Fifteen years ago, I spent a summer teaching horse riding to girls at a camp in Maine. A lifetime ago.


Those few months were my only experience of living in the USA up until now, and although I was riding horses daily, I recall I didn’t own a single sports bra.  I remember this because the other riding instructors made fun of me.  In a good way, of course.

Anyone who looks into my closet now will know that is astounding.  Because now I have…maybe…(don’t tell Tom…)… 22? That’s after I gave away a bunch.

I wasn’t a runner back then, and I certainly wasn’t a triathlete. But part of the fun and the pain in this sport is the kit.  The fun part is wearing quality kit that feels good and looks good.  The pain is when you can’t manage to find anything that ticks that box.

Sports bras for me have been both a pleasure and a pain.  I love that they come in so many different colours and shapes.  I hate that nearly every bra chafes me when I run.  Hence my ongoing search.

One of the fabulous (and expensive) things about being a triathlete is that you need kit for 3 sports!  Oh, and we usually do at least 2 out of 3 sports every day.  That works out to needing a lot of clothes (and doing a LOT of washing).  When I used to cycle commute to work everyday in London and training for an Ironman, I worked out that I was wearing up to 4 sports bra a day.

From L-R: bras 1-3, 5 - Lululemon; bra 4 - Oiselle; bra 6 - Onzie; bra 7 - Sweaty Betty

From L-R: bras 1-3, 5 – Lululemon; bra 4 – Oiselle; bra 6 – Onzie; bra 7 – Sweaty Betty

At the risk of too much information:

  1. a bra for my early morning indoor bike trainer ride;
  2. dry bra for the brick run, because otherwise I’d freeze wearing the wet one outside in winter;
  3. same again, to cycle to and from work; and
  4. clean bra for yoga during my lunch break.

Now, within that, I classify bras as 3 different types:

  1. Running bra:  the most important.  This bra is the one that has to not chafe on a sweaty 4 hour run.  Or on a 13 hour ultra.  You get the idea. And it has to be supportive.  These are the ones that are so hard to find.  Especially because I still want them to be pretty.  I know, tough customer.
  2. Cycling bra:  I’ve never had any chafing issues from bras while cycling, thankfully, nor do they have to be as supportive.  But still, a bouncy road, a waterfall of sweat on a hard long ride – still have to choose wisely.
  3. Yoga bra:  the oh-so cool barely there strappy beautiful funky ones.  Most could double as bikinis, they’re so pretty.

The amazing thing about chafing is that sometimes you can find the dream bra that doesn’t chafe for 49 runs, and then on the 50th it chafes until you bleed.  I can’t figure it out.

At any rate, below are my top rated picks for the moment.  In the interest of full disclosure, I generally wear a 34B or a 32C.  If you know me in real life, please pretend you didn’t read that.

FIVE OF THE BEST BRAS OUT THERE… after much trying and testing!

1. For running: Sweaty Betty Stamina Bra – $55

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This is a bold comment for me to make, but…. so far this is the best running bra I have ever come across.  It is the only one that doesn’t chafe me.  The only one. Now, I am conscious that Sweaty Betty sells it as a medium-impact sports bra, not a running bra.  Perhaps it wouldn’t be good for larger cup sizes, but for the smaller chested ladies, I think of this one as the holy grail of running bras.  No bounce, no chafe, easy on and off.  Normally it comes in a range of fun colours. At the moment it seems to be just in black and white. I hope the colour returns.

What I love: this bra has never chafed me.  Fun bright colours (normally).

The cons:  really, this is my best bra for sport.  But I’m concerned they might be phasing it out.  Sweaty Betty, if you’re reading this, don’t!

Sizing:  I take a size S.

*Want to try Sweaty Betty? At checkout, click on “been referred by a friend” on the right side of the page, and enter “Julia Kelk” for a $20 gift certificate.  Alternatively, you can enter your email here to receive a $20 coupon.

2.  For running or cycling:  Oiselle Verrazano Bra – $48 or $42

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 16.11.20 Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 16.10.00Oiselle is a running clothes company first and foremost, and is fronted by some fantastic and fierce female runners.  I really like their kit and have a fair bit of it, but over time I have realised I keep turning to my 2 Verrazano bras for cycling rather than running.  The double strap system feels nice and secure when I’m lying low on the aerobars and the bras are a bit easier to get on than the average super tight running bra.  I do run in them too, but sadly chafing has been an issue for me on longer runs.  For cycling – 5 stars.

What I love: Very comfortable, easy to get on and off, some cool colours and patterns now.

The cons:  the removable pads come out in the washing machine (not a big deal). Have had mild chafing when running.

Sizing:  I take a size 4.

3.  For running or cycling: Lululemon Stuff Your Bra – $52

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Lululemon’s specialty is coming up with a huge range of colours and patterns.  It’s fun, it’s playful, and every year they reincarnate many of their standard models with new patterns, craftily ensuring that we will all lust after the same bra in that new shade of dusty rose or speckled hen. Lululemon was my first sports bra brand and I’ve tried a lot of their bras.  The Stuff Your Bra is my pick of the lot for any sort of real sport, although I’ve yet to actually try carrying something in it like they suggest in the middle “pocket”.  I have had mild chafing from this bra on the run, but it’s generally decent, and it’s good for cycling too.

What I love: Easy to get on and off, frequent introduction of new fun colours, criss-cross straps aren’t sewn together so you can adjust for the most comfortable fit.

The cons:  Lululemon seems to phase this bra in and out.  It’s in right now.  Have had mild chafing issues when running.

Sizing:  I take a size 4 in this bra (in other Lululemon bras, I’m a 6).

4.  For yoga:  Onzie Sun Ray Bra – $65

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Yoga is about the meditation, the asana, the breath, the removal of thought from material things and the consumer world. So why is there such a huge explosion in the yoga clothes market for the funkiest, most fun, most colourful, strappiest, and most expensive bras out there? I don’t know, but it’s not easy to resist the allure of incredible yogis on Instagram upside-down on one finger in a wisp of a bra held on by 27 straps. I know I can do yoga in just about any type of bra, but do I want to? When there are so many beautiful options out there? While my moral compass grapples with this, I can tell you that I have the crazy flowered Onzie Sun Ray bra pictured above and I do feel pretty damned cool doing yoga on the beach in it. Yeah! Now let me just photoshop out the guy holding me upside down so I too can have that crazy photo on Instagram…..

What I love:  it’s just so fun.  And it’s comfortable.

The cons:  wear it topless and you’re heading for a crazy suntan/sunburn (delete as appropriate).  And it’s expensive.

Sizing:  I take a size S/M

5.  For yoga:  Sweaty Betty Brahma Bamboo Padded Yoga Bra – $65

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I have a couple of the older models of the Sweaty Betty bamboo bras and they are all just gorgeous to wear. When we go trail running in the swamps here in Florida and I’m a disgusting pulsing mass of sweat at the end, when I peel off my sodden running bra, these bamboo bras are the only thing I can bear to put back on. They’re light but supportive (for casual wear, I mean, or yoga) and seamless. I never have enough of them because I end up wearing them day to day…by the time I’m heading to the yoga studio, they’re usually all in the laundry bin.

What I love:  super soft, super light material

The cons:  these bras aren’t made to sweat in.  Bamboo does not dry quickly. And again, price.  The less support there is, the more you pay in the world of yoga bras!

Sizing:  I take a size XS

*see above for a $20 gift certificate if you want to buy this bra or any other Sweaty Betty gear.

Any others your recommend?  Let me know in the comments below or contact me!