A good sports bra will usually be labelled low, medium or high impact. These are terms that should help you in selecting the right kit for your physical activities. Unfortunately, over the years, it seems the jargon has overcomplicated the very process it was attempting to simplify! Plainly put, the impact level speaks directly to the intensity of the exercise that you are planning to undertake. I like to think of it in terms of breast movement; the more vigorous the activity the more support you’ll need.
Examples of exercises that are high, medium and low impact include:
– Running, tennis, zumba and horse riding
– Skiing, hiking, cycling and spinning
– Thai Chi, Pilates and rollerblading
Contrary to popular belief, choosing y our level of support has nothing to do with your cup size. The idea that ladies with a smaller bust can get away with low impact bras for every kind of sport is simply not true. Similarly, the notion that those with a larger cup size shouldn’t use a low impact sports bra is also inaccurate.
Breast damage is caused by breast movement, not size. If the body is moving up and down, then so is the breast – with a delay. With this in mind, sport manufacturers construct bras for a range of sizes in a very different way. Larger cups, for example, will often have extra features such as additional lining, side supports and reinforced wider straps.
Since sports bras are designed for performance, aesthetics should be a secondary consideration, however some bras suit different body shapes by design. Smaller shoulders often prefer racer backs while fuller busts lend themselves to regular straps. The best advice is to try it on, jump around and make sure you feel secure and confident!
Star buy Panache Ultimate Sports Bra, £40, boobydoo.co.uk
The Panache sports bra delivers in spades. I love the adjustable clip that allows you to transform the bra from a standard cut to a racer back style, and I was impressed by the way it encapsulates your breasts rather than compressing them, making it a lot more comfortable than other sports bras on the market.
Vicky Warrell, editorial assistant
Best for low impact Roxy Palaitina Sports Bra, £35, roxy-uk.co.uk
With a cool abstract design and low neckline, the Palaitina sports bra looked far too stylish to be in my gym bag. But with thick, supportive straps and lightly padded cups, it was the perfect addition to my yoga kit. Although the deep v-neck looks a little daunting, it kept everything exactly where it should be – even during my down dogs! Thanks to the moisture wicking fabric (which is also thick enough to hide any embarrassing indiscretions if the room’s a little cold, shall we say!), it was even suitable for my hot yoga class.
Jessica Harris, deputy editor
Best for medium impact New Balance Majestic Feather Camo Tonic Crop Bra, £28, newbalance.co.uk
I put this bra to the test by going for a quick 3k run and I’m pleased to say that it kept everything completely secure! If, like me, you tend to opt for non-padded bras, then the cups can be easily removed, but I was pleasantly surprised at how subtle and comfortable they were. Thanks to the slim straps my arms and shoulders felt light and free, and I liked the addition of mesh fabric for breathability. I’m also a big fan of the colour and print – top marks from me!
Emily McMullin, guest contributor
Best for high impact Royce Lingerie Impact Free Petite Sports Bra, £22, royce-lingerie.co.uk
For a long time, I was guilty of believing that having a smaller bust meant I didn’t need to worry about what sports bra I was buying. Oh how wrong I was! Specially designed for smaller frames, this Impact Free Petite option from Royce Lingerie fitted me perfectly and certainly did the job during a gruelling 15-minute HIIT session. With its soft, comfortable fabric and stylish racer back design, it hugs your shape and offers excellent support. Plus it has removable pads and adjustable fastenings.
Claire Munnings, editor
Best for low impact Sweaty Betty Kapotasana Padded Yoga Bra, £40, sweatybetty.com
I’m totally guilty of wearing high impact sport bras for every scenario. It’s a habit that stems back to my gymnast days – those leotards don’t mess around! Nowadays I’m more Warrior Three than twisting back flips, but I never thought about matching my sports bra with my activity level. Switching to the Kapotasana Yoga Bra has completely transformed my practice. The lightweight design gives me the perfect amount of support, and, unlike my trusty high impact bra, it moves with the contours of my body, allowing me to go deeper into stretches without feeling uncomfy.
Jody-Ann Miller, health and fitness writer
Best for medium impact Zaazee ELLIE Racer-back Sports Bra, £30, zaazee.co.uk
The key to a good medium impact sports bra is balance – it needs to be sturdy and supportive while also allowing for flexibility and comfort when moving. Now playing both sides is never an easy task, but this racer back top from Zaazee handles it with absolute perfection. The super-soft material feels weightless on the skin, but it’s actually crafted from durbale Supplex to keep you fully-supported throughout your fitness routines. It can be worn for any medium impact activity, but I found that it really went above and beyond in fast-paced activities like boxing and dance cardio where full range of motion is combined with vigorous cardio.
Jody-Ann Miller, health and fitness writer
Best for high impact PureLime Padded Athletic Bra, £49.20, purelimeshop.com
Finally a sports bra that’s both flattering and functional. This PureLime bra provides a beautiful feminine shape when worn on its own or under additional sportswear – no more flat, squashed silhouettes here! It also gives incredible support thanks to encapsulating cups that mould to your individual shape and extra fabric lining that reduces impact bounce. The cushioned straps and wide underbust band make it super-comfortable for workouts like HIIT and running, too!
Natasza Telfer, guest contributor
Best for low impact Freya Freestyle Carbon Soft Crop Top, £29, freyalingerie.com
As a rule, I normally pick underwired sports bras for the extra security that they offer, so I was dubious about trying a standard crop top style. I needn’t have worried, however, as the comfortable design offered adequate support for all my low intensity activities, namely yoga and Pilates. The racer back design ensured I was harnessed in snugly while also freeing up my shoulders for ease of movement. Plus, the stylish crossover front is a refreshing change from the industrial-looking sports bras that us bigger busted girls are used to!
Vicky Warrell, editorial assistant
Best for medium impact Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra, £42, johnlewis.com
Shock Absorber is one of the biggest names when it come to sports bras, so I was expecting great things. Fortunately, I was not disappointed. Not only did it make me feel incredibly supported, but the wide, padded, adjustable straps meant no sore shoulders either. Plus, the way they adjust mean no matter how much bouncing around you do they won’t loosen. Even during the most intense workout, this bra kept everything where it needed to be. Not only practical, but stylish too!
Rachel Stoll, guest contributor
Best for high impact Anita Active DynamiX Star Sports bra, £52, figleaves.com
Super-lightweight, with its ‘Easy On & Off’ design, this max support sports bra ensures bigger busts are strapped in firmly for high-energy workouts. Unlike other max support bras I own, this one is shaped to separate each breast so you don’t end up with the ‘shelf effect’, making it a flattering choice under your gym kit – and it is very easy to put on and take off. It’s perfect for activities like body pump, circuit training and fitness yoga.
Naomi Abeykoon, group editor