The Best Sports Bras for Hiking 2023 - Outdoors Magic

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The Best Sports Bras for Hiking 2023

For active women, choosing the right sports bra is arguably more important than getting the right footwear. What to opt for depends on the activity, chest size, and of course personal preference. Here’s how to choose, and 10 of the best, tried and tested

Any woman who has exercised in an inadequate, old sports bra (or worse, without a sports bra at all), will understand the importance of supporting your chest during exercise. Without one, sport is painful, but it goes deeper than that. Wearing the wrong sports bra causes breast sagging, and damages the connective tissue and Cooper’s ligaments under your breasts. Breasts have no muscle, which is why we rely on sports bras to do the work for us.

How to choose a sports bra

One of the first things to consider is intensity level. Most women don’t need the same level of support for a yoga class (light-intensity) as they would for a trail run (high-intensity). You’ll often find products divided into sports bras recommended for light, mid, and high intensity activities. Light intensity includes yoga and walking, mid intensity covers cycling, skiing, racket sports, and thru-hiking, and high intensity is for activities with a lot of bounce, like running, trampolining, and HIIT classes.

Then, think about your chest size. Women with smaller chest sizes (A-C cups) might find that they can use a mid-intensity sports bra for high-intensity activities, and women with larger breasts (D+) may need a high-intensity sports bra for more moderate activities. It’s not a blanket rule, so experiment and see what works for you. 

Sports bras come in either a compression or encapsulation style. Compression bras are pull-over and work by holding both breasts together to limit movement. Encapsulation bras look more like a regular bra with moulded cups for each breast, which keep breasts separate and secure. They’re often recommended for women with D+ cup sizes, and for high-intensity sports, but there’s definitely a question of personal preference. I’m a D cup, and I find compression bras more comfortable and secure for the majority of sports. 

When buying, get the right size. Measure your rib cage and across your bust at the fullest point. A sports bra should fit more snugly than a regular bra, but not be so tight as to restrict breathing. 

Best Sports Bras: Our 10 Favourites

  • BEST BUY: Brooks Drive 3 Pocket Run Bra
  • BAM Women’s Challenge Bamboo Crop Top 
  • Patagonia Women’s Switchback Sports Bra
  • Skins Series-3 Women’s Active Bra 
  • Runderwear Original Running Bra v5
  • Under Armour UA Infinity Mid Bra
  • Patagonia Women’s Wild Trails Sports Bra
  • Runderwear The Easy-On Running Bra 
  • Brooks Drive Convertible Run Bra | Best Buy
  • Skins Series-3 Women’s Elite Bra Performance


BEST BUY | Brooks Drive 3 Pocket Run Bra

Price: £40

Intensity: High

Material: 72% Polyester, 28% Spandex/Elastane

For high-intensity exercise, I cannot imagine a more secure, comfortable sports bra than the Brooks Drive 3 Pocket Run Bra. It had the same secure, all-encompassing feeling as when you zip into a wetsuit, and even on a long, hilly run my breasts stayed firmly strapped in place. It’s a pull-over, compression bra, but with two extremely thin padded panels (removable) sewn over each breast which keep them separate whilst compressing. The high neckline and racer back gave added support, meaning that women with large breasts can easily just wear the sports bra on a run with no top, without fear of popping out. 


I was also really impressed with the design features of adding three pockets. There are two small mesh pockets under the armpits, big enough for holding a set of keys, and the racer back has a long, slim pocket which is large enough to hold most mobile phones. Bonded and freecut seams mean that there’s no chaffing or rubbing, and the bra appears largely seamless under a sports top. It was built for heavy duty activity, and I’d trust this bra all of my most high-intensity activities.

Full Specifications

Compressing // removable cups // freecut seams // three pockets // high-intensity // removable panels


BAM Women’s Challenge Bamboo Crop Top

Price: £16

Intensity: Light-mid

Material: 64% Bamboo Viscose, 24% Organic Cotton, 12% Elastane

If I was going to wear one bra for the rest of my life, it would be this one. It’s so comfortable; the 64% bamboo content means that it feels super soft against your skin. Although this is marketed as a sports bra for light intensity exercise, I found it to be more supportive than expected and for women with small to medium breasts, it’s perfectly adequate for mid-intensity activities. There’s an adjustable fastening and the racer back allows for easy movement whilst holding you in place. 

Due to the cotton content, this isn’t fully moisture-wicking, so I wouldn’t choose it as my sole sports bra for a multi-day thru hike, but for everyday activities and sports where I don’t need maximum support (like cycling), the BAM Challenge Bamboo Crop Top takes some beating. I also love BAM’s sustainability credentials.

Full Specifications:

Bamboo viscose // sustainably made // racer back // temperature controlling // light to mid support 


Patagonia Women’s Switchback Sports Bra

Price: £45

Intensity: Low-mid

Material: 85% Recycled Polyester, 15% Elastane Jersey

The Patagonia Switchback Sports Bra is so comfortable that it barely feels like wearing a bra at all. The fabric is super soft, and since there are no clasps or eyelets, the chances of having any chaffing at all are slim.

Most of the support seems to come from the wide band on the rib cage, and for me, the support levels wouldn’t be enough for say, a trail run, but it’s a great choice for more relaxed activities like yoga or paddleboarding, or all day use when you’re having an active day on the go. Women with smaller cup sizes (A-B) might find the support sufficient for more strenuous sport. I also loved that 85% of the fabrics used to make this are recycled.

Full Specifications:

Recycled fabrics // crossover straps // wide underband // light support // mesh straps // mesh lining // moisture-wicking 


Skins Series-3 Women’s Active Bra

Price: £40

Intensity: Mid

Material: 76% Nylon 6, 24% Elastane

The shape of this sports bra is really practical, the neckline isn’t too low to allow you to bounce out, or too high to be conspicuous with a sports top. It uses dual layer construction, with a mesh inner layer that I found to be really effective at wicking moisture. The racer back with a cut out gives good support for the overall weight and size of the bra (it’s very light), and the fabric is quick drying.

The elastic rib band is quite thin and ruched up when machine washed, which reduces support somewhat, and it’s a shame that the padding isn’t removable. Having quite thick padding on the breasts means that this sports bra definitely needs a wash after each use. I’d recommend it for women with smaller chests.

Full Specifications:

Cross design // moisture wicking // moisture wicking // slim rib band // padded // mesh inner layer 


Runderwear Original Running Bra v5

Price: £40

Intensity: Mid

Material: 68% Polyamide, 32% Elastane

This is a really well designed sports bra, versatile with medium level support and well adapted to a wide range of activities. The underband is wider than on most compression bras, meaning it feels more supportive than I’d expected. The mesh panels on the sides allow sweat to escape where it’s going to gather most and the racerback with adjustable straps gave my chest the right amount of lift and made it very supportive. It’s incredibly lightweight, moisture wicking and the thin straps mean that it’s also inconspicuous under sports tops. With its weight and breathability, if I was going to pack one bra for a thru-hike, this would be it. 

I also found the design really aesthetically pleasing, and I wouldn’t hesitate to work out wearing this bra with no sports top on hot days.

Full Specifications:

Wide underband // mesh side panels // racer back // adjustable straps // moisture wicking // lightweight // medium support // hook eyelets


Under Armour UA Infinity Mid Bra

Price: £36

Intensity: Mid

Material: 87% Polyester, 13% Elastane

The back of this bra is really minimalist, which I liked, and it allowed for plenty of breathability. It’s a compression bra with the feel of an encapsulation bra due to the moulding padding across the chest, and works really well for women like me with mid-sized breasts. The crossover straps are adjustable and subtle, so you can easily wear it under a racerback top without the straps being too visible. 

The mesh back allows moisture to escape easily. Personally I prefer it when padding in a sports bra is less bulky, or removable, and I’d find the padding in this bra a little much for running or thru-hiking. For strength training in the gym, it’s absolutely perfect. It’s also great value.

Full Specifications:

Encapsulation and compression hybrid // PU injected padding // crossover straps // racer back // Heatgear fabric // adjustable straps // moisture wicking fabric // medium support 


Patagonia Women’s Wild Trails Sports Bra

Price: £55

Intensity: mid-high

Material: 85% Recycled Polyester, 15% Elastane Jersey

The Wild Trail’s Sports Bra is like the more supportive big sister of the Switchback Sports Bra (and well worth the additional cost, in my opinion). The neck is higher and the racerback gives more lift than the crossback, and the rib band is adjustable. The padded, moulded chest panels are thinner than on many sports bras, so whilst they’re not removable it’s a good inbetween for people who are on the fence about padding. 

For women with A-B cups this would provide sufficient support for any activity. Although it’s marketed as a medium intensity sports bra for women with larger chests, I found that it was a really comfortable choice for high-intensity activities like running, with great moisture wicking properties.

Full Specifications:

HeiQ® Pure Odour Control // FairTrade™ Certified // racerback // mesh lining // eyelet hooks // recycled fabrics // high intensity // compression bra 


Runderwear The Easy-On Running Bra

Price: £54

Intensity: High

Material: 68% Polyamide, 32% Elastane

Encapsulation bras work very well for some women, but they’re not my preference and I tend to find them a little bulky and restrictive, but this was the best encapsulation bra that I tested. For women with large breasts who really need that extra support, this is a fantastic choice. The moulded cups are a flattering shape and securely hold your breasts in position, and there’s no wire so I didn’t experience any chaffing.

The rib band is very wide for added support, and the straps and two sets of eyelets make it easy to adjust. I’d particularly recommend it for women who are an E cup and above for high intensity sport, as this was a little too bulky for me.

Full Specifications:

High intensity // encapsulation bra // wide underband // double set of eyelets // adjustable straps // moulded padding // wire-free // moisture wicking 


Brooks Drive Convertible Run Bra

Price: £45

Intensity: High

Material: 72% Polyester, 28% Spandex/Elastane

Every Brooks sports bra that I tested fitted so well and provided excellent support, and the Drive Convertible Run Bra was no exception. It’s a compression bra with a scoop back which makes it look like a hybrid between a sports bra and regular bra. The shoulder straps are easy to adjust, which is great for anyone (like me) who doesn’t fall into the ‘average height’ bracket. The straps can be clipped together to make a crossback, so this bra can be worn inconspicuously with racer back sports tops. The rib cage band is really wide, but only visible on the inside of the bra, so this also looks really sleek with no bumps, and there are mesh panels around the neckline and under the armpits to allow moisture to escape. 

It offers a really high level of support with none of the weight which comes with bulkier models or encapsulation bras, and I ran several miles in full comfort. A great choice for a whole range of activities.

Full Specifications:

Scoop back // racer back // adjustable straps // mesh panels // compression bra // wide underband // blue sign approved // lightweight 


Skins Series-3 Women’s Elite Bra Performance

Price: £60

Intensity: Mid

Material: 76% Nylon 6, 24% Elastane

Overall, this is a great, well designed sports bra, but I’d recommend it for taller women, women with broader shoulders or smaller cup sizes. I’m short with narrow shoulders, which meant that the design was too low cut for me and I spilled out the top. The moisture-wicking properties were really good thanks to the mesh around the neckline and above the rib band.

It’s a compression bra, but the low neckline allows for plenty of freedom of movement and doesn’t feel restrictive, so it would be great for sports like dancing and aerobics which require plenty of mobility. The support level was good, sufficient for mid-intensity, or high-intensity for women with A-B cup sizes.

Full Specifications:

Compression support // moisture wicking // mesh panelling // scoop neck // lightweight // mid support 

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