Finding a truly reliable sports bra is no mean feat, but supportive underwear is vital to a winning performance — so much so that Team GB’s female athletes have been wearing specially fitted and designed bras at the Tokyo Olympics.
And it’s worth investing in a good one — even if you’re not going for gold this summer. Breasts can move up to 14cm when you’re working out, and that repeated action can cause irreversible damage to the ligaments that hold everything in place.
Luckily, even those with a bigger cleavage are well catered for these days. Bravissimo — the go-to brand for bigger-busted women — has seen a surge in demand for sports bras since lockdowns eased (sales are up by 38 per cent on last year), and is championing new models designed for fuller cup sizes, up to L.
Three UK-based writers give verdict on a selection of the latest sports bras, as Team GB’s female athletes compete in the Tokyo Olympics in specially designed bras
‘A great sports bra is a feat of engineering,’ says Bravissimo product director, Clare Turner. ‘What big boobs need in order to be supported and comfortable is really different from that of smaller boobs — it’s about more than a bra simply being a bigger size.’
Here, three writers put the latest support bras to the bounce test...
Louise Atkinson, 47, (pictured) admits to finding it tough to find sports bras to support her 34H chest
LOUISE ATKINSON, 57, lives in the Cotswolds and plays tennis up to four times a week. She says:
It’s tough to find sports bras supportive enough to cope with the considerable wobble from my 34H chest. In the past I’ve doubled up with a crop top over a bra to make sure everything is pinned down.
For tennis, I need maximum support, plus a ‘racer back’ — where the straps are joined between the shoulder blades — to allow full freedom of shoulder movement.
LIGHTWEIGHT AND ALMOST PERFECT
Freya Active Dynamic soft cup crop top sports bra (C-J cup), £34, freyalingerie.com
Louise said Freya Active Dynamic soft cup crop top sports bra (pictured) fit perfect and had zero bounce
This has a perfect fit, zero bounce and, incredibly, makes me look as if I’ve had breast reduction surgery. I love the fact it’s lightweight, with no wires or padding. The straps are thick for added comfort.
I’d love to say I couldn’t feel I was wearing it, but I’d be lying, because clipping the straps together at the back causes the sides to cut into my armpits. A small price to pay, though, for the complete movement-limiting bandage effect (no pain, no gain). 4/5
FUNKY BUT TOO FLEXIBLE
Pour Moi Energy Empower underwired convertible sports bra (B-G cup), £28, pourmoi.co.uk
Louise said Pour Moi Energy Empower underwired convertible sports bra (pictured) is more suitable for yoga than high impact sports such as tennis
This bra is so comfortable, it feels like a sleep bra — which sets alarm bells ringing. I had to shuffle off-court and change into something more structured before I could contemplate leaping up for a smash, or I felt I might bounce right out of it. The elastic straps are too stretchy, and there are only three hooks at the back (most bras in larger cup sizes have four) making it more suitable for yoga than anything as high-impact as tennis.2/5
ELEVATE YOUR EMBONPOINT
Bravissimo Apollo sports bra (E-L cup), £40, bravissimo.com
Louise said Bravissimo Apollo sports bra (pictured) made her boobs look perky for the first time in years
This lifts and separates like an underwired bra, except it has much thicker, padded straps.
I’m very excited by the shape this creates — it gives remarkable elevation, which is a novelty considering most sports bras flatten your breasts into a mono-sausage.
I like that it isn’t padded (I don’t need any more bulk than I’ve already got), and is made from recycled fabrics. My boobs look perky for the first time in years, but a glance in the mirror reveals rolls of back fat where the bra is cut low on the sides. 4/5
Rachael Woolston, 49, (pictured) who has been running for the past 15 years, said as a 32D, she's constantly in pursuit of the perfect sports bra
RACHAEL WOOLSTON, 49, founded the online women’s running platform Girls Run The World (girlsruntheworld.co.uk). She says:
Over the past 15 years, my love of running has seen me go from run-commuting in London to doing marathons all over the world. As a 32D, I am always in pursuit of the perfect sports bra.
ALL PADDING, NO PERFORMANCE
USA Pro High Impact Sports Bra (A-E cup), £39.99, usapro.co.uk
Rachael said USA Pro High Impact Sports Bra (pictured) felt comfortable and supportive
Forget ‘modesty’ padding to prevent nipple protrusion, this bra is so thick I felt self-conscious. The average UK breast size is 36DD, so making breasts look bigger is not what most women want from a running bra.
Nevertheless, this felt comfortable and supportive, with no chafing or strap marks. Sadly, the padding soaked up the sweat, and I finished feeling as though I had two damp sponges down my top. 3/5
STYLISH AND WELL STRUCTURED
Sweaty Betty Ultra Run Sports Bra, pictured on Rachael, left, (A-F cup), £50, sweatybetty.com
Hurrah for no padding! This design illustrates an understanding that women want support, not to look bigger.
It incorporates compression technology, which hugs your breasts, and supports each to help minimise movement and potential damage to the Cooper’s ligament (which helps maintain the breasts’ structure).
With padded straps for extra comfort, I finished my run free of deep marks on my shoulders. But it only goes up to an F-cup. 4/5
GOOD FOR JOGGING WITHOUT A JIGGLE
Adidas Ultimate Bra (A-F cup), £45, adidas.co.uk
Rachael said Adidas Ultimate Bra (pictured) is good for day-to-day running, but something more supportive would be needed for longer trails
No matter how I adjusted the straps on this bra, I was left with gaping at the cleavage. It was a shame because its crossover-style straps look good. However, I felt comfortable and supported on my nine-mile trail run, which involves more breast movement due to the extra jiggle running up and down hills, and the straps didn’t leave any marks.
This one incorporates padding, but it is minimal and did a good job of sweat-wicking. It also has a breathable mesh back. Good for day-to-day running, but I’d prefer something more supportive for longer trails.3/5
Clover Stroud, 46, (pictured) who lives near Oxford, has struggled to find a size 36D sports bra suitable for HIIT
CLOVER STROUD, 46, lives near Oxford. A mother of five, she tries to do a HIIT class at least once a week. She says:
I’ve been doing regular HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to help shed my corona stone. But as a 36D, I find most sports bras are either too tight or nowhere near supportive enough.
SUPER SIMPLE AND DOESN’T RUB
M&S High Impact Non-Wired Sports Bra (A-E cup), £20, marksandspencer.com
Clover said M&S High Impact Non-Wired Sports Bra (pictured) gave plenty of support but was tricky to do up
The eye-popping raspberry pink colour definitely raised my spirits. It’s crucial for me that a sports bra has no wire and as few zips as possible — I hate anything that has even the potential to rub — so I liked the simplicity of this bra.
It gave me plenty of support, even while doing star jumps and squats. My only slight quibble with it is that the triple-hook fastening is tricky to do up. 4/5
EASY ZIP-UP STYLE LACKS PIZZAZZ
Tu Active Zip Front Sports Bra (B-E cup), £14, sainsburys.co.uk
Clover said Tu Active Zip Front Sports Bra (pictured) left her feeling slightly vulnerable because of its lack of support
After wrestling with getting into my M&S sports bra, I loved the fact that this one had a neat zip at the front. The size came up small, so I’d recommend going larger.
When it came to performance during a strenuous workout, however, I was a little disappointed. With breathable cups and padded straps, this bra should have had a lot going for it, but I simply didn’t feel supported.
Even doing something as basic as a lunge made me feel slightly vulnerable — the bigger moves that really made me sweat just left me jiggling. 3/5
SO COMFY YOU’LL WANT TO KEEP IT ON
Spanx Active High Impact Sports Bra (C-G cup in black), £58, selfridges.com
Clover said Spanx Active High Impact Sports Bra (pictured) provided support and comfort
I wasn’t aware of how much pricier this bra was than the other two, but as soon as I had it on, I knew it was the one.
It gave me the strapped-in support and comfort I needed, I felt like physically I could push myself more.
I definitely worked out hardest in this. The straps sat in the right place and didn’t rub, even when I was really sweating, and the meshing material on the back meant it felt cool and comfortable — so much so that I didn’t want to take it off. 5/5