Since every body is unique, not every sports bra will work for every athlete. Runners with smaller cup sizes may not have to spend as much money on their sports bra, since they can choose one with less fit, mobility and support technology, while athletes with larger cup sizes may have to spend more money on top-of-the line running bras that will hold them in place. Some sports bras are designed with cup sizing, while some have more general small, medium and large distinctions. To get that “perfect” fit, athletes should be sized in a bra store or follow a guide to size themselves, and then purchase a sports bra with specific measurements.
Finding the right running bra is hard. Comfort, support and style all contribute as make-or-break design factors. For this test, several women with A to D cup sizes tested a total of 20 sports bras for a duration of six months for running and other athletic endeavors.
Some of the bras were considered running-specific, and some of them were for more all-around activity. It was clear that the companies that make run-specific sports bras excelled at it for all cup sizes, even in comparison to the companies that make bras that are specifically for larger cup sizes.
It’s pretty easy to know immediately whether a bra will be supportive enough for running – just jog up and down the hall in your house a couple times and you’ll certainly know if you want to go out for a run wearing that bra.
Lululemon’s Enlite Bra is new to the market as an extra-supportive running bra. It’s what testers found was best for C/D cup sizes. It’s designed to maintain the natural shape of a wearer’s chest while also controlling movement. The breathable built-in cups were engineered to soften bounce, and they do just that.
The Enlite Bra was also the highest price point of the test at $98. For women who are looking for high-impact support that’s hard to find, it may be worth the investment.
For style and fit, the Nike Pro Hyper Classic Padded Sports Bra set the bar high. This was the sports bra the A/B cup testers found to be the best overall. This piece has great fit, compression, breathability and mobility, which makes for an ideal running bra.
The Saucony Impulse Bra Top also provided great support throughout testing, but has a tighter and more constrictive fit.
Middle-of-the-road bras included the Salomon Medium Impact Bra and the Handful Y-Back. Both bras were not great in supporting larger cup sizes, but each had unique qualities in style and fit.
There are a number of ways bra designers try to make athletic bras comfortable and this can come at the sacrifice of other criteria we test for like support, breathability, or even design. The Handful Y Back Bra is made with an extra soft poly and spandex fabric combination, with wide straps that rest flush against the shoulders. Flat seams on the garment keep it from chaffing against the skin. This bra has a more spacious fit than the more compressive bra styles in this test, and the tester had full range of motion without any constriction or skin rubbing. Some sports bras aren’t meant to wear all day, but the Oiselle Hi Line Bra can be worn for hours as a t-shirt bra and still feel good. During workouts like running, the bra has thin straps that are placed to curve with the neck and shoulders so they don’t chafe.
Fit & Mobility
Although the Lululemon Enlite Bra can be challenging to fasten at first, this process gets easier with time, and the overall intelligent design of the bra is worth any struggle experienced fastening it. All other aspects of the fit are dialed, especially since wearers can pick a very specific size to fit them perfectly. The stretch fabric allows for easy mobility, but the secure fit stays in place with movement. The Oiselle Hi Line Bra has a flattering fit and testers found that it had a sexier feel and look than other bras in the test, yet it is still sporty and compressive enough for running. The bra has a vertical rectangular panel and bra-like straps that form a T-back design that moves well while running.
The tight fit of the Saucony Impulse Bra Top offers true support, with a bra-to-body compression that works. The wide rib cage band holds in the upper torso for a wrapped feeling, and once a wearer gets the bra in place over her chest, the bra will hold most all cup sizes for running and high-impact activities. The Lululemon Elite Bra includes lightweightht and breathable built-in cups that were created specifically to soften bounce, and they work. Our C/D cup testers found that even during high-impact activities like running, the crossed back straps paired with the innovative chest design made for little to no chest bouncing. For larger cup sizes, the Salomon Medium Impact Bra is only supportive enough for moderate impact, as its name suggests.
The lightweight and breathable Salomon Medium Impact Bra can be used for a variety of activities in a range of temperatures. The bra has ventilation on the center of the chest in the area that collects a lot of heat. It’s lightweight and fast-drying, so even when the bra gets damp or wet, it dries quickly to not weigh down the wearer. Remove the pads on the Nike Pro Hyper Classic Sports Bra and it’s then breathable and moisture wicking. Extra ventilation is available with the mesh back panel on this bra, which is ideal for hot workouts. Thanks to the bra’s low cut design and minimal coverage, the Oiselle Hi Line Bra is cool enough for hot days and wicks skin moisture in the most humid conditions. And when you do get hot, this sports bra does not show sweat stains.
Style & Design
The Nike Pro Hyper Classic Padded Sports Bra has an added touch of sporty style with the flywire overlays, paired with a mesh back and multi-color paneling. Removable pads are flattering for shape, but can be easily discarded for a more breathable fit. The Handful Y Back Bra is more about style and function than it is support. This bra is low cut and a more feminine design, and it’s made from a soft fabric that feels smooth on skin. Details like gathered fabric in the center of the chest and crochet accents on the shoulder straps make this bra versatile for both active wear and casual style. The strappy back of the Impulse Bra Top is an eye-catching style on its own or with open back tanks.
There are multiple elements that can make or break a running bra, so for our tests we compare the following categories: Comfort, Fit/Mobility, Support, Breathability and Style/Design.
Comfort looks at the fabric of the bra and how it feels next to the skin. The tester also takes note of strap size, where straps sit on the shoulders and cross on the upper back, how the bra’s seams interact on the skin, garment adjustability, and generally how the bra feels on the body.
How a bra fits is very important, and equally important is also how the bra maintains that fit while in motion. The tester notices how a bra sits on and around the chest and whether the fit is streamlined. Once the tester starts moving, she feels if the bra shifts or stays in place.
Arguably the most important element in a running bra is support. The tester evaluates the bra’s compression on the chest and if it is effective during different levels of impact. If support is too tight, that is not comfortable either, so it’s finding that perfect balance that makes for sustained wear.
A bra’s fabric has a lot to do with its breathability, and this will determine the comfort of a runner on long sessions, especially in hot and humid weather. The tester notes the weight of the bra and the rate the fabric dries once it’s damp or wet.
Style and design of the bra brings together technical elements with aesthetic. The tester observes if the bra is flattering, as well as style and design elements that make it especially unique.
Find Your Ideal Sports Bra
Sports bras are an essential piece of gear for women, and the technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Athletic bras were originally one-size-fits-all in most respects, which had an obvious negative impact on any females that didn’t feel supported by their bra during high-impact activities. This deterrent may have even been enough for some women to stop running all together, and some athletes put on two or even three sports bras at one time to create enough chest compression while in motion.
Since every body is unique, not every sports bra will work for every athlete. Runners with smaller cup sizes may not have to spend as much money on their sports bra, since they can choose one with less fit, mobility and support technology, and athletes with larger cup sizes may have to spend more money on top-of-the line running bras that will hold them in place. Some sports bras are designed with cup sizing, while some have more general small, medium and large distinctions. To get that “perfect” fit, athletes should be sized in a bra store. or follow a guide to size themselves, and then purchase a sports bra with specific measurements.