We Tried It: Lululemon's new sports bras
"We Tried It" is a column where stylist and occasional athlete Megan Ann Wilson tries new, innovative or weird fitness products. Have a product you want her to test before you buy? Let us know at @shegotgame and @espnW.
Finding a good sports bra is kind of like capturing a unicorn in garment form. Often, they're too minimal, offering little to no support, best suited for stretching rather than a strenuous workout. Or they can be too heavy and complicated, feeling more like a contraption that'll give the dreaded uni-boob effect.
I'm always on the lookout for new sports bras -- from stylish, minimal versions to big brands to low-budget offerings. So when Lululemon offered to send over two very different samples of their new bras, I jumped at the chance to test them out.
The two Lululemon bras I tried out were the more traditional Run with the Sun model ($58) and the fashionable yet minimal Free Spirit ($68). Both styles feature Lulu's proprietary Luxtreme fabric, which helps wick sweat and has a nice stretch.
The Run with the Sun bra has a more typical two-strap, crop-top styling but with an open back and mesh venting to promote breathability and movement. It also has a liner to wick sweat.
The Free Spirit bra has an interesting racer-back design thanks to laser-cut fabric and streamlined, unlined styling. It also features adjustable straps and there are bust pockets for removable cups for more lift.
I put the bras through a range of activities, including casual wear, strength and high-intensity interval training and running. (For comparison's sake, I usually wear a 32D in traditional bras, which is a sister size to 34C or 36B.)
Running is, of course, a medium- to high-impact activity, so your girls need support. Sweat wicking is also a plus. The Run with the Sun Bra provided both, with the added benefit of looking stylish. But the fit wasn't perfect on me; I felt a lot of movement in the garment, more than I'd prefer in a performance bra.
The Free Spirit performed well, though I certainly felt bouncier than usual. The bra offers a bit of a pushup, even without the optional padding. Its customizable fit was a plus, and it's so minimal that I didn't get sweatier from excess fabric. The fewer distractions when I run, the better.
Strength and HIIT
High-intensity interval training is a great indicator of a sports bra's performance, since it's a mix of movement, rest and tons of sweat equity. The Run with the Sun bra was the winner here purely because it offered superior coverage to the Free Spirit, whose low cut had me checking to make sure everything was still covered during jump squats and rope jumps.
I didn't have any wardrobe malfunctions, but even worrying about it was a distraction. The Run with the Sun bra offered coverage and support without suffocating my chest.
Here's where the Free Spirit really shines. It's incredibly soft and cool to wear, and it's adjustable. The low cut, while distracting for fitness purposes, makes this bra a better pairing with shirts and dresses. I wore it while traveling and running errands and it was so comfy that I barely noticed it.
The Run with the Sun bra has the mesh cross back detail so it can be easily worn as a statement piece or crop top. But the strap details do add extra bulk if the fit isn't quite perfect. It's not as easy to layer it outside of minimal gym tops or zip-ups, making it a better bra for the gym than a night out.
Worth the money?
I would buy another Free Spirit Bra for leisure wear and travel because it's lightweight and minimal, perfect for humid summers. I wouldn't recommend it as a high-performance sports bra, though it performs admirably in a pinch. It's a bit pricey at $68, but it's multi-use so you might come out ahead on the the cost-per-wear ratio.
The Run with the Sun bra is comfortable and the mesh details are nice. I didn't notice that I sweat any more than usual, although the fit was a bit trickier because of the back straps. This bra might be better for women with bigger band sizes who want full coverage for moderate activities like Pilates or strength training, but I don't think I'd purchase another one for myself.