If you were to dig through my drawer of running gear, you’d either be shocked, disgusted, or entertained by the variety of sports bras in the drawer. I played volleyball in high school and wore only cotton Columbia sports bras probably because that is the only brand I knew of at the time and there are still a couple of them in my drawer, albeit at the bottom of the pile. I like to stick with what works and what I’m comfortable in and for a long time those cotton bras with their now disintegrated elastic served me well.
Around the same time when I realized I should replace those old bras I also started to learn of the alternatives to cotton and the benefits of technical fibers designed for wicking, compression, and performance enhancement. While I understood the need for a better sports bra, I was essentially lost in finding the next best bra. For a long time, years, I was on the hunt for the perfect sports bra and the variety of brands and styles in my drawer is evidence of my search.
I mentioned that I would be reviewing a selection of Gracie’s Gear and I am thrilled to have her tops on the top of the pile in my drawer. Her tops include the sports bra (otherwise known as the short top), the long tank, and the hoodie. The first chance I had to test the gear was during the Cooper River Bridge Run and because it would be a warm 65 or more degrees, it was a great chance to wear the long tank.
A Supportive Tank
During warm weather I often run in an athletic tank and have several that I like made by Brooks, EMS, and Nike. Under them of course, I wear a sports bra. In an effort to reduce layers, I’ve tried tanks before with built-in sports bras and often found they were better suited for a low-impact activity like pilates or stationary biking. Not having tried Gracie’s Gear before, it was quite a gamble to do a 10K in a tank with a built-in bra.
Fortunately, this tank did everything I needed it to do. In the Power Pouch, I put my car key (one of those obnoxiously large ones that has the key that flips out and has a built-in alarm), my chapstick, and an extra camera battery. For the first time I was also running with a small backpack because I wanted to have my camera on hand and also a place to put my layers (which happend to be the hoodie). Throughout the entire 10K I was completely oblivious to the things I’d stashed in the front pocket, my chest was totally supported by the elastic and design of the built-in bra, and the lines of the tank were cut so that it didn’t ride up while I ran. The straps are wide so I didn’t feel them digging into my shoulders and the armpit area seems to be cut just right so I didn’t feel any rubbing in that area either.
The Pseudo-Sports Bra
On my recent “first run” I decided it was the perfect opportunity to test the sports bra. It was a chilly day so it was one of three layers that I was wearing and I thought it would be the ideal situation in which to test the use of the Power Pouch, underneath other layers. In it I put my chapstick (you see how much I depend on this stuff!), a normal car key, and an ipod, though I left the earphones at home since I don’t listen to music when I run. The second I left my house I forgot the stuff was there–you just can’t feel it!
The sports bra is cut with somewhat of a racer back style so the straps again are wide and come up a little closer to the collarbone than some of my other sports bras. While I noticed this, it didn’t bother me and I thought the cut was perfectly comfortable. Like the long tank, the armpit cut is low enough that there is no rubbing; I also noticed there is even an extra covering over the outer seam that I imagine helps prevent chafe. I’ve always been a little too self-concious to run without a shirt on, but if there was ever a sports bra to do it in, this would be the one. First of all, you have better access to the pocket without a shirt on. But what I think is more significant is that the neckline is up high enough that there is no need to worry about cleavage showing while you run (plus, it’s good motivation to work on your core!). This sports bra I realized is aptly named a short top because it is much more like a top than it is a bra. And, like its long tank sister, the chest support was incredible. You can run securely and bounce-free without feeling as though everything is smushed into place.
It turns out I might be as experimental with hoodies as I have been with sports bras. In my closet I found that I own half a dozen hoodies which might seem excessive but they each serve a different purpose. The Gracie’s Gear hoodie I simply love. It’s a pullover with a three-quarter zip and a front pocket you can put your hands in but that also has the Power Pouch as part of the design. I wore the hoodie before the last 10K as a starting layer, as my “jacket” going out at night, and as an outer layer on a windy walk through the park with my husband and dog. On the windy day I even wore the hood up which stayed for the most part and the only slight critique I have for the hoodie is that drawstrings on the hood could be helpful. It is a layer that is extremely comfortable, works with multiple outfits, and is made with fabric that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to wrinkle.
Gracie’s Gear is made with a combination of polyester and spandex which is why I believe it such comfortable stuff that seems to resist wrinkling. But it also is made with moisturereleasetransfer™ technology that wicks away sweat and heat for rapid evaporation and maximum ventilation. The other critical material is called Ultra Illuscent Max™ which is made from natural renewable resources and inhibits odor causing bacteria.
I own a good chunk of technical clothing and much of it claims to be wicking and therefore odor eliminating. Knowing that most of my other gear has yet to live up to this claim I was at first skeptical of whether or not Gracie’s Gear would hold true to its description. After the 10K in 60-plus-degrees I certainly sweat but when I paid attention to the long tank, I realized it was not drenched or even damp with my own sweat. For the run I did in the short top I also wore my heart rate monitor whose strap goes around my chest. At the end of what was barely a 3 mile run I had worked hard enough that I was sweating and when I took off the heart rate strap it was dripping with my sweat yet the elastic around the bra was barely wet. I’d say this gear is pretty darn good at wicking. There’s no better way to judge smell than to do a sniff test so of course, in both cases I put my nose to the fabric. Taking in a good whiff of my post-run gear, I can honestly say they smelled normal.
In my review, the Gracie’s Gear fabric technology lived up to its claims. I also think my hunt for the perfect bra is over…now I just need to work on my six-pack! Try it for yourself, check out Gracie’s Gear and Training. Depending on where you live, you might be able to catch the gear at some upcoming events: