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Lucy Taylor  •  Running Gear •  14.03.2022 •  8 min read

How to choose the best running bra

Regardless of breast size, for female runners, a supportive and well-fitted running bra is an equally important piece of kit as the right type of running shoes.

Running requires movement, and any unsupported movement causes the breasts to move: side to side, up and down, and even in a figure of eight pattern. There is not much keeping them stable and immobile (they pretty much go wherever they please!). This movement can affect confidence as well as causing breast pain and discomfort. There is even research that suggests that an ill-fitting bra or unsupported breasts can affect your running economy and gait.

Research conducted by Brooks Running and led by the University of Portsmouth found that excessive breast movement when running shortens a woman’s stride by 4cm, which could add up to running an extra mile or 1.5 kilometres over the length of a marathon. A running bra that minimises this movement not only enhances comfort, but provides the support you need to perform at your best.

This article aims to provide relevant guidance to help you choose a running bra suited to your body shape and running activity.

Women running under bridge in brooks bra

Finding the right style

The extent of breast motion will vary depending on running intensity, but as running is a high-impact sport, a high support bra is strongly recommended. There are three main types of high support bra on the market: encapsulation bras, compression bras, or a combination of the two.

Encapsulation bras

A bra with built-in separate cups to give you a locked-in feel. Encapsulation bras separate and support each breast individually and provide a more natural breast shape. The benefits of this style of bra is that with minimal breast to breast contact you are less likely to experience chafing or irritation.

The Brooks Dare Crossback Bra offers high-impact encapsulation style support for running.

Compression bras

These bras reduce bounce without sacrificing any flexibility. They won't give you any of the shaping benefits of an encapsulation bra or a bra with padded inserts but they will be very effective. Compression bras are designed to ‘compress’ the breast against the chest holding them in place to limit movement and do not have individual cups to separate the breasts. Some women can experience chafing with the breasts touching each other in a compression bra and therefore might benefit more from an encapsulation or combination bra.

The Brooks Drive Convertible Run Bra offers high-impact compression style support for running.

Combination bras

These bras combine compression with separate cups to produce an incredibly high level of support. Women with larger breasts may benefit from this combination. Much like the encapsulation bra the built-in cups can add a bit of shaping. Combining both types of support in the one sports bra optimises breast movement reduction in all directions, this gives you the best of both worlds both in terms of support and comfort.

Combination bras in the Run4It range include the Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra (available in padded or non-padded) and the Nike Alpha Ultrabreathe Bra.

woman standing with crossback bra.

Common bra issues

Experiencing pinching or chafing? Wrestling to get your bra on and off? Here are a few tips that may help.

Do your bra closures usually dig into your back?

Try a pull over bra - check out the Dare Crossback Bra from Brooks. There is no conventional hook and eye clasp on this bra and the material sits flush against your back.

Back of brooks bra

The Nike Alpha Ultrabreathe Bra has padded clasps so if a pullover bra is not for you, trust the padded feel of the Nike offering.

back of Nike bra

Do you struggle to pull a bra over your head?

Try the more classic hook and eye closures seen on the Drive Convertible Run Bra from Brooks.

The back of a model who is wearing the women's Brooks Drive Convertable Run Bra

Straps digging in?

You might need to loosen them off a little. If this causes the bra to feel too loose then try a smaller size. All of our bras boast wide straps to minimise them digging in and causing discomfort.

Straps fall down or can't adjust them easily?

Try the Drive Convertible Run Bra from Brooks. It allows you to fasten the straps together to avoid them falling down.

The back of a model who is wearing the women's Brooks Drive Convertable Run Bra

Do you like built-in cups?

Cups can add shape and can feel more comfortable. Try the Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra Padded.

front of run bra

Any chafing or rubbing?

Consider trying a different size, chances are the bra is not fitting you correctly.

Finding the right fit

 1. Check the band

This should sit nice and flush with your skin. If this is digging in it may end up pinching your skin so we would recommend you go up a size. If this is gaping and/or does not provide all round cover then go down a size.

To check this, run two fingers under the strap and pull this away from you. If this is difficult or hard to do then your bra may be too tight. You want to be able to pull the band around 2 inches away from your chest. This should indicate the band is snug but not too tight.

2. Check your strap length

If this is set to too loose this may end up slipping off your shoulders. But if this is too tight, it will more likely dig in causing discomfort.  Both will compromise the fit of the bra at the back.

Like with the band, run two fingers along the strap to check that it is just right.

3. Check your cups

You don't want to see any spillage here. If there is any breast tissue bulging out the sides or over the top then this is too small. If there are any gaps then try a smaller size.

Please refer to the size guides on the product pages on our website, for size and fitting guidance per brand.

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