Running belts and waistpacks offer a way to carry supplies and gear, such as water, snacks, an extra clothing layer, your phone, keys, cards, money, and sometimes even hiking poles, in a hyper-compact setup around your waist. The best running belt will fit comfortably, stay still when you run, and have easily accessible pockets for the items you need.
Ranging from minimalist mini-belts just big enough for a smartphone to ultramarathon-worthy running hydration waistpacks that can fully substitute for a vest, the running belt and waistpack market is so large and diverse that it can be hard to decide what you might need. iRunFar’s gear testing team searched far and wide and logged hundreds of miles in a few dozen products to bring you the best running belts and waistpacks today. Our top picks fit into three general categories: tube-style belts, mini-belts, and larger waistpacks built for carrying hydration.
You can learn more about choosing the best running belt by jumping to our how-to-choose section. We also answer the most frequently asked questions about running belts and waistpacks below and describe our testing methodology for this guide.
Best Running Belts
- Best Overall Tube-Style Running Belt: Naked Running Band
- Best Tube-Style Running Belt – Runner-Up: Salomon Sense Pro
- Best Running Belt for Hard-Sided Water Bottles: Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak
- Best Running Belt for Hard-Sided Water Bottles – Runner-Up: UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack
- Best Overall Mini-Belt: Nathan Zipster Lite
- Best Mini-Belt – Runner-Up: Nathan 5K Waist Belt
- Best Running Belt for One Soft Flask: Ultimate Direction Race Belt
- Best Running Belt for Two Soft Flasks: Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt
- Best Budget Running Belt: UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0
- Best Running Belt for Versatility: Janji Multipass Sling Bag
Best Overall Tube-Style Running Belt: Naked Running Band ($55)
- Lots of storage
- Open pocket configuration allows you to store stuff exactly where you want to
- Stretchy and stable
- You can feel poles on the lower back when held with bands
- Can scrunch up depending on body type
It’s been on the market for years, and many brands have tried their hand at a similar tube-style running belt, yet the Naked Running Band remains the best running belt of its kind.
The stretchy, breathable tube-style running waistpack has three deep pockets circling the entire belt, with the largest one in the back big enough to fit even a full-size soft flask. The Naked Running Band has large elastic bands for carrying collapsible running poles, which is convenient, though you might be able to feel them in the small of your back. There are two bungee toggles for attaching a race bib and an internal key clip, all on the front of the belt.
This waistpack has the most precise fit of all the tube-style options, thanks to its 12 available sizes. The Naked website has a size chart, and multiple testers found the belts ran true to the advertised sizes. Notably, some but not all testers found that the tall height of the band caused it to scrunch up a bit around the abdomen, especially if they were not carrying much inside the belt.
Actual weight: 2.3 ounces (67 grams) | Configuration: Three large top-loading pockets encircling the beltShop the Naked Running Band
Best Tube-Style Running Belt – Runner-Up: Salomon Sense Pro ($50)
- It stays put on the waist and has very little bounce
- Solid and comfortable system for carrying poles
- No key clip
The Salomon Sense Pro running belt is a great addition to this category from a brand with excellent hydration packs. We found that it stays put without scrunching up around the waist better than the rest of the tube-style running belts — we think this is because it has a slightly smaller diameter at the top compared to the bottom.
There are two large and two small pockets between the front and sides, and adjustable bungee cords in the back make it easy to fit various-sized poles and ensure they don’t slip. Two bits of foam padding in the waistbelt prevent the poles from pressing on your lower back, which is a nice touch. Note that you can also use those external bungees to securely carry an extra layer like a rain or wind jacket.
The largest pocket on the back reserves space for a full-size soft flask. The front pocket has a fold-over opening, which makes carrying your phone feel secure. It takes a bit to get used to working this pocket on the run, but once you do, it’s simple to access your phone for a quick photo or text message. The other three pockets open from the top.
Actual weight: 2 ounces (57 grams) | Configuration: One large and two small top-loading pockets on the back and sides; one large pocket with a fold-over opening on the frontShop the Salomon Sense Pro
Best Running Belt for Hard-Sided Water Bottles: Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak ($40)
- Carries a hard-sided water bottle better than any other waistpack we tested
- Included water bottle slips in and out easily
- No bounce
- Limited storage beyond carrying water
- It doesn’t come in multiple sizes to accommodate the widest array of body types
- No key clip
When it comes to running waistpacks with a bit more heft, the Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak sits at the top of our list. This pack shines when it comes to carrying water in its included hard-sided Nathan Speed Draw Flask with the push/pull Race Cap, which holds 535 milliliters (18 ounces) of liquid.
The included flask is ergonomically shaped and flat on one side, allowing it to sit nicely against the small of your back. Also, its curved sides and bump on the outer face make it comfortable for hands of many sizes to hold. Finally, pulling out and replacing the flask in its designated holster while running feels easy and smooth.
This pack offers just one zippered pocket that wraps around the left back side for storage. It’s big enough for your phone, key, and a couple of snacks. To the right side of the water bottle holster is an adjustable bungee cord that allows you to stow a small jacket, hat, or gloves. Overall, the storage is pretty minimal.
This running belt has no bounce — none at all — courtesy of its wide webbing and overall shape meant to fill much of the surface area on the small of your back. One of our testers even found the wide webbing to be overkill for this small pack, though others appreciated it for the stability it offers.
This single-size belt connects at the front with a buckle and adjusts to fit most body sizes. And in case you’re wondering, a few other hard-sided water bottles do fit into this waistpack, but not with the precision fit of the included Nathan Speed Draw Flask.
Actual weight: 6.3 ounces with the included hard-sided water bottle (178 grams) | Configuration: Water bottle holster and one zippered pocket on the backShop the Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak
Best Running Belt for Hard-Sided Water Bottles – Runner-Up: UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack ($60)
- Carries a hard-sided water bottle very well
- It sits very solidly on the body with no bounce
- Bigger-than-it-seems pocket in the front
- High price
- It doesn’t come in multiple sizes to accommodate the widest array of body types
Another great waistpack for carrying a hard-sided water bottle is the UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack. It’s a hefty one, weighing nearly half a pound, making it the heaviest waistpack in this guide. While this pack is heavier than some others, UltrAspire prioritized comfort and ergonomic fit. The waistpack sits flush against your back and stomach, making bouncing nearly impossible.
This was the favorite bottle-carrying pack of iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks, the original author of this guide: “There’s no bounce, and it’s quite comfortable … there’s no banging of the bottle on the lower back, nothing digs into my middle. You have to pull the bottle quite hard to get it out, but you get used to it.”
The zippered back pocket doesn’t hold as much as we’d like, but the front pocket, which opens at the top, held enough nutrition for a four-hour run and could have held even more. If you want to carry a phone, you’ll need to keep it in the front pocket. There is a key clip in the back pocket.
Unlike many other running belts in this guide configured for carrying poles on the back, this one has bungee cords in the front for poles or extra clothing.
The waistpack’s one-size-fits-most system adjusts widely to provide a stable fit for many body types. Though it works great, all of our test team found the large metal buckle to be far overbuilt for this pack’s needs. That said, we really like the included UltrAspire UltraFlask 550 Hybrid Bottle — it’s not really soft and not really hard, but it’s pretty flexible and lighter than others.
Actual weight: 7.9 ounces with the included water bottle (225 grams) | Configuration: Water bottle holster and one small zippered pocket on the back; one large top-loading pocket on the frontShop the UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack
Best Overall Mini-Belt: Nathan Zipster Lite ($35)
- Great price
- Variety of pockets
- Many colors and a wide size range
- Can ride up for some women
- The belt can get a little warm because of multiple layers of material, including water-resistant material in some parts
- The phone pocket is tight, so it’s tricky to remove and replace it on the move
The Nathan Zipster Lite is best for a run where you don’t need to carry water around your waist. If you want to go minimal, carry your phone, key, and perhaps one snack, this running belt is the one to use.
This belt comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes. With various pockets, it weighs about as much as tube-style running belts with larger carrying capacities. Two pockets on the sides fold over to close, and the front and back have zippers and water-resistant material inside. The zippered pockets provide a tight fit for a smartphone, but it works. A female tester did find some movement with the waistbelt riding up when sized according to Nathan’s sizing chart, so she recommends women size down if they are on the cusp of two sizes.
While the water-resistant pockets are a nice touch, one of our testers noted this made the belt feel too warm in hotter weather. That said, our testers loved this mini-belt for cooler weather running when they wanted to run hands-free but carry one or two essentials.
Actual weight: 2.2 ounces (63 grams) | Configuration: Two large zippered pockets on the front and back; two fold-over pockets on the sidesShop the Nathan Zipster Lite
Best Mini-Belt – Runner-Up: Nathan 5K Waist Belt ($30)
- Minimal bounce
- Easy to take on and off
- Excellent price
- Thick material will get sweaty in warmer weather
- No key clip
The Nathan 5K Waist Belt is the running belt to use if you’re seeking no-bounce minimalism. The back sits flush and securely against the body, offers some excellent reflective detail for those early-morning or night runs, and the front closes easily with a click of the plastic buckle. One of our testers stored a phone and an ultralight wind jacket in the pack, which is more than we expected it to carry, and it didn’t bounce.
The black version has strap keepers for the adjustable straps, while the other colors don’t, which is a bummer but an issue we fixed by trimming excess belt material. Some testers said they got pretty warm wearing it, possibly because of the non-breathable neoprene used in its construction, the same material used in wetsuits. That said, it’s great for shoulder season when you start cold and need to stash gloves and a headlamp as the day warms up. While it isn’t the most innovative waistpack, it’s an excellent choice for an affordable and easy-to-use belt.
Actual weight: 3.5 ounces (100 grams) | Configuration: One large and one small zippered pocket on the backShop the Nathan 5K Waist Belt
Best Running Belt for One Soft Flask: Ultimate Direction Race Belt ($55)
- It is super easy to access and stow the included soft flask
- No hanging straps thanks to Velcro closure
- No bounce and a very comfortable ride
- You must add on Ultimate Direction Adventure Pocket if you want extensive storage in addition to carrying water
- Velcro catches on some clothing materials and gloves
- High price
For a traditional-style waistpack that’s easily able to carry a full-size soft flask, the Ultimate Direction Race Belt is perfect. This belt closes in the front with a Velcro layover rather than a buckle clasp, meaning no extra strap material hangs over the side.
There are three pockets on this waistpack. A tiny pocket on the front right side is meant to hold your key. There are two pockets on the back. The main pocket is for carrying a soft flask that loads from the top and has a snap closure, and the internal zipper pocket is where you can securely hold your phone or other items. That internal zipper pocket also has a key clip. Finally, adjustable bungee cords on the back allow you to attach poles or an extra layer, which can be used comfortably when carrying a soft flask. Should you desire more storage than what’s here, this waistbelt is made to pair with the Ultimate Direction Adventure Pocket, which can attach to the front.
This running belt is made to carry soft flasks, so unlike other waistpacks, where the soft flask can stretch the mesh or bounce around a bit, the Ultimate Direction Race Belt design is such that the soft flask in the back sits nicely, slides out and in easily, and does not bounce. Handling soft flasks can be a wiggly experience, and this belt offers a streamlined solution. On that note, this waistpack comes with one Ultimate Direction Body Bottle II 500-milliliter soft flask.
Actual weight: 3.6 ounces with the included soft flask (104 grams) | Configuration: One large top-loading pocket and one zippered pocket on the back; one tiny Velcro pocket on the frontShop the Ultimate Direction Race Belt
Best Running Belt for Two Soft Flasks: Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt ($75)
- Massive carrying capacity
- There is no bounce as it sits low and secure on the back
- The highest price of any waistpack in this guide
- Velcro catches on some clothing materials and gloves
Ultimate Direction always leads the field with innovative gear-carrying tools, and the Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt is no different. This is the most expensive running belt of the bunch, but it functions much more like an actual running vest than its competitors.
It has the largest carrying capacity of any belt on this list, able to fit two full soft flasks at angles on the lower back in dedicated pockets with bungee closure tops. The waistpack includes two of the Ultimate Direction Body Bottle II 500-milliliter soft flasks. Note that these hydration pockets store other gear well if you’re not carrying two soft flasks.
A zippered pocket between the bottles can fit your phone, a wind jacket, snacks, and anything else you might want, though some testers stated they struggled to get the largest of phones inside when carrying two full soft flasks. Within this zippered pocket, a hidden pocket with a hook-and-loop closure lets you securely stow a key and credit cards. Finally, an adjustable bungee cord overlays the zipper pocket to hold an extra layer.
Like the Ultimate Direction Race Belt above, this one has a tiny pocket just for your key with a Velcro closure in the front. You can pair this waistbelt with the Adventure Pocket for even more storage.
We took this waistpack on an all-day adventure, carrying one soft flask, running fuel for seven hours out, a rain jacket, gloves, water filter, phone, and a small headlamp. In effect, it comfortably and easily held all we would have carried in a hydration pack.
Actual weight: 5.3 ounces with the two included soft flasks (150 grams) | Configuration: Two soft flask holsters, one large zippered pocket, and one small Velcro pocket on the back; one tiny Velcro pocket on the frontShop the Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt
Best Budget Running Belt: UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0 ($33)
- The curved shape fits ergonomically on the hips
- The zippered pocket allows secure storage for keys, cards, and trash
- Best price in the tube-style running belt category
- It can bunch up if not carrying much in the pockets
The UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0 innovates in the tube-style running belt category with a shape that’s taller in the front and shorter in the back, thanks to curves on the bottom edge of the waistpack.
This belt has three large pockets that will hold your phone, hydration, nutrition, and anything else you may want to carry. One of the pockets closes with a vertical zipper, which is handy if you want to ensure that your keys don’t fall out, while the other two open at the top.
Bungee cords on the back securely carry your poles or an extra layer of clothing. The largest pocket on the front will comfortably hold a full-size soft flask. There are two bungee toggles with which to attach your bib if you wear this belt in a race. While this is a nice design for an everyday running belt and is offered at a great value, some testers noticed that it bunched up if they weren’t carrying much.
Actual weight: 2.4 ounces (68 grams) | Configuration: Two large top-loading pockets and one pocket with a vertical zipper encircling the beltShop the UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0
Best Running Belt for Versatility: Janji Multipass Sling Bag ($56)
- Functional design
- Multiply carry configurations
- Great value
- It is not specifically designed for carrying hydration
- No easy way to carry running poles
A unique design that’s one of a kind among running belts, the Janji Multipass Sling packs a lot of functionality into a relatively lightweight and technical design. This part-sling, part-belt design can be worn multiple ways and has a lot of applications outside of running. It has one primary pocket on the outside that zips closed and can hold anything from a soft flask to snacks, a jacket, or gloves. Inside this main pocket, you’ll also find a key clip and a smaller mesh pocket perfectly sized for cards or cash. Behind this larger primary pocket is another zippered pocket that sits against the body and has plenty of room for a few more snacks or your phone. A pass-through pocket for stashing a lightweight jacket is between these two pockets. However, it’s not quite big enough to easily fit poles.
This belt is constructed with technical, water-resistant fabric and just enough lightweight, perforated foam to give it a little structure without making it feel heavy and hot. Also, the material on the back is a breathable mesh, which works together with the foam to allow airflow between the pack and your body.
All that said, what sets this pack apart is that you can wear it either as a waistpack or as a sling around your shoulders. If you opt for the latter, a small hidden strap in the back zippered pocket pulls out and clips to the main strap for added stability (and no bouncing). Both configurations are comfortable, depending on your activity. We liked the traditional waistpack for running and the sling for bike commuting. On that note, this is a highly functional and technical pack, but it’s best for commuting, traveling, and general on-the-go activities — it wouldn’t be our first pick, say, in a race or long run where you’re mainly carrying fuel and hydration.
Actual weight: 6.5 ounces (183 grams) | Configuration: Two large zippered pockets, one with an internal mesh pocket and key ring, and one additional pass-through pocket for a lightweight windbreaker or rain jacketShop the Janji Multipass Sling Bag
Comparing the Best Running Belts
|Naked Running Band
|Salomon Sense Pro
|Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak
|UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack
|Nathan Zipster Lite
|Nathan 5K Waist Belt
|Ultimate Direction Race Belt
|Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt
|UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0
|Janji Multipass Sling Bag
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Running Belt
Choosing From the Various Styles
The best running belts and waistpacks seem to be divided into three general categories:
- Tube-style belts: Ultralight, minimalistic, and adaptable to what you’d like to carry in them
- Mini-belts: Small waistpacks meant only to hold your keys, card, and phone
- Larger waistpacks built around carrying specific water bottles: Besides hydration, these can additionally hold snacks, extra layers, and more
The style you choose depends on your run. For a quick three miles around the block with shorts that don’t have pockets to carry your keys, the Nathan Zipster Lite will do the trick. A trail marathon with lots of aid stations for refilling water bottles or a remote high-altitude adventure where you’re primarily self-reliant will each warrant a different style of running belt.
The style you use is also a matter of personal preference and comfort. For example, the best running belt for a minimalist is different than for someone who loves to drink out of hard-sided water bottles. Whatever you desire, this guide has a waistpack for you.
Many people choose running belts and waistpacks over hydration packs because they place more weight on the hips and waist rather than the shoulders, and they also reduce coverage of your chest and back for better ventilation and lower risk of chafing.
Each runner’s body type will partly dictate the best running belt, both from a body shape and composition standpoint. The right belt or waistpack will sit snugly around the body without being too tight or riding up or falling down while moving. Some brands do this better than others, and a style that works for one person may not work for another.
We’ve found that men and women wear waistbelts differently — men have a much straighter line from waist to hips, and women tend to taper at the waist and widen at the hips. As a result, men tend to wear them at the natural hips and women at the narrowest point on their bodies.
It’s always best to try a waistbelt on before you purchase to ensure you get the correct size. When buying online, follow each brand’s sizing charts and instructions. Some, like the Salomon Sense Pro, will indicate that they run a little small, and you should go for the larger if you fall between sizes. On the other hand, a belt like the Janji Multipass Sling Bag has a lot of adjustability and two ways to wear it.
Storage and Size
Even within the three categories of running belts, there are a variety of storage capacities among different designs and styles. The best running belt for you may be a simple, solid belt that can hold water, such as the Naked Running Band, or a maximal waistpack with lots of capacity, like the Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt. Or you may prefer a wider-width belt that feels better on your abdomen than a thin one, even though you’re not carrying as much.
You may also consider how easy it is to access the items you are storing: Are there zipper pockets, magnetic closures, or fabric overlays? Do the things you’re carrying feel solid and secure while running? The list we’ve compiled above includes an option to suit the needs and preferences of just about anyone.
Like other running gear, we look for running belts and waistpacks with good airflow and wick sweat when possible, keeping chafing and wet waists to a minimum. Maybe you run a bit cold and prefer a waistbelt with thicker material, but your best bet for comfort is still to buy one that dries quickly.
Another reason people wear waistpacks instead of running vests is the decreased surface area it covers on our backs and chests, thereby allowing us to thermoregulate more easily. A pack like the Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt will hold almost as much as a running vest and may work better for warm-weather training and racing than a traditional vest.
A waistbelt might not be the right solution for some people who might be sensitive to pressure or material around their stomachs while running. The best running belt for a person who doesn’t like a tight feeling around their abdomen and still wants to try a waistbelt could be one that stretches easily, like the Naked Running Band, or one that has an adjustable strap, such as the Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak, which can be changed to different comfort levels.
Why You Should Trust Us
iRunFar’s robust testing process ensures you get the best gear for your needs. We consider quality, durability, cost, and a host of other elements when choosing which models of gear to test.
Based on decades of experience as runners and gear reviewers in this space, we extensively researched the running belts and waistpacks marketplace before choosing roughly 20 top candidates for extensive testing in our first iteration of this guide.
We then put the products through the paces on mountains and singletrack and through rocks, mud, rain, and a few genuinely epic storms. Additionally, we tested these running waistbelts through all four seasons. Eventually, we identified the best running hydration belts to put in this guide. Over the years since we first published this guide, our gear team has continued testing running belts through the same rigorous process and updating the list above so that the best options remain.
Please note that product models are routinely discontinued in the running world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we at iRunFar often keep using our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes, that continued use results in uncovering product failures. Considering product discontinuations, new product introductions, and product failures, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. When we update any buyer’s guide, most products will likely remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Running Belts and Waistpacks
What’s the difference between a running belt, waistpack, and waistbelt?
Not a whole lot! These terms are generally used interchangeably by brands marketing their products, though waistpacks, like the UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack, often have more carrying capacity than a belt like the Nathan 5k Waist Belt. All of the names refer to a piece of gear worn around the waist with pockets and holsters for storing water and gear. For ease, we also use these phrases interchangeably in this guide.
Why would I use a running belt or waistpack instead of a hydration vest?
In general, it comes down to the length of your run, what you need to carry, and personal preference. If your run is less than an hour, and the weather isn’t scorching, you’ll unlikely need much water. In this scenario, it’s often unnecessary to carry a full running vest when all you need to carry are your keys and a phone, all of which you can fit in a small belt like the Nathan 5k Waist Belt.
For some people, using a belt also covers up less of their chest and back, increasing ventilation and helping them stay cool.
Why should I use a running belt instead of pockets on my running shorts or tights?
In reality, a running belt or your running shorts or tights can be great options for storing a relatively small volume of gear, so it’s a matter of personal preference and what feels the most comfortable for you.
We will say, after having tested many shorts and tights over the years, few garments hold more than your keys and perhaps one snack without issue, so often, a running belt opens up the opportunity to carry a little more, such as a phone or water bottle. Even a minimalist belt like Nathan Zipster Lite will hold the essentials for a short run.
What are the benefits of choosing a running belt that carries water?
This comes down to distance or your personal hydration needs — maybe your run is in the two-hour range in moderate weather, long enough that you’d like to hydrate, but short enough that you don’t need the liter or more of water storage capacity a hydration vest offers. Running hydration waistpacks like the Ultimate Direction Race Belt that carry a single soft flask, or the UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack, which can hold a hard-sided water bottle, can complement runs like this.
What can I carry in a running belt or waistpack?
Anything you want. The standard is keys, running fuel, phone, and maybe hydration. For belts with a larger carrying capacity, like the Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt, you can add in an extra layer, enough calories for a couple of hours on the trail, and even trekking poles. The Janji Multipass Sling Bag is great for activities like biking, hiking, travel, and running.
How do I keep my stomach comfortable wearing a running belt?
Some people like a slight compressive feeling around the middle, while others hate any pressure over the abdomen. If you’re in the second camp and still want to find the best running belt for short runs, choose one that stretches very easily, like the Naked Running Band. If possible, we recommend trying out a few different sizes to see what feels best for you.
An alternative is adjusting where you wear the pack on your body; this is a bit easier for men, as their body shape allows them to fit a waistbelt on the true hips rather than over the stomach.
Call for Comments
- Do you prefer a running belt or a handheld water bottle when you’re on a shorter mission that doesn’t require a hydration pack?
- What are your favorite running belts, maybe some that we didn’t review in this guide? Let us know, and we’ll consider them for future updates to this article!