Brooks Dare Sports Bra Collection Review

After countless hours of salty, sweaty running on our favorite roads and trails, most of us have been introduced to every seam of our clothing that we never knew existed–sometimes not until that hot shower after a run stings a newly chafed spot. For those of us who wear sports bras, not only do we have to manage their potential chafing issues but we also have to find the ones that support our unique anatomy well. All of this makes the sports bra one of the most important but also most routinely problematic pieces of our running attire.

This winter, I tested three bras in the Brooks Dare Sports Bra Collection, a collection of high-impact, encapsulation-style bras currently containing seven different models. Previous chafing memories make me fear running in anything that comes with a clip, clasp, or some sort of construction complexity. Thus, my primary motive in testing and eventually reviewing the Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra ($60), the Brooks Dare Zip Run Bra ($70), and the Brooks Dare High-Neck Run Bra ($65) was to find optimal comfort and support in the most simply designed models of this collection.

Brooks Dare Sports Bra Collection General Features

Because they are part of the Brooks Dare Sports Bra Collection, the nuts and bolts of these three bras, the Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra, the Brooks Dare Zip Run Bra, and the Brooks Dare High-Neck Run Bra, are identical. Brooks’s DriLayer Horsepower fabric, used through the collection, feels like butter and makes skin irritation hard to fathom. In some places, the DriLayer Horsepower fabric is 100% polyester, while in others the fabric is part spandex and part polyester. The bottom band is fully integrated into the bra with the goal of offering support without chafing, a great innovation for this all-important sports-bra feature. There is a small amount of memory-foam padding built into each of the cups–no runaway inserts!–which offers modesty without bulk and a great fit. In the case of the Crossback and Zip Run Bras, each strap is connected to a separate piece of fabric in the back, allowing the garment to glide along with you versus playing tug of war across the middle of your spine.

In composing each model’s seamless body and cups, Brooks’s DriLayer Horsepower fabric promises to hold you “up and in.” The up-and-in, encapsulation effect is certainly notable and sets this collection apart from, say, a “smasher bra” approach to support. Historically, I have embraced smasher bras for their ease of selecting a size medium in whatever brand I try. The Crossback and Zip Run Bras can be ordered in 30 to 40 A/B, C/D, and DD/E, while the High-Neck Run Bra comes in XS through XXL. These three all arrived true to size. In the case of the Crossback and Zip Run Bras, the combined sizing–C/D versus simply C–may lend to a touch more fabric than I’m accustomed to, but not to the extent that they feel like a poor fit. If I were to find myself back in the chest evolution of pregnancy and postpartum-hood, I’d embrace any extra fabric with open arms. Side note, my appreciation for up-and-in encapsulation support would also skyrocket under such circumstances. Brooks eloquently articulates the promise of “giddy-up in places where you need a little extra oomph,” a message that may be music to the ears of my fellow mom-bod runners out there.

Regarding the mitigation of boob sweat, which Brooks also promises with their DriLayer Horsepower fabric, I have not noticed awkward sweat patterns. The back of all three have attractive porous designs, allowing fashionable breathability. Various models incorporate strategically placed perforations and mesh inserts all around the bras to improve air flow. However, the extra material forming the cups on all three lacks enough breathability to dry quickly, in my opinion. While sweat seems to distribute itself evenly, I would not purchase these with the expectation that they stay dry over the course of a run.

With the rest of this review, I’ll explore details of each of the three models I tested.

Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra Details

For a race or long run 20 miles or longer, I would opt for the streamlined design of the Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra. Its simplicity reduces all potential surprises and discomforts while going the distance–I don’t chafe in this bra. I remain convinced that the separate layer of fabric attached to each strap in the back is a novel approach to mitigating chafing while also allowing you a bit more flexibility to breathe deeply without feeling restricted.

One note, the fabric under the armpits doesn’t lay flush on my skin, which could potentially be a byproduct of C/D sizing. However, I only mention that because I just noticed it, not because it’s caused any issues.

The Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra. All photos: iRunFar

The Brooks Dare Crossback Run Bra.

Brooks Dare Zip Run Bra Details

Most people who wear sports bras for trail adventures can relate to the struggle that is wrestling off a sweaty pullover-style bra in your car at an always-too-populated trailhead without flashing anyone for the necessary purpose of putting on warm and dry clothes for the drive home. The front closure of the Brooks Dare Zip Run Bra offers the opportunity for a quick evacuation.

For this reason, it remains my favorite of the three models I tested despite the potentially risky chafing prospects that accompany a bra’s extra bell, whistle, or in this case, zipper and small hook near the top of the zipper that prevents wardrobe malfunction. The inside of the front zipper and hook are lined with the same buttery-soft fabric that comprises the rest of the garment. Having run a handful of longer runs over 20 miles long in the Zip Run Bra, it has proven itself surprisingly trustworthy.

The Brooks Dare Zip Run Bra.

The incidence of chafing invariably increases with distance. Despite how minimal a sports bra is, I almost always err on the side of caution by applying a light coat of Vaseline to my back and chest when running for more than a couple hours. Without the light coat of Vaseline on a long run, the Zip Run Bra caused minimal skin irritation where the flap of fabric lines the inside of the zipper and light-to-moderate irritation at the base of the zipper against my rib cage, though the garment does zip in the upward direction to help mitigate this. With a light coat of Vaseline, I can run 20 miles with thousands of feet of elevation change–that means plentiful high-impact downhill miles–unscathed.

The Brooks Dare Zip Run Bra.

Brooks Dare High-Neck Run Bra Details

The Brooks Dare High-Neck Run Bra is more like a crop top than a traditional sports bra, and thus may be a great option for gals who prefer to rock it solo. Of the three bras I tested, it offers the greatest sizing simplicity with its XS through XXL sizing. Also, it has no extra layers of fabric in the back, which made it the most breathable from behind of the three models I tested.

While the High-Neck Run Bra meets all my critical checkboxes, I tend to choose this one the least because layering looks best with a high-neck shirt and the fabric covering the middle of the chest is a bit loose despite the rest of the bra fitting well. But if you fly it solo, you don’t even have to think about a shirt.

The Brooks Dare High-Neck Run Bra.

The Brooks Dare High-Neck Run Bra.

Brooks Dare Sports Bra Collection Overall Impressions

All in all, Brooks has done a great job designing a line of bras with the Brooks Dare Sports Bra Collection, built specifically for runners. I anxiously await the DriLayer Horsepower fabric technology to embrace my request for a unicorn: an encapsulation-style run bra that checks all the critical boxes and stays dry. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the comfort, support, and chafe-resistant phenomenon that is the Dare Collection and continue our post-run car stripping.

Call for Comments

  • Are you running in any of the Brooks Dare Sports Bra Collection models?
  • If so, which ones and how do you find them to work for you?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

There are 6 comments

  1. RWD

    I’ll have to give the Crossback a try – maybe. I’m a little concerned about the combined sizing but I’ll give it a shot. I bought one of the Dare Racerbacks, which you didn’t review, and it’s okay. It, too, is not quick-drying despite the product claims. I also don’t think their claim of encapsulation held up – I noticed a bit more movement than I did with the Juno, which is what I wore before. There’s also some odd puckering of the fabric. I worry that Brooks is focusing too much on aesthetics/how breasts look in a sports bra vs. support.

    1. Annie

      Man- hard to say if you’ll find the encapsulation in the Dare Crossback superior to the Dare Racerback (having not tried that one)… my guess would be that they’d be similar judging by how many aspects were similar among the ones I tested. However, without looking at specifics on reviews between the cross vs racer, it does appear the overall star ratings on the Brooks site for the Cross Back (4.5 stars) are significantly superior to the reviews on the Racerback (2.5 stars). If you wanted to consider the Zip Run, you may find it lends to a touch less movement up front because of the reinforcement the zipper provides?? Food for thought… good luck!

  2. Meg

    I ran in the Strappy which is no longer and the band expanded and stretched so I had to go down in size to keep it from happening. I give it an 5 out of 10 I don’t hate it but don’t love it either

  3. Tessa

    Great review! I may have to give brooks another try. I have an incredibly difficult time finding sports bras because I wear a 34DDD. My band measurement is 29 inches and my bust is 38-40 inches depending on where I am in my cycle. It really bothers me that many sports bra companies have moved towards the S, M, L sizing system because those bras almost never fit me properly. I will have the choice between getting a bra with a band that fits and cups that are way too small, or a band that doesn’t even tough my body and the cups are the right size. It is so frustrating.
    I still have two Moving Comfort Juno bras in 34DD that fit me pretty well, but they are six years old and probably won’t last forever. I also tried the SheFit high impact bra in the luxe size. It fits well enough that I kept it, but I do wish the cups were a bit bigger because I spill out the top of it. I can’t size up because the band is already as tight as it goes.
    If anyone has any recommendations for high impact sports bras for thin women who are very well endowed, please let me know in the comments!

    1. Delia

      Tessa –
      Try the “Ultimate Run Bra” by Shock Absorber. They come in bands as low as 30, in a whole range of cup sizes. I wear a similar size to you and have come to believe that the vast majority of a bra’s support comes from a well-fitting band, which can’t be too elastic. My ribcage is more like 31 and I found the 32 to work better than the 30, for what that’s worth. I have not found the other offerings from Shock Absorber to work as well as the “ultimate run bra,” however. The name pretty much says it all.

      Other things you might try:
      -the “wired sports bra” by Panache. The little racerback snap thing is crucial for giving it the support needed for running, though. I can wear it around all day and feel pretty comfortable, then snap it into “run mode” for my afternoon run. This is my preferred bra for long hikes.
      -search around on Bravissimo.com and see what else you can find. You’ll have to pay more for shipping from the UK, but the better selection is worth it.
      -doublecheck bras on Title Nine – they don’t carry band size 30 in anything (even if the manufacturer makes it), but their “barbell rating” could be pretty helpful as a cross reference, if you are buying it elsewhere. 5 barbells or bust. (sorry)

      Sadly, all the Brooks bras are a no-go for me – not nearly supportive enough. The fabric is so soft and smooth – I just wish the rest of the bra had more structure. I really wanted to like them! They come in some kickass colors too. Oh well.

      Good luck – I hope you find something good!

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