Sport Bra Buying Guide

Whether you're heading out for a jog through the neighborhood, attending a yoga class or pushing a baby stroller through the park, a sport bra is essential for comfort. You need a bra that wicks away moisture and offers firm support without causing chaffing, but you also deserve a bra that reflects your sense of style. If you don't know how to select the best sport bra for your active needs, this guide will tell you what to consider.

Types of Sport Bras

The simplest way to differentiate between sport bras is to determine whether they are encapsulated or compressed. An encapsulated sport bra will feature a cup to cradle each breast, but compression bras have no cups. Compression bras are made from stretchy fabric that closes around the chest, holding everything firmly in place. While many women consider compression sport bras more supportive than encapsulated bras, they are also known for creating a lumpy appearance that is unflattering. You may prefer an encapsulated bra for everyday wear or light workouts, but compression bras are often essential for intense workouts that may create more breast movement.

You will also see sport bras separated as high-, medium- or low-impact bras. The fabric, design and features of the bra will vary, depending on how much support it is intended to provide. While women with smaller chests may find low-impact bras acceptable for all forms of exercise, those with larger breasts will require more supportive bras when participating in sports or completing workouts that require a lot of jumping and running.

If you plan on wearing your sport bra without a shirt, look for decorative bras with a strappy back or racerback design. A racerback bra forms one thick strap up the center of the back rather than two over-shoulder straps. This is a popular style that eliminates the annoyance of straps falling over the shoulders during exercise or sports play, and some women find the design more supportive. Some racerback bras feature crossed straps on the back as well. You will find these bras in many different colors and prints, and some coordinate with leggings and other bottoms sold by the same brand.

Do you have trouble reaching behind your back to close and open your bra? If so, you may consider a front-closure sport bra that makes getting dressed and undressed faster and easier.

Pay Attention to

Don't assume that your new sport bra is too small if it fits a bit tighter than the bras that you wear for everyday experiences. You depend on your daily bras to lift your chest up, but your sport bra must lift up while also compressing down to prevent uncomfortable jiggling and bouncing during exercise. This requires a tighter fit, even if you do select a sport bra with cups rather than a compression bra.

Select a sport bra that comes with added padding for maximum comfort. For instance, many quality bras now come with padding on the straps to prevent the material from digging into your skin. If you select a bra with underwire, make sure that padding is added around the wire so that you never feel the hard metal against your skin.

If you sweat heavily during your workouts, make sure that your sport bra is made from moisture-wicking material. This will help prevent the skin irritation and discomfort that comes from wearing a sweat-soaked bra.

If you have a large chest and don't like the "uni-boob" look that is created by some compression sport bras, look for bras with formed cups that are designed for high-impact activity. Many of these bras are designed to compress while separating the breasts for a more flattering appearance. You don't have to choose between a bra with adequate support and a bra that looks good on your body.

If you exercise daily, buy at least three sport bras that you can wear during any type of activity. This allows you to rotate bras so that the material isn't overly stretched and doesn't wear down too quickly. You want your bra to rest at least a couple of days before you wear it again.

If you walk or jog in an outdoor setting and want to free your hands without dropping your car keys or other valuables, invest in a sport bra with a built-in security pocket. These small pockets allow you to tuck a key, cash or other valuables into a safe place that won't slow you down.

Top Brands and Product Lines

The North Face

The Stow-N-Go II bra is popular with women interested in stashing cash or a car key while out for a walk or run. This well-known brand makes high-quality compression bras with ventilation panels to help cool your body during intense workouts.

Victoria's Secret

While this brand is known for sexy lingerie and models wearing oversized angel wings, it's also attractive for active women looking for serious support. The lineup includes many racerback and strappy-back sport bras in fun colors and patterns. You can also coordinate many of the bras to comfortable workout pants to create a complete outfit.

Sweaty Betty

This brand offers a colorful lineup of sport bras designed for specific types of exercise. From the High-Intensity Run Bra to the Virasana Padded Yoga Bra, you will find many compression bras with cup padding when you shop this brand.

Under Armour

This is one of the biggest brand names in the fitness industry, so it isn't surprising that they have one of the largest collections of sport bras. From seamless designs that won't show through your shirt to fun prints and decorative straps that you can wear without a cover up, this brand offers style as well as support.


If you need a compression bra with padded cups and maximum support that you can trust, look for a Nike sport bra. They come in a variety of colors and are designed from moisture-wicking material.