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Best Sports Bras for Running of 2022

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 June 4, 2022 | Leave a reply

Finding a comfortable and good-looking sports bra for running is difficult! Amiright?!

Anyone who has gone bra shopping can attest to the fact 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 a whole other level.

Our bodies are incredibly diverse, and finding the perfect bra is difficult: there is no one-size-fits-all bra 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 perfected.

An ill-fitting sports bra can lead to a miserable day on the run: sore back, chafed sides, sweaty ribs, and dislocated shoulders trying to get it off. OK, that’s exaggerating, but you get the picture. Sometimes different bras will be needed for different seasons, weather, and activities: the bra we wear when the weather is close to triple digits is different from the one we may reach for on a snowy day.

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. To be honest, it was hard to narrow down to this list simply because we are so different in our shape and preferences!

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

Use these links to skip quickly to the sports bra you’d like to learn more about:

Best Sports Bras - Long bra outdoor

iRunFar’s Alex Potter testing the Falke Madison Low Support Sport-Bra on a snowy, spring day in Arizona. We named this bra the best by an unknown brand. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Best Overall: New Balance NB Fuel Bra ($45)

New Balance Fuel Bra - FrontThe New Balance NB Fuel Bra is a lightweight compression-style bra that provides a comfortable and secure fit. The bra’s smooth material and sleek, flattering, yet simple design earned top marks from multiple testers, and made this a go-to bra for runs in all conditions. One of its best features is its simplicity — the cross-back straps and clean seams create an open-back design that helps eliminate chafing points without trapping heat, keeping us cool and comfortable on warm-weather days.

It was easy to get in and out of, eliminating that sweaty wrestling match many of us are oh-so-familiar with after a run. As an added environmentally friendly bonus, the bra meets New Balance’s “green leaf” standard for using more sustainable environmentally preferred materials — in this case, recycled polyester.

This bra is billed as a medium-support bra, but we found the support to be very good for smaller cup sizes, and adequate for B to C cups. Removable pads provide a little extra coverage, but ditching them didn’t impact the bra’s support. That’s good news for those of us who don’t have the patience for straightening them out after a wash, though testers noted that they did stay in place most of the time!

While this bra was at the top of some of our piles, it may not provide enough support for larger chested runners. One tester also noted that on an initial wear there was some slight chafing from the back straps, but this went away after a run and a wash — the material may need a bit of a break-in for some body types.

Bra Style: Compression

Materials: Recycled polyester/spandex

Support: Medium

Pros:

  • Breathable and lightweight
  • Simple yet stylish design
  • Environmentally friendly materials

Cons:

  • Not supportive enough for larger cup sizes
  • May have a break-in period for the strap fabric
Shop the New Balance NB Fuel Bra

Best Overall Runner-Up: Athleta Ultimate Bra ($49)

Athleta Ultimate Ignite - FrontIt’s rare to find a bra that has a style and sizing that will work from an A cup all the way to DD, but Athleta’s Ultimate Bra has done it!

The compression-style racerback design has a back cutout, reducing excess fabric for great breathability and range of motion, and it looks stylish as well. 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, and we found it to have very good support for running. The band may be a little tight, but it was still fairly easy to get on and off. The bra has removable pads, which can trap moisture — not ideal in any conditions. Luckily, removing them did not seem to compromise the bra’s fit or support and helped with moisture control. The medium-impact support is great for running, and our testers found this to have more support than many similarly styled bras.

Bra Style: Compression

Materials: Recycled nylon/Lycra

Support: Medium

Pros:

  • 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
  • Chest strap is a little tight, slightly harder to get on and off than some others tested

Shop the Athleta Ultimate Bra

Best for Cold Weather: Smartwool Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra ($60)

Smartwool Womens Merino Seamless Racerback - FrontSmartwool’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 chests, with removable pads for additional support and coverage. A seamless design means no scratchy pressure points to create abrasions or chafing — 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 the fabric did stretch out a bit after wearing, and needed a wash to return to its compressive baseline. The bra also does not offer enough support for larger chested runners to feel comfortable and secure. 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: Medium

Pros:

  • Merino fabric is great for moisture and odor control
  • Soft, seamless design eliminates chafing
  • Environmentally friendly materials

Cons:

  • Not supportive enough for larger cup sizes
  • Can stretch out after wearing
  • Removable pads shift around

Shop the Smartwool Merino Sport Seamless Racerback Bra

Best for Hot Weather: Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra ($49)

Patagonia Womens Switchback Bra - FrontWhen the temperatures rise, the last thing we want is excess fabric and thick, clingy materials soaking up sweat on a hot, humid run. The Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra’s lightweight stretchy material and performance mesh cross-back strap design provide plenty of comfort and support in a quick-drying, keep-you-cool package.

We love the stylish and functional open-back design and found it to be easy to get on and off, even after a muggy trail session. Patagonia is well-known for its fair trade and environmentally conscious approach, and this bra certainly reflects that.

The polyester fabrics used are 85-100% recycled, and they are sewn in a Fairtrade-certified factory. Add in Patagonia’s longstanding participation in 1% for the Planet, where it pledges 1% of annual sales to the preservation and restoration of 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 it isn’t great for larger chests. We found that there were 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 D

Pros:

  • Lightweight and quick-drying, comfortable in hot weather
  • Easy to get on and off
  • Environmentally friendly materials and brand

Cons:

  • Not supportive enough for larger cup sizes
  • Possible durability issues with chest band
  • Removable pads shift around

Shop the Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra

Best Longline or Crop: Janji Groundwork Long Bra 2.0 ($66)

Janji Groundwork Long BraFor those who like the look and feel of a standalone crop top or just want a bra with more coverage, the Janji Groundwork Long Bra 2.0 is for you! The wide straps and racerback design provide support and comfort in a flattering package; snag it in one of Janji’s bright patterned colorways for a little extra pizazz.

This compression-style crop combines smooth material, mesh lining, and removable pads to create a breathable, supportive, and comfortable fit. The addition of a phone pocket in the newest version of this bra is a convenient feature as well. Our testers found the bra to be 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 difficult to get on and off than the strappy, open-back designs. 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: Medium

Pros:

  • Lightweight, breathable material
  • Stylish, looks great 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

Shop the Janji Groundwork Long Bra 2.0

Best Budget: Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra ($13)

Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running BraWhile running is a relatively simple sport, the costs of gear, shoes, races, and more can certainly add up. The Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra is a great option at an affordable price.

This compression bra is also truly simple. 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 for increased moisture-wicking and breathability.

Decathlon’s site notes that this bra does run small, but we actually found it to run pretty true to size if you’re buying it for running.

We can’t get over this price point: $13 for a bra that’ll hold things in place for running is quite the feat.

Bra Style: Compression

Materials: Polyamide/spandex/polyester

Support: Medium

Pros:

  • Very affordable price
  • High impact support with a wide size range
  • Durable material and construction

Cons:

  • Not as stylish
  • Runs small, so choosing the appropriate size could be tricky

Shop the Decathlon Kalenji Essential Running Bra

Best Simple Design: Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra ($52)

Oiselle Hi-Twenty Bra - FrontWhile flashy styles and the latest and greatest bells and whistles are all well and good, sometimes simplicity rules. If a supportive, no-fuss style is what you are seeking, look no further than the Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra. This compression-style pullover design with thin racerback straps is easy to get on and off and provides a secure fit with no excess seams or material to weigh you down. A mesh back insert kept us cool and dry, and removable cup pads give a little extra support.

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 a variety of 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: Medium

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Runs small, chest strap can be restrictive
  • Not supportive enough for larger chests

Shop the Oiselle Hi Twenty Bra

Best Pockets: Oiselle Flyout Bra ($64)

Oiselle Flyout Bra - FrontOne of the most common complaints about women’s clothing is that there are no pockets! Or, at least, very few that are actually functional. 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 a mesh exterior 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: Medium

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Pullover style is more difficult to get on and off
  • High fabric coverage can trap heat on hotter runs

Shop the Oiselle Flyout Bra

Best Unknown Brand: Falke Madison Low Support Sport-Bra ($48)

Falke Madison Low Support Bra - FrontThe under-the-radar Falke Madison Low Support Sport-Bra is a classic compression-style pullover racerback bra that is just the right combination of soft materials, stretch, support, and coverage in an attractive yet simple design.

The bra is listed as low-impact support for small to medium cup sizes, though our testers found that it provided more than enough support for small cup sizes in running and higher impact activities. The seamless stretchy material is easy to get on and off, and the removable pads add extra support. For those who like a little pop of color, there are many to choose from!

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 some other styles, so the excess fabric could run a little hotter than the more minimalist or mesh-paneled designs.

Bra Style: Compression

Materials: Polyester/spandex

Support: Low to medium

Pros:

  • Soft and stretchy seamless material
  • Flattering style with good coverage and a range of color choices
  • Easy to get on and off

Cons:

  • Low support not adequate for larger chests
  • High fabric coverage can trap heat on hotter runs
  • Pads can shift in the wash and need to be repositioned

Shop the Falke Madison Low Support Sport-Bra

Best for Small Chests: Tracksmith Run Bra ($58)

Tracksmith Run Bra - FrontThe 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, while the nylon blend material is soft and supportive. The material is quick-drying and performs very well in humid or wet conditions.

This bra is listed as medium impact for AA to C cups, and low impact for C and up. Our testers found it comfortable and supportive for smaller chests and easy to get on and off, with just the right amount of stretch and compression. The material is thinner than some others and there is no extra padding, which means there is potential for some nipple outline showing up — something to keep in mind if you find that bothersome.

Bra Style: Compression

Materials: Nylon/elastane

Support: Low to medium

Pros:

  • Soft, quick-drying material
  • Classic, retro look
  • Easy to get on and off

Cons:

  • Low support not adequate for larger chests
  • Thinner material shows through more

Shop the Tracksmith Run Bra

Best for Large Chests: Runderwear Easy-On Running Bra ($80)

Runderwear Easy On Running Bra -FrontWell-endowed folks, rejoice! 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. At the top of our list for bras for larger chests is the Runderwear Easy-On Bra. As stated on the brand’s website, the bras are designed “for runners by runners,” so they have really taken to heart what works for large-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 without struggling to get it 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 of your athletic activities.

This bra, as with most of the encapsulated styles, creates a more busty look as compared with traditional compression-only styles that tend to flatten and spread the chest more. Some runners who prefer to minimize their chests 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.

Bra Style: Encapsulation

Materials: Polyamide/elastane

Support: High

Pros:

  • Soft, quick-drying material
  • Adjustable fit with two clasp closures in back and adjustable shoulder straps
  • Easy to get on and off

Cons:

  • Encapsulated style creates more of a busty look
  • Proper sizing can be tricky, may need to try on multiple sizes

Shop the Runderwear Easy-On Running Bra

Best for Large Chests Runner-Up: Brooks Dare Racerback 2.0 ($75)

Brooks Dare Racerback 2.0 The Brooks Dare Racerback 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 chests. The fabric is soft and handles moisture-wicking well.

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 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

Pros:

  • Soft, quick-drying, and nearly seamless material
  • Adjustable fit with clasp closure in 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; may need to try on multiple sizes

Shop the Brooks Dare Racerback 2.0

Best for Large Chests Honorable Mention: Under Armour Infinity High Sports Bra ($60)

Under Armour High Infinity Sports Bra - FrontThe Under Armour Infinity High 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 chests. 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: High

Pros:

  • Breathable, quick-drying
  • Adjustable fit with clasp closure in back and adjustable shoulder straps
  • Stylish support bra

Cons:

  • Crossback straps and clasp band can be a little harder to get on and off

Shop the Under Armour Infinity High Sports Bra

Most Unique Design for Small Chests: Under Armour UA Rush Smartform Mid Sports Bra ($55)

Under Armour Smartform Rush Mid Sports Bra - FrontThe bonded, seamless material and cross-back design of the Under Armour UA Rush Smartform Mid Sports Bra make this a comfortable, chafe-free bra that is great for medium-impact activities. The bra’s quick-dry wicking properties, mesh rear panel, and anti-odor technology make it a solid choice for hot weather runs or a sweaty indoor strength session. We found it stretchy enough to get on and off with ease, with just the right amount of compression around the ribs and breasts to maintain support.

Where this bra gets a bit more interesting are the unique features and technology of the fabric itself. First, it boasts an auxetic fit which, for those of us who are not fabric technology wizards, means that the material actually gets thicker when stretched. This allows it to maintain comfort, support, and compression throughout your range of motion.

Second, it is composed of the proprietary UA Rush material that is infused with minerals that absorb the body’s heat and converts it to infrared energy that is re-emitted back into your body like a sauna, increasing blood flow to that area and potentially improving performance. If you are a technology geek, this is right up your alley!

This bra has a simple design enhanced by some techy advances that landed it at the top of our testing pile. The seamless molded design is compressive without a uniboob feel, though it will probably not provide enough support for larger chested runners. The interior fabric lining is textured, which raises the potential for chafing or irritation spots for wearers, especially around the nipples.

Bra Style: Compression

Materials: Polyester/nylon/elastane

Support: Medium

Pros:

  • Breathable, quick-drying
  • Advanced fabric technology improves fit and function
  • Stylish
  • Easy to get on and off

Cons:

  • Not supportive enough for larger chests
  • Interior fabric is textured and could irritate sensitive skin

Shop the Under Armour UA Rush Smartform Mid Sports Bra

Most Unique Design for Large Chests: Shefit Flex Sports Bra ($75)

SheFit Ultimate Sports Bra - FrontAdjustability is key when dialing in a supportive fit, and this is where the Shefit Flex Sports Bra shines.

The Shefit line uses their patented “Zip. Cinch. Lift.” system to customize support to each wearer’s needs. The combination compression and encapsulation design utilizes a zip front and Velcro adjustment points on the straps — which can be worn as cross-back or more traditional H configuration — to lift and compress exactly where you need it, eliminating bounce without restricting breathing or range of motion. 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 6 Luxe, 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 chests as a whole tend to be a bit more cumbersome to get on and off, this bra is not difficult to get on or clasp. The bra is also on the more stylish end of the spectrum among bras made for large chests, which often sacrifice looks for function.

Bra Style: Compression and encapsulation

Materials: Nylon/spandex

Support: Medium

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • Velcro adjustment points can create possible irritation spots
  • Multiple straps more difficult to get on and off
Shop the Shefit Flex Sports Bra

Why Do We Need a Good Sports Bra?

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 has focused on just how significant breast movement can affect athletic performance. At the forefront of much of this research has been the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., headed by Dr. Joanna Wakefield-Scurr.

The group has published myriad studies on the biomechanics of breast movement, breast support, and its effects on athletes. They have worked with a number of 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 has a significant impact on both comfort as well as 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, so not just up and down, but side to side, and in and out, you get the picture.

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 a great 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).

Best Sports Bras - Encapsulated

iRunFar’s Marissa Harris wears the Runderwear Easy-On Bra, which we named the best for large chests. An encapsulation-style bra like this one can provide better support for larger chests. Photo; iRunFar/Michael Harris

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 themselves have no muscle and are made up of the overlying skin, fat tissue, and mammary glands — none of which provide support to keep 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 really 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.

Best Sports Bras - Female breast anatomy

Female breast anatomy. Image: Shutterstock

How to Choose a Sports Bra for Running

A good sports bra can make or break your run. It is a delicate balance between support, comfort, getting the perfect size, and finding a style that is functional but also one that you like the looks of and is stylish — to give you that extra boost of confidence. We hope this information can help you choose the best sport bra for you.

Type of Support

Support can come in the form of compression or encapsulation. Compression bras are usually a simpler squish style, and work the best for runners with C-cup or smaller chests.

Encapsulation bras work similarly to a standard bra, in that there are individual cups for each of the breasts to lock down movement.

There are downsides to each: compression-only may not work for bigger-busted folks, and encapsulation bras may not work well for everyone, depending on size and shape of the bust.

Encapsulation bras also tend to visually emphasize the chest — not quite circa 1990 Madonna-esque, but you get the idea — which may or may not be an appealing look, depending on your preferences.

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 in, rather than just relying on the support of the front and cups themselves.

Depending on the size and morphology of each wearer’s chest, breasts have different ranges of movement. While smaller chests may move just a bit up and down, bigger busts move in multiple directions, putting extra strain on the back. So, encapsulation bras are usually best for larger-busted people.

Level of Support

The level of support 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, sore back, and the annoying bouncing feeling we all know and hate.

Replacing your sports bras regularly is another important 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 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 Bras - High support

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

Now, just because a bra is billed as low support doesn’t necessarily mean that is true, particularly for those of us with smaller chests. 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.

On the flip side, some medium-support bras came up short in the support department for even our smaller chested testers. The moral of the story is, it all comes down to what is most comfortable for you.

Comfort

Going hand in hand with the level of support, 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 honestly, any number of other things.

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 very flexible return and exchange policies — convenient for those who can’t access the bra of your choice in a nearby store.

Sizing

If you thought buying the right size of jeans 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, it’s hard to standardize.

Some bras are in a standard size of XS to XL. Others go with the standard bra measurements of 30AA to 40DDD+, while still others go with numbered sizing like dresses and pants from 2 to 14. Some brands change the sizing between bra styles even within their own company — I’m looking at you, Lululemon, Oiselle, and Brooks.

Again, the best way to figure out what works best for you comes down to trying on the bra, as sometimes the sizing does not line up with what is most comfortable for each user. While you might measure as a medium, if you prefer greater chest compression, you might want to size down. Yet, if you are highly sensitive to rib cage entrapment, sizing up might be appropriate.

 Style

There are a few different elements that go into this style category. First of all, the style of the bra itself, which partially goes hand in hand with the level of support — compression or encapsulation.

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 a number of sports bras that were comfortable and supportive, but myself 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, as if it’s above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I am sans-shirt the majority 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.

Best Sports Bras - Under Armour indoor

The Under Armour UA Rush Smartform Mid Sports Bra is a stylish sports bra designed by Under Armour that comes in both solids and prints, which we named as the most unique design for small chests. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Moisture Management

Some of us are sweaty gals, 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 to keep us warm and dry. While the style of the bra does factor into its sweat-controlling capabilities (less overall material equals less moisture absorption), the fabric of the bra is the star of the show here.

We tested a number of 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 control 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 Groundwork Long Bra 2.0 or Oiselle Flyout Bra, in favor of a more minimalist style like the New Balance NB Fuel Bra or Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra.

Try-On Troubles

If a sports bra fits you correctly, it should be fairly easy to put on and take off if it is dry. If you’re coming back inside from a particularly rainy or sweaty run, that can be another story. 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; you’ll want to avoid the pullover styles in favor of a more traditional bra clasp/shoulder strap setup.

Getting a pull-over bra on and off doesn’t always have to be a struggle: if it is constructed well and has just the right amount of underbust support (elastic that stretches enough to get over the shoulders without stretching out after a few uses) 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.

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. As women’s participation in sports has steadily increased over the past several decades, particularly in running, the technological application to the sports bra has exploded.

While you can still buy a simple squishy sports bra that lets you smoosh it and forget it, a number of bras have thoughtful details that make your bra more comfortable, breathable, and stylish, that gives increased storage capacity, and is made with sustainable materials.

Some of the bras have an internal panel between the busts that is more breathable than the rest of the bra, decreasing boob sweat. One of the bras we tested even claims to have mineral material to reflect your expended energy back at you. And while that may be a bit of a stretch, the fact remains that 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.

Best Sports Bras - Extra detail

iRunFar’s Marissa Harris runs in the Under Armour Infinity High Sports Bra, which we named the best for large chests honorable mention, on the streets of London, England. Photo: iRunFar/Michael Harris

Pockets

A number of bras out there have built-in pockets for phones, gels, and more, some of which we put through their paces in our testing. 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 just stow a key, a card, and 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 in most bras, this pocket was big enough 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.

And one had an internal pocket that is large enough to stow not only your phone, but gels, a key, and credit card. Chest size, sweat rate, and what you may want to try to stuff your pockets with will all factor into which of these will be right for you.

After testing a number of sports bras with pockets, we named the Oiselle Flyout Bra the best in this category.

Best Sports Bras - pockets

iRunFar’s Annie Behrend wears the Oiselle Flyout Bra, which we named the best bra with pockets, on a sunny day in Oregon. Photo: iRunFar/Annie Behrend

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 are going to be more expensive, often ranging from $70 or more if you want something with really 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 around the world 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 really become popular ’til the late 1920s, and it was over 50 years later that 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 along with our daily run. Glamorise offered the first commercially available sports bra in 1975, marketed to tennis-playing ladies at that time.

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.

Best Sports Bras - Original bra patent 1932 - Glamorise

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

And now, in 2022, 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 truly, may still be the most popular — the one-size-fits-all ethos is gone. Sports bras now take into consideration band and bust size, bust morphology, sweat rate, level of support, and style.

They are available with or without cups and inserts, straight straps and racerback, pullover, and clasp-behind, with pockets in various locations, and with every type of technology you can imagine.

Still, because every woman’s body is completely 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.

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 down that list to 60 different 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.

There are special circumstances for which we were not able to test: post-mastectomy and for nursing/pregnancy. We aim to test these circumstances for future updates to this living guide.

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

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 even running shorts, buying the best sports bra for you can be quite complex. No one runner’s body is 100% like another’s, and no one is going to fit perfectly into a standardized brand size.

The best way to go about finding what’s right for you is to check out guides like these and ask a friend with similar size and morphology what has worked for them and go from there.

Trial and error will likely be necessary. Once you find a sports bra that works the best for you, stick to it! Brands often cycle out or change styles, even popular ones. My favorite — that’s me, Alex Potter, co-author of this article — of this list fits so well, better than any bra I’ve had in my life, that I bought 10 of them and will get them all to last as long as possible.

What is a compression sports bra? What is an encapsulation sports bra? What’s the difference between the two?

Encapsulation bras are constructed similarly to a traditional non-sports bra: with a cup for each breast, to minimize side-to-side as well as up-and-down movement and prevent the “uniboob.” These bras usually have a clasp in the back and adjustable straps.

A compression bra is just that — one that provides support through elastic below the bust and on top, with varying levels of space for the bust. The idea here is to limit motion by compressing breast tissue against the rib cage.

Best Sports bras - 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? 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.

For those of us with rib cages that are proportionately bigger than standard, it can be tough finding a bra, as it can be for those with tiny rib cages. With a bigger rib cage, often if the chest is compressive enough, the band of the bra is too loose. With a smaller rib cage and bigger busts, if the band fits properly your boobs might be crying for freedom.

Since most sports bras are, by nature, compressive (as well as some of them being encapsulating), it can be a real challenge to find a bra that is 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, polyester, often in a proprietary blend. However, we did test some sports bras that had a wool blend, great for colder days out on the trail.

Best Sports Bras - Crossback

iRunFar’s Annie Behrend testing an Athleta sports bra in Oregon. Photo: iRunFar/Annie Behrend

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

Not particularly, but finding a bra that is breathable and fast-wicking 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 just had too much material that would hold too much moisture 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 a great option for the 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, more minimal coverage on the back, and also able to 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 is highly dependent on how often you wear it, how much the bra gets worn down, and your personal comfort level.

Having a ratty old sports bra is not the same as having a ratty old T-shirt. The biggest element to watch for, and when to retire a bra, is when the seams and supportive material start breaking 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.

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 Groundwork outdoor

iRunFar’s Alex Potter in the Janji Groundwork Long Bra 2.0 in the snow in Arizona. We named this bra the best longline or crop-style sports bra. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

How should I wash my sports bra?

Each bra will have different washing instructions, but in general, they say wash cold and air dry. If any of you are like me — co-author Alex Potter — I ignore those completely and just throw my bras in with the rest of the wash. (*shrug*) While it likely won’t hurt your bra in the short term, following wash instructions will help your bra last longer.

Why are sports bras so expensive?

Ahh, technology. We tested sports bras ranging from $10 all the way up to $80, with the general average price around $50. For a piece of underwear, this seems out of reach, 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 that incorporate breathable panels, wicking material, pockets, padding, zippers, or clasps are likely to cost more.

Brand name recognition also comes into account. Since some companies now consider sustainability in the manufacture of their sports bras, those costs are up as well.

So, there is a cost versus time versus support trade-off when selecting a sports bra. Unfortunately, for folks with bigger busts, it’s likely you’ll have to pay at least $50 for a bra that is supportive enough for running, especially on the trails.

Our top picks for larger chests are the Runderwear Easy-On Running Bra ($80), with the Brooks Dare Racerback 2.0 ($75) and Under Armour Infinity High Sports Bra ($60) rounding out that podium.

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 ($13), which topped our budget category.

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
Best Sports Bras - 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

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.