($65)

Best Sports Bra for Running - Smartwool Intraknit Racerback Bra - product photoPros:

  • Warm
  • Supportive

Cons:

  • Slow drying
  • Heavy

When it comes to cold-weather running, many of our team members turn to the insulating properties of wool, and the Smartwool Intraknit Racerback Bra is a warm option for winter runs. Wool is an ideal material for a cold-weather bra because it provides warmth even when damp, which is important for a layer of clothing that will fit tightly against the skin. The material is significantly thicker than the other bras in this guide, but this extra material contributes to its warmth.

While Smartwool markets this bra for low-impact activities, we found it provides good running support. We found this higher level of support lacking in other wool bras and set this one apart from the rest. Removable cups also provide extra support. This bra has a higher level of coverage, both on the front and back. While it acts as an additional layer for cold weather, it has the potential to cause chafing for certain body types. A small pocket on the back provides space for a gel or credit card but isn’t big enough for a standard-sized phone.

It’s worth noting that we also wore this bra during warmer-weather runs and didn’t find it excessively hot.

Our only hesitation with this bra is that the thicker material takes forever to dry. While still warm when damp, the long drying time was annoying if we didn’t want to change out of it right after a run. The bra also gets quite heavy when wet.

Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Tencel/nylon/merino wool | Support: Medium

Shop the Smartwool Intraknit Racerback Bra

Best Longline or Crop Sports Bra for Running: Janji Long Bra ($66)

Best Sports Bra for Running - Janji Long Bra - product photo

Pros:

  • Lightweight, breathable material
  • It is stylish and looks excellent as a standalone top
  • Socially conscious company supporting clean water initiatives around the globe

Cons:

  • 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 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. Our testers who enjoyed running without a shirt on hot days especially loved this bra.

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 make this bra 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 they commit.

Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Nylon/Spandex/Polyester | Support: Medium

Shop the Janji Long Bra

Best Sports Bra for Running with Pockets: rabbit UtiliBra-vo Sports Bra ($50)

Best Sports Bra for Running - rabbit UtiliBra-vo Sports Bra - product photo

Pros:

  • Functional back pocket
  • Fun prints
  • Comfortable and supportive

Cons:

  • Too much material for hot weather

For a lot of runs, we want to be able to take along a phone, gel, credit card, or a house key without having to wear a running belt or pack or put things in our pockets that will bounce around. Pockets in sports bras are a relatively new addition to the market, and the rabbit UltiliBra-vo Sports Bra nails the genre. Providing a medium level of support for smaller-chested women, this bra is just enough for running. The racerback style allows for a significant pocket between the shoulder blades that is big enough for a phone and other small items. The pocket fit everything securely and comfortably.

Made of a polyester and spandex blend, the bra is quick-drying. Rabbit is known for creating incredibly comfortable clothing, and this bra aligns with the brand’s other offerings. Its higher neckline allows for thicker shoulder straps that increase comfort and support. While all this extra material provides a lot of support, it felt too much for hot weather running and for times when we were wearing a pack.

Bra Style: Compression | Materials: Polyester/Spandex | Support: Medium

Shop the rabbit UltiliBra-vo Sports Bra

Best Sports Bra for Running with Pockets — Runner-Up: Oiselle Flyout Bra ($64)

Best Sports Bra for Running - Oiselle Flyout Bra - product photo

Pros:

  • Wide straps distribute weight and are comfortable under packs
  • Flattering style with good coverage
  • Secure phone pocket in the back

Cons:

  • The pullover style is more challenging to get on and off
  • High fabric coverage can trap heat on hotter runs

One of women’s biggest complaints about athletic clothing is the lack of pockets. 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 we loved the functionality of 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. Oiselle says the Flyout Bra provides 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 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: Medium

Shop the Oiselle Flyout Bra

Best High-Impact Sports Bra for Running: Brooks Racerback 2.0 Sports Bra ($75)

Best Sports Bra for Running - Brooks Racerback Run Bra 2.0 - product photo

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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 Racerback 2.0 Sports Bra 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: High

Shop the Brooks Racerback 2.0

Best Sports Bra for Running — Unique Design: Shefit Flex Sports Bra ($69)

Best Sports Bra for Running - Shefit Flex Sports Bra - product photo

Pros:

  • Multiple adjustment points for a customized fit
  • Free virtual fitting consultation available before purchase
  • Stylish
  • Easy to get on and off

Cons:

  • 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 SheFit calls it a medium support bra, our testers found it had more than enough running support.

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: Medium

Shop the Shefit Flex Sports Bra

Comparing the Best Sports Bras for Running

SPORTS BRA PRICE BRA STYLE MATERIALS SUPPORT
Athleta Ultimate Bra $49 Compression Recycled nylon/lycra Medium
Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra $58 Compression Polyester/nylon/spandex Medium
Smartwool Intraknit Racerback Bra $65 Compression Tencel/nylon/merino wool Medium
Janji Long Bra $66 Compression Nylon/spandex/polyester Medium
rabbit UltiliBra-vo Sports Bra $50 Compression Polyester/spandex Medium
Brooks Racerback 2.0 Sports Bra  $75 Compression and encapsulation Nylon/elastane High
Shefit Flex Sports Bra  $69 Compression and encapsulation Nylon/spandex Medium

Why Do We Need a Good Sports Bra for Running?

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 also worked with several high-profile companies on sports bra development and testing, including Adidas’s sports bra collection, which what introduced us 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). 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).

A poorly supported chest is also not good for the tissues themselves. The pectoral muscles in our chest wall sit underneath the breast tissue and provide very little support. The breasts have no muscles and consist of overlying skin, fat tissue, and mammary glands — none of which support keeping them in place.

Cooper’s ligaments function as a 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 pretty 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.

Best Sports Bra for Running - Female breast anatomy

Female breast anatomy. Image: Shutterstock

How to Choose a Sports Bra for Running

Type of Support

Support can come in the form of compression or encapsulation. Compression bras usually have 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 have individual cups for each breast to lock down movement, similar to a standard bra.

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 emphasize the chest visually — not quite circa 1990 Madonna-esque, but you get the idea.

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 tightened shoulder straps. These features allow the wearer to lift and cinch the chest rather than just relying on the support of the front and cups.

Breasts have different ranges of movement depending on the size and morphology of each wearer’s chest. 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.

Best Sports Bra for Running - running on Pikes Peak

Running in only a sports bra can keep a runner cool during intense efforts. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

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, an aching back, and the annoying bouncing feeling we all know and hate.

Most brands categorize bras 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 and can provide enough support for running for smaller-chested women. 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. Many of the bras in this guide, including the Athleta Ultimate Bra, are medium support.

High-support bras, including the Brooks Racerback 2.0 Sports Bra, 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.

Best Sports Bra for Running - Shefit Flex Sports Bra

The Shefit Flex Sports Bra is a medium support bra with thick straps and good padding. Our testers named it the most unique design and found it worked well for larger chests. Photo: iRunFar/Michael Harris

Sizing

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 use the common bra measurements of 30AA to 40DDD+, while others use numbered sizing, like dresses and pants from 2 to 14.

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 Brooks Racerback 2.0 Sports Bra, can help dial in the fit more precisely.

Best Sports Bra for Running - Kelly Wolf 2019 Kendall Mountain Run

Kelly Wolf races the 2019 Kendall Mountain Run in a long sports bra. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Moisture Management

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.

As a rule, the sweaty Bettys out there will likely want to avoid a bra with high coverage, like the Janji Long Bra or the Smartwool Intraknit Racerback Bra, in favor of a more minimalist style like the Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra.

Best Sports Bra for Running - trail world championships

Many runners at the 2019 Trail World Championships ran in just sports bras. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Try-On Troubles

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 or in the front like the Shefit Flex Sports 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. 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.

Extra Details

We have come a long way from a sports bra made from two sewn-together jock straps or an ace bandage-like compression strap. 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, like the impressively functional pocket on the rabbit UltiliBra-vo Sports Bra. 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 looks, feel, and performance.

Pockets

Several bras have built-in pockets for phones or gels, and our favorite was the rabbit UltiliBra-vo Sports Bra. While we might be wearing a hydration pack with a plethora of pockets for a long trail run, for the shorter days, it’s nice to be able to stow a key, card, or phone in a bra 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 a few snacks, a few were significantly bigger.

Best Sports Bra for Running - Running in sports bras and Janji Long Bra

Different sports bras fit different body types and bust sizes. It’s worth finding one that works for you! Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Price

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. Several sports bras in this guide, including the rabbit UltiliBra-vo Sports Bra and the Athleta Ultimate Bra, fall in the $50 range. While it may be tempting to buy a cheaper sports bra, you’ll most likely have to replace it much more quickly than a higher-quality one.

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.

Best Sports Bra for Running -Original bra patent 1932 Glamorise

The original bra patent dates back to 1932. Image: Glamorise

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 two favorites: the Brooks Racerback 2.0 Sports Bra and Shefit Flex Sports Bra.

Why Trust Us

For the initial creation of this guide, 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 that we narrowed to 60 bras of varying styles: compression, encapsulation, pullover, clasp, and more.

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.

We could not test for the following circumstances: post-mastectomy, nursing, and pregnancy. We aim to add these suggestions as we continue to evolve this guide.

We keep this guide updated with a team of four testers who stay current with new bra options on the market and test ones that have the potential to measure up to our current list of favorites. We tested bras on three-mile recovery jogs to 100-mile races and FKT efforts, including Western States, Hardrock 100, and Nolan’s 14. We test throughout 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 dry and humid climates.

Our testing team members regularly wear six to eight different bras at any time. We all have different bra preferences, with some liking crop tops with a lot of support and others preferring more minimal options. We evaluate bras on their comfort, support levels, ability to be put on and taken off, breathability, and style.

Best Sports Bra for Running - Testing bras with pockets

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks testing a sports bra with pockets in Arizona. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Frequently Asked Questions About Sports Bras for Running

How do I choose the best sports bra for running?

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 bra 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 Brooks Racerback 2.0 Sports Bra.

The best way to find what’s right for you is to try on a variety of options at a running or outdoor store. If that’s not possible, check out guides like these or ask a friend with similar chest size and morphology what has worked for them.

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, so if you find something you really like, it might be worth buying a few.

Best Sports Bra for Running -Encapsulation and compression sports bras

Examples of an encapsulation sports bra on the left and a compression sports bra on the right. Image: Wikipedia

How should my sports bra fit? 

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.

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. The Athleta Ultimate Bra offers an extensive range of sizes, and we found it to fit a variety of bodies quite well.

What are some of the materials sports bras are made of?

Generally, most sports bras feature 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 the Smartwool Intraknit Racerback Bra to be the best sports bra for running in cold weather. Technical fabrics, including wool blends, are great for wicking moisture and keeping you dry and comfortable in a variety of weather conditions.

Best Sports Bra for Running - testing a lululemon bra

Various strap configurations on different bras provide different levels of support. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Do I need a specific sports bra material for hot or cold weather?

Not particularly, but finding a breathable and fast-wicking bra so you don’t become drenched with sweat and either chafe in hot weather or freeze in cold weather is key. 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 Intraknit Racerback Bra coming out on top.

For hot days, we wanted a bra made of technical material that wicked well, had breathable panels, and more minimal back coverage. For us, the Oiselle Hi Twenty 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. 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. We could wear the Smartwool Intraknit Racerback Bra for many multiday trips and day runs for months on end without seeing any sign of wear.

You can go by feel, but if the bra starts becoming threadbare or you start bouncing around, it’s probably time to replace it.

Best Sports Bras - Janji Long Bra -outdoor

iRunFar’s Alex Potter in the Janji Long Bra in the snow in Arizona. We named this bra the best longline or crop-style sports bra. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Why are sports bras so expensive?

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. 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. The Brooks Racerback 2.0  Sports Bra and Shefit Flex Sports Bra are our top picks for larger breasts.

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.

References

  1. Wood, L., White, J., Milligan, A., Ayres, B., Hedger, W., & Scurr, J. (2012). Predictors of three-dimensional breast kinematics during bare-breasted running. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, 44(7), 1351-1357. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e31824bd62c
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
Back to Our Top Sports Bras for Running Picks
Best Sports Bra for Running - Ibex Womens Balance Crop Bra Outdoor

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks testing an Ibex sports bra on a chilly spring day in Arizona. Photo: iRunFar/Alex Potter

Carly Eisley
Carly Eisley is a trail runner, hiker, mountain biker, and traveler. Her home base is in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and two rescue dogs. When not writing or adventuring, she works as an emergency department nurse practitioner. Follow her on Instagram.
Carly Eisley
Alex Potter is a contributor and former editor at iRunFar. Following a nearly decade-long hiatus from running after college, she has found a new love in trail running. As a photojournalist, Alex has reported throughout the Middle East and East Africa for publications like 'National Geographic,' 'The New York Times,' and 'The Washington Post.'
Carly Eisley

Eszter Horanyi identifies as a Runner Under Duress, in that she’ll run if it gets her deep into the mountains or canyons faster than walking would, but she’ll most likely complain about it. A retired long-distance bike racer, she gave ultra foot racing a go and finished the Ouray 100 in 2017, but ultimately decided that she prefers a slower pace of life of taking photos during long days in the mountains and smelling the flowers while being outside for as many hours of the day as possible. Eszter will take any opportunity to go adventuring in the mountains or desert by foot, bike, or boat, and has lived the digital nomad lifestyle throughout the west for the past seven years.