best sports bras

Sports Bra: Test & Reviews

Author: Manuel Heitmann

Coach & Fitness Expert

To be able to exercise effectively without discomfort, women need a sports bra. In order for it to be really supportive and not just expensive, one thing or the other must be observed. Read our comparison test.

Questions to Consider Before Buying A Sports Bra

What is a Sport Bra?

The sports bras that we examined in our test are characterized by a certain functionality that distinguishes them from normal bras. Basically, the sports bra was developed to perfectly protect the female breast during exercise. The main purpose of this protection is to ensure that the breasts do not move too much. This would strain the entire underbust tissue. For this reason, even young girls or women who only have a small bust size wear the specific sports bras.

In our sports bra test, we carefully examined the processing of these underwear items. The shape and the composition of the material ensure that the chest hardly moves, even when jumping or when the athletes are sweating heavily. Typically, the straps and the side parts of the sports bras are very wide, and many models also use a common back part. That is why the bras do not slip and offer a secure hold. Often the fabric is a supportive, slightly shaping material. This gives even more security. Breathability is also an important feature of sports bras because it wicks sweat away from the body. In combination with a jersey or other sweat-absorbing clothing, it is comfortable to wear, as the athletes’ skin remains fairly dry and there is no increased friction.

The sports bras support the chest and prevent the ups and downs that can arise from the various activities. In this way, the breast tissue is not overused, but keeps its elasticity. So there can be no premature slackening that starts sooner or later depending on the physical conditions. Sport shouldn’t have any influence on it and that’s exactly why sports bras were developed.

Since there are no muscles in the chest, they cannot be stabilized by the body itself. This is particularly noticeable if the woman has a larger bust size. The stronger the movements are during sport, the greater the stress on sensitive skin and connective tissue. The effects of stretching and tensile force are also reduced by wearing sports bras, so that the risk of an uncomfortable feeling or even chest pain is significantly minimized. The sports bra also counteracts so-called sagging breasts.

How does a Sports Bra work?

The different types of sports bras can be selected to match the bust size and the type of sport. It is not always possible to clearly say which model is the test winner of the sports bras in each individual case. In any case, the function of the optimized hold plays a major role, because with this requirement the connective tissue is spared. Wearing the perfect sports bra makes exercising more fun for women, because they automatically feel safer. The fear of vigorous movements or increased ups and downs disappears, because in the past many more women were actually afraid of chest pain or restrictions due to tight bras. Regardless of the basic design of the sports bras, these lingerie items impress with their innovative and functional equipment.

As the most important feature, the sports bras from our 2020 test offer excellent support. This is based on the elastic and at the same time resilient material as well as on the precisely fitting shape. The good hold is partially reinforced by brackets. These underwire sports bras are particularly suitable for women with a large bust. The underwire gives the breast a secure stabilization and also looks nice and round. Such an underwire bra is very popular when working out in the gym.

The sports bras without integrated underwire often have preformed bra cups. These adapt perfectly to the breast and are a further support for the good hold of the bra. Here, too, the embellished look of the breast shape is an important distinguishing feature. In combination with a sturdy underbust band and padded straps, such a sports bra is one of the test winners. The padded bras for athletes also improve the ideal conditions for training and competitions. Women do not have to do without a certain shape and an attractive figure with feminine curves when doing sports.

With the sports bra test winners for big cups, i.e. for large bust sizes, innovative materials and clever shapes ensure that the breast is protected. Some of these bras are specifically designed for specific sports. For example, they soften the bumps that occur when running or riding, or they leave a little more leeway if they are especially suitable for tennis or hockey.

Advantages & areas of application

The advantages of sports bras are evident the first time they are used. The chest stays where it belongs and doesn’t bob up and down or to the side too much. In addition, there is no excessive stretching of the connective tissue, which would be the logical consequence of the violent, often uncomfortable movements. In addition, women who do sports simply feel much more comfortable when their chest doesn’t rock too much. It is precisely for this purpose that the sports bras were invented, which we will examine in detail in our test. Thanks to their supportive properties, these laundry items can even reduce back pain or neck discomfort.

The main advantage of the sports bra is that it keeps the chest from rocking during exercise. This difference is particularly evident if the woman has previously exercised without a bra.

Athletes with a small bust also know the problem that the chest hurts due to the increased movements. Once overstretched, it is often too late and the breast does not return to its previous shape. Therefore caution is advised.

The various types of sports bras from the 2020 test are based on the different demands of active women as well as the numerous flavors. However, the focus is on the supporting function, which is available in several strengths. There are sports bras with a little more or less support. The selection is based on your own level of comfort, the size of the breast and the type of sport practiced. For the yoga class or cycling, for example, you don’t need a sports bra with particularly high stabilization, while the chest is much more at risk when running due to the constant ups and downs and needs a correspondingly better support. By coordinating with the comfort features, every woman can choose a sports bra that optimally meets her needs.

Most women wear their sports bra to be comfortable. This is why these special bras, mostly made of soft material, are often used in everyday life. The sports bra test winners are partly available in beautiful, feminine designs so that they can also be worn under normal outerwear. With their wide, often padded shoulder straps and a sturdy back, the sports bras offer the necessary support not only during sport, but also during leisure time. Depending on the support strength, bust size and individual preferences, the sports bras are suitable for a relaxing afternoon at home or for going to town. Because the special material transports moisture away well, the sports bras are also very popular on hot summer days.

Just like some other sporting goods – functional shirt or sweatpants – the sports bra with its trendy design can also be seen in everyday life. Not only in the gym, the beautiful items of laundry are combined with matching or contrasting trousers and jackets. Sometimes you can see the bras peeking out from under a sweat blazer. In summer, a sports bra may also replace the top. The self-confident woman also wears a flowing skirt or sporty shorts. This look is especially good on a slim, toned body.

What types of Sports Bras are available?

Our test of sports bras looks at different cuts. With all types, the focus is on optimized support for the breast, but the various bras with more or less support are tailored to the respective intensity of the sport and also to the different breast sizes. Some sports bras are therefore more suitable for gentle training methods such as gymnastics, while others are designed for joggers with their stronger support. Rowing is also more intense than you might think at first glance, because strong pulling forces occur here. Those women who are not sure which sports bra is the right one should find out exactly what their characteristics are in order to find the perfect gradation.

In this chapter we would like to describe the categories and ratings of the sports bras in our test in more detail. In addition to the classification of the support, i.e. the supporting force, the basic shape of the bras is also important. The manufacturers of sports underwear often have their own level and criteria according to which they classify these sports bras, so it is not easy to create a general overview. Nevertheless, we would like to present a rough classification of the support levels here.

  • Sports bras with low support – suitable for hiking, walking, cycling, Pilates, yoga
  • Sports bras with medium support – suitable for Nordic walking, Zumba.
  • Sports bras with strong support – suitable for soccer, tennis, volleyball and many other ball sports
  • Sports bras with extra strong support – suitable for running, riding, rope skipping and other jumping / jumping sports.

The support level is just a kind of categorization, so in the next step we will deal with the shape of the sports bras. The bras for athletes are available with straps or racer backs, although the choice between these two cuts does not necessarily depend on the bust size. When it comes to sports bras with a racer back, however, you should be aware that it is often difficult to pull them over your head if your chest is relatively large.

In contrast, the bras in the standard cut are easier to put on because they have a fastening in the back. In addition, the normal bras often have adjustable straps so that you can adjust them exactly to the figure. Some manufacturers offer sports bras whose straps turn into a racer back with an additional clip in the back. This feature prevents the straps from sliding down sideways, which is very annoying in some sports. Sports bras with racer backs are therefore in great demand, especially for women with slightly sagging shoulders.

The relatively soft bustiers, some of which are recommended for yoga or Pilates, are suitable for gentle sports. For cardio training in the gym, slightly firmer bustiers or sports bras in the so-called racerback cut are used. The even more stable sports bras with padded straps and cups increase the support force and relieve the back muscles thanks to their good cut.

When it comes to the right balance between support and comfort, every woman has her own priorities. Some prefer a firmer feel, while others prefer the softer materials. In any case, it is recommended to try on the sports bras and to try them out too. The wearer only notices whether the bra is sitting properly and feels good when she moves around in it. For the protection of the chest and for the whole body sensation, the athletes should choose their very personal sports bra test winner.

The benefits of sports bras

  • Protection of the body, especially the chest,
  • offers a secure hold,
  • don’t pinch
  • attractive and individual solutions,
  • tailor-made support level,
  • unrestricted movements possible.

Possible disadvantages of the sports bra

  • sometimes tedious putting on
  • may be too tight

How are sports bras tested?

In our Sports Bra Test 2020 we paid attention to many product features to determine what matters. This should be a help for women who are looking for a suitable bra for sport. The women find it easier to choose the right underwear based on the following criteria.

The sports bras should on the one hand make effective training easy and on the other hand correspond to the individual style of the athlete. There is often a certain dress code for the different sports, which is noticeable in tennis, for example. When looking for the right sports bra, these factors also play a role. The presentation of a sports bra test winner is hardly possible in this context, as the question of quality is often closely based on the respective use. That is why we have always checked the various bras taking into account their specific suitability.

In addition to the actual test comparison, the style-conscious sportswomen are also interested in the design of the sportswear. Even if the focus is on functionality, the sports bras should also look good and match the other sports equipment. The high-quality articles round off the outfit.

Form

There are basically two main forms of sports bra to choose from, the bustier and the brassiere. The bustier is a kind of flexible, short top that is pulled over the head and has a wide edge. It is primarily suitable for women with a small or medium bust size (cup sizes A to C, occasionally up to D). The shape of the bra is reminiscent of the conventional bra and is also available in larger bust sizes (up to cup size F). This bra has a closure on the back and often straps adjustments so that they can be brought to the desired length.
The cuts in these basic shapes vary, so that some straps are particularly wide. Especially with larger bust sizes, additional padding makes sense, which, together with the width of the straps, relieves the shoulders and back. The side parts can also be of different widths, thus optimizing the safety and durability of the sports bra.

Type of support

In testing sports bras, we found that there are different types of support. During compression, the breast is pressed against the chest by the bra. This is intended to reduce the movements. The compression bras have thicker straps that often cross over each other in the shoulder area. Often these sports bras are available in the form of bustiers.
With the encapsulation, both breasts receive a single hold by being enclosed separately. The straps of these sports bras are usually a bit thinner. Normally they run side by side, as with a classic bra, without crossing each other.

The combined type of support combines the two aforementioned methods: on the one hand, the breast is pressed against the body, on the other hand, it is enclosed to create an individual support. Typically, these combination bras have relatively narrow straps that cross over the shoulder blades.

Quality

So that the sports bra fits well and does not lead to friction or pressure points at any point, it should be carefully processed. This is about the processing quality of the various materials as well as the optimal sewing of the various elements. At the seams in particular, there is a risk that something will rub. In sport, this would lead to a reduction in performance. Sometimes it’s just the labels that rub against the skin. Many athletes separate these out, but the clever manufacturers do without the labels from the start and print the care instructions directly on the fabric.

Under no circumstances should the underwires of the sports bras press into the skin. That is why we have examined the strength of the fabrics and the nature of the bra underwires. How comfortable the temple models actually sit, i.e. whether the woman can feel the temples clearly or only minimally, can only be found out in a self-test.

Hooks

The texture of the bra closure depends on the width of the back. Typically, the sports bras from our test are closed with one or more hooks like conventional bras. The multiple closures allow the wearer to adjust the underbust width a little narrower or wider. This adjustment option makes the bras a little more flexible.

The bras that have a racer back do not have a fastener at all. Therefore they have to be put on over the head. This is a little more difficult for women with a large bust. Most sports bras without fasteners, including bustiers, are made without underwire, as this would also make it difficult to put on.

Load-Capacity

A sports bra should be hard-wearing and have the necessary support level to offer the athletes the support they want. Basically, the following rule applies here: the greater the stress on the breast and breast tissue, the higher the supporting force should be. The size of the bust should also be taken into account in this context: the more weight the breast, the more stable the sports bra should be. When choosing the right sports bras, it is important to note the different names and levels of the manufacturers, because the brands do not have a uniform classification.

Shape of bra cup

In the sports bra test, we were able to check various shapes that are based on the many different body curves of women. With sports bras with a classic cut, the breasts should fit perfectly into the bra cups without them slipping out on the sides or in the middle or being squeezed too much. The sportswoman has only found the right bra when everything is in place with the movements.

Adjustable straps

Many sports bras from the 2020 test are equipped with adjustable shoulder straps. This is not only interesting for the first adjustment. Over the course of the weeks and months, the material of the bras can gradually wear off, so that the straps have to be shortened accordingly to create the necessary stability. The adjustable straps allow a further improvement in wearing comfort.

Material

In the best case, the sports bras are made from a quick-drying, breathable fiber. Partly a mesh insert in the middle ensures perfect air circulation. Since sweat tends to collect here between the breasts, this ventilation insert is an important quality feature.

In addition to the fabric itself, we also checked the processing of the seams and hem edges. We were able to determine which sports bras are particularly comfortable on the skin without chafing.

What do I have to look out for when buying a sports bra?

Athletes looking for a solid bra with a reliable level of support should first get rid of the thought that it is a normal bra. A sports bra is based on different criteria than other lingerie. Therefore, the sports bras are not necessarily the same size as the other bras. It is important that you find the optimal shape and size and also test it. To do this, the woman measures her underbust to determine the actual bra size.

This is followed by the measurement of the bust size, i.e. the bust size at the widest point. This chest size in relation to the underbust size shows the cup size. In clothing stores and on the Internet you can get the help you need to find the right bra size. In contrast to conventional bras, the sports bra should usually be a bit tighter in order to be able to do its job perfectly. You should definitely consider this in order to be able to successfully complete the search for the right items of laundry.

The considerations about the appropriate shape and features of the sports bra also require some attention. While the normal bras are often decorated with feminine details, the focus of the sports bras is functionality. This also applies in part to bras that are worn in everyday life, for example T-shirt and sweater bras. However, the sports bras are always made of breathable material and are also equipped with other features that perfect their functionality.

The structure of the typical sports bra differs from conventional bras. The straps are wider and often padded, even in the smaller versions. When choosing a sports bra, the main thing is to find a model that ensures perfect support thanks to its wider straps and other intelligent elements.

A particularly wide and strong underbust band withstands the special demands of sports. The sports bras are specially tailored to the movements of the athletes.
So that women can concentrate fully on their sporting activities, the bra should sit comfortably and virtually not be felt. At the same time, he has to stabilize the chest by applying a certain compression force. Some manufacturers offer seamless sports bras that are particularly comfortable to wear. It also makes sense to use a particularly quick-drying material that feels comfortable for women, even if they train intensively and work up a sweat. A mesh insert in the front center of the bra is often the hallmark of improved breathability.

Of course, the sports bra can only be the individual test winner if it is tailored to the size of the breast. Precise coordination is just as important for women with only a small bust size as it is for athletes with slightly larger bust sizes. Even if the breast is small, the movements put stress on the tissues. Therefore, teenage girls and adult women with small breasts should not be without a bra when doing a sport in which the chest is under a certain dynamic load. Riding up and down or jumping rope is a good example of this. If the breast tissue is stressed too much by the constant movement, it suffers in the long run. The muscle groups in the shoulders, back and neck can also be excessively affected by not wearing a sports bra.

For women with a large bust, bras with extra-wide underbust bands and padded straps are particularly suitable. This stabilizes the breast better, and this special structure also ensures an optimized distribution of weight.

Regardless of the size and resilience, the flexible underbust bands and straps should go back to their original length after use. This restoring force says a lot about the quality of the sports bra.

A bra with a push-up function would be just as unsuitable for sport as a delicate lace bra. That is why the sports bras from our test comparison are characterized by functional elements and good support. Women who still want to look good during fitness training have the option of opting for sports bras with breathable pads or bustiers in beautiful colors. The bras that combine functionality with strong color designs are particularly popular. The extra-wide shoulder straps or the reinforced underbust straps look like optical decorations, especially when they stand out in color from the other bra elements.

Leading sports bra brands

Important manufacturers of sportswear include adidas, Nike, Reebok and Asics. As sporting goods brands, these companies focus on functional underwear that meet the same high standards as their other products. There are also various lingerie brands such as Triumph, Falke and BeeDees, which present a comprehensive range of sports bras with special functions. There are also high-quality sports underwear for women from Anita Active, Venice Beach, Under Armor and Bench.

With the diverse range of bras, it is easy for active women to find their very own sports bra test winner. Sometimes you can tell from the design whether the manufacturers are from the sporting goods industry or whether they are underwear experts. In both industries, comfort for women is just as important as the functionality of the articles.

Where is the best place to buy my sports bra?

Some lingerie brands like Anita and Triumph have their own specialty stores where women can try the sports bras on. You can also find these sports underwear in major department stores. If you want to make it easy for yourself, you can browse the internet for sports bras. Here you not only have access to a particularly large selection, but individual ratings are also available to make orientation easier.

In the shop, women receive personal advice and they have the opportunity to test the bra. To do this, you should not only put it on, but also move around in the changing room and, if necessary, ask the competent sales staff for advice. When ordering online, however, you have to trust the exact descriptions of the bras and, if necessary, read the customer reviews. You can often find information on suitability for certain sports in the product details. Otherwise, most online shops provide a service number, an email address or a chat. Through these contacts, the women learn more about the specific features of sports bras as well as the size classifications and support.

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The bra should definitely be ordered in the ideal size and shape. At the same time, the load level has to be right so that the sports bra also fulfills the desired purpose. When it comes to the fit, the photos of the lingerie items are usually sufficient. Information on the adjustability of the straps or the closure is often hardly required, but this information can be found in the product description.

Although it is not possible to touch the fabric and try on the sports bra when ordering online, this type of purchase is clearly preferred. This is due to the fact that you are supported by the filter functions right from the first selection. These already limit the size and / or shape of the bra. Sorting is also done with a click of the mouse, so that you can immediately see which sports bras are particularly inexpensive or particularly well rated.

The bras that are ultimately eligible can be viewed in detail on the screen and compared. In one store, women put the shortlisted sports bras side by side, but the specific characteristics are not listed in a table. In addition, it may be necessary to visit several shops to find your own sports bra test winner, and then it becomes difficult to compare. This is exactly why the comparison and subsequent purchase on the Internet is so convenient.

If the sports bra does not fit properly or if other problems arise, a smooth return is possible after ordering online. Sometimes you don’t even have to pay the return costs. In contrast to buying in stores, Internet customers often have more options when it comes to payment methods.

Useful accessories

Our test of sports bras with soft straps and other well thought-out features shows that these lingerie items sometimes come with accessories. For example, there are specific bras with an integrated heart rate monitor or other function. Such an additional device is particularly useful for sports such as long-distance running, spinning or aerobics. Depending on the condition, the sports bras without this component can be supplemented with a fitness tracker or a heart rate monitor. The small devices can be easily attached to the wide band.

Other sports bras that we have tested come with a special accessory set. This contains clips to fix the carriers or other elements that provide more security. By attaching the small parts or by attaching extensions, for example, the underbust width can be adjusted or the straps can be reinforced.

The change in fit makes the simple sports bra an all-rounder. When combined with a tank top, the clips serve to bring the straps together in the back, creating a uniform look.

Sometimes the sports bras are also offered as part of a complete sports set. These packages typically include a shirt, a sports jacket and tights or other pants. Accessories can also be included in the scope of delivery of the set. The harmonious color matching is preprogrammed with the sports set. For this reason, women are particularly interested in the complete sets who just want to start their individual fitness program and have decided to become a member of the studio.

In the context of sports underwear, there are other accessories that can be used to supplement the sports bras. After all, this underwear is the first layer of sportswear that is supplemented by other items of clothing. Shirts made of microfiber, cotton or a breathable fabric blend, just like bras, adapt to the body without constricting. Sports bras are therefore not the only focus of functional underwear with an integrated support effect. The underpants and tights are also ideally suited to counteract existing venous weakness. However, the athletes never feel restricted when they go about their activities. The combination of elastane and other innovative textiles increases the comfort factor and provides a lot of security at the same time.

When it is cold, it is worth taking a look at the warming sporting goods, whether it is underwear or purely functional clothing. Fibers such as merino wool retain the breathable effect, while women can also rely on improved thermal insulation.

Sports Bra Alternatives

The explanations for the areas of application of the sports bras already indicate that there is no directly comparable alternative. A bustier may only be sufficient for gentle types of training such as gymnastics, fascia training, Pilates and yoga. This is sometimes referred to as a sports bra, depending on how it is made. A tight-fitting sports top can also be worn instead of a sports bra. Here, however, the wearer should check the supportive effect so as not to experience any difficulties during training. Such a top looks very attractive for certain dances or jazz gymnastics, but normally it does not offer the same support as a sports bra.

If necessary, a normal bra can also be worn for light sports. However, it is unsuitable for running or for similar activity-intensive activities. Especially those women who have a large bust should therefore reach for the test winners of the sports bras. No other piece of clothing can offer as good security. Due to the ideal combination of compression and protective cover, the functional sports bra is and remains the ideal piece of underwear to protect the athlete’s chest.

Frequently Asked Questions: Sports Bras

Do i really need a sports bra?

Women who are active in sports should definitely wear a sports bra. This doesn’t just apply to those with a larger bust. A smaller chest also swings or rocks up and down when the athlete runs or trains on the fitness machine. Sport is said to have a positive effect on health, but this is only possible if the body is not stressed too much. However, if a woman exercises without a bra, there is a risk that the elasticity of the breast and breast tissue will be damaged. The sports bra is indispensable for women with a large bust, but young or slim women with small breasts also need such a companion for their sporting activities.

Why are the breasts and their tissues so sensitive to exercise?

The woman’s breasts are on top of the pectoral muscles, but they have no muscle mass themselves. Instead, the breasts are made up entirely of glands, adipose tissue, and connective tissue. The amount of fatty tissue and the nature of the connective tissue determine the size and shape of the breast. A woman can exercise the pecs below, but not the chest itself. Therefore, the chest shifts quickly and is sensitive to movement.

A large chest vibrates more than a small one, and the movement depends on the intensity of the sport. In the case of extreme vibrations, the connective tissue is again very stressed. This should be avoided so that all of the breast tissue does not sag too soon. It is precisely for this purpose that further research is being carried out on biomechanics in order to perfect sports bras and their functionality.

How does the sports bra fit correctly?

Whether it is the sports bra test winner or another variant, it is important that this item of underwear fits correctly. To do this, it must fit tightly to the breast, but not restrict it. When trying it on, the athlete can see immediately whether the fabric is lying flat or whether there is still some air in the cup. With a few hops, the test person determines whether the sports bra stays in place or whether it might slip. Reaching out your arms and doing a few bending exercises also shows how securely the bra fits. The underbust band is just as responsible for the perfect wearing comfort as the straps and the texture of the cups. If the sports bra fits, it can withstand greater stress.

Of course, the test winner of the sports bras only fits correctly if it is selected in the right size. Many brands have size calculators that help customers choose the right model.

How do I find my right bra size?

The bra size relates to the underbust, i.e. the circumference in centimeters. When it comes to cup size, the difference between the underbust and chest size is crucial. With the help of the determined dimensions, you can find the right cup size in the online calculator or in lingerie and sports shops. In the case of intermediate or special sizes, personal advice may help when choosing the right sports bra.

Are there sports bras for pregnant and breastfeeding women?

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers also want to exercise, which is why there are bras specially developed for them. These are initially adapted to the changed size and thus also to the new weight of the breasts. When choosing a size, it helps to use the nursing bra as a guide. Even if it is only a light sporting activity, as recommended for pregnant women and new mothers, the support level of the bra should be a little higher.

What is the difference between a normal bra and a sports bra?

A normal bra does not offer the same support as a sports bra, and it is cut differently. Due to the functional structure, the sports bras from our test fit tightly to the curves and support the chest. In contrast, the normal bras are often decorated with decorations that would be rather annoying during sports. For this reason, functional equipment is clearly in the foreground with sporty bustiers and bras. There are some underwire sports bras, but these are primarily designed for large busts. Most of the sports bras are therefore models without underwire. This will reduce the risk of unnecessary pain that can be caused by pressure on the temple.

The choice of materials is also striking, as it meets the requirements for breathability, quick drying and similar criteria for sports bras. There are also differences in processing, but some everyday bras are also characterized by flat seams or a slightly firmer quality.

The main difference is to be found in the optimized support function of the sports bras. In combination with wider straps, which sometimes even have padding, this ensures optimal comfort.

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