Sports Bras I Have Known: A Round-Up for Big Boobs

Y’all, I have tried me some sports bras.

Lest you run away with an inflated sense of my athletic prowess, picture, if you will, a 5’10” 13-year-old who made it onto the middle school basketball team and would cheerfully pass the ball to the opposing team, lest she seemed too mean or aggressive. She also came to two practices a week with her leotard and tights on under her basketball clothes, so she wouldn’t have to change when her mom picked her up to drive her to ballet class.

Meanwhile, over in ballet class, she had big boobs and flat feet. She was also still 5’10”, and thus never invited to take partnering classes.

So (back to the present), in spite of the fact that I tend to flail from one physical activity to another and have a soft little belly like a bowl full of jelly, it’s still rare that I exercise less than a few times a week. I’ve done dance classes at the gym, sessions on the elliptical, a New Year’s Day yoga class with friends that was both soul-opening and body-breaking, and I once helped a friend train to hike Mount Kilimanjaro, but for the last 9 months or so I’ve been running.

BRAG AHEAD: I can now run 5-6 miles at a time with some regularity, and my furthest distance so far is 9 miles. I’m starting to consider training for a half-marathon. WHO AM I? But also bear in mind I can only run faster than 6 miles/hour if I’m on the treadmill under a fan watching a precisely calibrated medley of CW shows and superhero movies on my phone, so slow your roll and don’t sign me up for the Olympics yet.

All THAT is to bring me to the point that once I started hitting the 4+ mile mark several times a week, all of a sudden things started hurting. My feet blistered, my knees ached, my shirts chafed my arms, and my sports bras started trying to kill me.

Not because of the bounce, though! Honestly most of the sports bras I’ve tried that fit correctly (and are the right shape for me) have done a fantastic job of giving me support and stability (seriously, there are so many great full-bust sports bras out there now (although not in every size range (more on this shortly))). No, what’s getting me now is The Chafing. Good gravy, the chafing. The straps on one bra, the seams on another, the underwires on this one, the back clasp on that one: they’re having trouble going the distance. Let’s break it down! (Each picture takes you to a retailer with the product in stock.)

The Ones I’ve Tried:

Panache Sport: Available in sizes 28 DD-H, 30 D-H, 32 C-H, 34-38 B-H, 40 D-GG.  I reviewed it here.

Panache Sport sports bra red

In terms of looks and comfort, this is my favorite D+ sports bra on the market.

Original: The original bra is an underwired encapsulation-style sports bra with an adjustable racer-back clip (also called a J-hook) and astoundingly flattering molded cups. Seriously, my boobs look phenomenal. It offers great support without making you feel like your boobs are being squished to your chest. The band starts out pretty firm, but I find it stretches within a few workouts. I loved it for hiking and pole dancing, and it served me well when my runs were 2 miles and under, but for longer-distance running? Yowza. Sore, angry red patches of skin at the center gore from the underwires, sore, angry red patch of skin on my back from the back clasp. Fortunately, the lovely Lisa of Le Piège des Boobies (“the booby trap” in French) in Brooklyn recommended a bra liner, which wicks sweat and provides a protective barrier between the bra and your skin. I can’t wait to try this out!

Sweet Nothings Panache Sports Top Review

Sports Top: Second verse, much like the first (review here), but this time it’s built into a sports top. As I mentioned in my review, I found the top a little narrow through the body, with the result that it kept riding up on me, but for those of you who are not shaped like me, you might love it! I wasn’t nuts about this colorway, but there’s a great black version in the Fall/Winter collection that’s still available at a few retailers.

Panache Sport Non-Wire Bra

Wire-Free Sports Bra: I sought this out hoping to get some relief from the chafing problem I was getting with the original bra. For a wire-free bra it works very well, although there’s still something going on at the back clasp that’s rubbing and irritating my skin while I run (hopefully a bra liner will solve that problem). With no wires and a smooth molded cup, it’s very comfortable, but I wouldn’t wear it for running without the racerback hooks clipped, and I’ll give it a miss for activities like yoga or dance that involve a lot of inversions or upper body movement. The cups seem to kind of tip my boobs up and towards the center, so whenever I bend over I have to readjust when I stand up.

Freya Active

Freya Active: I’ve only tried the classic version (D-K cups) and the sports top (D-H cups) (reviewed here), but wow: this does not work for me at all, and I’ve tried it at pretty much every size I’ve worn. The shape is so, so odd on me: the gore doesn’t tack, the top of the cup is shallow, the underwire slides down my ribcage, creating lots of extra room in the bottom of the cup, and the wires spread way too wide at the sides of my body. However, my body is not every body, and this bra has some extremely loyal fans. Check out Busts 4 Justice’s reviews of the bra here: she loves it!

Royce Impact Free Sports Bra

Royce: Royce specializes in wire-free bras, and their Impact Free Sports Bra is available in back sizes from 28-40 and cup sizes from D-K (UK) (depending on band size). I haven’t worn this bra in several years, but I remembering appreciating the high neckline when I wore it for dance classes and yoga. The last thing I want to worry about when I’m stretching and bending is my boobs falling out, and with this bra, there’s no chance of that! I remember the band being nice and firm, but for whatever reason I haven’t felt like revisiting it– maybe now that I’m running more I should try it again!

Shock Absorber D+ Max Sports Bra Shock Absorber: When my Panache bras started to chafe, I turned to Shock Absorber’s D+ Max Sports bra as a wire-free alternative (I’ve also worn the Max Sports Bra by the same company, and while it’s a slightly different cut, the support is equally good). It’s not the loveliest of bras, and while there are separate cups, it still kind of mashes your boobs down. The band is also QUITE firm: both Linda’s in NYC and the fitter at Bravissimo recommend taking your sister size (one band larger and one cup smaller than your regular size).  I have a few of these now, and they’re great for running longer distances– or at least they were, until one of the seams in the cup’s internal side sling began chafing my breast tissue. Ouch. Between this bra, the regular Panache bra, and the wire-free Panache bra I’m able to rotate styles often enough to avoid really roughing up one part of my body too much, but I’m still holding out hope for a bra that gives me support and comfort without chafing my skin.

The Ones I Haven’t Tried Yet:

Freya Active Molded Sports Bra

Freya Active Molded (B-H cups): This appears to be Freya’s response to the Panache sports bra, with molded (instead of seamed) cups and a racer back clip, in bold as well as neutral continuity colors. While the traditional Active shape is a no-go for me, I’m curious to see how this one would work!

Freya Active Underwired Crop Top

Freya Active Crop Top (B-H cups): This appears to be a hybrid between the seamed traditional Freya Active bras and the newer molded-cup models. With more coverage and thicker, seamed molded cups, this bra can be worn under a top or on its own. This is one I really, really want to try.

Enell Sports Bra

Enell (approximately FF-H cups): While not the loveliest of bras, I’ve heard good things about this front-closing compression sports bra, particularly for activities like yoga or Pilates, where a back clasp could irritate the skin in the center of your back. The sizing is a bit unusual, so I refer you to Butterfly Collection for sizing advice.

Elomi Energise Sports Bra

Elomi Energise (34-46 bands, D-J cups (depending on band size)): One of the few DD+ sports bras available in band sizes over 40, I’ve heard rave reviews about this sports bra. Check out Fuller Figure Fuller Bust for more details!

Bravissimo Inspire Sports Bra

Bravissimo Inspire (DD-K cups): Really the only alternative to Freya Active if you’re looking for a sports bra in sizes over an H or HH-cup, Bravissimo’s sports bra is slowly running out of stock. The Bravissimo team reports that they hope to reintroduce it in the full size range some time in 2016, after they’ve had time to make some pattern and fit adjustments.

Shock Absorber Gym Bra

Shock Absorber Gym Bra (B-H cups): I’m intrigued by this shape, which looks a little like a regular sports bra with surplice-style external side slings.

Have you tried any of these sports bras? Any favorites? Is there a sports bra you love that I missed?

29 Comments on Sports Bras I Have Known: A Round-Up for Big Boobs

  1. Anja
    January 20, 2015 at 8:31 am (8 years ago)

    Very helpful overview, thank you! I can also recommend the wireless “Kate” Sports Bra from Germand brand Ulla (style no 6028).

    Kind regards from Berlin,

    • Sweets
      January 20, 2015 at 3:50 pm (8 years ago)

      Oh thanks, Anja! I hadn’t heard of Ulla before; I’ll have to check them out!

      • Anja
        January 20, 2015 at 4:01 pm (8 years ago)

        I’ve worked with this bra in my time as a brafitter and was a big fan of it! It has an amazing size range, translated in British sizes it goes from 32-38 DD-JJ, 40-48 D-JJ and 50-56 D-G. The cups are pretty high in front of the chest but so the breasts can’t fall out and are safe with every move. The material feels comfortable. I have to admit, it’s very expensive because it’s ethically produced and made in Germany, the materials are from Europe, but I think it’s worth the money!

        • Sweets
          January 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm (8 years ago)

          Wow, that IS an amazing size range! Thanks so much for sharing!

          • Anja
            January 20, 2015 at 4:12 pm (8 years ago)

            Good bras need to be shared 🙂

          • DDtop
            January 27, 2015 at 10:38 pm (8 years ago)

            Ulla is excellent quality worth the money if you can afford and do some great styles/sizes

  2. Therese
    January 20, 2015 at 10:49 am (8 years ago)

    Very interesting. I’m on the lookout for a new sports bra and consider trying a new brand. I was thinking about freya, but I don’t normally get along with Freya.I have the wired panache which suits me quite well and three
    different shock absorbers of which the Old torpedo boobs version is best. I tried the new chantelle in a shop both in EU 65g and 70g but neither fit. I’m a 32f/FF normally. I wonder about Anita – anyone tried those?

    • Emily
      January 25, 2015 at 5:38 pm (8 years ago)

      I got the Anita Women’s Extreme Control Sports Bra a few weeks ago and, so far, I’ve been loving it. I typically find that racerbacks support me best when running, but the Anita is much easier to put on and controls bounce just as well, if not better. I (knock on wood) am not prone to chafing as long as I cut out any and all tags–my longer runs are about 9 miles–but haven’t experienced any with the Anita either.

  3. wytch
    January 20, 2015 at 11:38 am (8 years ago)

    My Rebound Racer bra from Moving Comfort was a lifesaver when I was training for my half. They have a more limited range of sizes but for the e/f range, I love them.

    • Sweets
      January 20, 2015 at 3:51 pm (8 years ago)

      Oooh, that’s a great recommendation! Thanks– I’ll keep my eye on them for those in the right size range.

      • wytch
        January 21, 2015 at 4:19 pm (8 years ago)

        They do have a more limited range of sizes but I’m usually an e-f cup and they’ve consistently been my fave. Good luck with the running!

  4. Erica of A Sophisticated Pair
    January 20, 2015 at 12:59 pm (8 years ago)

    My Panache sports bras are my favorite sports bras I have ever owned. I have one for exercise (mostly yoga, strength training, dance, or walking), one for just wearing around the house, and I just got the new wireless one which I also like. However, I have heard from my runner customers that it rubs the back too much on long distances. From what they were telling me, anything over 3 miles creates the issue. I’d love to hear if the bra liners improve this though!

    • Sweets
      January 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm (8 years ago)

      Yeah, the back– ouches. I didn’t notice it too much the first time it happened until I got in the shower and the water hit my back. I’ve only used the liner once, and while I kind of had to yank it around me to get it to meet in the back, it seemed to work really well!

  5. Charli
    January 20, 2015 at 3:12 pm (8 years ago)

    Great reviews – really helpful! I’ve used the shock absorber multi sports active for years now. Its seen me through horse riding, yoga, running (well jogging) and rig work and I cannot fault it. That said, I love the look of Panache and feel it may be time to branch out a bit!

    C xx

    • Sweets
      January 20, 2015 at 3:55 pm (8 years ago)

      The Panache bra gets rave reviews– I really love it! Hope it works out for you well if you try it!

  6. astrid
    January 20, 2015 at 3:31 pm (8 years ago)

    Flat foot big bobbed ballet dancers unite! I agree with pretty much everything in your round-up. Just wanted to add that for those of us in the H+ club, Enell does custom. I’ve been meaning to try it but it’s a pretty long process and I really like the Elomi Energise these days. I hope Bravissimo makes the new Inspire more true to size. It’s a really good bra, but it runs really small

    • Sweets
      January 20, 2015 at 3:57 pm (8 years ago)

      I am finding Bravissimo bras running super small in the cups in general these days, which really irritates me– you’d think they’d make more of an effort to be in line with the other brands they carry. I ordered a set in my regular size for Valentine’s Day and forgot to size up in the cups and sheeesh it’s so much smaller than the other brands I wear. Oh well. I had no idea Enell did custom! If you ever do try it I’d really love to hear what you think.

        • Sweets
          January 21, 2015 at 3:59 pm (8 years ago)

          Ooh, thanks, that is really helpful! I’ll be interested to try Inspire when Bravissimo re-introduces it to their line-up.

    • Faustine Li
      January 21, 2015 at 6:22 pm (8 years ago)

      Can Can runs a little large in the cups, and I tried ordering an unpadded half-cup (Tropic Exotic) one cup size up, but it was too big. Small data points, but there if you need them.

      • Sweets
        January 21, 2015 at 6:27 pm (8 years ago)

        Thank you! That actually does help 🙂

        • Faustine Li
          January 23, 2015 at 12:16 pm (8 years ago)

          I’ll revise that- they run full in the cups. Tightening the straps a bunch helped a 34G mostly fit me, but there was still some room. So I guess when in doubt with their unpadded half-cups, size one up. That was actually Bravissimo’s advice when I asked.

  7. Lottie
    January 20, 2015 at 11:36 pm (8 years ago)

    Lovely round up (as usual). I wear sports bras to work in a physical job so they get plenty of wear! I like the panache sports bra, but it didnt last for me, all the hooks and eyes ripped out! The freya active crop top bra is amazing! It runs stupidly large in the cups but is incredibly supportive and long lasting.

    • Sweets
      January 20, 2015 at 11:46 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks Lottie! I really want to give the Freya crop top a try– that might be next on my list after hearing your recommendation!

  8. Molly
    January 21, 2015 at 2:41 am (8 years ago)

    I’ve done quite a bit a running (a couple full marathons under my belt, though I’m hardly signing up for the olympics either, trust me!!) and chafing is really common once you start running longer distances. I recommend getting bodyglide or a similar anti-chafing stick or cream. I use it for my thighs but also under my bra bands and anywhere that might rub too much. I think better bras make the chafing way less severe but it might be unavoidable once you get up in mileage (without extra help from anti chafing stuff, I mean)

    • Sweets
      January 21, 2015 at 4:05 pm (8 years ago)

      Oh gosh, that is really helpful advice. Thank you! It honestly never occurred to me– that will be a good thing to invest in. I’ve always exercised in any old t-shirt I had lying around, but after a certain mileage I realized I needed to invest in actual running shirts with seamless underarms and the like. I will investigate bodyglide!

  9. Faustine Li
    January 21, 2015 at 6:25 pm (8 years ago)

    The Panache sport can run a little full in the cups, so if you’re not very full up top or are between sized, I recommend sizing down/taking the lower.

  10. DDtop
    January 27, 2015 at 11:07 pm (8 years ago)

    Hi I have a few brands/types of sports bra i wear i wear them all day for normal wear.
    I love the Elomi EL8040 the 41 is same but has hook across straps.
    It’s very comfortable and supportive with no chaffing as like a double lining and the fabric is great the wires don’t poke and the straps are firm but have just enough give and don’t dig in or slip. They do need hand washing but i do with all of my bra’s just soak for while in hand hot swish about then rinse shape them as hang to dry and last well. I can wear for long days in total comfort it does push you in and out a bit on cups but that’s the way designed to keep you comfortable which it does great.
    Ive a few now I’m 46D but can go down to 44DD in many also have in 46DD which slightly more relaxed in cups ok for cycling but still fits ok.
    One of the others that not many mention but some have found now and like is the Glamorise 1166 sports bra non wired around £40 but what it has is like a 2nd layer over the front with 4 rows of sleeves/slots you can hook it up level 1 is like normal level 4 pulls them in like a compression bra more so no movement. good fabric very comfortable with the 2nd layer giving you coverage over nipples so no chaffing/rubbing. in my size has 5 rows of hooks so a nice firm band they do come up tight but do give a little once worn the only downside is that under band can roll a little.
    But being male that’s had Gyno since young and have problems with them from meds and fibro plus pit tumor they found have an hormone imbalance with v high prolactin as had leakage and soreness but since been wearing all the time P has come down now.
    but with the glamorise bra i can wear under T shirts without showing that i’m wearing a bra and put other males on to it as many now have problems after getting first one liked it so much got a couple more are quite hard to find in the Uk but JD williams places stock plus ample bosom will get in for you.
    One other i got is by Gemm bra’s took chance only around £15 but is actually quite good was surprised with amount of support it gives.
    Have learn’t alot since wearing about things but do like the quality bra’s and look for that as Elisabeth Dale on the say’s ladies could learn a lot from males with way we buy/look for and deal with it
    As might have to wear a bra full time but not going to buy/wear any old tat!

  11. Aafke-Art
    April 8, 2017 at 11:29 pm (6 years ago)

    A bit late to the party, but The only sports bra in which I can ride and run is the ”Anita”, mega control, nothing chafes and not uncomfortable.
    For a sports bra with mega control.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *