Best Sports Bras For Running: The Ultimate Buying Guide

The ultimate guide to the best sports bras for running, including how to find one that will provide the most comfortable support, regardless of chest size.


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Like tracking down a great pair of running shoes that you love to wear and run in for many happy hours of running, there are a lot of sports bra options and variations out there and finding the right sports high impact sports bra can take some time.

It’s worth it, though, because the consequences of having a poorly-fitting bra to run in are some we all want to avoid experiencing, including pain and soreness when you’re running, as well as premature sagging as a result of not adequately supporting your chest as you move.

Now, I’ve been reviewing running gear for more than 15 years.

I’m also someone who started out running with large breasts, lost weight down to a B-C cup and has also problem-solved finding a great high-impact bra to wear for running while pregnant, so I’ve worn and run in bras ranging in size from B to F to reflect my changing body and bra needs over that time.

So, based on my years of running and sports bra testing, I created this guide to finding the best sports bra for running, which explains what’s really important when you come to choose a high-impact, supportive sports bra that works for you.

This guide also contains recommendations for the best sports bras from reputable brands who know what it takes to produce comfortable bras that are great for running and provide the comfort and support you need to run and perform at your best.

How to choose the best sports bra for running


Wide straps

Look for a sports bra that has wide straps.

They distribute the weight of your breasts evenly across your shoulders, reducing pressure and preventing discomfort during your runs.

Wide straps are less likely to dig into your skin, ensuring that you can focus on your stride and not on a painful bra. This is particularly important if you have larger breasts.

Sweat-wicking material

You need to be able to sweat while running, and remain comfortable.

All good sports bras are made from sweat-wicking material – just like other great running apparel, including running socks, hydration packs, running belts, tights and shorts.

Unlike cotton (which should never be worn for sweaty pursuits like running!), this type of material draws sweat away from your skin, keeping you dry and comfortable.

Compression to hold everything in place

A high-impact sport like running calls for either a compression bra or an encapsulation bra.

Compression bras press your breasts against your chest to minimize movement or ‘bounce’.

This compression not only adds comfort but also prevents the discomfort that can come from a high amount of bounce during a run. Compression bras can be most comfortable for women with smaller breasts (less than a D-cup).

Encapsulation bras can be a better option for women with larger breasts.

Unlike compression bras that press your breasts together, encapsulation bras support each breast individually, reducing bounce and giving a more natural shape, so you can avoid that ‘uniboob’ look that can happen with the simpler compression bras.

Some bras sit somewhere in the middle, providing compression while also separating your breasts without having two completely separate boob compartments.

Supportive bottom band

The bottom band of the sports bra plays a crucial role in providing support.

The best sports bras for running have wide, supportive bands that don’t ride up when you move, helping keep your breasts in place, while also allowing you enough room to breathe deeply while running

Options and bra style preferences

Running bra closures

Just like with everyday bras, there are a few options out there for sports bra closures. The type of closure you should choose is largely a matter of personal preference.

The simplest, and often least expensive running bra options are pullover sports bras that you put on over your head.

These bras have the advantage of having a smooth, seamless back, with no clasps or zippers to deal with. However, they can be tricky to get on, and even tricker to get off, when you may be sweaty and sticky from your run!

The next most common closure method is a back clasp, similar to most regular bras.

Sports bras for high-impact activities often have three or even four clasps for a secure fit on a wide bottom band, and offer more adjustability in terms of size.

Some bra brands also offer front zipper closures.

These bras look great and may be a good option if you struggle to reach the clasps around your back, and don’t want to use a pullover bra, as they tend to make it easier to put on and remove the bra, but they do tend to cost more than other bra styles.


Padding in a sports bra serves multiple purposes.

It provides extra warmth on those cold morning runs, prevents nipple show-through, and offers a smooth finish under your running gear.

You may want to opt for a sports bra with removable cup pads, which offers flexibility.

Adjustable Straps and Closures

The best sports bras for runners are those that fit like a second skin.

Adjustable straps and closures can help you achieve the best fit possible, ensuring that your bra is snug but not too tight.

Underwire or No Underwire

This option comes down to comfort and size.

Smaller breasts may get adequate support from a non-wired sports bra, while larger breasts may benefit from the added support of an underwire.

As underwire can make bras less comfortable, I suggest that unless you strongly believe you need an underwired sports bra, you start with trying bra options that offer a high degree of support without the wire, and see if they work for you, before moving onto underwired options.

How to choose the right size high-impact bra for running

The most crucial thing to get right when shopping for a running bra is the fit.

Your sports bra should be snug, but not so tight that it restricts your breathing or movement.

When you’re wearing a running-appropriate bra, it should prevent your breasts from moving in any direction when you run, but without causing discomfort or potential chafing.

To find your perfect fit, make sure you measure your band size (under your breasts) and your cup size – similar to how you’d measure yourself for an everyday bra, and compare the measurements to the brands’ size charts.

Some brands size their sports bras in cup and band sizes, others size them more simply like apparel with options such as XS, S, M, L and XL.

A well-fitting sports bra provides enough room for you to slip two fingers under the straps and band, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it moves around when you run.

If you struggle to find a good fitting bra, look for sports bras with adjustable straps and closures to help customize the fit to your curves.

If you’re a new mom who is breastfeeding or pumping, my tips for running postpartum post shares how I found the right support for my breasts during that time.

The best high-impact sports bras for running

Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra 2 Best Sports Bras For Running new

Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra 2.0 ($65) – Overall Best Running Bra

  • Sizes: 30-40 band, A-E cup
  • Compression type: Compression
  • Closure method: Pullover
  • Good to know: Brooks offers a 90-day ‘Run Happy’ return policy that you can take advantage of even for bras you’ve worn, if they don’t work out for you.

Without a doubt, Brooks makes some of the best sports bras for running, for A through G-cup.

The Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra 2.0 is one of the brand’s most popular styles for runners. It’s a pullover high-impact bra designed for running, that’s available in a range of colors from simple black to brights, with a range of band and cup sizes (up to E).

Also consider the Brooks Drive 3 Pocket Run bra ($50). This is another pullover bra option that provides compressive, high-impact support and pockets for storage — including one for your phone, between the shoulder blades.

It’s also worth checking out Brooks’ full highimpact running bra range, which includes underwire and front-zipper closure options as well as more bras catering to larger chests.

Lululemon Run Times Bra Best Running Bras Trail and Kale

Lululemon Run Times Bra ($68) – Best rear clasp bra

  • Sizes: 32-42 band, B-G cup
  • Compression type: Partial encapsulation
  • Closure method: Crossback and back clasp
  • Good to know: A very popular running bra with adjustable back clasp and shoulder straps.

Lululemon is another athletic brand that knows what they’re doing when it comes to designing running bras.

This Lululemon Run Times running bra is available in a wide range of sizes and includes thoughtful design and features, including all-round sweat-wicking material with four-way stretch, and padded, adjustable straps.

The rear closure makes it easy to get on and off as well as adjust the band to get the best good fit.

Also consider the Lululemon Energy Bra High Support ($58), which is available in B to DDD cups and a wider variety of color options than the Run Times Bra.

On Performance Running Bra 2 Best Bras for running

On Performance Bra ($75) – Best pullover bra with full coverage

  • Sizes: XS – XL
  • Compression type: Compression
  • Closure method: Pullover
  • Good to know: A supportive bra choice for wearing with or without a shirt over the top.

A surprising addition to this list of the best running bras given the On brand is more well-know for their On Cloud shoes than their running bras, I rate the On Performance Bra among the best bras to run in.

This was my bra of choice when needing a supportive running bra for pregnancy. It offers full coverage with soft, virtually seam-free material and confidence-boosting padding. The shoulder and back straps are wide, with some stretch, but still offer plenty of support.

The full coverage not only minimizes bounce when you run, it also lends itself well to being worn without a tee or vest over, if that’s your preference during those hotter-weather runs.

Nike Swoosh Running Bra Best Nike Running Bra Trail and Kale

Nike Swoosh Running Bra ($40) – Best for smaller breasts

  • Sizes: XS – 2XL
  • Compression type: Compression
  • Closure method: Pullover
  • Good to know: A great all-round sports bra that’s comfortable and supportive enough to run in for those with smaller chests.

If your personal preference is for your running apparel to be as minimal as possible, and you have a smaller chest (say A-C cup) then you may find that this Nike Swoosh bra is the ideal all-round bra for running and other sweaty pursuits (it’s great for mountain biking and hiking, for example).

When trying it on, however, be sure to give it a thorough bounce and jiggle test to ensure it does provide you with enough support for running in, as it’s technically referred to as a medium-support, rather than high-impact sports bra.

As well as being one of the most affordable running bras on this list, the Nike Swoosh bra is also available in a wide range of color options.

Also consider the Adidas Powereact Training bra ($35) for an alternative racerback bra for cup sizes A-C.

Panache Sport Wired Bra Best Underwire Bra For Running Trail and Kale

Panache Sport Wired Bra ($75)- Best Underwired Running Bra For Larger Breasts

  • Sizes: D-K
  • Compression type: Encapsulation
  • Closure method: Rear clasp
  • Good to know: Widely available in stores such as REI up to F-cup. For larger sizes, visit specialty lingerie stores such as Bravissimo.

Panache is one of the best brands out there when it comes to designing running bras for larger chests.

The Panache Sport Wired Bra is designed for maximum support and minimal movement during high-impact activities.

It is also highly adjustable, with shoulder straps that can also be connected together to form an ‘X-back’ strap style, and lined, padded cups for enhanced comfort.

Other FAQ about Choosing the Best Running Bra for Your Needs

Is it OK to run with just a sports bra?

If the weather is warm and you’re comfortable doing so, you can definitely run in just a sports bra with no vest or tee over the top.

If you choose to do so, I recommend choosing a quality sports bra that features padding and is in a darker color, as dark colored apparel is less likely to show sweat patches or get transparent when wet.

Why does my sports bra chafe when I run?

Chafing is often caused by a poorly fitting sports bra that’s either too snug and rubs as a result, or too large and moves around, which generates friction that also causes chafing issues.

Common bra-related chafing spots include the underarm, near closures or seams, and on the waistband. Some people also experience nipple chafing when running – this can actually affect men more than women!

As well as ensuring you have the fit of your bra just right, it often pays to choose a sports bra from a well-known brand that considers the potential for chafing in their bra designs.

The best sports bras are designed to minimize risk of chafing, with thoughtfully-placed seams, closures and soft, moisture-wicking fabrics that provide compression and support while allowing for some stretch and movement as you run. 

How often should you wash your sports bra?

Washing your bra after each run is ideal, for hygiene reasons as well as to ensure the bra fabric is as supportive as it should be – I find that on the second wear between washes, the fabric tends to be a little looser.

However, if you didn’t sweat much during a cool, short run, you might be able to wear it twice before washing, if needed.

On the subject of bra washing, check the care instructions on your sports bra’s label. Most will permit cool machine washing. I would always suggest hanging your bra out to dry, as the tumble dryer can ruin the shape, padding and elasticity of your bra.

These things are expensive, so take good care of your boulder-holders – we want them to perform well and last as long as possible!

How many sports bras should a runner have?

Because ideally you should be washing your sports bra regularly after each run, you should have enough sports bras to avoid wearing the same one more than once between washes.

Having two or three means you can rotate them between laundry days.

Can you wear a regular bra as a sports bra?

Regular bras don’t provide the support needed for high impact activities like running, and may not be made of appropriate sweat-wicking material, so it’s best to wear a sports bra when you run.

Do I need a special maternity sports bra for running?

In my opinion, no, you don’t need a special maternity or nursing bra for running.

After all, you’re not going to be nursing or pumping while you run, and I recommend changing out of sweaty running clothes as soon as possible after your run so you won’t be wearing the bra for long when you’re not running.

However, to continue keeping my breasts comfortable and secure while running while pregnant, I’ve found it helpful to buy a larger size of one of my favorite sports bras, so that I could continue running while pregnant and postpartum.

One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.


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