A good sports bra is crucial during a workout, but we (shockingly) didn’t have the bra we know today until 1977. Lisa Lindahl, a graduate student at the time, began jogging during the fitness craze that swept the nation during the 1970s but found exercise painful without support. She teamed up with theater costume designer Polly Palmer Smith and Smith’s colleague Hinda Miller to solve this problem by taking a page from the men’s exercise book: The trio deconstructed two jockstraps and repurposed them as a “JogBra.” Breasts were pulled close to the body, and the sports bra was born.
Fast forward nearly 50 years and the sports bra industry is huge, with both low-impact and high-impact bra options for all kinds of exercise.
Do you need a low-impact sports bra?
Different types of exercise require different types of bras. “A low-impact workout requires very little stress on the joints,” says Vanessa Chu, Cofounder of Stretch*d. “In other words, it’s a workout where you are not jumping around. These workouts are particularly good for anyone who deals with joint pain or injuries to the wrists, ankles, shoulders, or knees.”
Low to medium-impact sports bras work best with walking, yoga, Pilates, and strength training. They typically feature a cup-less design that still holds the breasts close to the chest but not quite as tightly as a high-impact bra. High-impact sports bras are used for activities like running, aerobics, and mountain biking. They typically feature a cup to compress and encapsulate each breast and prevent painful side-to-side swinging.
How to choose the best low-impact sports bra
Like a good pair of walking shoes, a reliable bra meets at the node between comfort, style, and the right support. “I think comfort is key, as well as coverage,” says Chu. Even when you know your size, finding the brand or bra that works for your body can be tricky. Here are some tips to get the right fit.
✔️ Test with movement: “Try them on and do some exercises,” says Sareena Rama, a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor. “It might feel weird to get into a down-dog in the fitting rooms, but sports bras are an investment!” Fortunately, many brands offer free returns so you can test at home.
✔️ Adjust the straps: Some bras come with adjustable straps so you can specialize the fit to your body. If you move your arms around and find the straps rise, it may be a sign they’re too long. If they leave a mark on your skin after an exercise, they’re definitely too tight.
✔️ Consider the material: Sports bras come in many different materials, and you should choose based on your compression and perspiration needs. “Cotton bras may work for you if you feel that your breasts don’t produce too much sweat. However, if you’re a boob-sweaty gal, something moisture-wicking is going to be a much better feeling,” explains Rama.
✔️ Try the two-finger test: Sports bras should fit more snugly than a regular bra, but you should still be able to breathe! “It’s important to not be distracted during a workout so that you can focus on your form,” says Chu. If you can fit more than two fingers between your body and the bottom band, it’s probably too loose.
Ahead, find the best low-impact sports bras for a wide range of cup sizes and body types to accommodate all of your workout needs.
Best Overall Bra
Lemedy Sports Bra Tanktop
This is a bra beloved by Amazon shoppers and TikTok influencers alike, since it resembles something from a fitness boutique but costs half the price. The removable pads give you some choice on support and impact level, and reviewers find the fit works great with many different cup sizes.
Fruit of The Loom Strappy Sports Bra
This classic Fruit of the Loom pullover bra comes as a set of three, with your choice of racerback or over-the-shoulder straps. While it does not offer the same moisture-wicking technology as some of our other picks, the cotton is super comfortable and breathable for less rigorous workouts—at a great price, too!
Prana Momento Crop Top
Trainer Sareena Rama’s absolute favorite low-impact sports bra for relaxation yoga is the Momento Crop Top from Prana. “I have it in three colors!” she says of this reversible, ultralight crop top bra. The recycled nylon blend material is lightweight and stretchy, and Fair Trade Certified. You can flaunt it as a shirt or a bra.
Best High-Coverage Bra
Alo Yoga Airbrush Real Bra Tank
Stretch*d cofounder Vanessa Chu is also a fan of the bra/shirt hybrid style. “The Alo Airbrush Bra Tank Great for low impact workouts. It offers light support and doubles as a cute tank top,” she says. The Airbrush fabric is smooth and soft to provide maximum comfort while exercising (or relaxing!). This bra, which comes in an array of vibrant colors, also has a built-in shelf and soft cups.
Best Anti-Chafing Bra
GapFit Breathe Strappy Sports Bra
Durable and simple, the GapFit Breathe comes in fabric that’s both comfortable and moisture-wicking, which will help keep you cool and dry when your workout begins to pick up. Its double straps offer good support, but the scoop neckline keeps the bra hidden under most shirts.
Best Eco-Friendly Bra
Girlfriend Collective Paloma Sports Bra
The moisture-wicking fabric in this bra is made from recycled polyester and is great for endurance walks or a sweaty workout class. One busty reviewer called this the holy grail of sports bras, writing, “I didn’t have high expectations, but the snug (supportive) fit and the wide band helped my boons not only stay in place, but they also looked great!” It comes in a variety of colors and sizes, too.
Best Zip-Up Bra
Athleta Empower Daily Bra
Designers created the Empower bra in response to customer feedback: Women need a reliable and fashionable post-mastectomy sports bra. This soft, versatile bra has a front zip for easy on-off maneuvering around scar tissue and expandable pockets to fit prosthetics.
Best Size Inclusive Bra
Athleta Exhale Printed Bra
It can be difficult to find good DD coverage under $60, which is why we love the Athleta Exhale bra. Its back straps provide cross-pull to hold large busts in place without being suffocating. Athleta notes that this bra is best for studio work, so you’ll still feel secure and comfortable doing yoga, Pilates, or barre.
Best for small chests
Eleven Parallel Sports Bra
Venus Williams, former World No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, created the EleVen brand to help women perform their best in high-quality activewear. The seamless lines on this bra prevent chafing, while the blended nylon material allows for quick drying and great breathability. “It’s great for low impact and a smaller bust,” writes Venus. “This has been one of my most comfortable bras to date.”
Best for Yoga
Lululemon Free to Be Bra
Another one of Chu’s favorite’s, the Lululemon Free To Be Bra features sweat-wicking fabric and low friction support. It’s definitely on the smaller side, supporting A and B cups, and is designed explicitly for light support during yoga (though it works well for walkers too). “It also has fun straps in the back, which pair well with a loose tank,” says Chu.
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