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What is the best sports bra for running?

Sick of your boobs showing off their buoyancy every time you go for a run? Yeah, we are too. We know the pain of the after-run ache, the constant adjusting mid-pace, and the dreaded (gulp) chafing that occurs when we wear the wrong bra while on a run. If you’ve felt any of this, you know that it’s essential to get yourself a good sports bra.

The best sports bras for runners can depend on your body’s shape and size, as well as what that jogging bra is going to hold, if you know what we mean. We know that the best sports bras for a D-cup may not be the same for someone who’s a B-cup.

If you’re looking for the best running bras, you have a lot to consider. For some, finding comfortable sports bras is the key to a great run. Others find that support, from something like a compression sports bra (we’ll get to that later), are the only way to get the perfect pain-free run in. In this article, we’ll cover the different types of workout bras and help you decide which sports bra is best for your running routine.

In This Article:

How Should a Sports Bra Fit for Running?

The best running bras will have a band that fits perfectly. If the band of your bra is too big (loose), you won’t get the support you need. This could lead to several issues during and after your run, such as breast pain and tenderness.

Fitting your sports bra band

The best running bras will have a band that fits perfectly. If the band of your bra is too big (loose), you won’t get the support you need. This could lead to several issues during and after your run, such as breast pain and tenderness.

If the band is too small, you may have trouble getting the bra on, but it can also be uncomfortable while you’re running and lead to pain once your workout is over. Additionally, when the band is too small, you may find that circulation issues can occur.

A great way to see if the band fits you correctly is to put it on, do a few jumps and turn to the side. The bottom band of the sports bra should be parallel to the ground after you do a few activities. This shows that it is in place and giving the support it needs.

Once you have a band length that is perfect for your body, it’s time to size the cups of your sports bra.

Fitting your sports bra cup size

While cup size is incredibly important for any bra fitting, it is especially important for high-intensity sports bras because your girls are going to try to move around a lot while you’re active. If you purchase a sports bra with a cup size that is too big, those girls are going to jump around a lot, which causes chafing and a rather painful experience. On the other hand, if you go with a cup size that is too small, you can be risking circulation issues as well as difficulty getting the bra on and off (and if you’ve ever been in that situation, you know, it can be painful).

Measuring your sports bra size for online purchases

If you want to take measurements for an online purchase, the only thing you’ll need is a soft tape measure. Once you have your tape measure, there’s four simple steps to sizing your sports bra properly:

  1. Measure for the band: It seems odd, but in order to measure the band, you want to take the measurement around the smallest part of your bust. This will be over the nipples and under the armpits. This length will give you the perfect bust length.

  2. Measure the full bust: Measure the fullest area of your bust. Your girls will be involved in this, so determine where you want them to be and measure the largest circumference around. Write this number down.

  3. Math: Take the band measurement you took in step 1 and subtract the full bust measurement from step two.

  4. Use the chart below to determine your cup size.

You can also use our Bra Size Calculator to help you determine your exact bra size.

Once you have your bra size, it’s time to find the perfect bra for you. The definition of “perfect” can be different for everyone, but we’ve broken it down by the impact level of sports bras, the most supportive bras, the most comfortable bras and the most affordable bras on the market.

What Do the Impact Levels of Sports Bras Mean?

In general, sports bras have three impact levels: high-impact, medium-impact, and low-impact. Why do we need so many choices for sports bras? Trust us, this isn’t just some money-making scheme from corporations. It’s actually a really good thing that we are given so many options, because our bouncy friends need different levels of support for the different activities we do. Additionally, some find that they need high-impact sports bras for simpler activities, just because they give more support or feel more comfortable.

When choosing the impact level of your sports bra, consider the activities you’re going to partake in while you wear it. Check the chart below to find out which sports bra you need.

Impact Level Description Activities
High-Impact Sports Bras A high-impact sports bra gives you more support while you do more strenuous activities. They may feel a little restrictive at first, but they give you exactly what you need for high-intensity workouts and activities.
  • Running
  • Jogging
  • Gymnastics
  • Tennis
  • Dancing
  • High Jumps
Medium-Impact Sports Bras As you may have guessed, a medium-impact sports bra will give you the support you need for moderate physical activities. They tend to feel less restrictive than high-impact sports bras.
  • Speed Walking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
Low-Impact Sports Bras A low-impact sports bra gives you the comfort you crave with the support you need for very low-intensity workouts. It is not recommended to use a low-impact sports bra for something like running.
  • Stretching
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Meditation

As you may have guessed, if you’re buying a sports bra specifically for running, a high-impact sports bra is your best bet. Now, it’s important to find one that gives you the support you need.

What Are the Most Supportive Sports Bras?

If you’ve been on the hunt for the most supportive sports bras out there, you may feel overwhelmed with options. You may want one with a fancy back that looks super cute, but those backs aren’t just for show. They actually have a purpose.

In most cases, the back design of a sports bra is directly connected to the amount of support it gives. Whoa! We guess you could say, when it comes to supportive sports bras, it’s all in the back!

When you’re looking for the right level of support, turn that sports bra around, and check out the design. Here are the most popular designs and what they do for your support levels:

Criss-Cross Back

A criss-cross back sports bra will give your girls the most support as you’re doing high-impact workouts. These sports bras are designed to keep everything in place while you go about your workout routine, and they’re super cute. For runners, the criss-cross back will give you the style and function you’re looking for. Check out one of our favorite criss-cross styles, the Lindsey Sport Contour Underwire Sports Bra by Wacoal.


Racerback sports bras are one of the most common and popular style sports bras on the market and for good reason. Their y-shaped design gives a lot of support while giving your arms and shoulders the rotation they need for high-intensity workouts. Racerback sports bras also allow for more coverage, so if you want to make sure the girls stay in place and are covered, the racerback is the way to go. We love the Enell High Impact Wire-Free Racerback Sports Bras for our runners out there.

Clasp Back

A clasp back sports bra has a back design that is very close to a regular bra with hook-and-eye clasps. This closure style typically offers less support than a criss-cross or racerback sports bra, but keep an eye out for styles that can be converted to a racerback with a J-hook converter, like the Ultimate High Impact Underwire Sports Bra by Panache. We would recommend converting to a racerback for running, but you’ll double its use if you do other medium- and low-impact activities too.

Encapsulation vs Compression Sports Bras

Another way to find the sports bra with the best support for your body type is to consider the difference between encapsulation vs. compression sports bras. A compression sports bra is often recommended for those with smaller cup sizes because they hug your body and hold both breasts in place. They typically don’t have individual cups. On the other hand, an encapsulation sports bra gives each breast its own support and a more defined shape by separating each breast, typically with a cup. Encapsulation sports bras are the best sports bras for large busts.

What Are the Most Comfortable Sports Bras?

or some, the “most comfortable sports bras” don’t necessarily mean “the most supportive”. Although support is a key factor in avoiding painful exercise (or post-exercise) experiences, comfort can come in a lot of different ways.

For example, finding the best sports bras for running with large breasts might mean you’re looking for something that offers support but helps you avoid uncomfortable sweat pools in your cleavage (don’t worry, we’ve all been there). If you’re prone to uncomfortable amounts of boob sweat, finding moisture-wicking sports bras like the Natori Gravity High Impact Underwire Sports Bra can give you an advantage in your workouts.

On the other hand, if your nipples are prominent, finding the best no-chafe sports bra for running will save you untold amounts of painful experience (and bandaids). Encapsulation sports bras are best for keeping your breasts separate from each other and the skin around them, reducing your chances of chafing. Most importantly, making sure your bra fits correctly and choosing a moisture-wicking material will help prevent chafing.

Now that we’re on the subject, let’s talk about one of the most important aspects of purchasing any bra: finding the most comfortable material for a sports bra. While many sports bras are made of spandex, some can have linings made of different fabrics. This is where your personal preference comes in. While looking for the best sports bra for running, consider your usual chafe levels, sweat levels and your personal favorite material. Cotton is great for absorbing sweat, but cotton sports bras don’t always offer the best support. Consider a moisture-wicking stretch microfiber, like the Wacoal Simone Underwire Sports Bra, which also features a breathable mesh back.

Once you have the support you need and the comfort you want in your sports bra, it’s time to shop around for pricing.

What Are the Most Affordable Sports Bras?

For some, the “most comfortable sports bras” don’t necessarily mean “the most supportive”. Although support is a key factor in avoiding painful exercise (or post-exercise) experiences, comfort can come in a lot of different ways.

Finding the most affordable sports bra on the market might seem attractive in this economy, but it’s never wise to “buy cheap for the sake of cheap”. Consider that a quality bra may cost a little more but will give you ten times the amount of wear than its cheaper version.

Therefore, it’s important to find an affordable sports bra that checks all of your boxes but is made by a reputable manufacturer and sold by a credible company.

Read reviews written about the sports bras that you choose. They will tell you more than you think. Look for words and phrases like, “quality,” “worth it,” “doesn’t lose support” and “LOVE.”

Always stick to your budget when purchasing a sports bra, but make sure you are getting your money’s worth no matter how much you’re spending.

At Bare Necessities, we often offer discounts on high-quality bras made by trusted manufacturers. We strive to give you the best price at the best quality for any bra you choose.

Do You Have to Wear a Sports Bra for Running?

Well, you don’t have to do anything, but (and this is a big B-U-T) running without a sports bra is not recommended for any woman, no matter your cup size. We (and any fitness instructor/guru/influencer) will tell you, if you’re going to do high-impact activities like running or jogging, you want to keep your girls in place. Having a sports bra for running is as important as having shoes on while running: This isn’t an accessory, it’s a necessity.

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