A reliable sports bra keeps you comfortable and supported during a workout, but different types of athletes require different kinds of support. A yogi might not need the same thing as a Zumba instructor. To find the best sports bras for a range of activities, we spoke to a bunch of athletes — including runners, yogis, dancers, movement trainers, cyclists, and boot camp trainers. Within a certain intensity-range of exercises, we also found the best options for various bust sizes (from lighter options for women with smaller chests in the A- and B-cup range to high-support bras for women with bust sizes in the DD+-range). If you’re looking for something to wear with it, see our breakdown of the best workout tops for women.
Smaller bust sizes
A smaller chest in a low-intensity workout allows you to get away with wearing thinner, stylish things that don’t look like traditional padded sports bras. Erika Bloom, a pilates instructor and former professional dancer who runs her own studio in the city, tells us that this stretchy jersey bra is one of her favorites for wearing in and out of the studio. “I love how this bra feels like you’re wearing nothing, but still gives good coverage. The straps are thin so they disappear under tops, and don’t dig or slide off.”
Onzie, the modern yoga label, emerged as another favorite in the “feels like I’m wearing nothing” category. Lara Michaels, an instructor at Body & Pole, recommended this elasticized bra with a low, strappy back for that reason, an ideal choice for sweatier exercises like hot yoga.
Bethany Lyons, the founder and CEO of Lyons Den Power Yoga, finds that this Noli bra with a banded, crisscross back ticks off several of her boxes for style and comfort: “It’s flattering, SUPER comfortable, and moisture-wicking for the sweatiest yoga class.” She recommends going down a size for the best fit.
To avoid the smushed effect of tighter-fitting pieces, Bloom likes the “separating, shaping” style of this Outdoor Voices bra: “Gone are the days of sports-bra uniboob!” She finds that this low-cut silhouette is a stylish modern option to wear to the gym if you want to show a little more skin.
And if you just want something cheap that you can buy in bulk, we own a few of these racerback bralettes from Jockey and love how airy they are for smaller chests. The mesh fabric is extra breathable and light, and the stretchy elastic straps are very easy to slip over your head.
To accommodate a slightly bigger chest, NEOU head trainer Christi Marraccini likes that this crossback bra has a raised neckline to avoid accidental exposure when you’re doing something like a bear crawl: “They somehow figured out how to create the lightest sports bra ever while still providing support. The spacer pad feels great on the body when moving and sweating.”
Here’s a medium-support bra that still feels light thanks to its spaghetti straps and mesh back-panel. Bloom loves how it looks peeking out under tops, but adds that its smooth fabric and adjustable straps are also designed to be a seamless bottom layer. “It supports without being restrictive or cutting in.”
Even for low-intensity workouts, you’ll need more support in the form of thick elastic bands, higher necklines, or overlapping strap details if you’re working with a larger bust size. “I love working out in longline, high-neck sports bras,” says Jessamyn Stanley, a yoga instructor and body positivity advocate. “I find them to be the most supportive for bigger bodies and the most comfortable.” For added support, she likes the thick straps of this Core 10 bra, which is available in sizes from XS to 3X.
Christine Abramo, a cycling instructor at Cyc Fitness, likes this thermal bra from Alala for low-intensity workouts — it balances breathability and coverage with a mesh back and a high neckline in front. “It’s hard to find bras that mask cleavage and this bra definitely does.”
For a medium-impact sport like Zumba, spinning, or hiking, where you’ll expect to have more movement, built-in support is key. Lyons says the new Lululemon Flow Y Bra is “forever and always” her go-to for hot yoga, boot-camping, spinning — basically anything. “It’s versatile, looks good under anything, is comfortable, and gives great coverage.”
Nike bras are another athlete favorite for their sweat-wicking Dri-Fit technology. DanceBody founder and CEO Katia Pryce likes their V-neck Pro Indy bra, which has supportive racerback straps, and just enough coverage for someone with a smaller bust size to wear.
A higher neckline during a spin or cardio class always comes in handy. Sydney Miller, a SoulCycle master instructor, describes this Outdoor Voices style as “perfect for larger-chested women, since it’s super supportive and feels substantial.”
This Lululemon bra has extra support for bustier women in the form of thick, crisscrossing back straps, and it’s crafted from super soft fabric. Abramo recommends it as an everyday sports bra for a medium- to high-intensity workout. “Think of this as your little black dress. It’s simple and goes with everything.”
High-impact activities like running, boot camp workouts, HIIT, and aerobics require the most grounding of them all. On days when Alycia Stevenin, a trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp, wants something fashionable and heavy-duty, she’ll wear the Alala Lithium bra. “The lace-up detail looks super sexy and the performance fabric makes it functional for class.” The supportive band and racerback will also ensure that you won’t be sore after a brisk run or cardio class.
Maryam Zadeh, the owner and founder of HIIT Box, gravitates toward this Under Armour bra that “feels like a second skin.” For those prone to sweaty workouts, she adds that it washes and dries well, holds shape and color, and feels soft yet supportive. “I love the skinny straps. It’s best for someone who’s muscular but has small breasts.”
Hollis Tuttle, a coach at Mile High Run Club, says that when running or doing any other kind of high-impact workout, she opts for this medium-support Energy bra. “I don’t often wear shirts while working out and I like the bit of extra coverage that this bra provides — I feel less naked, but still stay cool in the middle.”
The padded straps, mesh inserts, and supportive design of this bra makes it ideal for people who run, hence the name. “They offer them in cup sizes, and the back of the bra connects, which makes it more supportive for high-impact activities,” says running coach Elizabeth Corkum, owner of Coach Corky Runs.
And this understated bra from Nike has been called the “black dress of sports bras” by Jen Romanelli, the co-owner of Trooper Fitness, who coaches there as well. It’s one she relies on for “get-down-to-business” high-intensity training, and she finds that the simple racerback design is comfortable and super effective during even the sweatiest Metcon sessions. “I also love the color variety.”
The sweat-wicking mesh panels on this Sweaty Betty high-intensity Run bra also set it apart from other bras in this category. Abramo calls it her “little bounce/movement bra” and says that it’s awesome for all things high-intensity: running, HIIT, Barry’s Bootcamp, and beyond.
And here’s a high-impact sports bra that we’ve featured before, since it was recommended by triathlete Krista Henderson. Henderson says it’s the only bra she’s tried that’s been big enough (either in cup-size or band-width) or supportive enough to wear for indoor cycling — it’s also earned a spot among Oprah’s favorite things. “I tried the Enell and that was it — lots of support without any irritation. The sizes range from 32- to 60-inch busts. (I’m a 42-J bra size and wear a 6 in Enell.)”
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