Sports bra: 5 models tested

Last updated October 2017

Regardless of the size of your chest, it’s normal to use a sports bra during exercise. Today there are almost more variants of these than of normal bras, with everything from push up to entirely without padding. They may be made from dri-fit fabric or completely in cotton. Every woman should be able to find a model that suits her.

But why should you use a sports bra? When we exercise, regardless of whether or not the exercise is intensive, our breasts move. Obviously they move most without any support, but even with a normal bra they move quite a lot. A normal bra is designed for you to wear while walking or sitting still, while a sports bra is designed to give good support during more active movements, such as during an exercise session. When the breasts move, they stretch the ligaments that support them and keep them up. There’s no natural way of remedying this when the ligament has been stretched. So it's important to avoid this in order to maintain the breasts in good shape. Sports bras also keep the breasts in place, which helps many women to feel more comfortable during exercise sessions so that they can focus on their performance.

Which sports bra is best?

When you're choosing a sports bra, there are several things you should consider. It's important that it’s suitable for the type of exercise you’ll be doing. For example, there’s a big difference between how much your breasts move during activities such as jogging or riding compared with less intensive activities such as yoga. If you're going to use a sports bra in the gym it’s nice if it doesn’t have hard seams. Breast size also has an effect on the model that’s most suitable. For larger bust sizes, it's best to choose a sports bra with a lot of support. There are both underwired and padded bras, and some people also feel that it's nice to have a variant without a racerback. Just remember that on a sports bra without a racerback, the straps can get in the way and be irritating during some types of exercise.

You also need to think about what other equipment you’ll be using during the exercise session. For example if you’re going to fit a pulse band for your running watch around your chest. Perhaps the sports bra also needs to fit under special exercise clothes, which means the design has to be just right. There are also different types of fastenings, both at the front and with a clasp at the back. Many models have no fastenings at all, but are simply put on over the head.

Products tested

Best in test How the test was made

We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. In our tests of sports bras, all models have been tested during both low and high intensity training sessions. In a gym environment they have been tested with free weights, kettle bells and with exercise machines. The bras have also been used during medium intensity running and running intervals and during bodyweight exercises, burpees and yoga. We have taken the following parameters into account in our assessment:

Fit: How well does the bra fit? Does it adapt to your body shape? How comfortable is it, and does it have any seams or tags that chafe? Does it ride up when you stretch, or stay in place?

Support: How does the sports bra behave during exercise and how much support does it give? Does it keep your breasts in place without feeling stiff?

Quality: What is the sports bra like after it has been washed? Is the fit still good, is the material unchanged?

The overall impression of the sports bra in all of these different activities formed the basis for our assessment. This was then compared to the price to determine value for money and allocate a score.

Casall Iconic Sports Bra

Really stays in place and is suitable for all types of activity

Exercise type: Low to high intensity Available colours: 8 Maximum wash temperature: 40 degrees Material: 45% polyamide, 41% polyester, 14% elastane 270g/m2 Sizes: A/B cup XS-XL, C/D cup XS-XL
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The Casall Iconic Sports Bra really stays in place. The bra practically becomes part of your skin, an extra layer that you can hardly feel. When you put it on it can feel a little tight, but after a while you completely forget it’s there. It’s really comfortable during an exercise session and the racerback design means it's not in the way when lifting. The soft edges mean the bra doesn’t chafe. Because it’s very tight it gives excellent support and keeps your breasts in place. So it’s even suitable for more intense sessions. Even if you're running or doing burpees, your breasts will stay still. The Iconic Sports Bra isn’t padded and doesn’t have cups. But the fabric is taut, which provides support. 

After washing, this sports bra is still like new. You can’t tell it’s been worn and washed either in terms of the colour or quality. The Iconic Sports Bra comes in a wide range of colour variations. It’s available both in neutral black and white and in several strong colours, together with patterned versions. This means that there's a style for everyone. The fabric breathes well when you’re wearing it and doesn’t feel restrictive. The fact that Casall has made a sports bra suitable for all different types of activities makes it an extremely good value for money option.

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    Stays in place, soft edges, high quality, lots of colours
  • Slightly tight
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5 of 5

Best price at:

Shock Absorber Active Shaped Support Bra

Absolutely fantastic fit and great quality

Exercise type: Low to high intensity Available colours: 1 Maximum wash temperature: 40 degrees Material: 53% polyester, 38% polyamide, 9% elastane Sizes: 70A-85E

Soft yet substantial at the same time – it’s not often that a sports bra succeeds with this combination, but for Shock Absorber it seems to be no problem. The sizes are the same as for a normal bra, which means that both cup and band size can be adapted. The band around the chest has hooks at four different points, and the shoulder strap is also adjustable to obtain a better fit. The band size is quite small, which you should bear in mind when choosing your size. What makes the fit truly great is the fabric in the cups. The material is a dri-fit fabric that manages to be both stable enough to give good support yet also sufficiently soft to shape itself to the chest. The triangle-shaped external fabric at the top of the bra means that the breasts are held in place without the fabric having to be too stiff. This is quite simply a really great fit.

The stability of the Shock Absorber Active Shaped Support Bra makes it perfect for running or other bouncy activities. However, the lack of a racerback design means that it's not as good for the gym, as the bra can feel like it’s in the way during some lifts. Because it still stays in place, this downside doesn’t reduce the score by much. The fabric is soft and breathes well. The quality is very good, and after washing the bra still looks like new. The Shock Absorber Active Shaped Support Bra is a very comfortable and good value for money sports bra which completely justifies its high price.

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    Fantastic fit, soft, breathes, good quality
  • Shoulder straps can be in the way
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4.5 of 5

Best price at:

Nike Pro Indy Bra

Extremely attractive with good support and adjustable shoulder straps

Exercise type: Low to medium intensity Available colours: 3 Maximum wash temperature: 30 degrees Material: Body: 87% nylon, 13% elastane, Lower edge: 81% nylon, 19% elastane, Cup lining: 87% nylon, 13% elastane, Side lining: 87% nylon, 13% elastane, Internal lining: 80% polyester, 20% elastane, Padding: 100% polyester Sizes: XS-XL

This sports bra from Nike is perfect for the gym. The Pro Indy Bra is neat with a narrow band and soft fabric. The bra doesn’t get in the way or chafe when you’re lifting. This model has a racerback and an attractively feminine cut at the front. The fact that it’s a little bit smaller and with a deeper neckline also means that it’s suitable for wearing under more types of exercise tops. The cups contain inserts for extra support which can be removed if desired. Despite its neat design, the Pro Indy Bra gives amazingly good support for the breasts and is even suitable during more high-intensity exercise sessions.

The shoulder straps are adjustable, which is nice as even bodies with the same chest measurement can be slightly different. A less positive feature is that Nike has inserted a set of long tags on the inside of the left arm hole. The tags are attached with two stitches and the idea is probably to remove these because they chafe and are in the way. However,we think that if something should be removed, you shouldn’t have to unpick it – you should simply have to get out your scissors. This sports bra can be washed in a machine, but only at 30 degrees. The quality is good and you can’t tell it’s been washed. Overall, the Nike Pro Indy Bra is a good value for money bra that’s attractive and comfortable and suitable for a number of activities.

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    Attractive, good support, soft fabric, adjustable shoulder straps, good quality
  • Uncomfortable tags, only washable at 30 degrees
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4.5 of 5

Best price at:

Adidas CM MTTD Chill

Gives maximum support and has adjustable shoulder straps

Exercise type: Low to high intensity Available colours: 3 Maximum wash temperature: 40 degrees Material: Main material: 71% polyamide, 29% elastane, Mesh insert: 75% polyamide, 25% elastane Sizes: 65A-85E

This sports bra from Adidas delivers maximum support. For larger breasts, the CMMTTD Chill bra gives support because it has proper cups and very stiff fabric. The band is broad both back and front and therefore provides support and keeps your breasts in place. However, for smaller breasts, these extra constructions are largely unnecessary. And if the cups aren’t completely filled, it’s uncomfortable because the stiffness means that the bra doesn’t mould itself to the body at all. If you bend or do crunches and you aren’t exactly the right size, the bra folds and feels bulky. So the fit has to be absolutely perfect before the bra feels right. The CMMTD Chill has adjustable shoulder straps and a clasp at the back, which obviously increases the chances of getting it to fit correctly.  If you've got the right size, the bra is suitable for high-intensity exercise as it effectively prevents the bust from bouncing around.

The fabric in this sports bra breathes well and is comfortable to wear if you’re sweaty. Unfortunately the quality of the seams is not very good. Several of the seams and even the clasp chafe uncomfortably. The low quality of the seams and the difficult fit unfortunately reduce the score of this sports bra, and the Adidas CMMTTD Chill doesn’t live up to expectations.

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    Adjustable band for shoulders and chest, lots of support, breathes
  • Hard to get the right fit, stiff, expensive
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2.5 of 5

Calvin Klein Modern Cotton

Iconic and attractive with soft, good quality fabric

Exercise type: Low intensity Available colours: 4 Maximum wash temperature: Hand wash Material: 53% cotton, 35% modal, 12% elastane Sizes: S-L

The iconic appearance of Calvin Klein’s underwear can also be found in this Modern Cotton sports bra. It’s available in neutral colours with a wide elasticated band at the bottom printed with the brand name. Unfortunately, this bra really only wins in terms of appearance. Once on, it doesn’t provide any support to speak of. A normal jogging session turns into a bumpy ride and when doing box jumps it’s not merely our testers’ legs that get a workout. During burpees it easily slips around, and because the elasticated band is hard and the rest of the bra is soft, it doesn’t automatically slip back into the right position.

Calvin Klein have also placed a plastic tag that chafes right up at the back of the neck. You can easily remove the tag, and the rest of the sports bra has very soft fabric that feels nice on the skin. So it’s a good choice for calmer gym sessions involving heavy lifting. The fact that it contains a large percentage of cotton is obvious, and means that it doesn’t really feel like it’s intended to get sweaty. Unfortunately, this bra is hand wash only, which is obviously a pain over time. And given the price we think that the quality should be up to machine washing. The Calvin Klein Modern Cotton sports bra is comfortable during low intensity training, but the limited areas of use and hand wash restriction unfortunately reduce the overall score.

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    Soft fabric, iconic and attractive
  • Low level of support, not suitable for many activities, hand wash
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2 of 5