I Love This Stretchy Nike Sports Bra

When I first started running years ago, I made up a little mantra for myself: “You don’t have to go fast. You just have to go.” I would repeat it in my head as I jogged, thinking about how freeing it was to base my performance on just doing it. The mantra, I realized, could apply to any athletic endeavour: You don’t have to be the best person in the yoga class. You just have to be a person in a yoga class! Then one day, as I was sliding into downward-facing dog, I realized that I had simply reinvented the world’s most famous athletic slogan: “Just do it.”

Nike is good at a lot of things, and one of them is branding. In addition to “Just do it,” company executives like to say, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.” And: “No sports bra, no sport”—a reminder that the humble sports bra is foundational to the athletic practice of anyone with boobs.

If these slogans feel especially inclusive, that’s deliberate. This year marks the brand’s 50th anniversary, as well as its largest-ever financial investment in women. A chunk of that funding went toward product research and development, and the results—as the brand announced last spring at an LA event titled Future 50 for Her—include an expanded size range, the birth of some cool technology, and my new favorite sports arm.

nike Nike Yoga Dri-FIT Alate Versa Women’s Light-Support Lightly Lined Sports Bra

Nike Yoga Dri-FIT Alate Versa Women's Light-Support Lightly Lined Sports Bra

nike Nike Yoga Dri-FIT Alate Versa Women’s Light-Support Lightly Lined Sports Bra

The Alate Versa is a pullover bra with the kind of deceptively simple design details that make it feel a little special: a square neck, wide straps, a bit of a dip in the back. The best part is the fabric, which is stretchy and comfortable but still compressive. It’s intended for yoga, but I’ve gone running in it without an issue, and it’s soft enough that you don’t want to peel it off as soon as your workout is over.

Of course, the best sports bra for me might not be the best sports bra for you. Designing for women’s bodies in motion offers different challenges than designing for men. Not only are we built differently, but our bodies can change shape over the course of the month. Then there are the cultural expectations—we want to look cute, we want to look cool, we have thoughts about how much skin to show—not to mention our individual preferences, because if our forms are wildly varied, so are our tastes.

At the LA event, Tania Flynn, Nike’s VP of women’s apparel product design, told a story about a conversation she’d had with Parris Goebel, the choreographer behind J.Lo’s Super Bowl halftime show and three of Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty runway shows. Flynn said that she likes her workout clothing to be compressive, so that nothing wobbles when she moves. Goebel replied that she puts a lot of effort into making her body pop, so she wants her wobble to be visible. This aha moment is part of what inspired the brand to organize its new sports bras according to three different levels of compression: light, medium, and high. (The brand also offers more than 70 cup sizes.)

Because it’s impossible to get you, me, and Rihanna’s Emmy-nominated choreographer into the studio to give feedback on all the potential bra options, Nike invented the Brabot, a robot whose chest is made out of a material that mimics human breast tissue, allowing designers to see how their sports bras move in real time. The life of a boob robot might seem lonely, but luckily she’s not the only AI at Nike’s labs: There’s also Haley, a thermoregulation mannequin that can actually sweat, letting designers test moisture-wicking technology. And the brand has body scans of tens of thousands of women around the world to help inform their shaping and sizing.

Which, of course, is how they landed on a product range that includes the one highly specific Dri-FIT sports bra that works perfectly for my specific frame, and personal style, and gym needs. The Alate Versa comes in black, pink, mint, teal, and cobalt blue. It’s made out of polyester produced from recycled water bottles, so it’s earth friendly (but still breathable). It’s lightly lined, so it’s not too revealing, and unlike a lot of square-neck sports bras, it leaves you supported but not squished.

It’s ironic, in a way, that so much thought went into designing it, because what I love is that you really don’t have to think about it. You simply put it on and go about just doing whatever it was that you were trying to do in the first place.

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