Ah, the dreaded sports bra. Finding a good one is almost as bad as shopping for a strapless bra — but not quite as bad as a root canal. Or is it?
For 20 years, I’ve been the go-to guide for empowering women with style while helping them find the best bras for their shape, size and comfort needs. From my best-selling book, The Bra Book, to appearances on NBC’s Today, I’ve helped millions of women look and feel their best with upbeat advice on bras and more. I’m also a mom, so I know the importance of having a bra that keeps up with our busy, active lifestyles.
And while the bra industry is constantly evolving and becoming more targeted to all our bra needs, it’s hard to cut through the noise and pinpoint precisely which sports bra keeps its promises—and will do the heavy lifting for you. Plus, the best sports bras are not designed to be a one-size-fits-all-all—you may need different sports bras for different activities. That’s a lot of pressure!
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Even though sports bras have been around for more than 30 years (I recently interviewed the designer of the very first one ever created and patented, which was fashioned from a jock strap (!!) on my podcast Visible Panty Lines), they are still a mystery to most women, especially those with larger breasts. Even if you find one that’s supportive, it may squash you flat like a pancake and give you the dreaded uni-boob.
Author Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes) recently caused a stir on social media when she posted a TikTok video as she was getting ready to run. The video got people’s attention because Wiener was zipping up three sports bras to reign in her larger bust. Believe it or not, layering multiple sports bras is a common tactic for ample-busted women who complain they can’t find proper sports support.
And their diligence is warranted. Researchers say an unsupported breast can bounce up and down as much as 6 centimeters when you’re working out and even A-cups can move the length of a paperclip—not a good thing for our girls’ overall health and wellness!
Sports bras are essential, not just for lifestyle reasons but to protect our sensitive breast tissue made up of what’s referred to as Cooper’s ligaments. These structures can stretch during excessive movement, and if overstretched, they cannot recover, which leads to not only damage to the skin on the breasts (aka sagging) but also pain. In a UK female athletes survey, 51% experienced breast pain and 29% said poorly fitting bras affected their performance.
With all that in mind, we wanted to give you a running start on finding the right sports bra. We’ve selected ten sports bras covering high-impact activities like running, containing larger breasts, low-impact activities like yoga, everyday mommin’ and even a nursing bra.
How to shop for the best sports bras
First, you should know that sports bras generally come in two styles: compression and encapsulation.
- Compression: This is the common style that women often think of. It comes in one piece, gets pulled over your head, or zips up the front. The idea behind this is that it “compresses” breasts together and to your chest to prevent them from moving.
- Encapsulation: This style of sports bra is similar to a regular bra in that it has somewhat separated cups and often a band with a clasp in the back. It “encapsulates” both breasts separately but helps hold them firm to your chest so they don’t move. Sometimes, they even have an underwire for additional support.
In the case of sports bras for large breasts, encapsulation is generally preferred as the compression style can still have movement when the fabric offers too much stretch.
Tips to find the right sports bra
- Bounce test: I always recommend doing the “bounce test” when you get the bra on for the first time. This simply entails jumping up and down in front of a mirror to see whether or not your breasts are moving or staying firm to your chest.
- Consider the activity: Sports bras are designed with a particular activity in mind, such as a yoga bra, which is more for low impact, or a high-impact bra for running and kickboxing. Often, if you look at the bra’s tag or online description, it will tell you what it’s designed for.
- Proper fit: As with any bra, knowing your true bra size at this very moment will help! Get a proper bra fitting before you embark on that purchase.
Now that you know what to look for, you’re on your way to a bounce-free future! Here are ten sports bras that’ll go the distance—and then some!
Best sports bras for larger busts
Best sports bras for any bust
Once you’ve got your new sports bra…
Remember to properly care for your sports bra to extend its life (especially with sports bras since they are typically constructed of more high-tech and wicking-type materials). Wash between every use with the bra secured in a mesh garment bag to protect any clasps, as the dirt, sweat and oils in our skin can break down the materials of the bra faster. If possible, you’ll want to use a gentle detergent and a cool water “delicate” cycle. You’ll also want to avoid extreme heat, such as the dryer. It’s better to let it air dry!