What is a High-Impact Sports Bra?

A woman wearing a Nike sports bra stretches her leg

Dropping into a burpee is more jarring than bending into pigeon pose, while walking your dog will jostle you less than running intervals on the track. But one thing is the same no matter how you exercise: When you move, your breasts move, too.

Luckily, there are sports bras made for every workout you put your body through. High-impact, medium-impact and low-impact sports bras are tailored specifically for different types of activities.

A woman does yoga while wearing a low-impact sports bra

A quick note about bras: While sports bras promise different levels of support, the terms are relative to breast size. Sports bra ratings are based on larger cup sizes, so women with A or B cups might find that a bra labeled “low-impact” actually provides enough support for high-impact activities; women who wear larger cup sizes will likely find that bras feel true to their ratings.

If you're looking to replace your old sports bra, make sure to try on a new one before you buy it and get fit for a bra by a professional if you're not sure what kind will work best for you.

A woman wears a sports bra during a workout

What is a High-Impact Sports Bra?

High-impact sports bras are designed for activities that involve more bouncing—think jumping rope, sprinting and high-intensity interval training. But it’s not just up and down; breasts move in a figure-eight pattern when you run, so a bra needs to work for every direction.

These bras are made with more secure bands and wider straps to keep everything in place while you move.

Best for: Running, HIIT, plyometrics, horseback riding

What is a Medium-Impact Sports Bra?

When you’re on the move, you need a bra that can keep up.

These sports bra put you in control of your workouts by striking the sweet spot between high- and low-impact bras. Medium-impact sports bras are well suited for hiking, cycling, strength training and ellipticals.

Best for: Cycling, hiking, weight lifting

What is a Low-Impact Sports Bra?

Yoga class? After-dinner walk? Kicked back in a coffee shop? Low-impact sports bras offer the perfect amount of support for your mellower days.

Best for: Yoga, walking, easy bike rides, pilates

Types of Sports Bra Support

To go along with impact-specific touches, choosing the right sports bra means figuring our what support style works best for you. Having a range of options gives you the freedom to tackle any workout that’s in your way.

  • Encapsulation support. Encapsulation-style sports bras use individual cups to support each breast separately, which is similar to most everyday bras. This style offers minimal support and is best for low-impact activities.
  • Compression support. Compression sports bras work by compressing the breasts to prevent bouncing and other movement. Most of these bras don’t have a front or back closure. Instead, you pull them on over your head. Compression sports bras are ideal for medium-impact activities.
  • Compression combined with encapsulation. The combined style uses both compression and encapsulation to support the breasts. With both styles of support, these sports bras work well for high-impact activities.

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