Shopping for a sports bra can be a truly frustrating and unpleasant experience. If you have a smaller chest, some bras are just plain uncomfortable or don’t provide enough coverage in general — two things you don’t want if you are depending on your sports bra to hold up during that yoga or pilates class.
And if you have a larger chest, you can comb through several websites and stores and still not find something that will actually support you during high-impact workouts like running or HIIT. It gets even worse the more your body doesn’t conform to industry-defined standards — which makes finding the perfect fit and knowing what to look for in a sports bra all the more complicated.
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What to look for in a sports bra
What you should look for in a sports bra depends on two key factors: Your bra size and what you will be doing in the bra. For example, if you need a sports bra for running or high impact workouts, chances are you need more support than a regular bra. But that same bra may not feel as comfortable in a yoga class (and you may not need the same level of extra support).
Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for a sports bra:
Support: Do you need high, low, or medium support? High-impact activities warrant more support for better comfort, but depending on your personal cup size and preference, you may feel better with more support no matter what workout you do. Typically higher support bras will have molded cups, a wider band and adjustable straps to help you get a better fit.
Straps: For a more custom fit, look for bras that have adjustable straps. There’s nothing worse than having bra straps fall off your shoulders when you work out. Racerback styles can also hold up better if you can’t find a fully adjustable strap.
Fit: Some sports bras have a more compressive fit, while others move more with your body. If you don’t like compression, look for bras that say “low-impact” or “yoga bras.” These will give you minimal support, but still provide some coverage.
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How we chose these sports bras
We (Mercey and Amanda) have been shopping for sports bras for various workouts for years. We’re both avid fitness fanatics and between the two of us, we’ve tried just about every type of workout — spin class, CrossFit, long-distance running, dance cardio, HIIT, yoga, Pilates, hiking — just to name a few.
We used our own personal experience with trying so many sports bras out there to highlight some of the ones that perform the best and stood out to us over the years. With that in mind, we are both on the smaller chested side, so we can’t speak for all bodies and sizes — but these are the best sports bras and styles we’ve found that work for us in the hope that you can find the right sports bra that works for you, too.
This is the only high support sports bra I own because as someone with a smaller chest, I don’t typically have a need for them. However, I will say that running is significantly more comfortable when I wear this All In Motion sports bra over other sports bras in my collection.
The racerback design features adjustable straps and an adjustable bodice (say what!), so it’s an entirely customizable fit. This sports bra also has slightly shaped and padded cups, plus cutouts in the back for breathability.
I’m an avid dance cardio fan, which means I spend a lot of time jumping up and down during my workouts. I’ve found that I need more support for the best comfort during these workouts, so bras with molded cups like this one from Calia work best for me.
I also love the racerback style and the hook-and-eye back closure. The straps are padded too, which means they stay up and don’t dig into your shoulders.
While we haven’t tested this sports bra from Glamorise yet, it’s one of the top sellers on Amazon in the plus-size sports bra category, and it has a solid 4.1 out of 5 stars and over 12k reviews. The bra is wire-free and comes in a wide range of band and cup sizes from 34C-50J. The straps are also adjustable and cushioned, for a dig-free fit.
In addition to a “no-bounce” promise, the bra also comes with a mesh-insert in the front to help contain and support the upper part of the chest.
This sports bra from Senita Athletics is more of a crop top, but it does have a built-in bra. It’s definitely ideal for low-impact activities — I only wear mine during yoga, mobility work and walks. The main fabric is soft and sweat-wicking, while the mesh adds a bit of extra breathability (and style) at the top. And, when you’re not wearing it to yoga class, it’s cute enough to match with a pair of jean shorts for a day or night out.
In addition to dance cardio, I also do a good bit of walking, yoga, or sculpt classes where I want a bra that feels more comfortable with lighter support. I have a bra similar to this one from Lanston Sport, and it is one of my favorites for these days. I’ll even wear it when I’m not working out — which says a lot. I love that the pads in the bra are removable, so you can take them out if you don’t like padding or keep them in for more coverage.
For CrossFit, or any type of cross-training that involves various exercises wrapped up into one intense workout, a sports bra that allows for full range of motion is a must. During any given CrossFit workout, you might be pressing a barbell overhead, performing pull-ups, doing burpees, running or jumping. Your sports bra needs to support you during all of that and more.
This medium-impact Reebok sports bra is one of my favorites to wear for CrossFit workouts because of the skinny straps and low cut in the back. It leaves your upper back free of constraints while still offering great support.
I love these light-support bras from Old Navy since they are comfy, cute and come in a ton of different colors. I’ve owned one of these for years and I’ve been so surprised by how well it’s held up given that I wear it as an everyday bra for everything from yoga to hanging out or walking my dog.
This bra is about as basic as it gets — there’s no shaping or padding, just light support in the band.
Because neither of us have used a maternity sports bra yet, we asked the CNET team to weigh in. Here’s our recommendation, courtesy of editor Carrie Malhick:
I almost exclusively use Panache underwire sports bras, which come in cup sizes B-J. They’re not cheap (anywhere from $50-$80), but are worth the investment if you need a larger bra size.
They’re comfortable, secure and come in a wide range of colors. I’ve used them for running, hiking, going on trampolines with the kids — they work well.
You can’t find them in most stores, unless you’re specifically going to a bra/lingerie store. But they’re widely available online — I often go to Amazon or Bare Necessities to find them.
It’s not every day you find a sports bra for under $10 — or under $30, for that matter. I have this particular Hanes sports bra in a few different colors, and while I love it, I typically don’t wear it for intense workouts (unless I’m way behind on laundry).
I reserve this Hanes seamless sports bra for low-impact activities, such as hiking or yoga, or just wear it as an everyday sports bra. It’s soft, stretchy and supportive, and it doesn’t dig into my skin like you might expect a cheap sports bra to do.
This bra from Athleta is super soft (I love the Powervita fabric) and the padding is just enough to give you shape, without being too much or feeling bulky. You can also remove the padding, which is convenient for washing. The wide band and racerback straps help with support and comfort as well.
I also love that Athleta has two size options — one for A-C cups and another style for D-DD.
Read more: The best women’s underwear for working out in 2020
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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