When it comes to athleisure and running clothing, the sports bra is the oft forgotten piece of the puzzle. Which is fair, I suppose. For the most part, no one ever sees this part of the fit.
This year while training for my second marathon, I decided I was going to do the one thing I’d never done before while running. I decided I would–pause for effect– run without a shirt on over my bra. It was a very freeing experience, and I finally understood why so many dudes do the same across every inch of Central Park.
When picking things like comfortable trail running shoes or spandex, I’m less concerned with style and more concerned with durability and comfort. With sports bras, when I’m able to find sports bras that are both comfy and cute, I feel like I get my best workouts in.
It’s probably a placebo effect, but who knows. I love a nice sports bra.
3 Things To Consider When Choosing A Sports Bra
I’ve tried a ton of different brands over the years through marathon training and my time as a college athlete. They’re all great for different reasons.
The one brand you won’t find on this list is LuLu. As much as I enjoy a good pair of leggings and yoga pants, the Lululemon running bra is one of the least size inclusive sports bras around. They only go from XS to XL.
Before you take a look through these different brand options, think about what it is you actually want in a bra.
1. Chest Size
I feel like it goes without saying that your boob size will dictate bra preference, but I’ll say it anyway. Some brands work better for smaller chests, others for larger. This has to do with a couple factors including the straps, compression levels, and band sizes.
Many of the brands listed have the options to customize your bra size (or band and cup size), so definitely make use of that if you don’t find that typical XS-XXL sizing works for you.
As much as I dread bra shopping (is there a more boring type of shopping?), I really do recommend you try your sports bra on before you purchase it. Or at least buy one with a good return policy.
Cup size is important, but with a sports bra, band size is more important. Some of my favorite bras are too big in the cup but I like the way the band fits. Keep this in mind as you shop, and always check the measurements posted on the website.
2. Compression vs. Encapsulation
Huge debate in the running community. It’s one of the most frequently asked questions amongst newer runners: compression versus encapsulation. Some women (me) love a compression bra.
This is like wearing super tight Under Armour or spandex across your chest. It basically binds your boobs down. Not super comfortable, but also less chance of bouncing while running.
Encapsulation bras are more like a regular bra. They have separate cups, and they aren’t as tight.
I prefer compression bras. I don’t even own an encapsulation bra. But that is 1000% a personal preference– many of my friends are the exact opposite. Try both and see what works for you!
3. The Runs
What type of running you’ll be doing will influence the type of bra you buy. If you’re going to be doing short, slow runs (my favorite kind), then you don’t need to worry as much about back pain from wearing a bra that’s too loose.
On the other hand, long and faster workouts require support for longer periods of time (like for marathon running). Your back is one of the most important parts of sports bra shopping, so don’t forget to do a couple of jumping jacks while you try on.
4. Sweat Levels
I sweat more than most. This is just one of those unfortunate facts of life I have made my peace with, and can now deal with accordingly.
Some bras are made with exactly this in mind. Usually the types that are made from polyester, merino wool, or nylon.
Other bras, while still made of athletic material, just aren’t as focused on that aspect of the product. Then again, it might not be super important to you. I would definitely look at the review sections and see what people are saying about it.
15 Best Sports Running Bras
1. Nike Swoosh
This sports bra has lasted longer than any relationship I’ve ever had. I have had the Nike Swoosh bra for NINE years. Nine years! I’ve worn it for every single college lacrosse game and during both of the New York City marathons I ran.
The strangest thing– beyond my insane levels of superstition– is that the bra still looks and feels brand new. I swear to God, when it comes to the best running sports bras, the Nike Swoosh is the end all be all.
I think what makes this one of my favorite sports bras of all time is how it can hang with the high performance impact sports bras, but is insanely comfortable should I decide to wear it on a regular day without working out.
Different sports bras serve different needs, and the Nike Swoosh serves pretty much all of them. The material is breathable, comfortable, and doesn’t bite into your upper arms (my absolute biggest bra pet peeve.
The style is actually more loose towards the armpits, which I like. I like running shirtless in the summer, but hate doing so when I feel like the bra is squeezing my boobs into weird shapes.
When it comes to sizing, I wear an A cup in most bras, and a size small in this bra fits well. Nike is *kind of* size inclusive (they have some work to do here), but the bras only go up to 2XL and down to XS.
2. On Cloud Performance Bra
On Cloud is much more than a trail running shoe company! Although they are very good at that, too.
When you’re considering a sports bra for runners, consider what other activities you might be doing besides running. I’m not a huge HIIT girly, but I know some people absolutely love it. If you’re one of those, then the On Cloud Performance Bra will be an instant hit.
The biggest bone I have with On Cloud is that they are not size inclusive all. Their sizing only goes up to XL, which is, according to their website, a 90-C cup. Not great. If you have a smaller chest, great, but if not, ignore On Cloud completely.
3. UnderArmour Mid Crossback Sports Bra
This UnderArmour Mid Crossback Sports Bra is another one that I have had for a VERY (read: too long) time. Still, the fabric is so durable and the material so high quality that it’s lasted through four years of college sports and 2 years of marathon training in a row.
Under Armour bras are great for running sports bras, and in particular, people who want bras that produce less “bounce,” so to speak. This is a great high impact sports bra, maybe even the best high-impact sports bra.
As far as running sports bras go, it’s a bit more size inclusive, going up to XXL and down to XS.
That classic compression material Under Armour uses is what makes these so tight. Personally, I like a tight sports bra for shorter, faster runs. I am not a massive fan of a tight sports bra for long runs. So definitely plan accordingly if you feel the same way!
4. High Crossback Zip Sports Bra
There are so many reasons to love this Under Armour bra. It’s different from some of those listed higher up for a couple of reasons .
First of all, this bra is padded. The pads are thin and non-removable. I personally do not wear any padded bras to workout just out of personal preference, but I know a lot of people who ONLY wear them. Especially in cold weather (if you know, you know).
Play around with both kinds and figure out what you like.
In addition to pads, this bra also has a front zipper. This can be especially helpful for people with larger chests– zipping in is sometimes easier than squeezing on the compressive material that most sports bras are made of.
Size inclusivity is a huge plus here. In addition to having a wide variety of sizes, this bra goes by actual boob size rather than XS-XXL, like many competing brands. For online orders in particular this is a massive pro– you know what you’re getting without needing to try it on.
Mesh sweat-wicking material and an easy dry feature make this a great bra for any weather.
5. Smartwool Merino Sport Seamless
Racerback bras are awesome for a couple of reasons. I find them more supportive, as the strain is coming from the same place rather than two separate straps. For me, this is also why I find them more comfortable.
Most tank tops are made for racerback tops. Not all, but a lot of them. It doesn’t really matter whether or not your gym clothes are perfectly aesthetic (who really cares if your bra is sticking out), but I find that I workout best when I feel my best. And sometimes that means a hidden bra.
Smartwool is one of my new faves in terms of sports clothing. I am normally drawn to some of the more classic brands a lá Nike, Adidas, Under Armour.
Merino are best known for making ski socks, which feels super random. However, if you think about it, this would be one of the BEST crossovers to sports bras. Ski socks have to stay dry, be comfortable, and form to your body.
Plus, as an outdoor company, Merino has a strong environmental impact promise that includes giving back to environmental projects in Colorado, where the company is based.
6. Adidas Fast Impact Luxe Run High-Support Bra
This is one of the absolute best sports bras for a customizable fit. Not only does it have adjustable shoulder straps, but you can also tighten or loosen the bottom strap. This means no more tense breathing from too tight bands! Rejoice!
The sizing on this particular bra is fantastic. It goes from XXS-XXL, but has a separate indicator for cup sizes. Again, as customizable as possible.
In addition to being the best in terms of comfort, this bra is also cool AF. The criss-crossed straps, the color options, and the swoop neck are some of the features I am most obsessed with. The padding is removable, which is a huge plus.
Adidas is one of my favorite brands for hot weather because of how breathable it is. When thinking about a bra for jogging, as someone who mainly does running sports, I am always considering the heat. You can layer up as much as you want in the winter, but you can only take so much off in the summer.
I love running in just a sports bra and spandex, and this is one of the best bras to do so. It’s cute, and made of the type of mesh material that allows for air circulation on your chest.
7. Outdoor Voices Doing Things Bra
I am quickly becoming full on OBSESSED with Outdoor Voices. And I wish I wasn’t– they definitely run on the pricier end of the scale. Still, I will definitely be putting this bra on my holiday wish list.
Most sports bras are plain. And a little boring. Which I guess makes sense in some ways– most times, we don’t necessarily plan on people seeing the sports bra itself!
But on the occasion you do intend to workout in just a bra, or perhaps wear a shirt that exposes the bra, how fun is this design? It absolutely destroys the blacks, whites, pinks, and greys of most others.
I am also attracted to the versatility of this piece. It is definitely strong enough to run in, but not compressed enough that you won’t want to do yoga, pilates, or just hangout in it.
Racerback with a hole in the middle and mesh material, it’s super breathable and comfortable.
8. Performance Seamless Medium Impact Sports Bra
My favorite thing about Calvin Klein bras has to be the comfort. They are ridiculously comfortable, and anyone who owns a pair of CK underwear will understand why. The cotton is breathable, very stretchy, and super soft.
This bra is especially good if the lines of sports bras bother you underneath tight fitting clothing. This is a sport seamless racerback bra, so you will have a bump free look.
If anything, this is in many ways more of a crop top. I’m a big fan of this look for slow jogs or cool downs. In terms of support, it’s a lower support bra that won’t compress you. You can wear it around the house without discomfort.
There are seemingly endless options when it comes to the activities to do in this particular bra. The one thing I wouldn’t do is intense sprints. CK bras are awesome, but they’re not as intense in terms of compression.
The padded cups are removable, and the swoop neck is perfect for lower cut tops. Definitely a versatile look, and it comes in multiple colors.
9. Athleta Train Free Bra
I love Athleta. The day before my second marathon, I ran into Athleta in need of a pair of my usual spandex. I was panicked. They had my exact same pair, and one left in my size. Ever since then, I ride or die for Athleta.
More reasons to ride or die for Athleta: the wide size range. In fact, products are listed by cup size and then further distinguished by XS-XL within individual cup sizes for the band size. The more customizable, the better when it comes to bras.
I love the design of this bra. It’s rare to find thin racerback straps, but this has hit the nail on the head. The design of the straps is so cute, and gives a flare to a clothing item that can otherwise be pretty boring.
My experience with Athleta gear in general has been incredibly positive. Everything I buy is high quality and lasts a long time. My spandex I ran out of probably had 1,000 miles put on them.
The material is very soft too, which is a big deal for me during winter training. Being out in the cold (New York City winters of all things) is so harsh on skin. Having soft training gear is a massive deal.
10. Running Girl Crisscross Strappy Sports Bra
Running Girl is one of the newer brands I was less aware of until recently. I am all on board. Like I’ve said, sports bras can be so boring. And why should they be! So many of us end up too sweaty for shirts.
I’m all about a mid-workout shirt removal, which is especially fun when you’re wearing a cool bra.
Running Girl sport bras have to be the coolest I’ve seen. Not only do they have fun colors, but the back designs are what really set them apart.
While I appreciate the hell out of a fun back design, I don’t recommend it for long runs. The strap design can grow irritating on the skin or against a backpack, where you might want a more uniform approach to your straps.
Beyond the design, the compression is mid-level for jogging and some high intensity sports. There’s no reason you can’t wear this bra to less intensive activities, though. Such as grocery shopping or running errands. It’s just too cute to leave at the gym.
11. Brooks Dare Crossback
Brooks is my end all be all for running shoes. These are impact shoes built by God herself. And the positive running shoe reviews they have are built by me.
In terms of bras, Brooks also kills the MF game. The Brooks Dara Crossback bra is built by runners for runners, with several features that make it as customizable as possible.
For starts, the sizing once again goes by cup size rather than large or small. This is fantastic, as it lets you match your band and cup size to get a bra that actually fits.
In addition, it’s got adjustable straps. I can’t tell you how often some of my shorter friends with larger chests have complained about a “large” bra just quite literally being too low on their bodies. That shouldn’t be happening!! And isn’t very helpful!!
The crossback feature makes this an extremely supportive bra. It is firm without compressive material, which should supply long lasting comfort. Take this bra on your long runs.
The molded cups are built-in, so they have the sort of memory foam feel that will fit right to your body. Kind of like a Tempurpedic!
The aerated holes in the back make this very breathable too, despite the high level of coverage. It’s a bit on the pricey side in terms of bras, but definitely a product that will last you a long, long time.
12. Girlfriend Simone High Support Bra
I can’t speak more highly of Girlfriend Collective. They have an amazing, inclusive brand for women that also happens to have kickass athletic wear.
The Girlfriend Simone High Support Bra is up there as the best bra for runners because of the support level. This bra offers a very high level of support in a very comfortable bra, which means it’s versatile. You can wear it on more occasions than just race day.
I’m a sucker for adjustable straps, which this also has. It’s a bra with more coverage, too. This can be great if you want to wear it as more of a bralette/crop top, or if you just prefer a little more coverage in a bra.
I also find that bras with more coverage are ever slightly more comfortable because the band doesn’t dig in in quite the same way.
In addition to being a great product, the size options are fantastic here. Probably the best on the entire list. Sizing goes from XXS up to 6XL, making it very inclusive of anyone and everyone who wants to feel cute on a run.
The only possible downside I can think of is the pads. They’re non-removable, which for me, is a dealbreaker. I really hate pads in my bras. If you like pads, then this is a no-brainer purchase as your staple running bra.
13. Nike DriFit ADV Aeroswift
I am a huge baby when it comes to cold weather. I think it probably has to do with the years I spent spoiled by the Bay Area weather, but I digress.
Running gear that can be worn all season long is kind of the key into all of my running purchases. It’s not exactly a cheap hobby. You want to get every cent out of the stuff you buy. It should be seasonable.
The Aeroswift is one of my favorite bras because it serves a dual purpose. It’s a longer, more shirt-like bra style that is perfect for New York summers when it’s too hot to run after 9 AM.
It also offers extra core warmth in the winter. All warmth travels from the core, so I like to wear bras with more coverage for outdoor winter running. This is exactly what I go for– the sweat wicking material makes sure you won’t be drenched, too.
The fit is tailored and sleek, which makes this a great pick for a race day outfit. The bra is padless and is compression based. The two thick shoulder straps mean a good weight distribution, so it should be super comfy to wear for long stretches.
14. Fabletics No-Bounce High Impact Sports Bra
This is another absolutely fab piece of running apparel. I love the back design. The criss-crossed back mid-section is a good amount of flare that won’t affect your experience of actually wearing the bra very much.
My least favorite thing in a flashy sports bra is when the design makes the bra itself uncomfortable. Whether it be straps that dig in or a cross design that’s too difficult to put on, I hate it!
That is not the case with this piece whatsoever. It’s a tiny little design detail that makes the product unique without changing wearability.
The color options are fantastic, too. Sure you’ve got your boring blacks, browns, whites, but this bra actually has PRINT options! I know. Absolutely insane. They have a couple different very cute color options to choose from, which is rare in a sports bra.
As a high support sports bra, this piece is great for your longer, harder runs. The pads are removable, so if you aren’t sure whether or not you’re a padded sports bra girly, this one could be for you to test both ways out.
Fabletics redesigned this bra to give more coverage. They widened the band and created a higher neckline with comfort in mind. I love companies that take feedback and run with it. No pun intended. Sizes here range from XXS to 4XL.
15. Fittin Racerback
One thing you may have noticed about the bras on this list is that all of them fall around the $50 mark. This isn’t new– women have always been overpaying for the stuff we need– but it is super freaking annoying.
No one should be limited by cost when searching for a bra for running. The Fittin Racerback is a fantastic bra that offers good compression support, and is a total bargain. They come in packs of 4 for $40. That’s like, unheard of in the running gear game.
Besides being a great cost, there are a couple key things to think about with this bra. The cut out in the back strap offers a good ventilation system. This is a good bra for the sweaty girl gang I definitely belong to.
The material is super stretchy. This is, on the one hand, a good thing. It means comfort, and it means that you will not be sucked into the bra even if it is slightly tight.
On the other hand, super stretchy material can also mean that the bra is less supportive than a tight counterpart. Think about what you need your bras for and then go from there.
The neckline is on the higher side, which is what I personally prefer. More coverage means more stability. And on a run, stability is the key.
The pads are non removable, so think about that before you decide to purchase.
Whether you are getting into running for the first time or training for your 50th marathon, I think there is something to be said for comfort. That goes for both the wearability of the gear as well as how confident you feel wearing it.
Moving is self care, so think of these as one of most important self-care tools you can buy yourself. Working with a certified personal trainer, heading to classes, hitting the streets, or sweating from the comfort of your own living room, it doesn’t matter.
You should feel supported as you do so.
Everything starts with your bra because you can’t feel comfort if you’re in back or chest pain. Pain is supposed to be from the workout itself, not your gear! And even then, it really shouldn’t be too much pain.
When making a purchase, also think about how this bra will work with the gear you already own. For example, one bra I wore is super uncomfortable when I wear it underneath my running backpack. Something about where the band sits rubs on the zipper portion of my pack.
You can’t plan for everything, but the longer I’ve been running, the more I’ve been trying to think about my gear purchases like capsule wardrobe items. I want to make purchases that will last a long time not only for my wallet, but for the environment too.
If you’re training for a race or just thinking about heading for your first run, good luck! Running is for everyone, and the last thing you should be worried about is how your bra is fitting. Happy trails!