When it comes to workout or running gear, a supportive, well-fitting sports bra is just as important as a good pair of sneakers. Not having the right fit and design can place greater demands on your spine, leading to discomfort and back pain later on. “The better sports bras are the ones that help to minimize breast motion, decrease force generation and support the thoracic spine during activity,” explains Dr. Daphne Scott, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery. In short: Heavy duty sports bras win the race here.
Sports bra for heavy breast
As someone whose workout routine isn’t dependent on the best new shoes or fancy tracking watch—instead, it’s the amount of hold I’m getting from my bra—I felt I needed to try out hyped-up high impact bras for myself. So, I tested 13 so-called high impact sports bras from brands like Nike, Athleta, Reebok and Lululemon to find out which options are truly the best sports bras for large breasts, and only five made the cut. Whether running, HIIT or boxing is your thing, these bras will hold you in without holding you back.
Athleta Advance Bra
I have an old Athleta bra from 6 years ago that I am still loyal to (and in high impact sports bra years, that’s very old). So I was extra excited to try this newer favorite style from Athleta, and it didn’t disappoint. This bra is so comfortable I’ve been wearing it weekly.The smooth fabric glides along skin, and the bra holds you in without any underwire. It’s also very true to size, unlike a handful of bras I tried, which makes online ordering a cinch. It’s also sweat-wicking and quick-drying to keep you comfortable and help prevent chafing. All in all, a solid pick for your sports bra drawer.
Lululemon Enlite Weave-Back Bra
Often, at the beginning of a run while I’m trying to find my groove, I wonder if my sports bra is constricting my lungs. It’s partially a mental excuse to slow down or stop my run, but it’s also based on the fact that I am usually strapped in so tightly that a large inhale is a little tricky. Not so with the Enlite Bra Weave.
The soft, silky fabric, which Lululemon calls Ultralu, wicks sweat and has just the right amount of stretch. The thick, seamless straps lie flat and stay put, making chafing impossible. And somehow, the whole thing is supportive without any constriction. This is the priciest bra I tried, but it’s so great I’d say it’s worth the investment. This is my go-to race bra—but it’s just as good for HIIT workouts and boxing too.
Champion Women’s Spot Comfort Full-Support Sports Bra
This is the most supportive sports bra I’ve tried under the $40 mark. It’s pretty low frills, with molded cups and a bit of additional compression. I found it supportive enough, but did notice that the hook-and-eye closure was warping a bit after a few wears, and the thin shoulder straps started to chafe on my long run day. Still, given the price, it’s hard to not think this one deserves a place in your workout wear rotation.
Reebok PureMove+ Bra
I’m not the only one who loves this sports bra: Time magazine called an earlier iteration one of the top inventions of the year. The bra boasts some very techie details, like a proprietary fabric treatment called Motion Sense technology meant to offer a tighter, less flexible fit only when the runner is in motion.I’m no garment scientist, but I will say, this was the most comfortable sports bra I tried. Thanks to its hook-and-eye closure it goes on easily (no dancing or tugging to get it into place), and for a moment, I felt like a lady who doesn’t need to work up a sweat strapping in her chest before the workout. It was blissful. Then, I took it for a run—and promptly forgot I was wearing it. It’s so smooth against the skin and supportive without being constrictive, thanks to the wide, seamless straps. As a bonus, the straps are convertible so you can wear them straight or criss-crossed.
Nike Dri-Fit Alpha
The higher neck on this bra was comfortable and provided a bit more sun coverage, and the overall support was high without any constrictive underwire. It also has perforations in the front to allow airflow. My one complaint is that it ran a bit small in band size, which meant a bit of pulling and tugging on my back. So if you’re between sizes, size up.
That said, I loved that this bra has four rows of hooks instead of the usual three. I always start on the loosest hook, and then slowly start to cinch in towards the tightest as the bra inevitably stretches over time; one more row means a little more use. While this one goes to a G cup, the similarly designed Nike Rival starts at a 32F and goes through a 44G.
(Editor’s note: The original Nike Alpha Sports that was tested for this story has since been discontinued and the Nike Dri-Fit Alpha, featured, is a similar but newer style. The Dri-Fit Alpha is made with recycled polyester and offers a wider size range than its predecessor. It also has a fourth row of hooks on the back of the band, a feature that our tester loved from the original style.)
Knix Catalyst Bra
When underwear startup Knix set about developing their sports bra, called the Catalyst, the retailer apparently tested it against 800 other bras. The bra boasts a well-ventilated, smooth fabric that somehow keeps you supported while also wicking sweat away; I noticed after even the hottest of summer runs, I was less sweaty than usual in the Catalyst.
One other bonus: It’s easy to get on and off. This might seem like a small bonus, but to anyone who has ever wrestled with the hooks on a tight sports bra post-workout, this is a big perk.
Finding the best sports bra for big busts can be a hard task and if you’re working with a DD+ chest then you’ll know the struggle we’re talking about. Not only do you need a high support sports bra for large breasts with comfortable straps, you also probably don’t want to break the bank or compromise on style in doing so.
And while we probably don’t need to tell you that a supportive sports bra is one of the most vital pieces of kit you can buy, it’s good to remember exactly why it’s so important: According to a University of Portsmouth study, breasts left unsupported can move up to 14 cm during strenuous exercise. Repeat this enough times and you could cause irreversible damage to Cooper’s ligaments that help to hold your boobs in place.
With plus-size lingerie retailer Curvy Kate estimating that over 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra, along with the fact the average bra size in the UK is a 36DD, there’s never been such a necessary time to make sure women are wearing the correctly sized sports bras and protecting their breasts.
So, whether it’s a highly supportive sports bra for running, HIIT or low-impact workouts like Yoga and Pilates, you’re bound to find your perfect fit here in our edit of the best DD+ sports bras – high-impact, supportive, inclusively sized and stylish to boot. Best of all, Black Friday has landed and there are some fantastic deals to be had.