4 Best Running Belts of 2023: Comprehensive Guide for Runners

Running belts are incredibly useful. You don’t have to be running far or fast to need one. They are a versatile way to carry your personal belongings – think keys, phone and a small first aid kit. The best belts can be purchased affordably from most running shops and online retailers.

In an ideal world, you want to find a running belt that is a snug fit and doesn’t bounce, nor dig into your sides when you are on the move or on long runs. Finding a running belt that different body types is a key part of finding the best running belt for you.

As with almost any accessory, there are lots of options out there on the market and you can easily get lost in the variety on offer. In this blog, we will give you a breakdown of some of the useful things to look out for when buying your running belt, how to stop them from riding up your body and where you should buy yours.

Should you use a running belt?

There are many benefits to using a running belt. Especially if you currently carry your keys and mobile phone in your hands, or worse, in your pockets which may spill out, a running belt can be a valuable accessory. Carrying extra kit in your hands can leave you vulnerable to people with bad intentions but it can also stop you from breaking your fall if you do trip, leading to worse injuries than if you have your hands free.

To this end, wearing a running belt will aid your running efficiency as you don’t have to think about what’s in your hands or have your keys, phone and other items awkwardly weighing you down.

Running belts give you accessible storage that you can use for fuels such as gels, energy bites and salt tablets and some even have holsters for your water bottle. If you are running for long periods, you are likely to need fuel, especially in races, it is essential that you can access your fuel without causing a mess, or fiddling unnecessarily with a tricky-to-open belt. Those with separate storage compartments tend to fare best on longer runs as they protect your phone and keys should the worst happen where your fuel spills out into your running belt.

Having a belt with multiple pockets increases your storage capacity and also makes sure that you don’t accidentally drop your keys on the road when you reach into the belt to grab that much-needed gel on the move.

There are a couple of downsides to using a running belt – the added weight and the potential for chafing if the belt is too tight. However, on balance, having somewhere to store your essentials is of benefit to most runners.

Most Popular Belts For Running

The FreeTrain Style

Why we rate it… FreeTrain are the new entry into the market when it comes to running belts and vests. Their innovative style intends to make accessing your phone easier on the move and should result in a snug, easily adjustable alternative to a running vest or belt.

However, as CoachMag recently discovered, this vest style doesn’t suit everyone and can be a clumsy alternative to a more traditional vest or belt. As with any novel product, teething troubles are to be expected but the fundamentals of the style mean that it will always be somewhat restrictive to movement. The review found that the main reported benefit of the FreeTrain, easy access to your phone, didn’t really materialise either. Combine this with the lack of storage and at present, on the face of the evidence, we’d recommend a more traditional option.

Great for… FreeTrain belts are great for running with your phone, they have a compartment for your phone which sits mid-chest and space for your keys and gels by your shoulders. Marketing for the product shows svelte athletic figures pulling the FreeTrain over their head before setting out on a run. The marketing evokes simplicity and style.

Top 5 Features

  1. Phone and Water Bottle Storage
  2. Additional Shoulder and Back Pockets
  3. Lightweight and Durable Material
  4. Reflective Print for Safety
  5. Adjustable Waistband for Comfort

How much does it cost? The Freetrain Hydro 1 Vest should cost around £24.99

Where can you buy it? Directly from the Freetrain website is best

Feeling Keen? Here are some Reviews…

I’ve got all 3 now, hi viz for nights an early mornings the black one for daytime and the hydro 1 for long runs so I can hold jacket and drink, absolutely love them, keep producing great running vests and running products

Luke O.

Love the storage for my jacket in the back and being able to carry the 500ml bottle for the longer runs is super handy.

Darren A.

Fitletic Mini Sport Belt

Why we rate it… This Fitletic design is at the minimalist end of the scale but packs all the essential features that you would expect of a basic running belt. We’re encouraged by the strap design which promises to keep the belt stable, preventing it from riding up your body on the move.

Great for… At just £23 at the time of writing, this is an affordable option if you are just starting out and looking for a simple solution.

Top 5 Features

  1. Expandable Lycra Pouch
  2. Fits Large-Sized Smartphones
  3. Interior Pocket for Cards
  4. Comfortable Dual-Adjust Waistbelt
  5. Generous Adjustable Band Size

How much does it cost? £23

Where can you buy it? You can get it here on Amazon

Activ Running Belt with Water Bottles

Why we rate it… The belt itself has plenty of storage space, enough for a large phone and the belt also features a reflective strip which gives you a little added visibility in the dark.

Great for… This Activ running belt is a great option if you are looking for a belt with plenty of storage and holders for your water bottles.

Top 5 Features

  1. Large Storage with Layered Pockets
  2. Two Water Bottles Holder
  3. High Stretchable Anti-slip Waistband
  4. Durable and Comfortable Material
  5. Night Reflective Strip for Safety

How much does it cost? £19.99

Where can you buy it? Amazon looks a great place for speedy delivery

Lixada Hydration Backpack

Why we rate it… The Lixada running vest comes complete with a running bladder, two accessible zipped compartments for your essentials and two open pouches for your fuel. If you need a little extra fuel, the vest is complete with a running bladder which sits comfortably on your back.

Great for… The vest is both lightweight and easily adjustable making it a great vest for anyone who is training for a longer distance event.

Top 5 Features

  1. Lightweight Polyester Material
  2. Breathable Mesh Back Design
  3. Large 5L Storage Capacity
  4. Adjustable Straps for Fit
  5. Reflective Strips for Safety

How much does it cost? £21.98

Where can you buy it? We found Amazon to be the best place to buy it

The Uses for Your Running Belt

Running belts come in all shapes and different sizes and can be used to carry any number of items. Minimalist belts give you the option to carry your phone and keys in a lightweight compartment whilst bulkier belts are designed to give you room to store more fuel, first aid and other kit that may be needed on a longer run. We can’t tell you what type of runner you are but we can explore some of the things you may want to look out for when searching for a running belt. Depending on your preferences and requirements, you can use this information as a guide to the features that might be best suited to you.

Headphones are becoming increasingly popular for runners who want to zone out of the modern world whilst on the run. To this end, some running belt manufacturers cater for headphone users with their belt design. Check your chosen belt for headphone holes that make threading your earpieces through the belt a cinch. Headphone holders mean that you don’t have to worry about your headphone wires getting into a tangle. Always battling with tangled headphone wires? Not any more.

Some running belts even have a holder for your race number. Whilst this isn’t an essential criteria of a good running belt, it is built into some and could be useful if you find pinning your race number on your vest, particularly fiddly. With that said, there should be plenty of room on your race vest to pin your number above your belt, without obscuring it. For some, a number holder may be a ‘nice to have’ feature but it shouldn’t be a deciding factor if you find another belt which is otherwise a better product.

We’d also recommend checking whether the compartments are separated by a zippered pocket or are simply separate pieces of fabric. Having the peace of mind that your personal items are locked away means that you can focus on more important things. We have trialled belts with a hidden pocket, that faces inwards and can’t be accessed whilst you are on the move and these are great for storing payment cards that you might need to order an emergency taxi or to buy a bottle of water en-route. Obviously, it is essential that you don’t unknowingly drop your bank card and a zippered pouch means that you don’t have to worry.

You might also wonder whether you should consider attaching your running belt and your headlight. Whilst some belts do have the capacity to attach a light, we’d recommend using a head torch as a more stable option on the move. Attaching your light to your belt might seem like a great idea at first but your belt won’t track where your eyes go and vice versa. Especially on dark nights, it’s important to maintain good awareness of your surroundings and a good choice of headlight is a decision you should take independently of your running belt.

Every so often, we come across running pouches that are designed to swivel along the belt. Whilst this might seem like a great design idea in principle, our experience is that this makes the belt unstable, prone to jolting from side to side and a bit of a pain to work with. Pouches that are fixed into place are a much more stable option and don’t come with any significant drawbacks compared with this design feature. When we were researching for this article, we came across hundreds of belts and we are happy to report that none featured the ‘swivel-on-belt’ idea.

The Best Running Belts

Do running belts ride up?

When all things are considered there are only a couple of downsides to running with a belt. Both are issues that you can fix with the right fit or with an adjustable strap

The first problem that you will encounter at some point or another is that your running belt will ride up.

Belts are great but only if you find one that works with your body. A poorly fitted running belt can be a nightmare. There, we said it.

Your running belt needs to be a good fit and secure fit whilst being suited to your needs. A poor quality running belt or one that is poorly adjusted will move around significantly when you are on the move. If you are using a running belt to store your fuel, consider how much you will need to move it to access your gels and water you will need to carry.

If your belt is too loose, it will ride up your body and cause you no end of frustration on those longer runs. Depending on the design, this is either easily fixable with the pull of an adjustable bungee cord or could mean that you need to take the belt off to properly adjust it. Adding or removing weight from the belt will impact how much the belt will ride up so we’d recommend knowing roughly what sort of tight fit you need for a fully-loaded belt compared with a near-empty load when you are just carrying your keys and phone. Be sure to adjust accordingly before setting off.

You might not think that this is a big issue so why does it merit its own section? Well, get this slightly wrong and it’s frustrating. Get it very wrong and it will impact your form and therefore your performance too especially for a long-distance runner. Worst case scenario, you may get to the stage where you angrily detach the whole thing and run with it like a rugby ball under your arm. This is not ideal for a whole number of reasons. We know from first hand experience!

The second downside to running belts comes down to having the belt too tight. Much like having a tight fitting trainer that irritates the skin on your big toe, a running belt that is too tight can leave a red mark on your hip bone. If the skin flakes away, you will immediately know about it when you go for your post-run shower. The pain is temporary and you will quickly get over it but it is something that you should be aware of if you like snug-fitting gear. If the clasp fits to the side of your body, this is something that you will need to be aware of.

Are vests more versatile?

Bear with us on this. We know that running vests are technically a different accessory to running belts but they do the same job and should be a part of your consideration if you are taking the plunge for a belt in the near future.

A vest might seem like a more cumbersome option when compared with a belt because they are naturally quite a bit bigger and have more storage. However, there are a number of reasons why that isn’t necessarily a bad idea and that starts with stability. Earlier in this article, we discussed the issue of belts riding up when you are on the move. No matter how snug you may find your running belt at the start of a run, it can work its way loose, especially over long distances and this can be really frustrating.

A well fitted vest is less likely to move around on the run and won’t chafe as much as a similarly fitted belt. Good quality running vests have a number of straps that you can use to adjust the fit of the vest before you set off and make adjustments easy on the move too.

If you need to carry more whilst out running, wearing a running vest will mean that any added weight is more evenly distributed, helping you maintain good form and balance.

However, there are a couple of downsides – if you are running with a vest and the heavens open, your vest is likely to become heavy as it becomes saturated with rainwater. There is little you can do about this and we’re not really sure that a few added pounds will cause that much difference in the pouring rain but it is worth pointing out here in the interest of balance.

In the event that your running vest becomes wet, we’d advise making sure that it is thoroughly dry before you take it back inside your house as they can start to smell, more so than belts as there is more material to capture those unpleasant odours. Whilst this is not a major point if you have somewhere to dry your kit, it is something that you should bear in mind.

Other alternatives to a running belt

Aside from a running vest, you have probably seen runners with their phone in a phone holder attached to their arm. Whilst this is great for a simple, phone-only solution, it can impact your running form and we’d argue that if you need to carry other items such as your keys, you should invest in an all-in-one solution rather than wearing an arm band as an addition to another pouch or belt.

If you run to commute, then you will likely find that a running backpack works for you. Backpacks are especially useful if you need to carry a change of kit and can be used for a commute into work or a run to or from the gym.

What to carry in your running belt

Whether you decide to buy a belt or a vest, the question of what to carry on your run is important. What you can carry might vary depending on if you choose a belt with enough space or a large pocket

There are some small essentials:

  • House keys and credit cards
  • Energy Gels, Energy Bars, Gel Packs, Energy Drink
  • Small Water Bottle
  • Smart phone
  • Some first aid provisions

But, as with any accessory, these essentials come with questions attached.

How much fuel should you carry? Is water really needed? Should you always carry your phone? How much first aid kit is enough?

The last two questions are easier to answer – you should always have a way to contact the emergency services in the event that something goes wrong and, in terms of first aid kit, take a look at the first aid requirements for the Lakeland 100 . Of course, you are probably not heading out for 100k on your next run, but you can scale your first aid kit to suit. No matter where you run, there is always the chance that you could trip and cause yourself an injury and a few antiseptic wipes and plasters can go a long way in that situation.

The questions around fuel and water are more nuanced and are questions that you will answer with your own trial and error. We would recommend trialling how much fuel you can comfortably carry in your running belt ahead of any race and we would strongly advise you to consider how much water you need to carry and whether you can fill up on your route to save some weight. The less weight that you carry, the more stable your running belt is likely to be, meaning that it won’t ride up as much. For more tips on hydration, head to our post on Top Running Tips.

How much should I spend on my running belt?

Most running belts cost around £30 or less so there is no need to pay a premium for your newest accessory. Popular brands, including FlipBelt and FreeTrain are most expensive but less well known retailers come in significantly cheaper and offer similar specs.

The FlipBelt seems like a good place to start for our recommendations. The belt comes with quite a sleek design and will fit snugly against your body as you rack up the miles. The main issue that we can foresee with this belt is the use of soft fabric material which will become wet once you start sweating or in inclement weather. Waterproofing is something that we would recommend when considering a belt and this is one of the aspects of the FlipBelt that is sadly lacking. You may also find the design prohibitive if you have a larger phone, or if you tend to carry a lot of fuel on your runs.

If a running backpack sounds more suited to your needs, we would recommend having a look at the selection available on Runner’s Need. There are a number of different brands, types, sizes and prices to suit almost every need and we would, as ever, recommend reading the product specs before buying to ensure that basics such as waterproofing and strap sizes are right for you.

The last word on running belts

Running belts are an extremely useful accessory and we hope that you now have a good idea of the things to look out for when choosing yours. There is no one-size-fits-all and the variety of running belts and styles on offer is a reflection of that. Whichever running belt you choose we hope you have many enjoyable runs from a short run right through to marathon training

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