This review is in partnership with Running Warehouse, which provided products for testing. Salty Running receives a commission on sales made via our Running Warehouse affiliate link, used throughout this post.
Finding a sports bra that you love can be as elusive and time-consuming as getting a BQ for many runners, ranging from the bust-less to the busty. Whether you want to cover your headlights, avoid uni-boob, or not slap yourself in the face or chafe yourself raw during your next long run or race, a comfortable sports bra is a must.
I first came across the Handful brand at the expo of my first marathon nearly nine years ago. This small, American company, owned and operated by women, claimed to “flatter not flatten” active women. That, along with their cute designs and removable contouring pads enticed me enough to buy one. I still have that bra and continue to run in it, a testament to their durability, and recently I got to try two new Handful bras to review; the original Adjustable Bra and the Y-Back Bra.
Before I get into my review of the two different styles of the Handful sports bra, I should address two pertinent points:
1) In regards to the raging love ’em or hate ’em debate that runners will never come to an agreement on about the contouring pads that some sports bras have (including all Handful bras), I am firmly on the “love ’em” side. If you’re on the “hate ’em” side, however, read on anyway: the pads in all Handful bras are removable.
2) My regular bra size is, um, so small that it’s not available in many stores; I’ve only had luck with a specialty lingerie shop and Title IX in that regard. Even that ThirdLove site that pumps out ads on Facebook told me they haven’t “expanded” (odd choice of words when “down-sized” might be more appropriate) to my size yet when I tried to take their virtual fit quiz. Sigh.
Anyway, if you’re on the opposite side of the boob-size spectrum than me, or heck let’s be honest, if you have any amount of breast tissue that allows you to find a bra in most lingerie stores, then I can’t really tell you whether these will hold you firmly in place, because that’s just something I am #soblessed not to have to worry about.
The “Adjustable Bra”
The original Adjustable Bra features thin straps that can be switched to be either criss-crossed across your back or worn regular bra-style. The bra itself has ruching and a sweet-heart style design along with a center seam that effectively maintains a two-boob look instead of flattening your breasts down into that ultra-unflattering uniboob. The bottom band is thin but held tight when running and I love how light-weight the bra feels in general.
I appreciate all these details for several reasons: the bra is versatile and can be worn under all styles of tanks and tops, and because the style is almost more regular bra than sports bra, I actually wore it to work several times and it looked fine under my clothes. Additionally, I like the silhouette and shape the ruching lends me since without it I’d look like a boy. I experienced no rubbing or chafing with this bra.
On the downside, I can see this bra not working as well for larger-chested runners; with its thin straps and minimal material in general there might not be enough structure or support for larger cups sizes. I did wear this style Handful bra when breastfeeding, and can say that although I needed a second, tighter bra under it when running, it functioned awesomely as a nursing bra and (bonus!) the pads aided in curtailing milk leakage.
In general, I give the Adjustable Bra 5/5 snails for runners in the A or B-cup range. It’s cute enough to feel good running in with no shirt, gives the smaller-chested ladies some appreciated shape while hiding headlights, and is versatile for both working out and wearing under regular clothing.
The “Y-Back Bra”
Larger chested runners, this might be the Handful bra for you: it has wider straps and more structure in general. For me, who is not used to needing a lot of support, all the structure and the wide straps made me feel like I was wearing a bullet-proof vest, however.
The cups cover more skin so will hold in side-boob and cleavage, but still have that center seam, sweetheart shape, and center ruching so do so while maintaining a flattering two-breast look. The bottom band is thick, over an inch wide, and smooth and holds the bra firmly in place while running.
The y-back works well under all my running tops and looks cute while running without a top on hot days.
Overall, I give the Y-Back 4/5 snails for smaller chested runners and would like to hear how it works for C-cups and up, because I think it’s built to handle more than I gave it.
Let’s Talk About Those Removable Pads
In both style of bra, the removable pads are easy to take out and put in, and are clearly marked “left” and “right.” I always run with the pads in because I do not like having my nipples on display. The pads are interchangeable between bra styles, so if you own both bras the pads work in either.
I sweat heavily and wore both of these bras during the dog days of summer, in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees. You might think that the pads would just soak up your sweat, but the pads do not act like sponges and get heavy nor do they shift around while worn. Even the pads that I’ve had for nine years do not have the BO funk that many of my other sports bras develop over time.
When I wash the bra, I try to always take the pads out so they don’t end up kinked funny in the bra cup, but I don’t always. They dry quickly either way.
On the Handful website, an additional plus to the pads is that they work well for women who have had masectomies because they are actually stackable so you can add several together to achieve an even more natural breast look.
If you’ve been struggling to find a sports bra that works for you, I definitely suggest giving this small yet growing, American, women-owned sports bra company a try!
Do you run in Handful bras?