Sports Bras for Running – Finding the Right One for You

purple champion c9 racerback bra

For women, there is one item of clothing that is just as important as running shoes – the sports bra! Sports bras for running keep you comfortable during your run and in the long-term, help your breasts retain their shape. (There are ligaments in your breasts that give them their shape, and if they get stretched out from your girls bouncing around while running, they won’t return to their original shape.)

Running is a “high impact” sport and requires a serious bra. A regular bra certainly won’t cut it. It’s not like walking and yoga, which are “low impact” activities, where you can get away with some light support. High impact sports bras are usually made of thicker, heavier fabric, and will give you full coverage and breast compression to limit the bouncing effect of your breast.

Here is what you need to know to pick out the right sports bra for you:


Shopping for a Sports Bra

Supposedly, 75-80% of women are wearing the wrong size sports bra. To make sure you don’t fall into this category, here are some shopping tips.

Do your shopping in person.

Do your shopping in person so you can try on the bras before you buy. This is just like running shoes where getting a perfect fit is very important and worth the time.

Try on lots of bras in different sizes.

To make sure you get the right one, try on different sports bras in different sizes. Sizing a sports bra isn’t always the same as a traditional bra, so try on your normal size as well as nearby sizes just to be sure.

For each bra you try on, be sure to run in place a little bit to make sure it will be supportive for running.

Choose specialty running stores.

I suggest visiting a running specialty store (or at least a sporting goods store) when shopping for a sports bra for running. Department stores may offer sports bras, but generally these are better suited for low impact activities.

The only exception to this rule I know of is Target. They carry Champion sports bras, specifically the Champion C9 series, which are quite popular and very affordable.

Another great choice is factory outlet stores. I’ve been through Champion, Under Armour, Nike, Reebok, and Adidas outlets and found surprisingly good selections and low prices.

Look for online retailers with good return policies.

Shopping online is still an option, especially if you are replacing a bra that you know you like. The key is choose a store with a good return policy that includes no hassle returns and free shipping both ways.

Stores like REI, Road Runner Sports, and Running Warehouse are good options, but I often turn to Zappos.

Zappos has a huge selection of sports bras and the best shipping and return policy I’ve ever seen. You can order a few different sizes and just send back the ones that don’t fit perfectly.

What Type of Sports Bra Do I Need?

Let’s look at the three main types of sports bras for running.

patagonia capilene sports bra

Compression bras

Compression bras are the simplest sports bras. They offer support by compressing your breasts against your chest to restrict movement. They are best for A and B cups.

Encapsulation bras

Encapsulation bras use individual cups to surround and support each breast separately, much like everyday bras. They are best for D and DD cups.

moving comfort juno

Encapsulated Compression bras

These bras combine both compression and encapsulation into the same bra.

They offer more support than compression alone, so they are best for women with C and D cups that need more than a simple compression bra, but don’t need a full encapsulation bra.

What to Look for in a Running Sports Bra

There are many little features to look for in a sports bra.

Wicking Material

Make sure the bra is made from a good wicking material. Usually this fabric is a blend of polyester, nylon, and spandex, and it might have a fancy name such as Coolmax or DriFit.

Do not go with 100% cotton, because it will get soaked in sweat and chafe your skin.

Smooth Seams

You don’t want seams cutting into you or chafing, so choose a seamless bra, or at least one with taped seams.

Likewise, if it’s an underwire bra, make sure the wire is completely covered in fabric and won’t poke you while you’re moving.

Shoulder Straps

Choose wide shoulder straps for greater support, especially if you have a large chest. The straps should not slide off your shoulders or press into your skin.

Bottom Band

Just like shoulder straps, the wider the bottom band, the more support it offers.

champion c9 racerback white

Racerback Bra Design

A Racerback bra is one where the two shoulder straps criss-cross (or come together into one) on your back. This is the preferred style for running sports bras.


You may prefer a padded sports bra to provide a little extra shape and support, as well as prevent your nipples from poking out.

Plus Size

If you are purchasing a plus size sports bra, make sure the cups are large enough to hold your entire breast inside.

The Fit

As mentioned earlier, the most important feature is that the bra fits you properly!

The bra should fit you snugly and there should be no wrinkles in the material (which could indicate the size is too big.) Extra material will bunch up and cause chafing. On the other hand, if you have any skin rolls sticking out the sides of the bra, that indicates the size is too small.

Popular Brands of Sports Bras for Running

Consider these popular brands for your next sports bra.

champion c9 cami melon

Champion Sports Bras

Champion sports bras are extremely popular. Champion has been around for a long time and they make some high quality bras, but they can still offer great prices. I’d say Champion makes the best value sports bras.

Champion outlet stores are common, and you can even find the Champion C9 sports bras at Target (with a price tag around $16.99.)

What’s more, Champion bras are available in lots of color options. This is great if you go out running wearing only the sports bra and no shirt on top.

Enell Sports Bra

The Enell sports bra is a plus size sports bra that’s like a tight vest with eye-hook closures on the front. It is for well-endowed women who need superior support and comfort while working out.

Moving Comfort Sports Bra

Moving Comfort makes some very popular sports bras. Their “Fiona” and “Juno” sports bras always get good user reviews as well as top ratings from magazines such as Prevention.


Bras featured in this article:
Champion C9 Racerback Sports Bra
Champion C9 Cami Sports Bra
Patagonia Capilene Mesh A/B Cup Sports Bra
Moving Comfort Fiona Sports Bra
Moving Comfort Juno Sports Bra

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