Ah, sports bras. Like regular bras, except forced to do all the dirty work.
It goes without saying that finding a sports bra is hard: It takes guesswork and witchcraft to find a bra that not only fits, but is able to do its own stunts as well.
Knowing the utter torture that is sports bra shopping, we set out to see if we couldn't find great sports bras for ourselves:
First, we gathered some ladies of various cup sizes and activity preferences:
Because quality could potentially come from anywhere, we decided to try sports bras from four different stores: Nike, Lululemon, Victoria's Secret, and Target.
In addition, we all gave each bra a bounce test, for obvious reasons.
The first bra we tried on was the Nike Pro Rival sports bra:
Allison: This looks like a bra bra, not a sports bra. But I trust Nike because advertising.
Michelle: I originally tried on the 32C, but found that the 32B fit much better. This was my favorite bra. I love the structured support as well as the flattering shape — it's practical and makes you feel sexy, too!
Lara: Worst bra ever, and it's painful for me to say this because I love Nike workout gear. But this bra is squeezing the goddamn life out of me, and it's making me feel as if my boobs are pointy. I don't like any part of it and I want it to get away from my skin and think about what it's done.
Kristin: This color and general ~significant padding situation~ made me feel a bit like I was wearing a sexy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume. But I am pretty strapped in — like, if my boobs ever commited a murder, this is where they'd be sent to prison.
And the Nike bounce test:
Allison: When bouncing, this bra feels almost like it could be obscene. This is the right bra to wear around your gym crush, but beware: Employees might ask you to cover up.
Michelle: I feel so supported in this bra, but not to the point where I feel strapped down in a bulletproof vest!
Lara: Not bad support really; there wasn't too much shaking. But not nearly as great as I thought it would be. It's squeezing my insides AND making my boobs hang out when they aren't even THAT good of friends.
Kristin: This was surprisingly jiggly. My boobs felt like they had found the secret "eject" button on the inside of this bra and just kept hitting it for fun.
We then tried the Incredible bra from Victoria's Secret:
Allison: This one was just kind of meh for me. "Deep V" stands for "deep reVeal," amirite????
Michelle: Same with the Nike bra, the smaller size ended up being the right one for me. The bra looks nice but was not practical for my needs. There's so much padding and underwire and weird straps that I don't know how I could move in an athletic environment. In fact, whenever I move, it feels like the entire mass is moving around rather than holding me together.
Lara: When I looked at this bra for the first time, I wanted nothing to do with it. But then I put it on and I was *kind of* pleasantly surprised. I was comfortable, I was supported, but this bra wasn't my friend. This bra is like the person you kind of knew in college who now promises to get coffee with every time you see each other which is once a year. You know it, but it doesn't know you. I wouldn't buy this bra, but if one of you wanted to buy it for me I would wear it.
Kristin: Before we started, I said that if the worst bra ISN'T the Victoria's Secret bra, I would wear it on my head like a hat for an entire day. Well, I fucking love this bra — it actually is supportive and comfy! Yeah, it's a molded bra that feels like my boobs are wearing two snug little cereal bowls, but it works. They ARE two snug little cereal bowls — and I am eating my words out of them.
And the Victoria's Secret bra bounce test:
Allison: This thing is like a Tempur-Pedic. And I don't know if that's a good thing. I'm not so sure the padding around the underboob is necessary for a sporty environment. It seems to aid in upperboob bounce.
Michelle: WOW! I feel so strapped into this bra! When I move around it doesn't really move with me, it stays together and has a mind of its own.
Lara: Better than anticipated, but certainly not the best. This is like riding without a seatbelt on a country road...you feel safe until things get too bumpy.
Kristin: As much as it pains me to say it, this bra was really effective, and now I am going to go take a long existential walk because everything I know about life is apparently a lie.
Next, we tried the Free to Be *Wild bra from Lululemon. Here it is from the front...
...and the back!
Allison: THIS BRA IS SO KEWWWWT. Can I keep it? I want to wear it every day, with or without a shirt over it. Look at the strappies!
Michelle: Same with the Nike and the Victoria's Secret bras, I preferred a smaller size to the size I was going to try. I love the structural and pattern design of this bra a lot, but I am skeptical of the straps staying taut after multiple wears. I'm concerned that if it stretched in the least bit it'd be unusable.
Lara: THIS BRA IS AMAZING. I want 17 of them so I can wear them forever and always. The only downside of this bra is the fact that there are so many straps and I put my arms in the wrong spot at first. But it's the kind of thing you buy entire outfits around to match. It's comfortable, cute, AND supportive. Just like a good boyfriend. I think I'm in love.
Kristin: Can I say this? THIS WAS A LULU-LEMON. This bra was just a total Rubik's Cube to get on. I had such high hopes for this bra, but I feel like this was the bra that FINALLY made me realize that there are better styles of sports bra out there than just the squish-'em-down variety. But wearing this makes me feel like a seagull that accidentally got stuck in a plastic soda ring, and that's no way to go through life at the gym.
And the Lululemon bounce test:
Allison: This style and shape is a lot like my small collection of personal sports bras. It's what I have come to know and love. I realize that it's not supportive enough for boobs any bigger than mine, but for me it seems to do the trick.
Michelle: Hmmm, I'm actually not sure how I feel about this bra! I've tried on the more intense/strapped-in bras from Lulu before, which provide more support. I'm not sure how much I trust these tiny straps — will they continue to hold me up after multiple uses and washes? I'm skeptical!
Lara: Actually not as bad as I thought considering this thing barely has a back. I expected it to be about as supportive as a frenemy, but it turned out to be more of a friend.
Kristin: Yeah, one more jump for me, and this would have become porn.
Finally, we tried the Hanes Women's Full Coverage SmoothTec bra, available from Target:
Allison: Whoa. Does this do anything at all? I feel like labeling this as a bra is VERY misleading.
Michelle: Not really into this bra. It feels cheap and it feels like it won't last long. I would not feel safe trusting my girls in here!
Lara: Not a fan of this bra. The fabric was so thin around my actual boobs that I feared everyone knew what my nipples look like, and I barely even know what they look like! JK, I know what they look like. This bra really offered no support; it was a bra I could wear to bed and nowhere else. But who wears bras to bed?
Kristin: Wow, once you go molded cups, you really can't go back, can you? Now that I've tried on other options, I honestly don't know what I have been doing wearing bras like this to the gym for all these years.
And the Hanes bra (that we bought from Target) bounce test:
Allison: If anything, it made my boobs more bouncy!
Michelle: NOPE & NOPE!
Lara: What support? I didn't notice any support. This bra did not support me and my life choices.
Kristin: Look, you could argue that since this bra has the lightest support, we shouldn't be surprised it's painful to jump in, but making ANY bra that can't support you even in temporary motion situations is pointless. Like, what is this supposed to be, the Hanes Stay Still Bra for Ladies Who Prefer Not to Do Stuff?