The Best Sports Bras: A Definitive Guide
Crop top/racer back/seamless/moulded? Read our guide to the best sports bras for each sport before you decide
As anyone who’s ever tried to go for a run in a lacy push up number will tell you, a sports bra is an ESSENTIAL piece of fitness kit. Working out without one can cause pain, irreversible stretching of the ligaments (saggy boobs ahoy), chafing, rubbing, spillage – and downright sweaty uncomfortableness.
Breasts can move up to 9cm during exercise and any damage is permanent
Your breasts can move up to 9cm during exercise and as they contain no muscle, any damage is permanent.
Luckily, a decent sports bra can reduce movement by as much as 83%. But when it comes to strapping the girls down, what should you be looking for?
You don't NEED different sports bras for different sports
Although different sports involve different levels of impact, before you restock your underwear drawer, it's worth noting you don't need to fork out for different sports bras for each sport.
“As long as you get the right bra, there’s no reason why you can’t use it for different activities," says Elice Watson of leading online sports bra retailer LessBounce.com. “There are some styles that are designed with particular sports in mind, such as running, but while the features may benefit runners, they’re not going to inhibit its use for other activities."
That said, when you're shopping for a new bra, it's worth bearing in mind the activity you’ll be using it for most frequently. That way you can ensure it's ideal for your favourite sport.
What’s the best sports bra for running?
Running is a high-impact sport, meaning more bounce, so look for bras with a good amount of support and fabrics that draw moisture away from the skin – sweaty cleveages can get pretty uncomfortable on longer runs.
If you’re running longer distances, look for something with as few seams as possible to prevent chafing
Elice advises opting for seam-free cups. “If you’re doing longer distances, look for something with as few seams as possible to prevent chafing," she says. “And don’t wear a brand-new bra for a long-distance run. It may rub, causing discomfort when you’ve still got miles to go. Instead wear it in gradually as you would a pair of trainers."
Straps that don’t fall off your shoulders are also pretty imperative. “Most women prefer a racer-back bra for running," says Elice. “But don’t rule out the more traditional shape. A lot of scoop-back sports bras have wider straps designed to alleviate this problem."
What's the best sports bra for yoga?
"As yoga is low impact, you don't need as much support as you would if you were running," says Jessica Adamson, an activewear and sports bra designer at Sweaty Betty.
You need enough coverage at the top and side of the bust so you don’t fall out during inversions
"You do need enough support to keep you in place during practise though. Look for a fitted underband so the bra doesn't move, and enough coverage at the top and side of the bust so you don’t fall out during inversions like headstands, shoulder stands and the crow.
"Lightweight bras are best as anything too tight or bulky could restrict movement across the shoulder blades. Beware of chunky strap adaptors too, as they may irritate you when you're lying on the floor."
What's the best sports bra for the gym?
“If you’re doing a cardio workout, a high-impact class or using the treadmill and elliptical machines, then go for maximum support," says Elice. “If you’re doing more of a weights/resistance workout then a lighter support bra will be fine.
“Personally, I love the Shock Absorber GYM bra as it offers great support and has a handy little pocket where you can put your phone, and a clip for your headphones."
What's the best sports bra for cycling?
If you’re mountain biking there’s going to be a lot of jiggling and jolting
While road cycling is quite low-impact, don’t skimp on the sports bra, there's still movement and you'll need something to wick away sweat.
“For road cycling, you’ll be fine with a comfy, medium-support bra," says Michelle Arthurs-Brennan, Associate Editor of Total Women’s Cycling. “I often wear a crop-top style. But if you’re mountain biking there’s going to be a lot more jiggling and jolting so go for high support as well as comfort."
What's the best sports bra for triathlon?
Some tri-suits have built in bras, but they provide very little support. Instead wear a sports bra under your tri-suit or wetsuit so you don't experience pain during the run.
You want something lightweight so it dries quickly once you’re on the bike
“For a triathlon, look for a sports bra that’s not going to restrict your arms in the swim," says Elice. “And you want something lightweight so it dries quickly once you’re on the bike. The Lynx Sports Bra is popular for triathlon as it’s lightweight but offers enough support for running too."
What's the best sports bra for bigger boobs?
Women with larger breasts can find that working out without a sports bra can affect their confidence, upper muscle activity and even breathing
"As well as pain and injury, some women with larger breasts can find that working out without a sports bra can affect their confidence, upper muscle activity and even breathing, so it’s definitely important to find the right one," says Suzanne Pentland, bra fit specialist at Freya Active, who offer sports bras from a B to a K cup. "Your bra size can fluctuate, so I’d always suggest getting fitted every six months, just like you would for a regular bra.
"If you have a larger bust, then wider straps and a racer back option is ideal to keep everything well supported. A crop top with a built-in bra is another option, especially if you don’t want to wear a t-shirt over the top.
"We recently conducted a study with Portsmouth University, analysing the movement of cup sizes 32FF-36E. We found that the upper breast was a common area for breast pain. Freya Active sports bras are designed to reduce movement in this area and can lower pain dramatically."