Some of the compression bras we evaluate include lightly lined, padded or molded cups to provide a boost for small breasts, but these cups don't usually have the serious support structures you'd find in an encapsulation bra. Although most A/B-cup women can get good support from a compression sports bra, those who engage in vigorous, high-impact sports may appreciate the extra support of an encapsulation model. In fact the Asics Cross Back Bra (*Est. $40), the best-reviewed A-cup bra, has an encapsulation design.
Testers in a review for Runner's World say the adjustable shoulder straps and tightly woven fabric on the Asics Cross Back Bra minimize bounce during running; they also call the bra light and cool. A reviewer for Shape magazine points out that not only do the criss-cross straps allow a very comfortable fit but they also permit excess body heat to escape. Both experts recommend the Asics Cross Back for small (AA to B) cup sizes, but a number of C- and D-cup women say they found this bra comfortable and supportive as well. The Cross Back is available in sizes XS to XL, but the manufacturer doesn't provide a chart for converting those sizes into cup sizes.
The Asics Cross Back Bra doesn't attract as many user reviews as other, more popular models, but those we found were extremely positive. Owners like how the bra's encapsulation-style fit prohibits the dreaded "uniboob." They also say that the straps look good, make for a comfortable fit and help keep you cool. The only complaints we saw were a smattering of comments that the straps can dig into the shoulders, and a few reviewers, usually those with larger breasts, say this bra can be difficult to get into.
The Champion Shape T-Back Sports Bra (*Est. $30) earns several recommendations, making it a lower-priced alternative to the Asics Cross Back. The T-Back is a top pick at Shape, Fitness and Prevention magazines for women with smaller busts. It includes inner cups for subtle shaping and is crafted from a nylon/Spandex blend in a racerback style. Sizes range from 32A to 36DD/42C, but Champion recommends that only A- and B-cup wearers use this bra for high-impact exercise. An article in Prevention magazine recommends the Champion T-Back for use by A- to C-cup wearers, but only during medium-impact exercise.
"This bra provides great support without crushing your curves," say editors at Fitness magazine. Testers for Shape magazine love the fit of the Champion bra and find it supportive enough for running. It also earns good reviews at Amazon.com, with an average score of 4.5 stars (out of 5 possible) from nearly 90 user reviews. Most women in the A/B range find the bra supportive for even vigorous exercise. "I run 2-3 miles every day and must say, I've never felt this kind of support with any other sports bra," says one. However, some users dislike that the very prominent seams on the front of the bra show through their clothing, and a few reviewers at Amazon.com wish it did a better job of wicking away sweat during exercise.
For women with smaller breasts who want a comfortable sports bra for low-impact activities like walking or yoga, the Moving Comfort Alexis (*Est. $35) is worth a look. Women's Health, Fitness, and Runner's World magazines all select the Alexis bra as a great choice for women with A cups or those with B cups who need a bra for low-impact exercise. It has thin straps and a racerback style, but built-in cups help provide a little boost (and extra modesty) for those with small- and medium-sized breasts. The bra is made of a polyester and Spandex blend, and sizes range from 32A/B to 38B/40A.
Small-busted testers at Runner's World magazine like the shape the bra gives them, and they also find the fabric highly breathable when they work up a sweat. "The bra creates a nice shape, instead of just smashing the ladies," says one wear-tester. Editors at Women's Health magazine praise the bra for offering "awesome comfort and support for smaller cup sizes." About a dozen users at Amazon.com give the Moving Comfort Alexis bra an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5. Those who like it say the thin straps are comfortable and stay in place. One reviewer says, "I wear a 32A or AA, so it was nice to find a comfortable sports bra that doesn't make me look completely flat." However, a few note that the bra runs small, and one runner has problems with chafing.