Getting the best running belt for you is as individual as picking up the right pair of trainers. It needs to be able to carry the right amount of stuff for your running whilst keeping the size and weight down to a minimum, so you can run as comfortably as possible.
- Essential reading: The best hydration and electrolyte products
If you get it right a running belt can be one of the most important items you'll ever own, meaning you can head out the front door with everything you need. As well as ticking off mile after mile without worrying about items banging around in your pockets they can also be used to ensure you have enough fuel and hydration for longer efforts.
What to look for in a running 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 won’t 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.
We’ve 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 doesn’t budge.
You have to select the exact size of FlipBelt you need when ordering, with a range to fit all waists. You can’t tighten the belt, but once you have the correct size there’s no need to. The wide design of the FlipBelt means that it does get a little sweaty during long runs, but it’s easy to wash and the moisture-wicking fabric doesn’t get clammy during your run.
The best basic running belts
Fitletic Mini Sport Belt
Running belts don’t need to be complicated things, and the Fitletic Mini Sport Belt is a masterclass in simplicity. There’s 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 there’s a layer of fabric between them and your phone, if you’re worried about scratches.
The strap is easy to tighten and stays tight between runs, so when it’s 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.
SPIbelt Running Belt
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 you’ll really need to carry your essentials on your daily runs and the soft, stretchy spandex material means that you can stuff in all of your essentials and it'll expand whilst still being easy to open and close using the zip.
One of our favorite aspects of the SPIbelt is the feel of the material. For long-distance training, when even the slightest rubbing can become a major issue, we've found the Spibelt does an impressive job at avoiding chafing and sore areas.
The best large capacity running belt
inov-8 Race Elite 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, it’s your best bet. The three-litre main compartment is supplement by an outer mesh pocket, which provides quick access to gels.
That’s worth using because the only downside to having a three-litre pocket is that it’s 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 the ability to lock down your kit and stop it bouncing around. To do that inov-8 has incorporated a set of bungee compression straps as well as a webbing adjustment belt to keep everything secure, whether you're doing a parkrun or a mountain ultra.
The best running belt for long-distance running
Fitletic Ultimate II Running Pouch
If MacGyver was a running belt he would be the Ultimate II Running Pouch. A perfectly balanced piece of kit that offers storage for a surprising amount of fuel and accessories whilst still being minimal enough to wear without the size or weight affecting your performance.
We've been using this belt for years, from daily training miles to marathons, and it's by far one of our favorite pieces of kit to own. The spacious main compartment is big enough to hold most phones whilst the stretchy neoprene fabric means you can stuff many more items in before it reaches its limit.
On the side is an additional velcro pocket that's perfect for storing essential items that you need quickly without opening the main zip, and there are five gel loops around the strap to cover you for endurance runs.
Other features include integrated bib toggles for races, reflective design elements for safety and an additional internal pocket for carrying cards. It's also an incredibly durable build that's lasted us many years of running without any signs of wear or tear.
The best hydration running belts
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 you’ve 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 there’s even an emergency whistle attached to the belt, which you can blow like billy-o when your 600ml bottle runs dry.
Kiprun Bottle Belt
Whether you opt for one larger bottle or two bottles as in this belt from Decathlon 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.
The best running belt for safety
Proviz Reflect360 Running Belt
Proviz is a brand that predominantly focuses on visibility when running which means that all of its kit is covered with reflective elements – ensuring you can be seen by vehicles when you're training at night. But Proviz products are far more than your average hi-viz vest, incorporating plenty of features that mean each item can be used just as well in the day as in the dark.
The REFLECT360 running belt is a great example of that. The comfortable polyester and spandex design is fastened using velcro, making it easy to quickly pull on and off without fumbling around in the dark. It also has three pouches which can be used to stow everything from gels and keys to smaller phones.
As the pockets are spread across the belt, items hold tight against the body and don't jump around when running – although it's worth noting that there aren't any zips, which may put some people off.
The belt is also made of moisture-wicking fabric, so you won't end up with a sweaty waist, and reflective patterning covers the full design, meaning you can be seen from all directions.