Is there a piece of kit more underappreciated than the humble running headband? Not at Runners World. We've picked out the very best for both men and women, and for all conditions. Headbands that will feel comfortable and stay in place, no matter how many miles you clock up or how extreme the weather.
What do running headbands do?
When it's cold, running headbands offer the perfect amount of insulation for your ears and forehead. Because the heat can escape from the top of your head, they don't cause overheating like a beanie hat can. And even if you do decide to take it off, it's much easier to stash - just wrap it around your wrist - than that awkward beanie.
Running headbands are also a great way to absorb sweat from your head and stop it trickling down into your eyes. In summer, a headband can also offer a bit of sun protection – perfect for when you're out on a long run or trail adventure. Finally, anyone with long hair who has ever run a marathon, a parkrun or just for the bus will know how annoying it can be to have hair flapping in your face. A headband is an easy way to prevent that and hold it out of the way.
What to look for in a running headband
Primarily, a running headband should feel comfortable to run in for extended periods – snug-fitting enough to not slip out of position no matter how windy it is, or how much you're moving, but also not so tight that it feels restrictive or makes wearing earphones underneath uncomfortable.
If you are buying a headband primarily for cold-weather protection, then the level of warmth and insulation is obviously a factor – look for fleece-lined, windproof or merino options. Alternatively, if the headband is to be worn all-year round, lighter and more breathable models are good for sweat-wicking and protecting your head from the sun.
Another feature to look for in winter running headbands are reflective details for extra visibility in the dark or low light conditions. Finally, those with long hair might appreciate slit openings through which you can feed your ponytail.
The best running headbands to buy in 2023
1. Buff CrossKnit Headband
This unisex headband is designed to perform during demanding workouts, but its knitted construction and simple, stylish looks mean it also works for general wear. The yarn is lightweight, breathable, sweat-repellent and easy to care for but also insulated enough to keep you warm in cold conditions. It also features reflective details to keep you seen in low light.
2. Lululemon Fly Away Tamer Headband
Designed for running, yoga and the gym, this Lululemon headband is a good all-rounder. With its velvet bonding, this stayed perfectly in place without pulling hair too tight. Made from a sweat-wicking, cotton-feel fabric, it is naturally breathable and machine washable.
3. Sweaty Betty Power Headband
This Sweaty Betty headband was one of the best we tried – it’s reflective, it has an opening for a ponytail and it’s not too expensive. The only downside we could find is that it’s one-size-fits-all – our deputy digital editor found it pretty tight against her head as she moved, and it was painful to wear headphones with it (though other runners found it to be loose).
4. Proviz Reflect360 Running Headband
Another headband designed to keep your head cosy as you run; this wintry offering from Proviz also has a reflective logo to help keep you visible in low lights. The fleece liner is soft and comfortable against the skin, while also being sweat-wicking for when things heat up.
5. Gore Wear Unisex Windproof Headband
An extra-wide, windproof (it features Gore's excellent Windstopper material), water-repellent and breathable headband, this is ideal for winter running. The high-elasticity element adds extra comfort and the sweat-wicking lining keeps your forehead dry as you run. With added reflective elements on the front and side of the headband, this unisex option is an excellent piece of kit.
6. Smartwool Merino 250 Reversible Headband
This unisex headband is made entirely from merino wool, so it's a great choice for keeping your lugs warm and cosy in really cold conditions. Thankfully merino still has excellent moisture-wicking abilities, meaning it still feels light and comfy during more intensive workouts. And, as its name suggests, it's reversible, so you can switch it to match your running outfit of the day, although the colours could have perhaps been more contrasting than black and grey.
7. Inov-8 Race Elite Headband
This performance model from trail specialists Inov-8 is designed to deliver lightweight protection in all conditions. Made from stretchy fabric, it will fit all head sizes, and offers excellent moisture-wicking and a soft feeling against the skin. The material is not the thickest of the headbands shown here, but it's enough to keep out a chill and excellent for warmer conditions or when you're really working up a sweat. Available in men's and women's options and a variety of colours.
8. Invisibobble Multiband
From the makers of the phone-cord-looking hair rings that became a staple in many women’s gym bags, this headband has an integrated hair ring that keeps everything in place while you’re running. It has silicone grips to stop it from slipping, but the best thing is that the combined hair bobble can be used to tie your hair up at the same time. Game changer.
9. Ronhill Nightrunner Headband
This one features reflective detailing all over the body of the headband, so it's a great choice to keep you seen on night runs. The fabric is sweat-wicking and the contoured design keeps your ears cosy. The soft brushed fabric also feels comfortable and it's thermal enough to keep you warm in cold conditions.
10. Kalenji Running Headband
The value running brand delivers again with this affordable, functional piece of unisex kit. No bells and whistles here – they’re a nightmare to run with anyway – just a well-made, well-priced headband, that's thick enough to keep your ears warm in the cold. It's one size, but there's enough give in the material to make it comfortable for all.
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