Charlotte Grainger

What to Look for in a Running Bra

Are you an avid runner? If you love the thrill of the open track (or even the treadmill), it’s important to get the support that you need. Choosing the right running bra is essential to avoid skin pulling, breast pain and reduced performance.
 
Getting this right matters. Research from the University of Portsmouth looked at the potential performance effects of wearing an unsupportive sports bra.

The study found that this can make exercise feel harder, may lead to earlier fatigue, could increase the risk of injury, and may make striding during running more challenging. 
 
This guide will take you through the basics—from how a running bra should fit some of the best options for your sports wardrobe. Here’s everything you should know.

running bra

HOW SHOULD A RUNNING BRA FIT?

First things first, let's talk about how your running bra should fit. Ideally, the best running bra should be snug but not too tight. The material should be pulled smooth across your breasts when you're wearing it.

If you see any wrinkles or gaps in the fabric, that could be a sign that your sports bra is too loose, meaning you won’t get the support you need.

There’s nothing worse than your sports bra chafing. This problem is caused by the bra and body rubbing together when you are moving. That leads to friction and overall discomfort when you’re trying to run.

The first thing you should do here is trying adjusting the straps of the bra to see if it makes a difference. You can also apply Vaseline to the affected area to avoid friction.

Of course, if the chafing continues, you need to check your bra size. Here are a few quick tips to see if you're wearing the right size and fit for you:

  1. Check out yourself in the mirror and make sure the underband sits levelled around your ribs, it should feel firm but not too tight. You can also try fitting to fingers underneath the band, you should be able to breathe comfortably.

  2. Next, have a good look at your cups or the front of your bra. Your breasts should be comfortably enclosed. If they bulge over, you should opt for a cup size up. If the cups gape away from your breasts, we recommend trying a cup size down.

    If you're wearing an encapsulated bra, the centre front should be flat against your chest. If it lifts away or there's a small gape, try going up a cup size. If your sports bra has an underwire it is very important that it follows the natural shape of your breasts without sitting on any breast tissue.

  3. Lastly, let's test our straps. You should be able to fit two fingers underneath so that they don't dig into your shoulders. If your straps are adjustable, it's okay if one strap is shorter than the other. No two breasts are the same and the most important thing is that they are highly supported.

    Keep in mind that our bodies and breasts change throughout different stages of our life and there is definitely no size fits all when it comes to sports bras.

    We recommend coming back to this guide every 12 months when it's time to replace your sports bras to make sure you're wearing the right size bra to support your breasts on your next run.

Types of Sports Bras

Finding the right sports bra can be a dreading task, especially if you’re unsure what type suits your needs best. The main types include compression, encapsulation and hybrid, which provide different levels of support.

So before buying a new running bra, you should consider your cup size, how you want your breast to be supported and how much support you need.

  • Compression

As you may guess from the name, a Compression sports bra focuses on holding your breasts in place by flattening them against your chest. This type of bra falls into the category of low to medium support and is suitable for individuals with an A-C cup size as it does not provide additional support for each breast.

  • Encapsulation 

An Encapsulated sports bra is more suitable for someone with a D-cup or above as the two separate cups provide high support to each breast and minimise bounce. An encapsulated bra has features such as adjustable straps or a back clasp which can provide additional support.

  • Hybrid

If you like the feel of a compression sports bra but are above a D-cup size, we’d recommend opting for a Hybrid sports bra. A hybrid bra has the benefits of a compression bra as it provides compressive focus while still providing high support to each breast with its encapsulated features.

HOW MUCH SUPPORT SHOULD A RUNNING BRA HAVE?

Next up, let’s talk about support. There are three levels of sports bra support available: low, medium, and high. However, you want to rule out low and medium support for running.
 
Which level of support you should choose depends on your cup size and the level of intensity of your training. If you do low-intensity workouts, such as yoga or pilates you might want to opt for a low impact bra, while if you weight train, you might want to choose a medium impact bra.

However, if you have larger breasts or engage in high-intensity training such as running, you need to get a high impact sports bra

High impact bras

Whether you have small or large breasts, high impact bras could be the answer if you engage in intense runs. These tend to have a defined cup sculpture for added support (encapsulated bra) and may also include some compression to keep everything in place (hybrid bra).

Unsure where to start? The Nike Alpha Bra lives up to its name, giving a top-level performance, adjustable straps, and contoured cups. On the other hand, the adidas FastImpact Luxe Run High-Support Bra is designed with adjustable side and back straps, removable padding and quick-drying features to prepare you for your next big run.

Two great encapsulated sports bras that will keep your girls in place!

nike sports bra

When you’re looking for a little more in the way of coverage and compression, it pays to give Falke's hybrid sports bra, Maximum Support Sport-Bra a whirl. The running sports bra has high elasticity, doubled layered fabric, a racerback design, and no side seams.

It may also be worth checking out some hybrid bras from Nimble, like the Activewear On Track Bra II, with an open back design, phone pocket (yes, please!), and removable padding.

But that's not all! The ​​Under Armour Infinity High Sports Bra comes with moulded padding, strategic support, and HeatGear fabric. No matter how hot and sweaty you get, you will still have the ultimate level of comfort here. There’s a lot to love there.

under armour sports bra

CAN I RUN WITHOUT A SPORTS BRA?

The short answer here is no. As the research from the University of Portsmouth suggests, failing to have a proper level of support will make running uncomfortable and negatively impact your performance.

If you want to avoid that and protect yourself as you run or work out, investing in a few of the best sports bras for running is the only way to go.

WHAT BRANDS HAVE THE BEST RUNNING BRA FOR ME?

Now that you understand the importance of finding the best sports bras for running, let’s take a look at some of the brands that excel in this field. While many companies offer running sports bras, there are a few that outshine the competition.

If you’re looking for some shopping inspiration, we highly recommend checking out Nike and adidas along with some of our other top picks here:

Nike

Combining effortless fashion and high performance, the average Nike running bra is a thing of beauty. Featuring everything from low to high support in a variety of compression, encapsulated and hybrid styles, we understand why Nike is ahead of its competition.

Many of the brand’s options include the patented DRI-FIT technology along with compression and precise cuts. Whether you’re looking for a front-zippered bra or something with a fierce pattern, there’s certain to be a running bra for you.

nike sports bra

Adidas

Offering technically-designed running bras with a stylish twist, it’s hard to ignore Adidas’ collection. Their range of sports bras will provide you with all levels of support as the brand offers compression, encapsulated and hybrid sports bras.

Many of the modern bras boast a well-known logo and a simplistic design. You can get all of the comfort and support you need here, whatever your running style. 

Created by world-renowned fashion designer, Adidas x Stella McCartney, also offers a range of sports bras that is a cut above the rest.

With technical fabrics, a premium finish, and a splash of high-end fashion designs, these sports bras take the catwalk to the running track and provides you with great support. What more do you need!

adidas sports bra

It doesn’t end there. We also love the running bra offering that Nimble and Falke have to offer. Under Armour also features a variety of seamless sports bras as the brand is globally recognised in its commitment to innovation. 

That means that you can expect a high level of support, comfort, and style when you choose one of their bra options. When you’re looking for a new sports bra for your favourite workouts, it’s well worth browsing all of the ranges until you find something that takes your breath away.

THE TAKEAWAY

Finding the perfect running bra doesn't have to be a challenge. Now that you’ve read our guide, what are you waiting for? Whatever your bra size and preference in bra style, there’s sure to be an option that suits you. Start shopping for your ideal high impact running bra now and the sky’s the limit.