Compiled by: Ashley Arnold, TS Gear Editor    

Feature Photo: Tad Davis

 

I used to have this super cute sports bra. It was black and strappy which made me feel so sexy and rebellious while running through mud and hopping rocks. I loved how it looked so much that when I tried it on, and the store didn’t have my size, I bought one that was a size too small. 

At first it was alright. I made it through a few hour-long runs with no real problems, unless you finding the bra outline (and logo) pretty much branded into my torso. I then tried to do a tempo run. At first I falsely convinced myself my cold-induced asthma had come back in the summer, but after about three more miles with the pain, I came to my senses and stopped and started yanking on the elastic until I heard it pop-pop-pop. Ah, some relief! I stretched it out just enough to make things more bearable. And while I made it through that run–albeit with half lung capacity–I retired the black strappy thing to the bottom of my sports bra drawer.

So, in short, wearing the right bra matters. Not only does it affect performance (per the example above), the wrong size is slightly uncomfortable at best and tissue-damaging at worst.

While ultimately you need to try on several varieties that fit your chest and cup size (yes, you need to measure), we’ve taken some guessing out of your quest with our first-ever Trail Sisters gear review: Sports Bras.

Herewith, a collection of bras and honest wear-tested feedback from your Trail Sisters:

INKnBURN Purple Azalea Sports Bra, $65

If you like what you see, don’t get too attached. INKnBURN thrives on unique products with a limited run. So while the sports bra style you buy may stay similar to the samples reviewed below, it won’t be exactly the same. But that’s part of the fun with this brand! That being said, INKnBURN‘s bras, across the board, are strappy and supportive by compression. (They don’t offer encapsulation and so may not be the best support for larger cup sizes.)

Purple Azalea Front

Purple Azalea Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do the TS testers have to say about it?

Des:
I’m small-chested so I don’t need crazy support. However, I nursed two little boys  so I worry more about my boobs pancaking or nipping out. Surprisingly, this bra offered enough support in the band and straps and the bra’s body was shaped well and had enough thickness for coverage without flattening me. The back design was strappy and unique, and, at the very least, gave me some variety on my typical sports bra tan.

 

INKnBURN Purple Azalea Sports Bra

INKnBURN Purple Azalea Sports Bra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The band was a little snug around my chest, but after just a few wears it was becoming more comfortable. I didn’t notice any areas rubbing or pinching. The open design in the back let in a nice little breeze that felt good on warm runs. Overall this is a cute, functional sports bra. While I can’t say it’s my favorite shorts bra, it will likely makes its way into my normal rotation. 

Katelynn:

This bra kept my girls comfortably in place with minimal bouncing. The way the straps hug between my shoulder blades seems to add a lot of stability. Who knew the cute was also functional?!

I went on a 15-miler wearing the bra with my husky Kobe. There was heavy rain for the first 8 to 9 miles. I started in the dark so I missed a turn, and we had to scramble up the side of the gorge with a river of mud showering over us. Kobe couldn’t get enough traction to make it up on his own, so I had to put him in front and push him with one arm while I tried to scramble with the other three limbs and a hand held. By the end, we were both so muddy that we laid down and splashed around in the first creek we came to. … You couldn’t even tell the bra had just been through a mud bath!

INKnBURN Purple Azalea Sports Bra

After the rain stopped and the sun came out, I felt like the bra dried quickly and didn’t remain heavy and wet for an extended period. I have always had trouble with sports bras causing chafing under my arms; I purposefully didn’t put any body glide on before this run to see how this bra did. I’m happy to report that it didn’t cause any chafing at all!

* The Purple Azalea has not been released yet, but coming soon. Join INKnBURN’s mailing list for updates.

 

 

 

 

 

The North Face Stow-N-Go Bra, $45

Ideal for an A to B cup, this bra offers compression support with body-mapped ventilation and fast-drying double-layered fabric. I’m not sure what they mean by modesty panels, but it does hold a surprisingly large number of gels and so, it’s perfect for ultras and running errands. Plus, it’s super comfy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do the TS testers have to say about it?

Maria:

I frequently wear a fanny pack on my easy runs to hold my phone, some extra cash and emergency calories. When I heard about the Stow-N-Go sports bra made by The North Face I was pumped. The bra is even reflective for improved visibility and safety. Admittedly, as a B cup, my breasts don’t cause a lot of fuss. I can get away with a variety of sizes without too many problems.

The North Face Stow-N-Go Sports Bra- Stow Style

The North Face Stow-N-Go Sports Bra – Stow Style

On my first run in the Stow-N-Go I got a little overzealous in my stuffing. An iPhone, a credit card, tissues and house keys made my chest ridiculously lumpy. I only made it 400 meters down the road before turning back to the house to unload some of my haul. Living in the Pacific Northwest in the spring means you need to wear layers to regulate for the chilly temperatures and on and off rain. During one 4-hour long run, I found it difficult to dig through two layers of clothing with gloves on to get to my GUs that were stored inside the bra pocket.

The North Face Stow-N-Go Sports Bra
PC: Tad Davis

I know many women who store gels inside their bras during races. I have done this myself, but the sharp edges caused eventual chaffing and bleeding. The Stow-N-Go is ideal for this situation because typically you wear less clothes when racing and therefore are better able to get to the pocket.

This bra is ideal for runs in warmer, dryer climates when limited clothing is worn. It is perfect for carrying lightweight items such as tissues, tampons, cash or gels.

Kate:

I confess, I already owned two Stow-N-Go’s before I received this one to test and I wear one almost every time I race. The pocket is hands-down my favorite thing about the bra (it’s the reason I already had two of them) because I am often frustrated with the lack of pockets in my running clothes. While I don’t bring much on a run, I always take a house or car key, and need a secure place to put it. 

 

 

 

I love that the pocket is large enough to carry a lot, but is undetectable when not in use. There is a mini pocket within a larger pocket, if you wanted to separate, say, a car key and a gel. A month ago I was pacing a race at an easy clip and picked up several treats from aid stations along the way! I could fit a few bars and gels in there to save for after the race, which I wouldn’t have bothered carrying otherwise. I also ran a hash run in this bra, so I could keep my ID and some cash in there when we stopped at a bar. I know I don’t have to worry about anything falling out.

While I find the bra to be comfortable, I think the fit is strange-looking on my body. I find the band on the XS to be tighter than most around my rib cage, but looser around the bust. For this reason, this is a bra I reach for when I need the pocket, but rarely wear without a top to cover. Otherwise, I’ve never had any issues with chafing and the support is great, although I really don’t need a ton anyway.

Brooks (Moving Comfort) Juno Sports Bra, $65

Designed specifically for larger busts (C to E), the Brooks Juno Sports Bra is built to withstand high impact with maximum encapsulation support. Plus, the fabric is non-odor absorbing (awesome!), sweat-wicking and soft. Straps are adjustable and clasps are padded for increased comfort. According to Brooks, it’s their best-selling bra.  

Brooks Juno Sports Bra

Brooks Juno Sports Bra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do the TS testers have to say about it?

Lisa:

To understand the glory of this sports bra, you must first understand what it was up against: I am a 32DD. My boobs have nursed a child, swelled up to a 36H in the process, shriveled down, flopped around, and now rest like sad puppy ears against my mommy muff of a tummy. OK, now that we are all depressed, let’s fall in love with this bra. …

I’m cheap, and it’s always been hard for me to spend money on sports bras. I know, $65 is not even that much money, and I’m being ridiculous. I know that now. I’ve been fine (or so I thought) fighting my way into Target bras that simply crush my girls into an immobile lump. I was worried, therefore, when the Brooks Juno slipped gently into place around my bosom. “This will never work,” thought I, as I reached behind my back to slide the hook and eye closure in place. But it did. I don’t know what voodoo it was, but the hook and eye closure, coupled with the velcro shoulder straps, provided a perfectly comfortable, and controlled, fit. I used the bra for bootcamp (burpees, jump rope, box jumps) and everyone remained safe. I ran on the road, the dirt and granite domes and had zero bounce or chafe. In fact, I ran a 13.1-mile race over the second largest granite dome in Texas, without lubricant, and still had no issues. The bra is structurally sound, soft on the skin and has ample room for boob-ice on race day … without feeling loose.

That covers structure, but let’s discuss looks, because they do matter. The cobalt blue is jewel-toned and lovely. It would shine against any skin tone, and adds a pop of color under grey and black tanks. It also does a good job of not “pooching.” Often bras force any extra fat to pop over the side, out of the bottom, and from any little keyhole available. Not this one. This bra just fits. The lack of fat squish probably reduced arm-to-armpit rub tremendously, and is likely why I experienced no raw spots after a very sweaty race.

I love this bra so much, I already bought a second one.

Brooks Juno Sports Bra – Adjustable Straps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SmartWool PhD Racerback Sports Bra, $60

This compression-based seamlessly-designed sports bra has a unique compression-encapsulation design that offers support without potential hot spots. Next-to-skin merino wicks moisture and staves off odor.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do the TS testers have to say about it?

Abby:

My first impressions when I unpacked this bra was that the fabric was super soft and completely seamless. I was amazed at how easily it slipped on thanks to the stretchy material. I tested the bra out running and during strength training workouts. It was super comfortable and I had no issues with slipping or bunching anywhere. Feeling confident, I decided to go out and test it in a half-marathon trail race. …

Despite hot and humid race day conditions, I didn’t have any issues with chafing. I loved the balance the bra offered between feeling soft, stretchy and supportive. Another plus: It was easy to remove after the end of a workout (there’s nothing worse than peeling off a sweaty bra).  

Jennifer:

During the testing period I was injured and unable to run. Being injured is awful, but this bra is incredible! I wore it to the gym daily where it was put through some serious perspiration tests. I did a lot of functional movement exercises and spent at least an hour each day on the spin bike or hiking on the treadmill at 30-percent incline with my hydration pack on.

SmartWool PhD Racerback Sports Bra

 

 

 

 

I’m guessing the Merino wool aided in quality thermoregulation! The bra’s sweat wicking, and breathability was phenomenal. Plus, the seamless knit Merino wool interior gave it a very smooth, next-to-skin feel. The overall support was fantastic: Zero movement while still remaining extremely flexible and comfortable. Plus, I loved the color.

Patagonia Active Compression Bra, $34

Built for versatility, this bra offers seamless construction and compression support with slight encapsulation. Double layer mesh on the back offers additional support and breathability while a spandex and polyester blend wicks away moisture. A major bonus: It’s made from fair trade sewing. Gotta love Patagonia.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do the TS testers have to say about it?

Tara:

As a big fan of Patagonia, I was excited to try out their Active Compression Bra. I noticed right away that there was some give in the bust fabric area, but no cup padding which I typically like. The bra fit true to size but there was more fabric than I’m used to. I didn’t mind, though, and it didn’t take away from the support provided. The straps were fine and provided sufficient support for my frame.

Patagonia Active Compression Sports Bra

Patagonia Active Compression Sports Bra

I wore the model on two different trail runs which totaled around 5 hours. It was colder outside, and I wore a heavier hydration pack during one and a lighter pack on the other. I also wore it in an hour-long interval bike class. The room was a warm 78 degrees and hopping. It felt a bit hot during the class (though I never thought about it on runs so maybe I was just working extra hard).

I washed it according to the instructions and found the material to be super durable. I’ll definitely work this bra into my rotation.

 

Additional Reading: Ask the Trail Sisters  – Sports Bra Recommendations

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