Best Tank Tops with Built in Bra for Active Women

When it comes to activewear, less is more—fabric, that is. Cutting down on the total number of clothing articles you wear allows for greater freedom of movement and reduces the risk of chafing. You’ll also have less laundry to worry about after the workout—a benefit that anyone could get on board with! That’s why tank tops with built-in bras are such an innovative and clever addition to the sportswear lineup.

Best Tank Tops with Built-in Bras - Top Picks

Best for...
Best Tank Tops with Built in Bra

Editor's Pick

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Icyzone Yoga Tops

Runner Up

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FAFAIR Tank Tops

Comfy Fitting/Great Feel

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Matymats Yoga Tank Top

Best Removable Bra Tank Top

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Alo Yoga Women's Rib Support Tank

What Is A Shelf Bra Tank Top?

A shelf bra tank top is a garment with extra support built into the bust area—in other words, a built-in bra. While they’re best suited for low-impact activities such as hiking and bicycling, they can be worn during any type of exercise when paired with a regular sports bra. Small-busted women might not even need to wear a separate bra, but women with larger breasts are sure to appreciate the additional support.

These tanks are simply made, with the shelf bra consisting merely of a spare layer of elasticized fabric sewn below the breasts. They’re designed specifically for moderate activity—they’re not meant to take the place of a regular bra, but to supplement it during exercise. The elastic gently hugs the body’s natural contours, keeping breasts from bouncing around as you move. This additional fabric also helps to keep the tank top in place, which is especially helpful if you’re wearing another layer on top. If you’ve ever dealt with a bunched-up T-shirt after a long hike, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

Although most shelf bra tanks are form-fitting, there are some that offer a more relaxed fit. Women with larger frames might want to seek out brands that feature adjustable straps, which provide even more stability. Above all, these tanks should be composed of lightweight, stretchy fabrics that allow for broad freedom of movement.

If the garment has visible seams, they shouldn’t interfere with the smooth profile of the garment—you want the material to lay as flat against the skin as possible. Seamless tanks are preferable, as they allow for greater flexibility.

Properly designed shelf bra tanks are comfortable, functional, and stylish. Certain brands can easily make the jump from the trail to your favorite coffee shop—it’s all a matter of selecting the model that best suits your needs.

How To Choose The Right Shelf Bra Tank Top For Your Body Type

Of course, as with any form-fitting garment, one size does not fit all. Which one you choose depends on personal preference, the type of activity you’ll be doing, and most importantly, body type.

If you’re small-chested, you don’t need to worry as much about coverage. A thin layer of material—covering about one-fourth of the bust region—should be sufficient. Look for a seamless model that fits snugly without chafing or pinching under the arms. You should also be able to slip it on without waging a battle with the material.

Large-busted women should seek out a brand that offers decent padding in addition to extra-thick elastic. As we mentioned, it might be necessary to pair the tank with a separate sports bra, so make sure the fit isn’t too snug. There should be some side support as well—you want to prevent side-to-side jiggling in addition to up-and-down bouncing. Also, pay close attention to the shoulder straps. If they’re too thin or flimsy, they won’t provide the support you need.

Also note that some models allow you to remove the bra section completely, which can be an appealing option if you want to make it look dressier. These options tend to be more comfortable for large-chested women, as the material usually offers greater coverage.

Product Review Guide: Best Tank Tops With Built-In Bra

EDITOR’S PICK

Icyzone Yoga Tops

The IcyZone is a functional and attractive shelf bra tank that’s equally at home both on and off the trail. The design offers a removable sports bra with excellent padding, as well as flat-lock stitching to reduce chafing. It’s also available in a broad range of colors, so it should be easy to choose one that you’ll want to wear often.

The open-back design is characterized by a myriad of criss-crossing straps, which offer firm support in addition to eye appeal. The moisture-wicking fabric ensures a comfortable fit, and the bra itself is outfitted with breathable mesh padding. When the bra is removed, this slouchy tank is comfortable enough to sleep in. However, because it slings loosely around the waist and hips, we wouldn’t recommend it for extreme hiking expeditions, especially over steep or forested terrain.

The product ships quickly and is affordable enough to justify buying more than one at a time, which is a huge plus with so many colors to choose from. Should you be unhappy with the purchase for any reason, it’s simple to exchange or return for another color or size.

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Suitable For:

  • Hiking: Yes
  • Trekking: Yes
  • Climbing: No
  • Mountaineering: No
  • Backpacking: No
  • Yoga: Yes
  • Running: Yes
  • Everyday Wear: Yes

Features:

  • Removable Mesh Bra
  • Dri-Fit Criss-Crossed Shoulder and Back Straps
  • Flat-Lock Stitching

PROS:

  • A great fit for large-busted women
  • Lightweight material
  • Attractive design
  • Fits loosely enough to suit most body types
  • Great customer service department

CONS:

  • Sizing is a bit confusing; may need to order a size up from what you’d expect
  • Not suitable for mountain climbing or other extreme sports
  • Slouchy back might show too much skin for some people’s liking


Runner Up: FAFAIR Tank Tops

Like the Icyzone model, this brand offers a multitude of colors, but they also allow you to choose between an open-backed design or a regular tank top. The sizing chart is accurate and easy to follow, meaning you’re more likely to wind up with the perfect fit without trying it on first.

The FAFAIR tank is constructed of 90 percent nylon and 10 percent spandex, giving it both breathability and elasticity. While the fit is loose enough for comfort, it doesn’t appear baggy or shapeless. The compression-fit bra offers side support in addition to frontal coverage, and a tie closure helps you adjust the fabric if it’s too tight or too loose. The scoop-neck design lends a classic profile to this multi-purpose tank top.

The company advertises this as a yoga top, but in truth, it’s suitable for just about any type of exercise, including running. We think it would be right at home in a game of beach volleyball, and equally so at the bar afterward. FAFAIR makes it easy to find a pair of exercise pants or shorts to match—their online store even offers suggestions.

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Suitable For:

  • Hiking: Yes
  • Trekking: Yes
  • Climbing: Yes
  • Mountaineering: Yes
  • Backpacking: Yes
  • Yoga: Yes
  • Running: Yes
  • Everyday Wear: Yes

Features:

  • Built-In Sports Bra With Side Support
  • Tie Closure
  • Open- or Closed-Back Design

PROS:

  • Wide selection of colors
  • Choice between open-back or traditional design
  • Affordable price point
  • Skims nicely over the hips
  • Tie closure allows for an adjustable fit

CONS:

  • Sports bra may not lend enough support to full-breasted women
  • Can be awkward to put on


Comfy Fitting/Great Feel: Matymats Yoga Tank Top

While the Matymats Yoga Tank Top doesn’t offer anywhere near the color selection of its aforementioned competitors, it has enough good qualities to stand on its own merit. With a design that’s slightly more fitted around the waist and hips, it’s one of the most easy-to-wear products listed here.

The material is a blend of 87 percent nylon and 13 percent spandex for moisture wicking and superb ventilation. The sizing chart is comprehensive yet easy to follow, so you’re likely to be pleased with the fit. Note that it is more form-fitting than most of the competition, but it’s not so snug that it causes chafing.

This tank top is machine washable, with a four-way stretch construction and flat-lock seams that lay close to the skin. It’s possible to remoe the rubber-foam bra cups, but the shelf bra itself is built in to the fabric. We think this is an especially great tank top for yoga and weight lifting, but it can be worn in just about any situation.

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Suitable For:

  • Hiking: Yes
  • Trekking: Yes
  • Climbing: Yes
  • Mountaineering: Yes
  • Backpacking: Yes
  • Yoga: Yes
  • Running: Yes
  • Everyday Wear: Yes

Features:

  • Built-in Shelf Bra
  • Removable Rubber-Foam Bra Cups
  • Flat-Lock Seams

PROS:

  • Form-fitting enough to stay in place, even in downward dog position
  • Bra cups are supportive without being constricting
  • Exceptionally comfortable
  • Versatile; can be worn during most types of exercise

CONS:

  • May fit better when the cups are removed
  • Elastic band area of the built-in bra could be stretchier


Best Removable Bra Tank Top: Alo Yoga Women’s Rib Support Tank

This racer-back tank is the most form-fitting model listed here, lending it a sleek profile that’s better-suited for exercise than everyday wear. It’s not the ideal fit for full-figured women, but if you’re small to average-sized, this could be a fine addition to your activewear collection.

The outer shell is made of 90 percent nylon and 10 percent spandex, with a full nylon lining. Removable bra cups lend support to the bust area, while an elastic band keeps the tank from bunching up around the waist. It can be difficult to determine what size to buy—the company isn’t particularly forthcoming when it comes to providing specific measurements—but the fit runs close to the size you would expect. That said, we’ve noticed a slight discrepancy in the sizing—not all colors provide the same fit, even when ordered in the same size. The darker colors tend to run smaller than the lighter ones, so bear this in mind when ordering.

Be forewarned that the price point is on the high side for a shelf bra tank top—this is a garment for serious athletes or yoga enthusiasts. There are several appealing color choices, and the bra cups are supportive without adding unnecessary bulk to the profile. The fabric is machine washable and dries quickly, making it possible to skip quickly from one workout to the next. In our opinion, it’s a little too low-cut for tough mountaineering expeditions, but it’s perfect for gym workouts or even long trail runs.

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Suitable For:

  • Hiking: Yes
  • Trekking: Yes
  • Climbing: No
  • Mountaineering: No
  • Backpacking: No
  • Yoga: Yes
  • Running: Yes
  • Everyday Wear: No

Features:

  • Removable Bra Cups
  • Elasticized Waist
  • Scoop-Necked Racer-Back Design

PROS:

  • Snug fit
  • Provides plenty of support
  • Comfortable fabric
  • Bra cups can be removed and washed separately

CONS:

  • Each color may be sized a bit differently
  • May be too low-cut for comfort


 

Buying Guide: Things to Consider When Buying a Tank Top with Built-in Bra

Best Tank Tops with Built in Bra for Active Women_Trekkerr

With any purchase, it’s advisable to know in advance what you’re looking for. This is especially true when it comes to clothing, as there are so many factors that could contribute to disappointment. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you search for the perfect tank top with built-in bra.

Material

First and foremost, take a look at the specifications to find out what type of fabric you’re getting. Nylon and spandex blends are common, but polyester has been known to make appearances as well. Above all, the material should offer a fit that’s tight enough to provide proper coverage without causing any chafing or discomfort.

If the company advertised moisture-wicking material, that’s a step in the right direction. This means that any perspiration will be pulled away from the skin and evaporate quickly, helping you to remain cool and comfortable during exercise. If the fabric has been UV-treated, it will also protect your skin from sun damage.

When shopping for activewear, remember the phrase cotton is rotten. Cotton will absorb perspiration and any outside moisture, thereby weighing you down and lowering your body temperature. Wet cotton can also cause chafing where it rubs against the skin, making for a truly miserable outing.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the fabrics that you’re most likely to encounter:

Nylon—Durable, flexible, and lightweight, this fabric can be uncomfortably restrictive in its pure form but blends well with elasticized fabrics.
Spandex—Sometimes advertised as lycra or elastane, this synthetic is stretchy and form-fitting. It can stretch up to five times its original length, returning easily to its former shape once the pressure is released. In fact, the word spandex is an anagram for expands.
Polyester—a multi-purpose fabric with strong wind and water resistance.

Size and Support

First and foremost, you’ll need to learn your bra size before beginning your search. Even if you already know your size, it might behoove you to visit a bra specialist who can provide you with tips on how to get the proper support for your body type. Wearing the wrong bra size can cause more than simple discomfort—it can also lead to chafing, tissue damage, and long-term issues with posture.

Once you know what size you’re looking for, check the company’s sizing chart. The more detailed and complex it is, the better off you’ll be—this means the manufacturers have put a great deal of thought into ensuring the perfect fit. If they offer only a generic size chart—small, medium, large—keep looking until you find a tank top that offers a more comprehensive description.

It’s always better to try a garment on before making a purchase. However, the advent of online shopping has largely made this practice a thing of the past. If you can’t try it on in advance, check the posted reviews to find out if there have been any written by women who share your body type.

As far as support is concerned, you’re looking for protection as well as comfort. If your breasts bounce around too much during exercise, the muscle ligaments that hold them in place can be stretched and torn. High-impact activities such as running present the most risk, but any routine movement may cause discomfort and long-term damage if the breasts don’t have enough support. That’s the main reason why sports bras are necessary in the first place.

Comfort

Another reason why sports bras exist? Regular bras aren’t made of the right material (see above), nor are they designed for long-term physical activity. They’re usually made of a cotton blend, which soaks through and creates chafing. Because the fabric doesn’t breathe properly, you’ll get hot and sweaty in no time, which could cause you to curb your workout. The straps don’t offer enough support either, leading to shoulder tension and increasing the risk of injury.

Care

When it doubt, wash it out. There’s a reason why some brands offer removable bra cups—it’s best to keep them as clean as possible. If you do choose to remove them, make sure they’re fully dry before replacing them in the tank top. Also, try to keep the bra cups out of the dryer, as this can warp them into uncomfortable shapes.

Before washing, read the label carefully to make sure you’re taking proper care of the fabric. Avoid high heat—this can cause the material to break down rapidly, meaning you’ll have to replace your tank tops more often. Bleach and fabric softeners are also not recommended.

Type of Use

Form-fitting tank tops are better for hiking, running, and climbing. If the garment is slouchy around the waist, it’s an appealing choice for everyday wear, but the fabric might get snagged on branches if you’re walking in the woods. For yoga, look for a tank that will stay in place as you move while still leaving you with enough flexibility to breathe deeply during the exercises. Should you have any doubts regarding the garment’s versatility, take a look at the reviews to see what other users have to say.

Style

As far as style is concerned, you’ll have many different styles to choose from. Most manufacturers offer plenty of color choices, but that’s just the first of many decisions you’ll have to make in the aesthetics department. Of course, it’s not just eye appeal you’re after—you’ll want to make sure the tank top suits your body type as well.

Check the neckline to see if it’s cut too high or too low. This is largely a matter of personal preference, but we’ve found that if the neck is cut too high, it’s overly restrictive, while a low-cut neckline might be prone to slippage during vigorous exercise.

You should also take a look at the straps. If they’re spaghetti straps, they won’t lend as much support, especially if your breasts are large. Some might be outfitted with double or triple strands, which will help in the support department but may lead to uncomfortable bunching. Racer-back tanks are usually a better choice if you wear a C-cup or larger.

FAQs

Do you wear bras under tanks?

If you need additional support or coverage, you can wear another sports bra underneath your shelf bra tank top. It might look a bit strange, especially if the colors contrast or the straps are too thick or too wide, so plan accordingly. If you don’t want the additional bra to be visible, choose a tank with a high neckline and broad straps.

Can you sleep in a shelf bra tank top?

Many of these bras are comfortable enough for sleep, especially if the bra cups are removable. Look for a version that has a loose fit around the waist and hips, and make sure the straps aren’t too constricting.

How do I prevent that fat bulge from forming underneath my arms and on my back?

“Bra bulge” typically results from wearing bras that are the wrong size for your body’s shape. In addition to finding the proper cup size, you should make sure the elastic band is just tight enough around your ribcage to provide a snug fit. If it’s too tight, excess flesh will be forced out around the top and bottom, creating a bulge. Also, the straps should sit comfortably on your shoulders without digging in or slipping off.

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