First, the facts:
- I wear a 30G bra. Sometimes a 30F, if the bra manufacturer mistakenly believes I want padding.
- Yes, I have been measured by a trained professional. I do it about once a year, just for kicks.
- No, my bra size is not fictional, although the woman at the Athleta store I talked to a couple of weeks ago looked at me like I had two heads.
- I realize that bra shopping is terrible for everyone, not just me. My mother is something like a 34-negative-A, so I know even ladies on the smaller side suffer.
With those things out of the way, we can get down to brass tacks.
As part of my half-marathon procrastinating, I convinced myself about a month ago that I most certainly COULD NOT RUN unless I had new sports bras. This was only marginally true. I had four bras in the drawer, two of them quite new, one on the way out, and one somewhere in the middle. The problem, of course, is that when you’re training for a race you run a lot, and sweat a lot, and either do a lot of laundry or have a well-stocked drawer full of workout gear.
At this point you’re asking why four bras wasn’t enough. That’s a good question. Here’s a breakdown of what was in the drawer:
- Champion Powerback Maximum Control sports bra. This is the bra that I have already thrown away, as it was several years old and not doing it’s job anymore. I used to love this bra. It was kinda cute – harder in big sizes – and really worked. Mine was white. I will say that this bra was a bitch to get in and out of, as you had to pull it on and off over your head. The underwires make this particularly complicated. Sweaty, it was a nightmare, and definitely not something you wanted to attempt in front of another person.
- Moving Comfort Maia Maximum Control sports bra. This is the bra that’s still going strong, but is probably on its way out. Until recently, it was the only one I wore. It’s ultra supportive, very comfortable, and is easy to get in and out of. It has a touch of padding, so even though there are underwires, I’ve never felt them. Mine is a cornflower blue.
- Moving Comfort Rebound Racerback Wire-free Maximum Control sports bra. The last time I bought new bras I got two of these. One in a heather gray and one in a pretty teal. I maybe wore each of them three times. To understand why I never wore them, you probably need to click through and look at the picture. See that spot where the straps meet the bodice? Those straps are adjustable with velcro, so the strap folds over and attaches to itself right in front. When properly adjusted for me, the straps attached to themselves right on my collarbone, where they rubbed and rubbed until I would actually bleed and get scabs. Typically, I would push a bit of t-shirt between the bra and my skin to stop the chafing, but that’s not really a workable solution.
Armed with only one workable bra and at least four days a week of running, I started looking around for new bras. At REI, the Moving Comfort Rebound was the only one they carried in even sort of my size, and by “sort of” I mean that they had a 32DDD. It’s a miracle they had it, so I tried it on even though there’s no way I would have bought it. The band was too wide, of course, and those terrible velcro straps still sat right over my collarbones. Next up was Lucy. The largest cup size they had was a DD, and the smallest band size was a 34. And then there was Athleta, where the sales woman tried to convince me that a 36DD would probably do just fine. Because there is no difference between a size 30 band and a size 36 band, right? Ugh.
In the end, I did what I knew I had to do, and went to Bare Necessities, where I’ve bought pretty much all my bras for the last five years. They stock European sizes, and have a very liberal return policy. I buy bras at BN the way I buy shoes from Zappos: in bulk and then return what doesn’t work. After reading a bunch of reviews, I ended up buying:
- The Panache Ultimate Maximum Control sports bra. I love that it has both “maximum” and “ultimate” in the name! After reading several reviews, I went with a 34F. It’s not unusual for the band/cup sizes to be smaller on sports bras, as they need to be more restrictive.
- The Freya Underwire sports bra. I’ve worn a lot of Freya bras over the years, so I trust them to be good quality and to fit right. I also ordered a 34F in this one.
- The Anita Maximum Control Wire-Free sports bra. I had never heard of Anita, which is crazy, since apparently the company has been around since 1886. I bought two of them, both in 34F, as everyone said they ran extremely small.
I paid for quick shipping, so within a couple of days I was trying on my new bras. The Panache, which had the most positive reviews online and also recommendations from friends, didn’t fit at all. In fact, I was practically swimming in it! The Anitas fit great, but in a 34 band I was already down to the tightest hook, which is a no-no. I knew that in a few weeks the bra would stretch enough that it would be too big. And the Freya fit just right! All three bras were moderately cute, seemingly supportive, and appeared that they would be comfortable for running. The next day I called up Bare Necessities and ordered new sizes for the Panache and Anitas. (BTW, the lady on the phone said the Panache actually runs BIG, not small, and recommended a 30F.)
Two days after THAT, I was trying on the new sizes. The Panache, sadly, still did not fit. It has a touch of padding, and I think it’s just not built right for me. The band was a tad too snug, but the cups were still a little big, but not so big that a smaller size would have worked. It’s a bummer, because it came so highly recommended. The new Anitas, on the other hand, fit great in a 32F.
Armed with my two Anitas and my Freya, I set out to log some miles.
First up, the Freya. I ran eight miles in it the first day and then several days later did a 5K on the gym treadmill. It was very supportive, and because it is two distinct cups, it didn’t give me that bizarre uniboob look under clothing. However. The stitching around the band is incredibly rough. After the eight-miler, I noticed that soap stung my skin in places when I showered. After the three-miler, I had a visible rash between my boobs where the stitching had rubbed me raw. By the end of the day it was itchy and scabby. Needless to say, the Freya went back in the box with all the ill-fitting bras and was shipped back.
Next up, the Anita. Now, this bra comes folded up in a box like those Playtex minimizers the big-busted ladies wore in the 80s. The boxes are small, because this bra is not bulky. It’s made out of some sort of miracle material that provides incredible support without being heavy. While it fit in my bedroom, I was worried it wouldn’t work out on the trail. I needn’t have worried, because this thing really works! I wore it to run four miles last weekend, and then did a 5K on the treadmill this week. There was minimal bouncing and absolutely no chafing. Although it definitely gives the uniboob, I couldn’t care less. I’m so glad I bought two!
This entire sports bra shopping experience lasted about a month. At the end of it all, I have two new bras that fit and had to return five bras that didn’t work. Because I wore the Freya, I’ll get a credit instead of a refund for my purchase. I’m going to try to get the Moving Comfort Maia, hoping lightning will strike twice and a new one will fit as great as the old.
After that? The only thing that’s left is figuring out which one is good for 13.1 miles.