Before and after.
Photo: Maggie Slepian
Last summer, I hiked the 485-mile Colorado Trail wearing the same shorts, shirt, and bra for all 23 days. Weight saving is paramount for walkers, meaning double gear should be avoided, including hiking gear. All my gear worked great, but I was especially impressed with the Brooks Dare Crossback Bra.
I wear a 36C, which means I need a supportive bra for running and other high-impact activities. But like many people who wear sports bras, I’d rather forget I’m wearing one – quite a task if your anatomy requires at least some compression. However, I’m sensitive to pressure around my rib cage (read: lots of high-impact sports bras), and I end up overanalyzing my breathing due to the tightness around my chest — not ideal if I’m walking 20 miles a day. I can’t stand narrow straps, and I’ve found that many bras made with separate elastics, fabrics, and cups lose their elasticity at different rates, resulting in saggy cups with tight straps. In short, it’s hard for me to find a comfortable sports bra that doesn’t require me to take it off and gasp at the end of the day.
I had only worn the Brooks Dare Crossback a few times for the trip, so I took the risk of wearing it for nearly 500 miles. However, I was impressed with the nearly seamless design and the cups and straps that felt supportive without too much compression. Plus, I had worn it for a few days in a row and it passed the sniff test.
Sure, it was a great choice. The entire bra is in one piece with the lower band integrated into the molded cups, making it a smooth unit that distributes pressure evenly. The straps are super wide, which means they’re not the sexiest undergarments out there, but they lay flat to eliminate pinch points and chafing, and fit snug without feeling suffocating.
Plus, the racerback style narrows through the back and shoulders enough for a full range of motion, which was necessary since I was doing the same repetitive motion 12 hours a day. If you do the same thing all day long, you realize that a seemingly minor inconvenience such as packed fabric, pressure points, or the slightest material shift can become unbearable. For this hike, I’d tried bras with wide straps (scoop styles), but my arms swinging more than 20 miles at a time caused the straps to chafe at my armpits. This limited my range of motion, which initially led me to the cross-back style.
Brooks calls this bra “high impact,” reminiscent of a fully armored compression top I could wear on a battle sprint or trail run. Thankfully, this lightweight, sweat-wicking bra breaks through the compression-focused shape while still doing the job of a high-impact bra.
The Dare Crossback Bra has passed an extreme sniff test. In the nearly 500 miles I wore this bra over the course of 23 days, I only washed it once. By the time I was done with the trail it didn’t smell particularly good, but it didn’t belong in a biohazard bin either. When I got home, I even ran this bra through the washing machine and wore it to my next run in the city. It’s still my favorite sports bra for hiking, biking, and running, even though I’ve since covered 200 miles with it backpacking the Arizona Trail. It has more miles and hours on it than pretty much anything else I wear.
Note: I have the original Dare Crossback, but Brooks recently came out with the Dare Crossback Run Bra 2.0, which has a sleeker look with narrower shoulder straps.
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