To be deemed a success a running belt has to achieve two things. It has to be roomy enough to carry everything you want with you on your run, and it has to do so without being uncomfortable in any way, whether thatās rubbing against your skin or bouncing around in an annoying fashion.
- Essential reading: The best hydration and electrolyte products
What you carry in your belt varies from runner to runner, and from run to run, with the cheapest and smallest running belts designed to accommodate just the bare essentials like your keys, card, and phone. And we mean a phone, not a giant phablet.
What to look for in a belt
Bigger belts are of course available for phablet users, and smart designs that hold your gear close to your body mean that you can pack a remarkable amount of stuff into some waistbands without them becoming uncomfortable to wear while running. Some allow for as much as three litres worth of space, which is getting pretty close to the room you get in a small running backpack.
Another decision to make is whether you want your running belt to have pockets designed to take a water bottle. Or even two water bottles. Carrying your water around your waist adds a lot of weight and usually results in some movement, which means many runners prefer to use a lightweight backpack to carry their drinks, but there are belts out there that can take 500ml or more comfortably.
- Read more: The best energy gels for runners
Fit is key with a running belt, and most have straps or similar that you can tighten, because a tight belt is one that wonāt bounce or fall down. Some belts, however, are designed to fit a certain waist size, just like a pair of trousers. This can result in a perfect fit without having to tighten it each run, but requires you to get your size exactly right when ordering.
The best all-round running belt
The FlipBelt is an exceptionally comfortable running belt that fits snugly against the waist and holds your essentials in tubular pockets that run all the way around the belt. The Zipper version adds a zipped pocket at the front and is also a little larger than the classic, making it better suited to owners of large phones.
Weāve used the FlipBelt for three marathons now, packing in four gels and two full 250ml soft flasks for each of them. The belt holds all of that gear close against your body and even when running at race pace it doesnāt budge.
You have to select the exact size of FlipBelt you need when ordering, with a range to fit all waists. You canāt tighten the belt, but once you have the correct size thereās no need to. The wide design of the FlipBelt means that it does get a little sweaty during long runs, but itās easy to wash and the moisture-wicking fabric doesnāt get clammy during your run.
The best basic running belts
Fitletic Mini Sport Belt
Running belts donāt need to be complicated things, and the Fitletic Mini Sport Belt is a masterclass in simplicity. Thereās one pocket, which is stretchy enough to take a plus-sized phone, and that pocket also contains an inner pouch you can put keys inside so thereās a layer of fabric between them and your phone, if youāre worried about scratches.
The strap is easy to tighten and stays tight between runs, so when itās time to go again you can clip the belt on without having to worry about adjusting the strap each and every time. The only frills involved are that the belt comes in a few different colours. Otherwise, this is all about the basics done right.
Asics Waist Pouch
Another great simple belt, the Asics pouch has a main pocket that can take any phone plus an outer pocket that you can use to stash things you need fast access to on the run, such as energy gels.
The pouch comes in a plain black, but we reckon thereās value in opting for the safety yellow design. Itāll add a flash of colour to your running getup and help you to be seen by other road and pavement users when youāre out training, with your visibility also increased by the reflective details on the front of the pouch.
The best large capacity running belt
Inov-8 All Terrain 3L Waist Pack
This beast of a pack is large enough to take all the mandatory kit you need for a fell or trail race, so if you really hate carrying a backpack when running, itās your best bet. The three-litre main compartment is supplement by an outer mesh pocket, which provides quick access to gels.
Thatās worth using because the only downside to having a three-litre pocket is that itās a little trickier to find things in a hurry, though still easier than having to take off a rucksack to get at your stuff.
Clearly carrying that much stuff around your waist requires an impressive set of straps in order to avoid the belt becoming a bouncing nightmare, which is where inov-8 X-lock system comes in ā you can tighten the straps from four different angles to ensure a close and comfortable fit.
The best running belt for gels
The main pouch of this running belt stretches to accommodate most phones, though phablet owners might struggle to squeeze in their devices. That pocket is all youāll really need to carry your essentials on your daily runs, but the SPIbelt energy has an extra trick up its sleeve when it comes to long runs and races.
There are six gel loops on the strap for you to stash your energy gels, which is enough to get most people through a marathon, especially as there are usually other sources of energy and hydration on the course. The loops are best used with longer gels, such as the ones made by High5 and SiS, rather than the small pouches used for Gu gels.
The best hydration running belts
Nathan VaporKrar Waistpak
Most hydration belts have a pocket or pockets that you can slide bottles into ā that works well and youāll see great examples of those in our other top picks. However, the Nathan VaporKrar Waistpak comes with a soft 600ml flask that fits in the back pocket, a system which works brilliantly for carrying a relatively large amount of water without it feeling uncomfortable around the waist.
You can use the straps on the belt to tighten it easily on the move, and you can really crank on these straps to ensure thereās minimal bounce in the belt even with a full 600ml bottle in it. One of the key benefits of the soft bottle is that it gets smaller as you drink, so the belt becomes even less obtrusive as you go.
On the front of the belt is a stretchy zip pocket that can fit a phablet, along with two smaller pouch pockets that are ideal for gels.
Osprey Duro Solo Belt
The angle of the padded pocket the water bottle on this belt slides into means that it sits nicely in the small of your back, and also makes it easier to reach behind and pull the bottle out. With the flourish of a Western gunslinger, once youāve mastered the knack.
Said bottle holds 600ml of liquid, and the pocket next to it is similarly capacious, with enough space to hold your phone plus other essentials and gels. That pocket also has a touchscreen window that you can use to control your phone without having to get it out, and thereās even an emergency whistle attached to the belt, which you can blow like billy-o when your 600ml bottle runs dry.
Kalenji Water Bottle
Whether you opt for one larger bottle or two bottles as in this belt from Kalenji is a matter of personal preference, but in our experience the symmetry of having a bottle either side can help the belt sit snugly against your waist. That is unless you empty one bottle entirely before starting on the other one, of course.
The two hard flasks are held securely in place by the firm pouches they sit in, and the large zipped pocket in between them can hold everything else you need to complete a long run or race, like your phone and gels. And if you happen to lose one or both of your bottles, you can pick up replacements from Decathlon for just $6.49.