Nothing makes my day better than spending a couple of hours running in the mountains. And few things make my day worse than bouncing phones, water bottles, granola bars, and the chaffing that inevitably follows the bouncing. Unfortunately, I thought those two things always went hand-in-hand.
For a couple of years, I used a running vest/backpack that worked relatively well. It was just too big for 8-10 mile runs when all I needed was a little water and a small snack. It felt like overkill to wear a pack like that when I just needed to carry one water bottle, a gel, and maybe my phone. Then I found out about running belts. It seemed like they would solve all my problems. a nice belt with a couple of pockets to hold the essentials and eliminate bounce.
I quickly found that not all running belts are created equal. Not all running belts eliminate bounce. And not all running belts are sized appropriately to fit a range of body sizes and body types. Let me share what I’ve learned from testing three leading running belts so that you can get out of the bounce-chafe cycle as quickly as possible.
The Running Belts I Tested
After an extensive amount of research, I landed on three running belts that I thought would meet my needs. The FlipBelt (don’t get it!), the Ultimate Direction Utility Belt, and the Naked Running Band. The FlipBelt costs about $25, the UD Utility belt about $40, and the Naked Running band about $50. I didn’t buy the belts all at once but instead progressed from least to most expensive as I learned about features and performance.
To date, I’ve worn the UD Utility Belt for over 50 miles and the Naked Running Band for over 200 miles. The FlipBelt didn’t even make it 200 yards before I knew it wasn’t going to work for me. Below, I explain what I like and don’t like about these running belts so you can decide which will work best for you.
The first running belt I purchased was the FlipBelt. I liked the idea of its pockets that closed without a zipper or any kind of clasp but that still kept objects secure and limited bounce. After running less than 100 yards I knew the FlipBelt was not for me.
I loaded it up with a partially filled 500 mL soft flask and set out for a run. Before heading out the door I ran a couple of loops around the kitchen and everything felt secure. As soon as I was out the front door and 10 steps down the sidewalk I realized the FlipBelt wasn’t rigid enough to control the bounce of anything much larger than a key. I turned around, left the belt at home, and did my run without it. Later that day it was sent in for a return. I didn’t even keep it long enough to take pictures for this article (whoops).
If you just need something to hold a key and (maybe) your phone (if you don’t mind some bounce) then you might be able to make the FlipBelt work, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Just spend a little more money and get a better product with better performance.
Ultimate Direction Utility Belt
Next, I gave the UD Utility Belt a try. I could immediately tell it was much more suited to running than the FlipBelt. The only problem was I couldn’t figure out which size to buy. The XL was definitely too big, but the Large seemed too small. It felt like it was going to break as I stretched it out to get it on. After encouragement from a friend (who loves the Utility Belt) I finally bought it in the Large size.
It was a substantial improvement over the FlipBelt. I could carry a full 500 mL soft bottle in the back and my phone in the front with almost no bounce. There were still two smaller pockets – one on each side – to put snacks, gloves, or other items. Finally, I’d found something that worked. Mostly.
The fit was still tight, often uncomfortably tight. It wasn’t bad to wear the Utility Belt for an hour, but anything longer the pressure around my midsection started to get annoyingly uncomfortable. I wish UD had a size in between L and XL. I guess I could have used this as motivation to shrink down the size of my spare tire but what can I say? I like my pancakes and pies.
Things I like about the UD Utility Belt
Overall, the Utility Belt is a great product. It’s made from strong elastic that provides enough stretch and plenty of structure to keep objects from bouncing around. You will be able to securely hold a phone, water bottle, snacks, and other items and not worry about too much bounce. It has four total pockets. Two large pockets in the back and front and two smaller pockets, one on each side. One of the side pockets has a top flap for added security. Additionally, there are straps in the back where you can secure a jacket or poles.
Things I don’t like about the UD Utility Belt
As I already described. The fit was poor for me. UD simply does not offer enough sizes for this belt to fit everyone. If you’re looking to get this belt I recommend buying two sizes and returning the one (or both) that doesn’t fit. If you have the right body size and type this belt will probably work well for you. If you fall between sizes (like me) then the fit will be unfunctionally loose or uncomfortably tight.
My next dislike is that the side pockets tend to lay over the hip bones. Thus, items placed in the side pockets can become uncomfortable quickly. Even a pair of gloves increased the pressure uncomfortably on my hip bones. With a better fit, this may not have been a problem for me.
Finally, and least importantly, the branding didn’t hold up very well. It only took about 15-20 miles before the logos started to peel off. This didn’t affect the performance of the belt at all, just the aesthetic.
Naked Running Band
Even though I was happy with the performance of the Utility Belt, the fit kept me looking for other options. Enter the Naked Running Band. I was drawn to the Running Band because it comes in 12 different sizes but seemed to be constructed similarly to the Utility Belt. I measured myself and followed the advice to purchase a size larger than expected. Of course, it was too big so I returned it and ordered the size I measured for.
The Naked Running Band performed very much like the Utility Belt, except that it actually fit! The elastic is strong and the belt has enough structure that items have little bounce and the band stays firmly in place. Instead of having 4 pockets like the Utility Belt the Naked Running band has three pockets: two in the front and one in the back. I usually carry a water bottle in the back and other items in the front. When on longer runs, the front pockets are also large enough to fit a 500 mL soft bottle. Like the Utility belt, the Running Band also has straps in the back to secure a jacket or poles.
Things I like about the Naked Running Band
The Naked Running Band has all the important aspects of a running belt while removing the annoyances of others. The fit is great. It’s annoying that there are so many sizes because it makes it hard to get the right size on the first try, but it’s worth it because you can actually get the right size. The pockets are large and are not centered on the hip bones, which makes them much more functional and comfortable.
The running band does a great job of limiting bounce, even from large items. I frequently carry two 500 mL soft bottles on 10+ mile runs. With this much weight, there is definitely some bounce, and the band does slide down after a couple of miles, but it’s still more comfortable than a vest or backpack. The Naked Running Band is definitely the best running belt out of the three I tested and the one I highly recommend.
Things I don’t like about the Naked Running Band
My main complaint about the running band is the sizing. I’m glad there are so many sizes because it’s possible to find the right fit. I don’t like the sizing because I usually seem to need a different size in the autumn than I need in the spring (or maybe I just need more self-control during the holidays?). If you lose or gain weight you’ll probably need a new band to get a proper fit.
Additionally, this band has just a little more bounce than the Utility Belt. For me, it’s not enough to worry about and is most noticeable when the belt is really loaded down.
Running belts are a great solution to expanding your running range and carrying your essentials comfortably. As long as you get a good belt. Fit and structure are the most important components of a running belt and I found the Naked Running Band to provide the best combination of both. Hopefully, you’re able to learn from my experiences to get a running band that works for you.