Whether you’re completing a yoga or pilates session or hitting the treadmill at the gym, a good sports bra is essential when doing exercise. If you don’t wear one, the unavoidable bounce of your chest can damage breast tissue and leave you with breast and back pain. On top of this, the Coopers’ Ligaments that are found in your chest can be stretched or broken causing irreversible sagging, which no woman wants. So whether you’re doing high or low impact exercise, make sure a good quality sports bra is the first item you chuck in your gym bag.
There are two main types: compression bras which look like crop tops and flatten your breasts against your chest, or ones that have in-built cups, looking much like your regular bra but made of more breathable material. Generally, compression bras are better suited to those with smaller breasts (A to B-cup) or if you’re doing low-impact sports. For everything and everyone else, a sports bra with in-built cups is favoured.
We’ve tried a whole heap of sports bras from a range of different brands to find out which ones were supportive but didn’t irritate our skin during exercise. Here’s our pick of the best.
1. Freya Sonic Storm Moulded Sports Bra: £38, Freya Lingerie
Freya creates lingerie, swimwear and sports bras for larger bust sizes meaning this sports bra is available from a B to H-cup. We tested it by going on a series of runs and it stood up to pounding the pavement well – there was very little chest movement and a comfortable fit meant there was no irritation of the skin. The in-built cups are supportive and keep everything in place but don’t restrict movement of the arms. The three-clip fastening at the back adds extra support and you can style the straps in two ways depending on what you find most comfortable. Also available in pink and peach, it’s a top-quality sports bra.
2. Victoria’s Secret Knockout By Victoria Sport Front-Close Sport Bra: £33.18, Victoria’s Secret
This cleverly designed bra is ideal for any type of work out. Unzip the front fabric and you’ll find another regular bra inside that unclips at the front. This second bra adds extra support, while the front fabric flattens and holds everything in place. The end result is an extremely supportive sports bra and very little bounce when exercising. You won’t notice you’re wearing it either and the sizing works like regular bras so you know you’re getting one that fits well (rather than the less specific small, medium and large sizing). It’s also super-stylish, coming in a range of jazzy and plain prints and like with most Victoria’s Secret products, it’s flattering in all the right places.
3. 2XU Plyometric Pro Crop: £50, 2XU
The pattern on this compression sports bra caught our attention– the black and white print completes most of the bra but the straps and a panel at the back are plain black. It fits snuggly (pulling it over your head is a bit of a challenge if you haven’t loosened the straps first) and the elastic around the bottom means it hugs your chest comfortably. And don’t worry, while the compression style flattens to add support it still looks good on. But we would only recommend using this one for light to moderate work outs as although it’s supportive, there was a fair amount of movement when doing more vigorous exercise. There’s a pink design too if you’d prefer and it’s available in sizes XS, S, M and L.
4. New Balance The Print Tenderly Obsessive Bra: £24, New Balance
This reasonably priced sports bra from the running specialists is made of sweat-wicking fabric and allows your body to breathe as you exercise. The bright print means it looks good under plain work out tops and the racer back allows full movement of the arms. For A and B-cups this is suitable for high impact sport but for everyone else it’s better suited to more gentle gym, yoga or pilates sessions. The internal cup padding adds a bit of shape despite it being a tube-style compression bra and it’s comfy to wear. Considering the price, it’s worth buying if you’re just beginning your fitness journey.
5. Adidas CMMTTD Chill Bra: £44.95, Adidas
Adidas has created an extremely versatile sports bra that is suitable for all forms of exercise and stands up to the most vigorous gym sessions. The fit is tight, with the padded cups and elastic fabric sucking and lifting your chest while the additional clip fastening at the back adds extra support. There’s very little chest movement when you work out but the adjustable straps and racer back mean arm movement isn’t restricted. If you’re not keen on pink there’s black, navy and bright blue available too. The sizing also considers cup size, ranging from an A to D-cup.
6. Manuka Life Manuka Women’s Seamless String Bra Top: £21.60, Amazon
This is a pretty, lightweight sports bra from Manuka Life, a brand dedicated to creating yoga, pilates and general lounge wear. For that reason, it’s not for medium or high intensity work outs and best suited to those with a smaller chest. Although it is a compression bra, there is still a significant amount of bounce if you have a larger cup size. It’s extremely comfortable to wear though, looks great layered under vest tops and the “dancer” style straps add a stylish embellishment. Also available in a green and gold design.
7. Sweaty Betty Stamina Sports Bra: £35, Sweaty Betty
A firm favourite for many, this medium-support sports bra from popular active wear brand Sweaty Betty will soon become a staple in your gym wardrobe. Coming in a variety of colours, the material is super soft but still wicks away sweat so your skin can breathe during a work out. The racer back means it sits under any type of gym top or vest without being too visible and comes in sizes small, medium or large. If you have an A-cup you might get away with doing higher intensity work outs in it but on the whole we wouldn’t recommend it for running or high impact sport. For walking, yoga, pilates or light cardio classes this is the sports bra for you though, in fact you’ll probably end up wearing it throughout the day too.
8. Icebreaker Women’s Sprite Racerback Bra: £34.90, Amazon
Merino wool is the secret to this compression bra. It’s a highly breathable fabric which keeps you warm in the cold and cool in warm weather, while also giving you extra UV protection. Merino is also great at combating odour, so you don’t need to wash this bra regularly either. It does well at compressing your chest and holding everything in place, while it also feels soft against the skin and is very flattering. We’d suggest only wearing it for low impact sports or walking if you have a larger chest size and beware the sizes are on the small side, so order up a size if unsure. Available in a range of colours.
9. Lululemon All Sport Bra III: £88, Lululemon
Ok, so this one is expensive but it’s extremely soft against the skin, stays cool and wicks away sweat as you work out. It’s a compression bra so flattens your chest to add support and reduces bounce. But we’d recommend using it for light to moderate work outs only if you have a larger bust, as we found there was still a fair amount of chest movement. For those with a small cup size, its reflective print is designed to be visible on night time runs – that is if you have it on show, which we doubt you will in this cold winter weather. But it’s still a stylish design and if you live in your gym gear it may be worth splashing out on. If you really can’t part with that much cash though, the black version is a more reasonable £45.
10. Gymshark Seamless Sports Bra: £24, Gymshark
Another compression bra but this time from fitness brand Gymshark. This one was the comfiest compression style we tested thanks to the seamless knit reducing any skin irritation. Coming in four different colours, it was also the best bra without in-built cups when it came to running. It stood up to a short run well although we wouldn’t recommend it for continuous long-distance running if you have a larger chest size. For daily gym sessions or home work outs though this is a great option and also reasonably priced.
The Verdict: Sports bras
For a sports bra that you can do any type of exercise in we’d recommend Freya’s Sonic Storm. For more gentle exercise 2XU’s bra looks and feels great, while Sweaty Betty’s Stamina Sports Bra is hugely popular (and we can easily see why). Victoria’s Secret also has a great design; a bra-within-a-bra equals maximum support and gives you a flattering finish.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testingReuse content