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With so many choices, it can be a stressful experience to find the right sports bra. And, without definitive terminology among brands to describe support, the process feels even crazier. “There is no industry standard that exists anywhere in the world for what a low, a medium, or a high impact bra is,” says Julianne Ruckman, senior project line manager for run bras and women’s apparel at Brooks Running. Our sport is both high intensity and high impact, so it’s important to find the right support.
Bra shopping is like running shoe shopping: You need to test a couple of models to find the one that’s best for you. To help you narrow your search, we’ve provided a guide on bra fitting and sizing, and included our recommendations (like the ones below) to help you on your quest for the best—and most comfortable—support just for you.
As you run, your breasts move in a three-dimensional, figure-eight shape: up and down, forward and backward, and side to side. “When we think about how we’re trying to control those motions, we’re trying to control it from the bottom-up, the top-down, the side-swing, and then we’re also trying to hold it back,” says Ruckman. “There’s three different vortexes of that movement that any bra should be trying to achieve.” Essentially, you want a bra to control breast movement from all angles to prevent neck, shoulder, back, and chest pain, as well as underarm chafing.
And yes, AA and A cups, you should consider wearing a sports bra, as well. “What science has showed us is that no matter what [amount of] breast tissue you have, at some point it will start to sag because it is not rooted to any muscle or bone,” says Ruckman. “The more you can support that unsupported ligament and the fat and fiber within the breast, the less quickly it will change.”
For the best personalized service, head to your local running store or a lingerie shop to have an expert fitter take your measurements. But if you have a tape measure handy, or a long piece of string and a ruler, here’s how to measure yourself at home.
→ Band size / Wearing a regular, everyday bra (or one that feels most comfortable), measure as tight as you can under your breasts. Add four inches if it’s an even number or five if it’s an odd number. If your measurement is 26, for example, your band size is 30. If it’s 27, your band size is 32.
→ Cup size / Loosely measure the fullest part of your breast, over your nipples. “You want the tape to be loose because you want to make sure that what you put over your breast is encapsulating your tissue and not compressing it down,” says Ruckman. Subtract the initial measurement from the previous step—not your calculated band size—from this number. For instance, if your over-the-breast measurement is 33 and the tight under-band measurement is 27, then 33 minus 27 gives you 6. Refer to the chart below to determine your cup size.
→ Finding your bra size is only the first step. / We recommend buying a few different sizes of the same bra to check for the best fit. You may think you want to size down for more compression, but that puts you at risk for chafing.
You should be able to put two fingers under the straps and bottom band. “If it’s too tight, you’re going to feel tension and it’s going to be uncomfortable,” says Ruckman. “You want the bra to be snug to the point that it’s offering the right support where it needs to, but not so tight that it starts to become a distraction.”
If your bra uses a hook-and-eye closure, you will want it to fit comfortably enough on the loosest setting. This ensures that when the band stretches after a couple wears, you have the remaining hook-and-eye settings to tighten it.
Compression vs. Encapsulation
Besides cup and band size, what also factors into the type of bra you should wear is how fibrous your breast tissue is. Runners with denser tissue will likely prefer encapsulation (think underwire or molded cups) over compression. “If you have fattier and less dense breasts, tissue compression will typically feel better because softer breasts compress more easily against the chest wall,” says Ruckman. You don’t need to determine exactly how dense your boobs are; Ruckman’s team has found that runners naturally gravitate toward the kind of support they find most comfortable.
A Note on Phone Pockets
Some brands offer bras with pockets so you can run without your smartphone bouncing in a jacket or yanking down your shorts. A bra with a back pocket between the shoulder blades provides a secure place for your phone, but is often hard to reach. For easy access, consider a bra with a front pocket.
Still, there is the question of whether storing your phone in your bra can raise your breast cancer risk. According to Dr. Diana Medgyesy, a medical oncologist at UCHealth in Fort Collins, CO, the evidence says it does not. “There is no conclusive data to suggest that cell phones are linked to cancer,” she said. “This is an evolving field since cell phone technology and the use of cell phones are changing rapidly.” Use your own discretion on whether or not to run with one.
How We Test
Our testers wear bras in sizes spanning from 30A to 36F. They’ve put in the sweat, stretching, and mileage to evaluate each bra’s fit, comfort, and support both on and off the run. In our reviews, we also consider durability, technology, style, and the ease of putting on and taking off each bra. We periodically update the list below with the top performers from our most recent testing, keeping the bras from previous rounds that continue to impress us with their performance.
Betts Fit Bounce Free Sports Bra
The Bounce Free is chock-full of features that require viewing an instructional video online. But the experience is worth the shorter than six-minute watch. The bra has easy-to-close butterfly snaps on the back bands and straps (which you can adjust from the front while wearing), a corseted bust that’s tightened by a pull cord, an adjustable bottom band, and a hidden front zipper pocket for keys. This customizable fitting (the straps can be worn either H-back or cross-back) maximizes support without sacrificing comfort. We experienced no breath-restricting compression and didn’t feel limited in our options to adjust the band and strap sizing. A minor quibble is the long corset cord that hangs loose unless you tuck it into the bottom band’s sleeve.
Lululemon AirSupport Bra
The AirSupport’s cups are injected with foam and have an internal honeycomb pattern to enhance shape, control movement, and allow flexibility. The bra has a flattering woven cross-back design and reflective details to enhance visibility in low-lighting—it’s like Lululemon knew we’d want to run in this bra shirtless.
Tester Feedback: “This lightweight bra is true-to-size and molds to your body. The fabric is smooth, soft, and extremely comfortable. The cups are balanced so there is no cleavage or feeling of suffocation. The straps are padded, which adds to the comfort, and the ribbed underband stays in place as you run. The triple hook-and-eye closure is easy to hook compared to other bras that I have worn.”—Steph G., 34C
Brooks Dare Underwire Run Bra
For some, “underwire” may conjure memories of boomerang-like parts getting stuck in dryer vents and raw crescent moon-shaped marks under breasts post-workout. But the buttery smooth Dare Underwire isn’t like the underwires of yore. This bra doesn’t poke you mid-workout, and it isn’t rigid. Molded cups encapsulate each breast for support, while between-the-boob perforations provide ventilation. The straps can be adjusted between H-back and cross-back styles, too. A hesitant tester (who initially wasn’t thrilled about testing an underwire sports bra) had a change of heart after running in the Dare.
Tester Feedback:“I was very skeptical about this bra. An underwire for running? That’s got to be uncomfortable. [But] I LOVE, LOVE this bra and it will be my go-to going forward. Once you put it on, nothing moves and I did not notice the underwire at all. I am someone who prefers to wear an underwire generally, but the idea of running in one seemed bananas. Brooks nailed it in every way for me with this bra. Support, comfort, breathability and odor control are all excellent.”— Sara S., 32D
Shefit The Ultimate Sports Bra
For four consecutive years, Shefit has won over editors and testers of all bra sizes. Both The Ultimate (shown here) and The Flex provide an all-over personalized fit thanks to eight inches of Velcro on both the band and straps, which are easily adjustable from the front and can be switched from H-Back to cross-back. The bra also isn’t a hassle to put on or remove, thanks to a front zipper closure.
Tester Feedback: “This bra is incredibly supportive. Most sports bras put a lot of pressure on my shoulders. There’s no pressure on my shoulders in this one, and it doesn’t leave any marks on my skin when I take it off.”—Hannah W., 36F
Oiselle Queen Bra
The Queen Bra decrees underwires aren’t necessary to deliver high-impact support for intense activities. It’s designed for runners who wear larger than a B-cup, with the sizing for this Oiselle model starting at 32C and extending to 40DD. The Queen’s molded cups don’t hide any removable pads—which, in all honesty, our testers toss out anyway—and fully encapsulate each breast while a two-inch-thick chest band provides under-boob support. The adjustable, padded straps can also be switched from H-back to cross-back. In four words: All hail the Queen.
Maaree Solidarity High-Impact Sports Bra
Breasts move in a figure-eight pattern while running, so it makes sense to design a bra that reduces downward and upward motion. Mari Thomas, who is a size 34E and runner herself, founded Maaree to produce sports bras (like the Solidarity) with Overband technology—a curved panel above the breasts.
One cool perk about the “overband” is that it can be tightened—just like shoulder straps—from the side of each boob. The plastic sliders are strategically placed so you can easily make adjustments without creating any underarm friction.
Tester Feedback: “I loved the style with the keyhole back and the really nice silhouette from the Overband. The cups were super soft and there were NO PADS, HOORAY!!! But, I’ve got to say my favorite thing about this bra was its supportiveness.”—RW Photographer Lakota, 36D
The Molly T. has an unconventional wraparound closure that increases the likelihood it will fit well on almost all sizes. Velcro strips on the sides of the bra allow you to tighten the level of compression to your liking. A’s, G’s, and every cup in between will find the bra equally effective when it comes to stabilizing breast movement. It can also serve as a supportive layer over that ratty sports bra you just don’t have the heart to toss out.
Kalenji Comfort Running Bra
We tested both Kalenji’s Comfort Running Bra and Essential Running Bra and found the former to provide adequate support at an unbeatable price (for low impact, the Essential is a steal at just $10). For more intense activities, the Comfort offers support with molded cups—instead of underwires—that encapsulate each breast. One 32A tester appreciated how the design gave her boobs “a nice shape,” but said the padding collected sweat over the duration of her run. While the sides slightly dug into our 36D tester’s skin, she said the bra “kept everything in place with reasonable comfort and with a minimum amount of bounce.”
Tester Feedback: “This is a great bra for someone who is of smaller stature, but has a bigger bust. While running, it felt very comfortable and super supportive. It has some mesh areas for breathability; however, the padding on the front did soak up a lot of sweat, leaving it a little uncomfortable once my run was finished. Most bras are like that for me. I need to take them off immediately after my run or I freeze because the bra is soaked through with my sweat.”—Renee H., 32A
Handful Gametime Bra
The Gametime supports your breasts with center ruching and a comfy, wide band. Its adjustable straps won’t dig into your shoulders. But what makes this bra a game changer is that it’s mostly made of recycled water bottles. Said a tester, “When I read that this bra is made from recycled water bottles, I immediately wanted every woman to own one. Anything that has a positive impact on the environment is a winner in my world.” The bra’s materials are 83-percent recycled polyester and 17-percent spandex. One minor improvement our testers suggested: making the cross-back straps able to convert to H-back, as well.
Champion The Spot Comfort Sports Bra
Gel-cushioned straps ensure you won’t get raw markings from all-day wear and intense activities. The Spot Comfort is also extremely breathable and moisture-wicking; mesh on the adjustable straps and front panel promotes ventilation. The bra is lined with molded cups for non-underwire support, and the back hook-and-eye closure makes it easy to take off. One thing to consider: size up. One tester found the fit a little too snug, even on the last hook-and-eye setting.
Tester Feedback:“The Champion Spot Comfort Sports Bra provided excellent support during my runs and was comfortable enough to wear for an extended period. It offers a comfortable and fully adjustable fit in both the band and straps. The material is effective at moisture wicking. I was initially concerned that the traditional H-back (vs. racer-back) straps would slip off my shoulders while running, but the wide straps stayed put. Also, since it is a hook-and-eye closure, it is easy to remove after a run since you don’t have to pull a sweaty sports bra over your head.”—Lindsay, 34D
Outdoor Voices Move Free Crop Top
The Move Free, which is made of the OV’s quick-drying TechSweat fabric, is a great option for runners who prefer just a bit more coverage when they run shirtless. “This bra is SUPER comfortable—and thick which makes it supportive—but it’s still breathable,” said a 32D tester. “Also, I went out in just the bra and Zoom 10” Short and felt so confident!” For taller, longer torso-ed runners, the Move Free may show a little more skin than the average crop top. In addition, larger-chested runners may want to opt for a more supportive bra. “I wore this to run in several times, mostly on my 1.5-mile morning loop,” said a 38D tester. “I ended up being really sore across my whole chest because of the bouncing. This would be fine for any low-impact activity for larger-breasted runners.”
Knix LuxeLift Pullover Bra
Knix popped up our radar with its innovative Catalyst bra, which supports A through G cups, and reduces 76-percent of breast movement (according to the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth). We revisited The Catalyst to see if its reputation still held up, and it did. This bra has become a mainstay on our list of Best High Impact Sports Bras for Runners.
Knix’s newest bra, the LuxeLift, is a hardware-free pullover that also supports A to G cups and has a seamless construction for smooth coverage. Our testers deemed it super comfortable. One said the LuxeLift felt like a “second skin” while running, and another noted that the bra was easy to slip on and pull off—even when clammy with sweat. The bra may seem snug at first, but we still recommend selecting your true size for the best support.
Tester Feedback: “I am really impressed with this bra. It provides no distractions and requires no adjusting while running, and it looks attractive and slimming underneath tight winter running garments. Plus, the bra comes with a zippered wash bag, which is great. I would highly recommend this bra to other runners and those that do high-impact sports.”— Stephanie G., 32D
Korsa Performer Crop Top Bra
Eclectically patterned and with enough support for A to D cups, the Performer Crop Top is for runners who want to head out sans t-shirt while adding a little zing to their wardrobe. (If that’s not you, there are tamer gray and black colors available, as well.) The poly/spandex material provides four-way stretch and wicks sweat. The bottom hem is designed to hit just above your navel, but this can vary for runners with longer torsos. But even then, the Korsa Performer Crop Top will offer more coverage than the standard sports bra.
Fittin Padded Sports Bra
A bra that costs less than a box of Franzia? That’s something to toast. The five-star customer-rated Fittin bra is a simple, soft pullover that we kept reaching for pre-run. It has a “butter-soft feel”—yes, we can confirm Amazon’s product description—and uses a four-way-stretch material that surprised us with its supportiveness. In short, the Fittin won’t have runners holding their boobs in the late stages of a workout, a last-ditch resort when budget-friendly pullover bras don’t hold up after the first couple of miles.
Rabbit Strappy Pocket Bra
Finally! A sports bra with a pocket design that works. The back pouch on this Rabbit bra is easy to reach, and not too snug that it’s difficult to remove your phone. We weren’t distracted by any bouncing, and our phones—including a large iPhone 11—didn’t cause a major hump under our running tops. A minor complaint is that our more well-endowed testers ended up with “a not-so-cute red line” on their shoulders; the thin, spaghetti straps dug into their skin during long runs.
Brooks Drive 3 Pocket Run Bra
This three-pocket bra has a place for your phone (mid-back), and fuel and keys (either side). It’s an ideal pick for long-distance training when you need to stock up on gels or cash—just in case you pass a coffee shop and need an, ahem, quick espresso boost. To reduce chafing, the Drive 3 uses low-friction bonded seams around each of its pockets. One small critique is that it’s a little bit of a struggle to put on and take off. It also has removable padded cups, which could fold over and crease. For a molded-cup option that’s free of removable padding, we recommend Brooks’s Dare Crisscross bra. It has a unique strappy design and zonal perforations to help evaporate sweat.
Tester Feedback: “The fit and styling of the Drive 3 Pocket is beautiful. It is cut narrow in the front to give you lots of room for arm movement, so there is less of a chance of chafing. The entire bra fits very snug and is extremely supportive throughout; there is basically no bouncing at all. I’ve often found that high-neck bras don’t actually offer any extra support—they just offer more fabric. In this bra, however, the fabric and fit offer full support.”—Erin, 32A
Oiselle Pockito Bra
Compared to bras with a hard-to-reach back pocket between the shoulder blades, the Pockito makes storage simple with a total of three pockets located on the front and sides. Test editor Amanda Furrer wore the Pockito during a fall marathon and found it made her mid-run fueling much more efficient. “My gels were easily accessible in the middle pocket,” she said. “It was nice that I didn’t have to pin them to my shorts hem like I used to before races.”
Tester Feedback: “I wish I had this bra when I was racing. When Oiselle came out with this bra I thought I’d never wear it because it was ridiculous to try to run with anything in the front pocket, especially a phone. And I swore gels in the side pockets would poke me. I was wrong. I loved this bra. The compression was perfect. I put my iPhone 11 in the front pocket and gels in the side pockets. There was a slight bounce, but once I hit my stride I forgot the phone was there. I never felt the gels in the side pockets.”— Colleen F., 34B
Tracksmith Allston Pocket Bra
In addition to the Allston, we also tested Tracksmith’s Run Bra, a sleek racerback that displays the brand’s signature red racing stripe around the exposed elastic band. It looks sharp at a starting line and supports A to D cups. But, we’re featuring the Allston for its easy-to-reach hidden chest pocket that can stash keys, cards, cash, and your phone. The bra’s band is brushed with Inverno blend lining, an Italian micro-nylon and elastane mix that pulls away moisture and feels silky smooth. Our tester appreciated how easy it was to grab her iPhone mid-run, despite the fact that its rectangular outline was quite obvious.
Tester Feedback: “The Allston bra carried my phone securely; the pouch’s hold stayed tight and my phone didn’t bounce. This fabric is super comfortable and pulled the sweat from my skin. I noticed that the materials dried very quickly after my run as well!”—Beth, 34A
Senita Sarah Sports Bra
“This is the bra with the Koala Clip-style pouch in the back for phones, and I loved it,” said test editor Morgan Petruny. “I did some toe-touch hamstring stretches expecting my smaller iPhone 7 to topple out, but it didn’t. And when I took out my phone at the end of my run, it was bone-dry even though I was sweaty.” The storage-friendly Sarah is a lightweight racerback, with a low open-back design to help you stay cool during hot workouts. It’s a moderate-impact sports bra for A to DD cups, and is made of a stretchy-yet-supportive blend of fast-drying polyester and soft, accommodating spandex.
Cadenshae Breastfeeding Freedom Bra
A to C testers will have enough support to run in Cadenshae’s nursing sports bra. “I absolutely love how this bra fits,” said our A/B cup tester. “Though designed for breastfeeding, it feels just like a normal sports bra.” The drop-down cups are easy to remove and allow some room for growing—or shrinking—breasts. A sling provides some additional coverage, as well. Larger-breasted runners will want to save the Freedom for low-impact and medium-impact activities.
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