At this point in my life I have tried a whole lotta sports bras, y’all. I’ve tried some bad ones, sure, but happily in full-bust world there are some really, REALLY good ones out there. I don’t think of myself as an athlete, nor indeed as even being remarkably athletic, but as a well-endowed person who is even moderately active, sports bras don’t feel like a specialized piece of athletic equipment– they feel like a necessity. Thus I’ve had the chance to try some really great ones– a shout out to this Shock Absorber non-wired bra, the Freya Active Crop Top, and, of course, the mighty Panache sports bra (if you’ve been looking for the new HH and J-cup sizes, you can find them at Bravissimo, Breakout Bras, and Bare Necessities).
As I mentioned in my full-bust sports bra round up back in January and again in April, I started running diligently early in 2014 and I’ve now worked my way up to running around 25 miles a week, sometimes more (sometimes less, too, let’s be real). And then I casually mentioned that I was thinking about running a half-marathon, and then some very dear and good-hearted friends had the nerve to be incredibly supportive of this plan (again, I am not renowned for my athleticism), and then the lovely Quinne, of She and Reverie and The Lingerie Addict, said oh how ’bout this race in Brooklyn in October, and then I blithely signed up, and now the time is nigh, the race is on Saturday, the forecast keeps worryingly predicting-and-then-not-predicting-rain, and I will be running 13.1 miles at 7:00 a.m. with a bunch of other lunatics, God-willing-and-the-creek-don’t-rise.
So with all of these supportive (and stylish) sports bras on the market, which one did I pick to see me through my training and the race day? Answer– none of the above, for this reason: for any distances longer than 3-4 miles, sports bras with traditional bra-back fasteners tore my skin right. up. I tried different shapes, different bras, hell I even went wire-free, but between the back clasp and the occasional poorly placed seam, every bra I tried left me gasping in pain when the hot water of a shower hit my raw, chafed skin. I was developing semi-permanent scars on my back and breast tissue. I was starting to worry that I’d have to quit doing this thing I’d weirdly, after 29 years on this earth, started to enjoy, all because my boobs were both large and sad.
And then a reader asked me why I hadn’t tried the Enell sports bra, and I realized it was because I was outside the size range before, and there was a chance I’d be in the size range now, so I hustled over to the internet and bought one. Since Enell’s bras don’t use traditional bra measurements and are instead sized 00-8, I followed Butterfly Collection’s sizing advice (the Enell website also offers a size chart based on body measurements). I currently wear (mostly) bras in size 32GG (UK), so I opted to try a size 2.
Is it a perfect fit? Reader, it is not. The band/back size feels fantastic, but I need a little more room in the bust, both in terms of projection and in terms of “cup” height. My Bravissimo fitter would be very sad about some spilling breast tissue at the sides of the bra as well as some very smooshed-together boobs inside the bra. Sadly, a size 1 would be too small and a size 3 would be too loose to be supportive, so I genuinely think size 2 is where it’s at for me right now. In order to get just a few other drawbacks out of the way: because this is a compression sports bra, you won’t get the same lovely shaping as you’ll get from an underwired encapsulation-style sports bra, and it’s also important to note that there are no points of adjustment: there’s no way to adjust the “strap” length (the bra comes up a little short on me at 5’10”), and the bra fastens in front with a single column of 11 hooks and eyes. Unlike the stylish matte fabrics and colorblocking of a lot of contemporary athletic wear, the Enell sports bra is available (in lots of nice colors!) in a super-shiny Spandex straight out of an ’80s aerobics video.
My back. Y’all. My back is so, so, SO happy. Because the bra fastens in front, the back of the bra is like a snugly fitting crop-top tank top: it lies perfectly smooth against your skin, with the weight of your breasts disbursed over a greater surface area. Without a single narrow band taking all the weight, and with no bulky back clasp to chafe, I can run 10+ miles absolutely pain-free.
The fabric is sturdy and there’s very little bounce/movement when running. It can take a little fiddling to fasten and get “situated”– I have to be very careful to make sure that all my breast tissue is lifted well clear of the bottom edge, because there’s a seam that can chafe breast tissue if the bottom of the band isn’t carefully placed agains the ribcage. Start at the bottom hook to help get the band fixed firmly where you want it, and then work your way up, adjusting breast tissue as you go.
The Enell sports bra is widely available, including at Title Nine, although I HATE how they’ve labeled it “The Last Resort” bra. That’s really obnoxious, and it’s literally bugged me for like 15 years, so clearly I’m excellent at holding grudges. For one thing I loathe any product/ad copy that treats breasts like this huge problem that need a solution– that does nothing to foster a loving attitude to your body. For another thing, this bra isn’t going to work for everyone. There are only 10 sizes, and while there’s certainly some size flexibility, you’re not going to get the same fit options you would from a traditional full-bust bra, particularly if your underbust measurement is more than 8-10 inches smaller than your bust measurement or if you are very tall or very petite. [UPDATE: as reader Sarah points out in the comments, Enell actually does offer custom fit services to address strap length and other fit issues.] You can also find the Enell Sports Bra at Butterfly Collection, of course, as well as Bare Necessities, Breakout Bras, Dick’s Sporting Goods, FreshPair, the official Enell website, and more.
Wish Quinne and me luck! I’m pretty sure we’re gonna win this thing.