Last summer, I thru-hiked the 485-mile Colorado Trail wearing the same shorts, shirt, and bra for all 23 days. Weight savings is paramount for thru-hikers, which means avoiding duplicate gear — including hiking clothes. All of my gear worked splendidly, but I was particularly 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 would prefer to forget that I’m wearing one — a tall order when your anatomy requires at least some compression. However, I’m sensitive to pressure around my rib cage (read: many high-impact sports bras), and I end up overanalyzing my breathing from the tightness around my chest — not ideal when hiking 20 miles per day. I can’t stand narrow bands, and I’ve found that many bras built with separate elastic, fabric, and cups lose elasticity at different rates, resulting in saggy cups with tight bands. In short, it’s hard for me to find a comfortable sports bra that doesn’t have me ripping it off and gasping for air at the end of the day.
I’d only worn the Brooks Dare Crossback a few times before the trip, so I took a gamble committing to wearing it for almost 500 miles. However, I’d been impressed with the nearly seamless design and the cups and straps that felt supportive without too much compression. Plus, I’d worn it a few days in a row and it passed the sniff test.
Sure enough, it was a great choice. The whole bra is one piece with the bottom band integrated into the molded cups, making it a smooth unit that distributes pressure evenly. The bands are super wide, which means it’s not the sexiest undergarment out there, but they lie so flush that they eliminate pinch points and chafing, fitting snugly without feeling suffocating.
Additionally, the racerback style narrows enough through the back and shoulders for a full range of motion, which was necessary, since I was doing the same repetitive motion for 12 hours per day. When you’re doing the same thing all day, you realize that a seemingly minor discomfort like bunched fabric, pressure points, or the smallest material shift can become unbearable. Before this hike, I’d tried bras with wide-set bands (scoop styles), but my arms swinging for more than 20 miles at a time meant the straps ended up chafing near my armpits. This limited my range of motion, which is what initially led me to the cross-back style.
Brooks calls this bra “high impact,” which brings to mind a fully armored compression top I could wear either sprinting into battle or going for a trail run. Fortunately, this lightweight, sweat-wicking bra breaks the compression-focused mold while still doing the work of a high-impact bra.
The Dare Crossback Bra passed an extreme sniff test. For the nearly 500 miles I wore this bra over the course of 23 days, I only washed it once. By the time I was finished with the trail, it didn’t smell particularly good, but it didn’t belong in a biohazard bin either. In fact, when I got home, I ran this bra through the washer, then wore it on my next in-town run. It’s still my go-to sports bra for hiking, cycling, and running, even though I’ve since put 200 more miles on it backpacking on 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.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.