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Best sports bras 2021: tested and rated

A photo of a woman in the gym wearing a sports bra
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Like finding the best women’s running shoes that don’t give you blisters or rub your little toes, finding the best sports bra for your workout is imperative. The right bra has the power to help you lift heavier, run further, and sink into that cobra pose you’ve been working on for months, while the wrong bra can ruin a workout before it’s even begun. Whether you’re a runner or a yogi, we’ve rounded up the best sports bras to buy in 2021. 

What is the best sports bra? 

The best sports bra is the one that offers the right level of support for the activity you are doing. Not wearing a supportive bra can cause damage to the connective tissue in the breasts, also referred to as Cooper’s ligaments. Once these stretch, they cannot stretch back, which can lead to sagging in the breast tissue. 

The best high-impact sports bra on the market is the Lululemon Enlite bra. The support it offers is second to none and it comes in a range of cup sizes — from an A to an E. We’d opt for the traditional version rather than the front-fastening, as we found the front zipper caused chafing during sweaty workouts. 

The best medium-impact sports bra is the Sweaty Betty Stamina Workout Bra, which is supportive enough for most workouts and is extremely comfortable, thanks to the seamless design. It’s available in XS to XXXL, so you’ll need to convert your bra size before buying. 

The best low-impact sports bra is the Lululemon Like a Cloud bra, which is buttery-soft and comfortable for Pilates and yoga classes. In fact, it’s so comfortable, you’ll wear it all the time. 

Best high-impact sports bras

These sports bras are designed for high-impact sports like running, boxing, or football. They offer the maximum amount of protection while also being comfortable and sweat-wicking. Here are the best high-impact sports bras on test right now: 

A photo of a woman wearing the Lululemon Enlite Bra, one of the best high-impact sports bras

(Image credit: Lululemon)

1. Lululemon Enlite Bra

Best high-impact encapsulation bra

Specifications
Price: $98
Size range : 32B-40D
Reasons to buy
+Available in a large number of bra sizes +Lightweight and breathable  +Hook-and-eye fastening makes the bra easy to get on and off, even when wet 
Reasons to avoid
-More of an investment than other bras on this list  

When it comes to high support, it doesn’t get better than the Lululemon Enlite bra. We found this bra to be extremely supportive for everything from a HIIT class to a marathon. It’s available in a large range of sizes, and unlike other bras on this list, you can order your actual everyday bra size, rather than trying to convert your size to S, M, or L. 

The Enlite bra is sweat-wicking and quick-drying, which comes in handy for most intense workouts. We didn’t have any problem with rubbing or chafing using the regular Enlite, however, we did when testing the Enlite with the zip-front, which rubbed when wet. It’s machine washable (on a gentle cycle) and the hook-and-eye fastening and wide back closure make the bra easy to get on and off, even after a particularly difficult run. 

The downside with the Enlite bra is the price tag — it definitely won’t be suitable for everyone. Experts recommend you change your sports bra every six to twelve months to ensure it’s offering the right amount of support (obviously the more you wear the bra, the quicker it’ll wear out). Spending the better part of $100 on a bra every six months sounds like a lot, but if you can afford it, the support is unparalleled. 

A photo of a woman wearing the Nike FE/OM sports bra, one of the best high-impact sports bras

(Image credit: Nike )

2. Nike FE/NOM Flyknit

Best high-impact compression bra

Specifications
Price : $80
Size range : XS-XL
Reasons to buy
+Extremely supportive  +Compressive design minimizes all movement 
Reasons to avoid
-Can be difficult to get off  -Have to convert your bra size to find the right fit  

The Nike FE/NOM Flyknit bra fits more like a crop top that you pull over your head than a traditional hook-and-eye fastening bra. It’s highly compressive, pressing the breasts against the chest to minimize movement. For these reasons, we’d say it’s best suited to women with an A-C cup looking for a high-impact bra.  

The bra’s fabric is virtually seam-free, minimizing chafing on the move. We tested this bra on sweaty summer runs and HIIT classes and didn’t have any discomfort. The Flyknit fabric feels compressive and completely minimizes any movement, which does remove all distractions and allows you to focus on your performance. We also found the bra washed well and lasted a good few months. 

The downside with the Nike FE/NOM Flyknit is that it can be difficult to remove after a sweaty workout, especially after a few washes. What’s more, having to physically pull the bra over your head isn’t the most comfortable. That said, if you prefer the crop-top style design of compression bras, this is one of the best we’ve tested. 

A photo of a woman wearing the Brooks Dare Crossback sports bra, one of the best high-impact sports bras

(Image credit: Brooks)

3. Brooks Dare Crossback

Best running sports bra

Specifications
Price : $60
Size range : 30-AB - 40 DDE
Reasons to buy
+One of the most comfortable pullover-style bras on the market +The molded design offers a good amount of nipple coverage 
Reasons to avoid
-The straps aren’t adjustable 

Last year, Brooks revealed a new line of bras which had been developed with research partners at the University of Portsmouth Institute for Breast Health in the UK. The biomechanical testing ensured the bras fully supported the breasts during exercise. The Dare Crossback was one of the bras released, and it’s fast become one of the brand’s most popular bras. 

The cross-back design is suited to women who prefer to pull a bra over their head than worry about straps and fastenings that can chafe on the move. The molded cup supports offer a good amount of nipple coverage if you’re a runner who prefers to wear just a bra in the summer months, and the seamless design minimizes chafing. The sizing is a little unusual —  the bra is available in AB, CD, and DDE cup sizes, so if you’re between two cup sizes, it can be tricky to work out which fits right, but once you get the right fit, the bra is extremely comfortable on the move. 

As well as struggles working out the correct size, the straps on the Brooks bra are not adjustable, which at first glance caused concern. However, we found the bra to fit well and stay put on the move. 

Best medium-impact sports bras

These medium-impact sports bras are best suited for exercises such as rowing, spinning and hikes. The best medium-impact sports bras won’t pinch or chafe, and will wick sweat away from the body to keep you comfortable on the move. We’ve hand-picked some of the best on the market here.

A photo of a woman wearing the Sweaty Betty Stamina Workout bra, one of the best medium-impact sports bras for women

(Image credit: Sweaty Betty )

1. Sweaty Betty Stamina Workout Bra

Best medium-impact all-rounder

Specifications
Price : $40
Size range: XS-XXXL
Reasons to buy
+Seamless design is extremely comfortable +Available in a large range of colors 
Reasons to avoid
-Best suited for women A-C cup; larger bust sizes might find it’s not supportive enough 

The Sweaty Betty Stamina Workout Bra looks and feels great on the move. We’ve tried it for hikes, spin classes, and HIIT sessions that don’t involve too much jumping. The pull-over design is easy to get on and off (it has more give than the Nike bra mentioned above) and we loved the non-padded design. If you’re someone who doesn’t remove the padding from your sports bras though, you might miss the extra coverage. 

The bra is pretty simple in design, with a wide chest band and racerback design for extra support. The bra also has a higher neckline for extra coverage during Pilates and yoga classes, which we liked. It’s compressive but not as compressive as the bras mentioned above. It’s also available in a wide variety of colorways to suit every style. The bra comes in sizes XS to XXXL, so you’ll need to use the size guide to work out how your regular bra size converts. 

The downside with this bra is that even though it’s only medium-impact, it might not offer enough support for women with a bra size larger than a C cup. If you are an A-C cup, this is a comfortable bra to have in your wardrobe. 

A photo of a woman wearing the Under Armour Mid Crossback Sports Bra, one of the best medium-impact sports bras

(Image credit: Under Armour )

2. Under Armour Mid Crossback Sports Bra

Best medium-support sports bra for less than $50

Specifications
Price : $35
Size range : XS-XXL
Reasons to buy
+Simple, affordable bra  +Removable cups  +Fast-drying 
Reasons to avoid
- Have to convert bra size into S, M or L 

If you’re looking for a comfortable, simple, medium-impact sports bra without any frills, this Under Armour bra ticks all the boxes. It has cross-over straps and an open back design for ventilation and to make getting the bra on and off that little bit easier, and an elasticated chest strap for support. It’s also available in a number of different colors to match your favorite leggings. 

The padded cups in this bra are removable, which in our eyes is a plus, as they’ll often get bunched up after washing. That said, if you prefer to have the extra coverage, the option is there. Like all the bras on this list, the bra dries quickly and wicks sweat away from the body. The support is best suited to hikes, spinning sessions and weight training, although women with a larger bust might need a little extra support. 

The only downside here is the sizing — like a number of the other bras on this list you’ll need to convert your everyday bra size into Under Armour’s XS to XXL size guide. Our tester is a 32C and wore a SM bra and found that the fit was comfortable, but if you’re between sizes, it’s worth using the brand’s size guide. 

Best low-impact sports bras

If you’re a fan of yoga or Pilates, these are the best low-impact sports bras to get you from your cobra to your savasana comfortably. The best low-impact sports bras won’t slip when you’re moving, but won’t be as supportive or sweat-wicking as others on this list. 

A photo of a woman wearing the Nike Dri Fit Indy sports bra, one of the best low-impact sports bras for women

(Image credit: Nike )

1. Nike Dri-FIT Indy

Best low-impact bra overall

Specifications
Price : $35
Size range : XS-2XL
Reasons to buy
+Adjustable straps +Mesh panels for ventilation
Reasons to avoid
-Removable bra inserts don't really stay put 

The Nike Dri-FIT Indy low-impact bra has been one of the most popular yoga bras on the market for years and it’s easy to see why. It’s designed to be comfortable — it has adjustable straps that can be tightened from the front of the bra, rather than having to awkwardly wiggle to fix them on the back. 

Nike has added plenty of ventilation panels to keep you from overheating during a workout, and the flat seams are designed to prevent uncomfortable pinching or chafing. The fit is tighter than your everyday bra, despite it only offering low-impact support. Nike describes this fit as ‘body hugging’, but this does feel reassuring when wearing the bra for a more intense yoga or Pilates workout. 

The downside with this bra is the inserts. For women who prefer to keep the inserts in the bra for extra coverage, trying to wiggle them back into place after washing the bra can be frustrating. However, for those who always pull this padding out of the bra the second you cut the tags off, this is a comfortable, affordable low-impact bra worth investing in. 

A photo of a woman wearing the Lululemon Like a Cloud sports bra, one of the best low-impact sports bras

(Image credit: Lululemon)

2. Lululemon Like a Cloud Bra

Best low-impact bra for B-C cups

Specifications
Price : $68
Size range : 2-12
Reasons to buy
+Buttery-soft and wonderfully comfortable +Straps stay put during yoga +Available in a longline cut too 
Reasons to avoid
-Best suited for B/C cups 

This Lululemon Like A Cloud sports bra does exactly what it says on the tin — it’s so wonderfully soft it feels like there’s nothing there. We’ve worn this bra for yoga and Pilates classes, but also just every day and for gentle hikes with the dog. It’s brilliantly comfortable and the straps stay put. 

When it comes to sizing, this bra comes in standard Lululemon sizing, so you’ll need to order your regular size. Some testers found they wanted to go down a size to get a more compressive fit, but others found the bra comfortable in their normal size. Lululemon also makes a longline version of this bra, which sits lower down the chest for extra comfort. 

The sweat-wicking fabric is designed to be soft against the skin, and the molded cups aren’t removable, so you won’t need to worry about them bunching up after you’ve washed the bra a couple of times. Like most of the sports bras on this list, to best care for the bra, Lululemon recommends you machine-wash the bra on cold and avoid using fabric softeners or putting it in the tumble dryer.

The downside here is that the bra offers light support for B/C cups. If you’re bigger than a C cup, you might find the bra doesn’t offer enough support during certain yoga postures, and would likely be better off wearing Lululemon’s Energy Bra. 

What is the difference between a high, medium, and low-impact bra? 

The clue is in the title, but the amount of support you need from your sports bra will depend on a couple of things. First, your bra size and second, the type of activity you’re planning on doing. Women with smaller bust sizes can often get away with wearing medium and low impact bras more often than women with a larger bra size, who will often need more support when exercising. 

High-impact bras are recommended for activities like running, HIIT training, and playing football. A high-impact bra can fall into two different categories — encapsulation and compression. An encapsulation sports bra will look like an everyday bra, with two separate cups for targeted support that minimizes the movement of each breast. A compression bra will often look more like a crop top, and work by pressing the breasts against the chest to prevent movement. Compression bras are often comfortable for smaller-breasted women. 

Medium-impact bras are not quite as supportive as high-impact bras and are best suited for activities like hiking, spinning, and cross-training. Typically, you wouldn’t go for a run in a medium-impact bra, as the compression and support wouldn’t be enough to fully support the breasts. 

A low-impact bra offers a light amount of support — a little more than your everyday bra, but not all that much. Low-impact bras are usually best suited for more gentle forms of exercise, such as yoga, Pilates, or barre classes. 

How to choose the best sports bra for you 

When it comes to choosing the best sports bra for you, you’ll need to think about the type of activity you plan on using the bra for. If you’re a runner, you’ll definitely need to add a high-impact bra to your wardrobe, if you’re more of a yogi, you won’t need the same amount of support. 

Next up, you’ll want to consider fit. Some of the bras on this list will require you to convert your everyday bra size into a generic small, medium or large. The best way to do this is to grab a tape measure and look at the brand size guides to ensure you’re getting the right size. A bra that is too large won’t offer the right amount of support and one that is too tight will pinch and chafe. 

Finally, you’ll want to consider how you want the bra to fit. If you’re someone who struggles to pull a sweaty bra over your head in the gym changing room, look for a bra with a traditional hook-and-eye clasp that will be easier to get into and out of. What’s more, if you prefer to run or work out in just a sports bra, you might want one with padding in the cups for extra coverage.

How we test sports bras 

We test sports bras by putting them through their paces on the run, in HIIT and spin classes, and for yoga sessions. When testing the best sports bras, we’ll look for how the bra feels during the activity — whether it wicks sweat away from the body, or feels overly damp after a sweaty workout. We’ll look at how easy the bra is to get into and out of, and whether the straps can be adjusted for a more personal fit. 

Finally, we’ll consider how comfortable the bra is — a bra that pinches or chafes isn’t one that’ll motivate you to push harder during a workout. 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.