13 best sports bras that give support and comfort while you work out

·17-min read
Take your pick between compression, encapsulation or a combination of both (iStock/The Independent)
Take your pick between compression, encapsulation or a combination of both (iStock/The Independent)

Incredibly, breasts undergo more g-force during a run than an F1 car. Yet more than 90 per cent of women are wearing the wrong size sports bra, and nearly half experience breast pain when working out, according to research conducted by the University of Portsmouth on behalf of Adidas.

Needless to say, it’s time to give our breasts some support, and this is where a good sports bra comes into play.

Sports bras generally come in one of three different types: compression, encapsulation or a combination. Compression sports bras do exactly as described: they restrict breast motion by compressing and flattening them and are generally regarded as a better option for smaller busts than larger ones.

Encapsulation sports bras usually come with structured cups to support each breast individually, while a combination sports bra mixes the best of the compression and encapsulation varieties.

So, how to go about picking the right sports bra? Firstly, the level of support needed differs by activity and bust size. High-impact sports bras are designed to be suitable for sports that put your chest through the most bounce, such as running, Hiit, squash and kickboxing. Low to medium-impact sports bras cover activities such as yoga, pilates, weight training and cycling – but it’s important to remember this guidance is dependent on bust size and personal preference.

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As always when it comes to choosing a bra, it’s worth measuring or remeasuring your bust (there are useful video guides on how to do this correctly) and if you’re unsure, get it done professionally. Some of the brands featured below even offer free video consultations to help you select the right size.

How we tested

A reliable sports bra needs to be supportive, comfortable, durable and, in our opinion, stylish. To get a feel of the different sports bras on the market, we tried out various products during a range of activities. From yoga sessions to cycling, running, tennis and gym workouts, we tested a host of sports bras over multiple sessions. As well as considering the quality, value, size options and design of each, we also looked at how well the items washed and wore over time.

The best sports bras for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Maaree solidarity high-impact sports bra: £64, Maaree.com

  • Best medium impact sports bra – Lululemon energy bra: £29, Lululemon.co.uk

  • Best wired sports bra – Pour Moi energy empower u/w lightly padded convertible sports bra: £28, Pourmoi.co.uk

  • Best high-neck sports bra – Tala skinluxe high neck bra: £36, Wearetala.com

  • Best for softness – Boody racerback sports bra: £39.95, Boody.co.uk

  • Best maternity and nursing sports bra – Natal Active Artemis bra: £45, Natalactive.com

  • Best sports bra for cycling – Le Col women’s pro seamless cycling bra: £60, Lecol.cc

  • Best sports bra for hiking – Acai bamboo hike bra: £34.80, Acaioutdoorwear.com

  • Best for the style-conscious gym-goer – Pocket London plein air bra: £35, Pocket-sport.com

  • Best crop top style sports bra – Contur afresh crop: £49.99, Conturuk.com

  • Best running sports bra – Adidas TLRD move training high-support bra: £38, Adidas.co.uk

  • Best on a budget – Kalenji high support comfort running bra: £17.99, Decathlon.co.uk

  • Best sports bras for bigger busts – Shock Absorber ultimate run bra: £35, Wiggle.co.uk

Maaree solidarity high-impact sports bra

Best: Overall

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Sizing: 30C-38G

Maaree founder Mari Thomas knows a thing or two about sports bras, having had a career in sports bra testing at Loughborough University before starting her brand. A desire to tackle the upwards motion of breasts during exercise led her to develop Maaree’s unique overband technology. Essentially, it’s a curved panel that runs across the top of the breasts, whereas traditionally, sports bras have just focused on the underband that sits below. We can attest to the supportive and secure feeling of the solidarity bra: simply put, it felt like our breasts were going nowhere. It still manages to feel comfortable, though, and is perfect for high-impact sports such as running and high-intensity gym workouts.

The bra is pretty versatile too, featuring a hybrid style that combines compression and encapsulation. The back straps can be made into a racerback style, and the overband is adjustable, meaning you can customise the tension depending on the activity. This meant we could up the tension for running and loosen it for lower-impact exercise.

The bra isn’t cheap, but the price does reflect the high quality and amount of thought and work that’s gone into it. The fact that the bra has won numerous “best in test” awards also speaks volumes. We liked that the sizing spans 35 different band and cup variations, plus that the sports bra can be worn either under clothing or standalone, like a crop top. Another bonus was the Zoom bra fitting that we had with Mari before being sent a sports bra to test (the free 15-minute sessions are easily available for all to select on an online calendar).

Buy now £64.00, Maaree.com

Lululemon energy bra

Best: Medium-impact sports bra

Rating: 8/10

  • Sizing: UK size 0-22 (XXS-XXL)

US fitness giant Lululemon boasts a dedicated following behind its energy bra, and you can see why. It’s a great all-rounder: snug and secure yet flattering, and it comes in at a reasonable price. The brand proudly states that the bra has been voted “most likely to be worn multiple times a week”, and we’d say that’s a fair summary. It’s one that can work for several different activities and goes with various tops.

We liked the strappy back and thought the bra sat smoothly and comfortably during home workouts, yoga sessions and hikes. It was also breathable, and the four-way stretch of the sweat-wicking fabric means the bra is flexible yet retains its shape.

The bra is also lightly padded and can be worn as a crop top, although it comes up quite short on the torso. We also found the sizing ran a little tight, so that’s worth keeping in mind. As well as classic navy and black colourways, there are some wonderfully fresh colour options, such as a vibrant pink and a zingy orange shade, which we especially liked.

Buy now £29.00, Lululemon.co.uk

Pour Moi energy empower u/w lightly padded convertible sports bra

Best: Wired sports bra

Rating: 8/10

  • Sizing: 32B-40G

There’s a lot of room for error when it comes to underwire in sports bras. If the wiring doesn’t sit well, it can be an uncomfortable experience, to say the least. That’s why, when you come across a good underwired sports bra that’s not only supportive but extremely comfortable, it’s worth shouting about it. This Pour Moi version was a pleasure to wear: it felt cushioned thanks to its light padding, the straps are wide and smooth, and it looked better on than we expected.

Pour Moi says when the straps are adjusted to the racerback style, that the sports bra can be converted from medium to high-impact. We enjoyed wearing the bra for cycling, circuits, yoga, pilates and hiking, but personally preferred a higher impact bra for Hiit and running. It fits true to size, and we were glad to see that the sports bra washed well without the cups losing their shape or the pink straps’ colour fading. We tried the grey and pink combo, but there are 17 colour and print options, including some fun and vibrant floral designs.

Buy now £28.00, Pourmoi.co.uk

Tala skinluxe high neck bra

Best: High-neck sports bra

Rating: 9/10

  • Sizing: XS-XL

Stylish, eco-conscious and comfortable, Tala is a brand that ticks a lot of our boxes. The brand, founded by fitness entrepreneur Grace Beverley, produces sustainably designed activewear that has seen it recognised by the likes of Drapers. Dedicated to an ethical supply chain, Tala lists all the locations of the factories it works with, plus the accreditations each holds. And the products each come with a plantable seed tag, which is cute.

We love its range of fashionable sports bras that come in various sophisticated hues, but the buttery soft skinluxe collection is a particular favourite. This bra is made from a lightweight mix of recycled nylon and lycra that hugs the body while still being flattering, thanks to the high-neck design and contour piping. In fact, it’s one of those sports bras that doubles as a crop top. Although created to provide medium to high support, it was a style we’d most likely reach for when it came to pilates, circuits and gym workouts.

Buy now £36.00, Wearetala.com

Boody racerback sports bra

Best: For softness

Rating: 7.5/10

  • Sizing: XS-XL

This B Corp certified brand loves bamboo, and its racerback sports bra is a super soft delight crafted from 79 per cent viscose made from organically grown bamboo. We absolutely loved using this for low-impact exercises such as yoga and stretching, plus it’s the ideal everyday loungewear staple. We loved the coverage and shape of this sports bra and would happily wear it as a crop top while on the yoga mat or during a hike.

There’s not a tonne of support in the bra, even though its racerback style and padded cups do help. The bra’s wide straps and underbust ribbing are comfortable and don’t dig in or rub, while the delightfully smooth fabric is breathable and moisture-wicking. Also, 1 per cent of all bra sales are donated to Breast Cancer UK.

Buy now £39.95, Boody.co.uk

Natal Active Artemis bra

Best: Maternity and nursing sports bra

Rating: 8/10

  • Sizing: XS-XXL

This nursing sports bra by British brand Natal Active is designed to adapt to your body from pre-pregnancy and through the trimesters to post-birth. It fits B-G cup sizing and a clever bra extender, which comes with each bra, means the under band can be widened as you progress through your pregnancy. It also features easy access, fabric-backed clips to make nursing simple and discreet, while the soft elasticated straps, which can be worn straight or cross backed, are extremely comfortable and don’t dig in.

There’s a really handy explainer on the website on how to choose the correct size, plus the friendly brand welcomes email queries. We think that given the versatility of this product for use in pre-, during and post-pregnancy, the price is pretty great.

Buy now £45.00, Natalactive.com

Le Col women's pro seamless cycling bra

Best: Sports bra for cycling

Rating: 8/10

  • Sizing: XS-XXL

This seamless sports bra has been constructed from a single knit and designed with cycling in mind, plus Le Col has incorporated feedback from its women’s pro teams to refine the product. Thanks to the seamless design and high stretch, the bra is super comfortable and easy to get on and off. We liked that the mesh racerback allows for better breathability and airflow, while the front offers full coverage. It also sat smoothly under our cycling jerseys, and the white colourway worked well with lighter coloured tops (it also comes in pale blue and black). The bra does come up a little small, though, so it’s worth sizing up for the best fit.

Buy now £60.00, Lecol.cc

Acai bamboo hike bra

Best: Sports bra for hiking

Rating: 7/10

  • Sizing: XS-XL

This sports bra by the outdoor brand Acai uses super-soft bamboo viscose to craft a supremely snug fit for hiking. We liked its longline ribbed form, which means it works well as both a standalone crop top and a bra, and that the straps can be transformed from straight to racerback with a simple clip. It’s also seamless, which is a big plus if you’re worried about rubbing. The removable padding is also really easy to remove and put back in after washing, which is always helpful (if you’ve struggled with adjusting misaligned pads, you know the pain).

As well as using the bra for its intended use of hiking, we also wore it for light-impact activities and day-to-day wear, for which it was great. Anything with a higher impact, though, left our bust feeling not quite supported enough. In essence, it’s a useful and comfortable sports bra for low- to medium-impact activities, camping and everyday wear. We’re confident that this breathable and sweat-wicking bra is one we’ll be reaching for on summer walks and adventures.

Buy now £34.80, Acaioutdoorwear.com

Pocket London plein air bra

Best: For the style-conscious gym-goer

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Sizing: XXS-XL

As soon as we took this stylish bra out of its packet, we fell in love. The colours, design and luxe feel of the fabric quickly made it one of our favourites. Former Made in Chelsea star Louise Thompson is one half of the duo behind the Pocket Sport activewear brand, and her stylish ways have clearly been infused into it.

There’s a thickness to the soft fabric, which makes the sports bra feel extra secure and snug. Pocket Sport says this is its most supportive bra yet, and while we did feel a good amount of hold, we’d say it’s more of a medium-support bra, especially for larger busts. The racerback straps are also adjustable. Although our favourite colourway is the fig option, the navy and black designs are equally chic.

Buy now £35.00, Pocket-sport.com

Contur afresh crop

Best: Crop top style sports bra

Rating: 9/10

  • Sizing: XS-XL

Created from Econyl (regenerated nylon), this crop top style sports bra is silky soft and a dream to wear. Despite its supremely soft fabric and lack of padding, we thought the sports bra felt fairly supportive and secure. It was certainly one we reached for again and again for low and medium-impact activities. We’re big fans of the flattering V neckline, racerback, supportive underband and longline shape. As well as looking great on its own, the crop top sits seamlessly underneath other activewear, and we’d say it is one of the most comfortable products we tried for this round-up.

We tested the crop top style sports bra in a rich burgundy shade, but there are 16 other colours to choose from that vary from muted tones to vibrant shades. Another thing we liked was that the top washed well and dried quickly. Contur also has a key focus on sustainability: as well as making its products from recycled materials, it also manufactures its entire range in London to keep its carbon footprint as low as possible. The factory that makes it activewear is a UK social enterprise dedicated to minimising fabric waste, paying fair wages and running academies to equip local people with skills to improve their employability.

Buy now £49.99, Conturuk.com

Adidas TLRD move training high-support bra

Best: Running sports bra

Rating: 8/10

  • Sizing: XXS A-C-XL D-DD. Also available in plus size: X-4X

There are several great things about this high-support bra from Adidas, but a real positive is that it’s available in plus sizes. We love the pop of cherry red colour and the minimal yet effective design. The tight fit of this bra leaves your bust feeling highly secure and supported, so it was an excellent option for high-impact activities, such as running and Hiit. We also like the bra’s round neck, crop style, which looks equally good worn with leggings or shorts.

The fabric, which features 89 per cent recycled polyester, feels pleasingly smooth and cool. There’s also a power mesh front insert to help with ventilation, while the double straps on the back of this bra make you feel extra supported. The sizing on this item does run quite small, so it’s worth sizing up.

Buy now £38.00, Adidas.co.uk

Kalenji high support comfort running bra

Best: On a budget

Rating: 7/10

  • Sizing: XS A-B-XL E-F

For under £20, this high-support running bra does a pretty good job. The high-coverage moulded cups are supportive and, according to the brand, reduce bounce by 53 per cent. We liked that the material felt soft and comfortable and that there are no troublesome seams inside the cups.

The bra features a mesh insert at the front between the breasts and on the racerback, which aids ventilation, and looks great. If you don’t want to spend a fortune on a sports bra but are keen on something that’ll give you much-needed support while out running or hitting up those interval sessions, you can’t go far wrong with this budget-friendly buy.

Buy now £17.99, Decathlon.co.uk

Shock Absorber ultimate run bra

Best: Sports bra for bigger busts

Rating: 8/10

  • Sizing: 30B-38FF

A few brands out there are well-regarded when it comes to finding sports bras for bigger busts, and Shock Absorber is among them. Its ultimate run bra is an award-winning choice. It uses a mix of compression and encapsulation to keep your bust feeling supported and secure, while seamless inners, non-slip straps and a gel hook and eye clasp fastening are all handy details to keep you comfortable. Our tester rated the bra for running and sports such as tennis and felt it was a brilliant activewear staple to have in their drawer. Okay, the whole look is more technical than pretty, but it’s a great base if you’re into high-impact sport and seeking a sports bra to keep you feeling focused without any worries about bounce.

Buy now £35.00, Wiggle.co.uk

Sports bras FAQs

How to choose a sports bra

Sports bra fitting is a minefield even after you have your measurements. Often it is a trial and error process, sifting through different styles, cuts and support to find one that is just right. But there are a few things to watch out for while choosing a bra:

The fit –A sports bra should be snug but not too uncomfortably tight and shouldn’t restrict your breathing. However, it should be tighter than your everyday bras; a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit two fingers between the straps and your shoulders. The cup should also be smooth – wrinkles usually mean it is too big. If you are spilling out, it may be too small. And as with a regular bra, you should watch out for gaps. If you pick a style with an underwire, make sure it doesn’t pinch or dig in and lays flat against the rib cage.

High impact vs low impact – Once you’ve got the fit right, it’s essential to consider what activities you’ve got planned. If you are a yogi or a pilates enthusiast, you can probably get away with a lower-support bra. Whereas if you are an avid runner, you may need more help, so keep your eye out for thicker straps. Also, picking a bra with sweat-wicking, breathable material is always a good idea when doing high-impact activities.

What is the best sports bra for big busts?

Those with bigger busts may need a little bit of extra support in their workouts. Generally, there are two types of bras to choose from: encapsulation bras with individual cup support and compression bras that, well, compress everything all together to stop any jiggling. You can also go for an underwired style, although this can be uncomfortable while exercising and cause chafing.

Read more about sports bras for bigger busts in our round-up of the best.

The verdict: Sports bras

We were super impressed with the Maaree solidarity high-impact sports bra, as it’s clear to see that a lot of thought and innovation has gone into its design. We felt secure, supported and stylish in the bra, even during the most intense high-impact exercises, so it was a winner for us. The Contur afresh crop is also worth highlighting because we loved the silky softness of the fabric and the flattering fit. The brand’s focus on sustainability is a real bonus too.

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