Sports bras come in countless combinations, from padded, wired traditional styles designed for large cup sizes and high-impact intensity training and running, to soft, wire-free crop tops with racer backs for yoga, pilates, and barre. You can buy maternity-specific sports bras that will see you through pregnancy and onto breastfeeding. And then there are bras designed to feel like you’re not wearing one at all. In a sea of sports bras all claiming to be the right fit for you, we asked ten fitness experts (and a breast-cancer nurse) for their recommendations.
Best overall sports bra
Three of our experts recommended Lululemon for its sports bras, with its diverse styles, sizing, and comfort noted across the board. Its Long Line Energy Bra came out with tops for Melissa Weldon, head trainer at Sweat It London, and Liberty Cox, trainer at Sweat by BXR. A long version of its original Energy Bra, this crop top has a band that extends an extra inch downward. The range is available in sizes 2-14, which correlates with back size, with size 2 being equal to 76 cm. Weldon, a B cup (a size 4 in this bra), wears hers when teaching treadmill running classes and likes how it offers flexibility and movement while also providing solid support. Cox, a G cup (and a size 10 in this bra), notes the bra has “retained its shape and quality despite hundreds of washes” and finds the longer length gives enough coverage to feel comfortable wearing it as outerwear during spin and weights sessions.
Melissa Weldon also turns to Lululemon for low-impact workouts such as yoga and weights. “Its Free to Be Wild bra is so lightweight I barely feel it,” she says. “The cross detail on the back [six interwoven straps] offers suitable support, but also creates a sexy silhouette under T shirts.” Weldon, a B cup, wears its Light Support A/B style as she needs “minimal support,” but the wider Free to Be range covers A-D cups, with long-line and high-neck styles. For this range, choose your cup size, and then select the size that correlates to your back size (2 is equal to 76 cm).
When Jada Sezer, mental-health activist and U.N. ambassador, is doing weight training and strength training at the gym, she wears Lululemon’s Enlite Bra. Made with Lulu’s own sweat-wicking Ultralu material, Sezer, who wears an E cup, notes it for its comfort, support, and softness. “At the gym I do lots of dead lifts, squats, and ropes, which require a lot of twists and turns; I need a bra that moves with my body and doesn’t restrict or chafe.” She notes how, despite it being made from only one seamless piece of material, with no bones, only one clip, and built-in cups, it distributes weight evenly and “holds me in but also enhances the proportions of my body”. Sezer wears the High Support style (available in four colours, sizes A-E) but it comes in other designs, including front fastening and fuller coverage.
Best sports bra for yoga and pilates
Emily Cohen, head of yoga at Core Collective, teaches up to 25 classes a week. She also regularly does pilates and barre. For a versatile bra that spans all practice, she singles out Sweaty Betty’s Vinyasa Yoga bra. “It’s another no-fastening favourite,” she says. “It has so many straps and yet it feels like you’re wearing nothing. It offers really good coverage around my cleavage, but it’s also fashionable: It comes in several colours — my favourite is Stellar Blue — and it looks really smart with leggings.” The bra has removable pads, straps that can be altered, and it comes in sizes XS-L (30A-38D+).
Cohen, a B cup, also recommends the Lavish cross-back crop top. “They are so soft, the fit is perfect, the pads are removable, and there are no fastenings — my preferred style because it means there’s nothing digging in my back when I lie down during practice”. The bra comes in XS-L, which translates as sizes UK 4-14 (Cohen wears an XS). Alo, which stands for “air, land, ocean”, champions ethical principles. Its production line is sweatshop-free, its offices are solar powered, its warehouses are paper-free and they use low-impact dyes. The company has the highest certification from WRAP, the world’s largest ethical manufacturing watchdog, and it also has a nonprofit foundation, Alo Gives, which does free online yoga classes for children. The company ships free to the UK within three days (with a prepaid returns label) and shoppers get a one-month free trial of the brand’s yoga app.
Best sports bra for running
For smaller busts, personal trainer and long-distance runner Mollie Millington recommends Shock Absorber’s Ultimate Run Bra. Millington, who wears a 36C in this bra, wears it for marathon training, racing, and spin, and uses the thick back straps to adjust the fit depending on how much hold she needs. “It’s really simple to change the fit, and it keeps my breasts in place with minimal bounce no matter how hard I run.” Millington, who has this bra in four colours (try Amazon for a larger range of shades), rates the soft material that wicks away moisture and keeps her cool during intense workouts. The bra comes in sizes 30A-38G.
In 2018 Jada Sezer and Bryony Gordon ran the London Marathon in their underwear to raise money for charity Heads Together. The bra Sezer wore for every training run and race? The Energise Sports Bra by Japanese fuller-figure lingerie brand Elomi. “I modelled their lingerie years ago, and then I discovered they did sports bras, too,” says Sezer, an E cup. “That was five years ago and this is still the bra I send every big-busted woman to.” Sezer likes the way it makes her “boobs feel secure” and doesn’t chafe despite having boning and ribbing. It has four back hooks and a J hook at the back to turn it into a racer back, which offers another level of support. Sezer puts the J hook on when working out and takes it off for stretching. “I’ve covered miles and miles in this bra and nothing slips out of place — and the last thing I want during a workout is having to tuck my boobs back in.” The bra comes in four colours, bust sizes 32-46, and cup sizes D-K.
Best sports bra for dance
Two of our experts recommended Panache’s Non Wired version of its sports bra. Liberty Cox at BXR loves the bra’s impressive hold and lift, which she finds useful during her weekly barre class. She likes how the wide, supportive panels sit snug against her skin without feeling too structured. The bra comes in bust sizes 28-40 inches, and cup sizes B-GG. Note: Panache recommends hand-washing only.
Best sports bra for HIIT
“Imagine scaffolding, but for your boobs” is how Liberty Cox sums up this bra. “It keeps you locked in, held up, and in place, there is no wiggle room at all.” Cox wears it for “running, jumping, climbing, and high-impact sports” because it allows her to move at speed without having to adjust her breasts mid-workout. Effective sweat-wicking material prevents soggy fabric chafing and, just like its non-wired counterpart, there is a J hook to unite the two back straps for extra hold. “The top of the bra stays flat to my chest and doesn’t show any excess cleavage.” The bra comes in band sizes 28-40, and cup sizes D-HH. Panache recommends hand-washing only.
Best front-fastening sports bra
“After a hard workout, getting a sports bra over my head seems like the hardest thing to do, particularly if I’m cold and wet,” says Iona Bruce, a Glasgow-based personal trainer and trampoline coach. Bruce, a C cup, has remedied this by wearing a front-fastening bra — and her top pick is Under Armour’s Vanish High Zip Bra. It dries quickly (thanks to its special quick-dry Microthread fabric) and has two wide, smooth adjustable back cross-straps that Bruce uses to adjust the fit and the style depending on her workout, which could be anything from trampolining and HIIT to mountain biking. The foam pads are removable and after hundreds of washes, it hasn’t lost any elasticity. Under Armour sizes follow standard bra sizes, starting at 32B and finishing at 36D.
Best sports bra for large busts
Lauretta Johnnie, a personal trainer and yoga teacher, spent years searching for a bra to fit her 57-inch bust before discovering US-based Enell. The brand, founded in the ’90s by French volleyball player Renelle Braaten, specialises in sports bras for women with C cups and above. Sizes don’t follow traditional cup sizes, instead they run from a 00 (a 32-35-inch bust) up to 8 (a 56-60-inch bust); Johnnie wears a 7. Despite being wire-free, she praises it for being “strong and robust” during low- and high-impact workouts, and it has excellent moisture-wicking properties. This is a front-fastening bra, with wide side panels that distribute weight evenly and a full cover, supportive back panel that helps Johnnie “optimise my form when I’m doing lifts, squats, and jumps”. In the past, Johnnie has found that sports bras pinch and squash — but not the Enell, which rests against the folds of her skin without irritation. Enell offers international shipping but returns are at the customer’s cost, so Johnnie recommends Boobydoo UK, which does free delivery and returns, and often runs promotions and discounts on the brand.
Best pregnancy sports bra
Prepregnancy, triathlon coach Alice Clare Thomas was a B cup, but by the end of the third trimester, she was a D cup. The bra that saw her through low-impact workouts for the entire period was Body Glove’s Lotus Sports Bra. Launched in the ’50s by brothers Bill and Bob Meistrell, Body Glove is still family owned and the European website offers free shipping over £50, although customers are responsible for return costs to the US. Thomas likes the Lotus’s stretchy, sweat-wicking fabric and soft, generous band, which accommodated her changing body. The four slim back straps gave enough support for cycling, yoga, pilates, and gym work. “It gives a good shape under clothes — and the padding is removable — and the colour, back, and contrasting straps mean it’s also great on its own with leggings.” Sizes range from extra small to extra large (equivalent to UK 8-16). [Editor’s note: Body Glove has renamed this model the ‘Melody’, but certain retailers still carry it as the Lotus.]
Best sports bra for breastfeeding
Since her first child was born last year, Alice Clare Thomas has worn Jojo Maman Bebe’s racer-back nursing sports bra regularly. Ideal for yoga, pilates, and strength training but also for lounging around at home, the bra is often part of Thomas’s everyday wardrobe, even if she’s not working out. “It’s super comfy and gives good coverage, with a wide band,” she says. “I usually breastfeed just before and just after a workout and this bra allows me to do that easily — you just pull back the layers of fabric.” The bra comes in sizes S-L, but it measures small so the brand recommends going up a size. Free delivery on orders over £35, and free returns.
Best sports bra post-surgery
“You may need several different bras over the first four to six weeks after surgery, when bruising and swelling are subsiding,” says Louise Grimsdell, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Now, the research and care charity. Grimsdell suggests a bra that provides support but is not so tight that it is restrictive or aggravates the swelling or bruising: “You should try to find a bra that fits on the loosest hook so it can be gradually tightened as swelling goes down”. Steer clear of underwire bras, which could be painful. Instead, choose a bra with wide straps and a generous band, which don’t sit too close to surgical sites or scars. “A high cotton content is good because after surgery, you can have skin hypersensitivity,” says Grimsdell. Above all, choose a front-fastening bra, which will avoid you having to contort your arms or twist around — something that can be uncomfortable. “Some bras come with pockets inside for a prosthesis,” says Grimsdell. “However, you can also buy pockets [note: Nicola Jane stocks them for £4.99], which you sew into bras — these can be useful if you use a variety of bras, which you might in the first four to eight weeks when swelling means your size and shape is changing a lot. Surgery can result in asymmetry between breasts. If that’s the case, wearing bras with a full cup and adjustable straps may help.” Breast Cancer Now has a list of some brands women could consider on their website. Marks & Spencer’s cotton Post Surgery High Impact Sports Bras are available in sizes A-G, with a front-fastening zip, no underwire and no padding. Once your arms have full range of movement, Amoena’s Performance Sports Bra (AA-DD) offers plenty of coverage, and is suitable for all breast-cancer surgeries, with pockets for prostheses.
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