Need to Know
  1. A balance of light fabric and supportive design is key
  2. Shock Absorber, Moving Comfort, and lululemon make top picks

Finding a sports bra as a larger-chested runner is a marathon all its own. For me, it’s been a years-long endeavor, and I’ll admit, I have yet to find my ideal bra. In theory, I want something that minimizes bounce, never chafes, feels comfortable even on the longest of long runs, dries quickly when I hop out of the water during a triathlon, and — let’s face it — looks decent under my workout tank.

While I wait for the perfect sports bra of my dreams to come along, I’ve tested plenty. I’ve found a few that are worth the investment — and several more that are on my must-try list when my current rotation wears out.

The contenders:

Shopping tips:

Other than the overall fit, there are a few other things to consider when shopping for a sports bra that meets your needs:

  • Racerback, straight-strap, both — or other? Personally, most of my workout tanks are racerback, so I gravitate toward racerback sports bras. If you more often wear straight-strapped tanks or short-sleeve tees, you may be fine with either racerback or straight-strapped styles. Some bras (like the Lululemon and Panache styles) can convert from one style to the other by crossing the straps or using a special hook. And more recently, there’s been a boom in sports bras with cute, strappy backs that are meant to be shown off — though options for those at larger cup sizes are still somewhat limited.
  • Underwire or no? Some swear by the support of an underwire (appropriately cushioned by layers of performance fabric, of course!) in sports bras. Others prefer that the structure come from molded cups or thick fabric bands, no metal necessary. Some companies will make similar styles in wired and wire-free versions — for example, Panache has a no-wire version and an underwire version of one of its sports bras.
  • What’s the padding and seaming situation? Talking about padding in this context makes me chuckle — it’s kind of the last thing I need! — but it can serve a purpose when it comes to minimizing chafing and making a workout look more modest. Ditto on seaming: Paying attention to how seams are made and where they’re placed can make all the difference in long-term comfort.
  • How easy are the bras to adjust? Moving Comfort’s bras are especially well-known for having shoulder straps that can be tightened with velcro over almost their whole length, while other brands use a more common slider that covers some or all of the shoulder strap. The Velcro makes for an easily customized fit, but some wearers have trouble with it loosening (or popping free entirely!) during a workout. Sliders are more secure, but they limit the overall adjustability.
  • How high-impact are your workouts? Some bras I specifically save for lighter workouts because they fit well but fail to tame the bounce completely. Others may be more purely functional, but if they can get me through a long run, they make the cut.

The takeaway

For me, as a triathlete, the Shock Absorber Ultimate Run is the bra I’ve found that comes the closest to supporting me through all of my sports while also not bogging me down, but options from Moving Comfort and lululemon are key players in my personal closet. Those less wedded to a racerback style might have better luck with offerings from Panache and Anita Active, among others.

shock absorberThe bra: Shock Absorber Ultimate Run ($79)

The bottom line: Provides heavy-duty support without feeling industrial, but its funky closure makes first-time adjustment tricky.

This bra my current go-to, whether I’m running ten miles or racing a triathlon. The silky, relatively thin fabric on the inside — a rarity at these sizes! — belies some serious structure in the cups. It’s one of the lighter bras I’ve tested, so it wicks sweat impressively and dries fast after a sweaty SoulCycle session or a dip in the lake. The back mimics a traditional racerback enough that it works with a tank top, but note that the straps will often be somewhat exposed because they sit wider on the shoulders. More than 550 Amazon reviews net out at an overall 4 stars.

Some negatives: This is a UK-sized bra, so you may need to go up a cup size (or two) to get the proper fit, and that makes the size range more limited than it first appears. First-time adjustment can be tricky — the top closure is tough to reach, and finding the right hook for proper shoulder strap support takes some time — though once it’s set, you won’t have to think about it again. The rubber logo attached to the bottom band can chafe on long runs.

 

junoThe bra: Moving Comfort Juno ($60)

The bottom line: Extremely adjustable and durable, but thicker and bulkier than other options.

I wore this bra for years, and it’s still in my rotation for shorter runs, which means it’s held up awfully well considering the use it’s gotten. I like the fully adjustable, lightly padded shoulder straps and the supportive side panels. The inner layer feels soft and almost foamy — which, on the one hand, is comfortable, but on the other hand it can quickly get waterlogged. It’s also bulky and a bit annoying to pack, since it takes up more room than I’d prefer in a suitcase.

Across more than 1500 reviews on Amazon and Moving Comfort’s own site, the Juno averages better than 4 out of 5 stars, with the most common high points being comfort, support and bounce control, and strap adjustability. Negatives include a stiffness that can make it difficult for some to get the Juno on, the thick/bulky fabric, and a few problems with the velcro popping open during a workout.

 

tataThe bra: Lululemon TaTa Tamer II ($58)

The bottom line: A convertible option that’s a little flimsy on its own but works well when paired with a shelf-bra tank.

Lululemon has gotten something of a bad rap for its lack of larger sizes, so I would not have expected them to embrace the well-endowed, but the Ta Ta Tamer does just that — to a point. (Sizing tops out at a 36DD or 38D, though older models can be found in a 38DD.) This bra has light padding in the shoulder straps, which can be worn straight or crossed in the back, and it combines two of Lululemon’s performance fabrics (stretchy Luon and wicking Luxtreme). Officially listed as a “medium-support” bra meant for running, the Ta Ta Tamer isn’t bounce-proof, at least for larger cup sizes. But sometimes I fall in love with a tank with a built-in bra, and the Ta-Ta Tamer is perfect for that: It provides bonus support without being suffocating.

The Ta-Ta Tamer comes with removable padding, which adds to its potential for a customized look and feel. The bra averages 4 stars among lululemon’s own customer reviews, with positives including the swappable strap design, color variety, and flexibility as both a workout and everyday bra (which I can also vouch for). More negative comments point out that this bra doesn’t work equally well for every shape, sometimes leaving low cleavage and sometimes creating a “uniboob” effect.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 3.48.17 PMThe bra: Enell Sport ($64-66 depending on size)

The takeaway: This bra is not messing around if your main concern is locking down bounce.

The Enell is an absolute classic in this category, and it is one serious sports bra. It fastens with a row of eyelets up the front and has a full back (and I mean full — it practically looks like a cropped tank top). Recent updates have introduced fun, brighter colors, which improves the look, but there’s no mistaking it: This is one sports bra that is all about function.

The overall fabric volume and the cumbersome hooks have been enough to keep the Enell out of my personal closet. But I might be missing out: Those who love it (like more than 500 of the 750 Amazon reviewers, who gave it 5 stars) say nothing else compares. Even some of the glowing comments are a little scary — “it’s sort of a cross between a corset and a harness,” “I will say this is a LOT of bra,” “it takes some getting used to and takes a couple months to break in” — but for those who have tried everything (but this), it just could be the answer. Note that Enell uses its own sizing system, so check that out before ordering.

 

reboundThe bra: Moving Comfort Rebound Racer ($50)

The takeaway: A more streamlined option than the Juno, but not as beloved.

This bra has many of the Moving Comfort hallmarks — Velcro-adjusted shoulder straps, racerback, good compression — and comes in a thinner, lighter fabric than the Juno. But it fits a slightly narrower size range (it runs through DD, while the Juno can accommodate an E in some sizes) and, on my body, it feels almost a size smaller than the Juno. It’s nice to have a thinner design, but some fabrics over the years have felt stiff to me, and I find it rides down and exposes more than I’d prefer. (Others have that complaint about the Juno, though, so it may be worth trying both and seeing which fits you better.)

Online reviews again hover around 4 stars, though there are relatively fewer of them than for some other Moving Comfort bras. Many who like this bra suggest sizing up a cup size for the best fit; unfortunately, that sizes me out of the Rebound Racer.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 3.49.37 PMThe bra: Anita Active Extreme Control ($69)

The takeaway: A wide-strap bra in a wide size range that its advocates adore.

My knowledge of wide-strap bras is admittedly skimpy compared to the racerback bras I’ve tried, but I’d be remiss to not mention Anita Active, which makes a number of sports bras in cup sizes up to an H and band sizes up to a 46. Of their line, the Extreme Control is a well-regarded option, averaging over 4 stars on both Amazon and Bare Necessities. There are some complaints around support and fit, but it garners praise especially from those who wear sizes that are rare to see at all in other brands (e.g. smaller rib cages with larger cups).

 

panacheTHE BRA: Panache Sports Bra ($68) (wired version)

THE TAKEAWAY: Supportive and attractive — but one underwire fail could scar you for life (literally).

Oh, how I wanted to love this bra. It comes in a rainbow of colors and a truly impressive size range (up to an H cup in many band sizes — in UK sizing, but still), and when I first put it on, it felt supportive but also sleek, a rare combo at this size. Like the Ta Ta Tamer, it can be worn with straps straight or clasped in a racerback style with an integrated hook. I also assumed the underwire would offer an element of support lacking from every other bra on this list. Unfortunately, that same underwire also dug into my chest so badly over the course of a run that I still have a scar! Panache does sell a non-wire version, though the company cautions it’s designed for lower-impact activities than the wired one.

That said, maybe this was only my issue, because Amazon reviewers love this bra: with 1500 reviews, it averages almost 4.5 stars — and almost two-thirds of reviewers call it a 5-star bra. As with every bra in this size category, it’s useful to see how it fits on your specific body, as most of the less-glowing reviews focus on a not-quite-right fit. Those who managed to wear it for more than one workout also caution that the durability of the underwire isn’t great, with some tearing and poking after just a few wears.

Others to Explore

I certainly haven’t tried out every sports bra that caters to a larger chest (yet), and there are some other brands out there focusing on this market. If none of the above options have worked for you, check out: Glamorise, Lynx, Freya, and Royce.