Best Running Belts and Waistpacks of 2022

A guide to the best running belts and waistpacks for road running, trail running, and ultrarunning.

By on January 15, 2022 | Leave a reply

If you find yourself wanting a break from the more traditional running hydration pack or there are times when you only need to run with a minimal amount of gear, then a running belt or waistpack might be for you! 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 spot around your waist.

Ranging from minimalist mini-belts just big enough for a smartphone up to ultramarathon-worthy waistpacks that can fully substitute for a vest, the running waistpack and belt market is so large and diverse that it can be hard to decide what you might need. But you’re in luck!

iRunFar searched far and wide and logged loads of miles in a few dozen products to bring you the best running waistbelts and waistpacks available today. Our choices fit in three general categories: tube-style belts, mini-belts, and larger waistpacks built around carrying specific water bottles.

Click on any of the running belts below to check out the details of each. You can learn a bit more about how to choose the right running waistpack for you by jumping down to our how-to-choose section.

We also answer the most frequently asked questions about running belts and waistpacks below, and we describe our testing methodology for this guide.

Nathan 5k Race Belt - high desert running

The Nathan 5k Race Belt is perfect for races and short jaunts where you don’t need water and need only to carry small items like a phone and key. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Tube Style Overall: Naked Running Band ($50)

Nathan 5k Race Belt - high desert runningIt’s been on the market for years, and many brands have tried their hand at a similar tube-style running belt, and yet the Naked Running Band remains the best waistbelt of this kind.

The stretchy, breathable tube-style running waistpack has three deep pockets circling the entire belt, with the largest one in the back, suitable to fit even a full-size soft flask. The Naked Running Band has large elastic bands in which to slip your running poles, which is convenient, though you might be able to feel them in the small of your back. There are two bungee toggles with which you attach your race bib and an internal key clip, too, both on the front of the belt.

We have found the Naked Running Band to have the most precise fit of all the tube-style running waistpacks out there, 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.

Of note is that some but not all testers found the tall height of the band meant it scrunched up a bit around the abdomen, depending on your body shape, especially if you’re not carrying much in it.

Actual weight: 2.3 ounces (67 grams)

Configuration: Three large top-loading pockets encircling the belt

Pros:

  • Lots of storage
  • Open pocket configuration allows you to store stuff exactly where you want to
  • Stretchy and stable

Cons:

  • Can feel poles on the lower back when stored with bands
  • Can scrunch up depending on body type
Shop the Naked Running Band

Best Tube Style Runner-Up: Salomon Sense Pro ($50)

Salomon Sense Pro - product

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 all the tube-style running waistpacks — we think 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 around. Two bits of foam padding in the waistbelt prevent the poles from pressing on your lower back, a nice touch. Take 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, though it’s probably not the best to have a soft flask and poles on board at the same time. The front pocket has a fold-over opening, which makes carrying your phone feel secure.

Of note is that 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 front

Pros:

  • Stays put on waist and has very little bounce
  • Solid and comfortable system for carrying poles

Cons:

  • No key clip
Shop the Salomon Sense Pro

Best Tube Style Honorable Mention: UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0 ($33)

UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0 - productThe UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0 innovates in the tube style running belt category, with its shape which is taller in the front and shorter in the back courtesy of 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 these 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 carry a full-size soft flask. There are two bungee toggles with which to attach your race bib.

Actual weight: 2.4 ounces (68 grams)

Configuration: Two large top-loading pockets and one pocket with a vertical zipper encircling the belt

Pros:

  • Curved shape fits ergonomically on hips
  • Zippered pocket allows secure storage for keys, cards, and trash
  • Best price in the tube style running belt category

Cons:

  • Can scrunch up if not carrying much in the pockets
Shop the UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0

Best for Hard-Sided Water Bottles: Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak ($40)

Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak - productNow we move into the running waistpacks with a bit more heft, where the Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak sits atop 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 carries 535 milliliters.

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 this comfy for hands of many sizes to hold. Finally, it’s super smooth to pull out and stow the flask in its designated holster.

For storage, this pack offers just one zippered pocket that wraps around the left back side 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, there’s pretty minimal storage.

This waistpack has no bounce — none at all — courtesy of its wide webbing and overall shape meant to fill much of the surface area in 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.

The single-size Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak’s belt connects at the front with a buckle and adjusts to fit most body sizes.

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 back

Pros:

  • Carries a hard-sided water bottle better than any waistpack we tested
  • Included water bottle slips in and out easily
  • No bounce

Cons:

  • Limited storage beyond carrying water
  • Doesn’t come in multiple sizes to accommodate the widest array of body types
  • No key clip
Shop the Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak

Best for Hard-Sided Water Bottles Runner-Up: UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack ($60)

UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist PackAnother great waistbelt to carry a hard-sided water bottle is the UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack. It’s a hefty one, weighing in at nearly half a pound, making it the heaviest waistpack in this guide. That said, it also carries a bunch of stuff very comfortably.

This was the favorite bottle-carrying pack of iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks, “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 do have to pull the bottle quite hard to get the bottle out, but you get used to it.”

While this pack is heavier than some others, UltrAspire once again prioritized comfort and ergonomic fit. Other than the bottle holster, the waistpack sits pretty flush against your back and stomach, making bouncing nearly impossible.

The back zippered 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-long run, and could have held even more. If you want to carry a phone, you’ll need to keep it in the front pocket. Note that there is a key clip in the back pocket.

In a switch from some of the other running belts in this guide, this one has bungee cords in the front to carry your poles or extra clothing.

The waistpack’s one-size-fits-most system adjusts quite widely to provide a stable fit on 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.

We really like the included UltrAspire UltraFlask 550 Hybrid Bottle — it’s not really soft, and not really hard, quite flexible as well as 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 back; one large top-loading pocket on the front

Pros:

  • Shines in carrying the excellent, included hard-sided water bottle
  • Sits very solidly on the body with no bounce
  • Bigger-than-it-seems pocket in the front

Cons:

  • Heavy weight
  • High price
  • Doesn’t come in multiple sizes to accommodate the widest array of body types
Shop the UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack

Best Mini-Belt Overall: Nathan Zipster Lite ($30)

Nathan Zipster Lite - product

The Nathan Zipster Lite is best for a run where you don’t need to carry water around your waist. This running waistpack is the one to use if you want to go minimal and just carry your phone, key, and perhaps one snack.

Coming in a wide variety of colors and sizes, this belt is lightweight, though it does weigh as much as tube-style waistpacks with larger carrying capacities.

The Zipster Lite has four pockets, two on the sides that fold over to close, and one each on the front and the back with zippers and water-resistant material inside. It’s a tight fit for a smartphone in the zipper pockets, but it works.

While the water-resistant pockets are a nice touch, one of our testers noted this made the belt feel warm in warmer weather.

A female tester did find some movement with the waistbelt riding up when sized according to Nathan’s sizing chart, so she recommends women to size down if they are at the edges of two sizes.

Actual weight: 2.2 ounces (63 grams)

Configuration: Two large zippered pockets on front and back; two fold-over pockets on the sides

Pros:

  • Great price
  • Variety of pockets
  • Many colors and wide size range

Cons:

  • Can ride up for some women
  • Belt can get a little warm because of multiple layers of material including water-resistant material in some parts
  • Phone pocket is tight, so it’s tricky to remove and replace it on the move
Shop the Nathan Zipster Lite

Best Mini-Belt Runner-Up: Nathan 5k Waist Belt ($25)

Nathan 5k Waist Belt - product

The Nathan 5k Waist Belt is the running waistpack to use if you’re seeking no-bounce minimalism.

The back sits flush and securely against the body, offers some nice 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 and it didn’t bounce while holding more than we expected it would be able to hold.

The black version has strap keepers for the adjustable straps, while the other colors don’t, which is a bummer that we fixed by trimming excess belt material. A couple of testers said they got quite warm wearing it, possibly from its use of neoprene, the same material in wetsuits.

This isn’t the most innovative waistpack, but if you want an affordable and easy-to-use belt, this is a great choice, especially if you run colder.

Actual weight: 3.5 ounces (100 grams)

Configuration: One large and one small zippered pocket on the back

Pros:

  • Minimal bounce
  • Easy to take on and off
  • Excellent price

Cons:

  • Thick material, will get sweaty in warmer weather
  • No key clip
Shop the Nathan 5k Waist Belt

Best for One Soft Flask: Ultimate Direction Race Belt 5.0 ($55)

Ultimate Direction Race Belt 5.0 - productFor a traditional-style waistpack able to carry a full-size soft flask easily, the Ultimate Direction Race Belt 5.0 is perfect.

This belt closes in the front with a Velcro layover, rather than a buckle clasp, meaning there’s no extra strap material hanging over the side.

There are three pockets on this waistpack. First, on the front right side, there is a tiny pocket meant specifically to hold your key. On the back are two pockets, the main pocket meant to carry a soft flask that loads from the top and has a snap closure, and an internal zipper pocket where you can securely carry your phone. That internal zipper pocket also has a key clip.

Adjustable bungee cords on the back allow you to attach poles or an extra layer, and can be used comfortably in conjunction with carrying a soft flask.

Should you desire more storage than what’s here, this waistbelt is made specifically to pair with the Ultimate Direction Adventure Pocket 5.0, which can attach to the front.

This pack 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 5.0 design is such that the soft flask in the back sits nicely, slides out and in easily, and does not bounce. We all know handling softs flasks can be a wiggly experience, and this belt streamlines this.

Finally, this 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 front

Pros:

  • Super easy to access and stow the included soft flask
  • No hanging straps thanks to Velcro closure
  • No bounce and a very comfortable ride

Cons:

  • Must add on Ultimate Direction Adventure Pocket 5.0 if you want extensive storage in addition to carrying water
  • Velcro catches on some clothing materials and gloves
  • High price
Shop the Ultimate Direction Race Belt 5.0

Best for Two Soft Flasks: Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt 5.0 ($75)

Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt 5.0 - productUltimate Direction is always coming in clutch with innovative gear-carrying tools, and the Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt 5.0 is no different. This is the most expensive belt of the bunch, but it functions much more like an actual running vest than its competitors.

This waistpack has the largest carrying capacity of anything in this list, able to fit two full soft flasks at angles on the lower back, in their dedicated pockets with bungee closure tops. Take note that these pockets store other gear really well should you not need to carry 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. Of note is a hidden pocket within this zippered pocket with a Velcro top where you could securely stow a key and cards. An adjustable bungee cord overlays the zipper pocket for holding an extra layer, hat, or gloves.

Like the Ultimate Direction Race Belt 5.0 reviewed above, the Ultra Belt 5.0 has a tiny pocket just for your key with a Velcro closure in the front. You can also pair this waistbelt with the Adventure Pocket 5.0 for even more storage.

Finally, the waistpack comes with two of the Ultimate Direction Body Bottle II 500 milliliter soft flasks.

We took this waistpack on an all-day adventure where we were able to carry one soft flask, running fuel for seven hours out, a rain jacket, gloves, a water filter, a phone, and a small headlamp. In effect, it carried all we would have carried in a hydration pack with ease.

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 front

Pros:

  • Massive carrying capacity
  • No bounce as it sits low and secure on back

Cons:

  • Highest price of any waistpack in this guide
  • Velcro catches on some clothing materials and gloves
Shop the Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt 5.0

Best Budget: Decathlon Kalenji Adjustable Running Belt ($13)

Decathlon Kalenji Adjustable Running Belt - productThe Decathlon Kalenji Adjustable Running Belt is the most minimalist of running waistpacks here, and it’s also the easiest on your wallet. If you want a belt that holds your keys and phone for well under $20, then this is for you.

Decathlon is an interesting company: they’re a sort of wholesale producer who claims to cut out the middleman, saving the customer costs without decreasing product quality. While this may not hold true for all their products, we loved this tiny and compact waistbelt. It is simple and straightforward, the zippered pocket is large enough to hold even the biggest phones, and the buckle closure makes taking it on and off a breeze.

The back pocket is divided into two sections, allowing you to keep your key pretty darn secure even while reaching for other items.

In the future, we’d love to see the zipper moved higher on the pocket, so a phone feels more secure when placing it in or removing it from the pocket. If you don’t need to carry much and want to stay cool, go with this waistpack.

Actual weight: 1.9 ounces (55 grams)

Configuration: One large zippered pocket on the back

Pros:

  • Really cheap
  • Lightest running belt in this guide

Cons:

  • Not much storage
  • No key clip

Shop the Decathlon Kalenji Adjustable Running Belt

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Running Waistpack

Choosing From the Various Styles

Running belts and waistpacks seem to be divided into three general categories:

  1. Tube style belts: Ultralight, minimalistic, and adaptable to what you’d like to carry in them
  2. Mini-belts: Small waistpacks meant only to hold your keys, card, and phone
  3. Larger waistpacks built around carrying specific water bottles: Besides water, these can additionally hold snacks, extra layers, and more

The style you choose depends on your run. A quick three miles around the block with shorts that don’t have pockets to carry your keys, a trail marathon with lots of aid stations for refilling water bottles, or a remote high-altitude adventure where you’re largely self-reliant are each situations that will warrant a different style of running belt.

The style you use is also a matter of personal preference and comfort. For example, some people prefer to be minimalist, while others love to drink out of hard-sided water bottles. Whatever you desire, there’s a waistpack in this guide made for you!

Fit

Many people choose running belts and waistpacks over hydration packs due to the fact 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 less chafe potential.

Each runner’s body type will partly dictate what waistbelt works best, both from a body shape and composition standpoint. The right kind of belt or waistpack will sit snugly around the body without being too tight, and without 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, or from one gender to 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 place on their body. 

It’s always best when you can try a waistbelt on in person before you purchase, to make sure you get the correct size. When buying online, follow each brand’s sizing charts and instructions.

Ultimate Direction Race Belt 5.0 - high desert running

iRunFar Managing Editor Meghan Hicks wears the Ultimate Direction Race Belt 5.0 on a run outside Moab, Utah. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Storage and Size

Even within the three styles of waistbelts, there are a variety of storage capacities within each category. You may prefer a solid belt that can hold water, but dislike maximal waistpacks with lots of material. You may want a wider-width belt that feels better on your abdomen than a thin one, even though you’re not carrying as much.

You may take into account how easy it is to access the items you are storing: Are there zipper pockets, magnetic closures, or fabric overlays? Do the items you’re carrying feel solid and secure while running?

Sweat Factor

Like other running gear, we look for running belts and waistpacks that have good airflow and are able to wick sweat when possible, keeping chafing and wet waists to a minimum. Maybe you run a bit cold and may actually prefer a waistbelt with thicker material, but your best bet for comfort is still to buy one that dries quickly.

Another reason why people wear waistpacks instead of running vests is due to the decreased surface area it covers on our backs and chests, thereby allowing us to thermoregulate more easily.

Stomach Comfort

For some people who might be sensitive to pressure or material around their stomachs while running, a waistbelt might not be right for them at all. If you are such a person who doesn’t like a tight feeling around your abdomen and you still want to try a waistbelt, then look for one that stretches easily or has an adjustable strap that you can change to your comfort level.

Salomon Sense Pro - high desert running

The Salomon Sense Pro offers plenty of room to carry your phone, hiking poles, water, and snacks. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Why You Should Trust Us

iRunFar’s robust testing progress 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 what running belts and waistpacks are out there before choosing roughly 20 top candidates for extensive testing.

We then put the products through the paces on mountains and singletrack, and through rocks, mud, rain, and a couple of truly epic storms. We tested these running waistbelts through all four seasons of 2021. Eventually, this testing led to the identification of the top products reviewed in this guide.

This buyer’s guide is meant to grow and evolve as products do. Indeed, COVID-19-era inventory issues meant we’ve got a few more top models we need to test when they are generally available again, while we’ll also keep our eyes and ears open for the latest and greatest new waistpacks as they hit the market.

Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak - high desert running

The Nathan Peak Hydration Waist Pak showing off the back pocket for key and fuel storage. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Frequently Asked Questions About Running Belts and Waistpacks

What’s the difference between a running belt, waistpack, and waistbelt?

Nothing! These terms are used interchangeably by brands marketing their products. All of the names refer to a piece of gear that is worn around the waist, and has 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 and what you need to carry, as well as personal preference. If your run is less than an hour, and the weather isn’t scorching, it’s unlikely you’ll 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.

For some people, using a belt also takes up less space on the chest and back, decreasing body temperature and increasing ventilation.

Why should I use a waistpack instead of pockets on my running shorts or tights?

In reality, both a running waistpack or your running shorts or tights can be great options for storing a relatively small volume of gear, so it’s more 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, there are few garments that 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.

Nathan Zipster Lite - high desert running

The Nathan Zipster Lite sits flush against the abdomen with flat pockets for items. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

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. Waistpacks that carry soft flasks or hard-sided water bottles for water and a couple of gels can be the perfect complement to 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 water. For ones that have larger carrying capacity, you can add in an extra layer, enough calories for a couple of hours on the trail, and even hiking poles.

Naked Running Band - high desert running

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks placing items in the Naked Running Band during a run in the high desert. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

How do I keep my stomach comfortable when I’m wearing a waistbelt?

Some people like a slight compressive feeling around the middle, while others absolutely hate any pressure over the abdomen. If you’re in the second camp and still want to use a waistpack, choose one that stretches very easily; it might be helpful to try out a few different sizes to see what feels best for you.

An alternative is where you wear the pack on your body; for men, this is a bit easier, 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 waistbelt or a handheld 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!
Meghan Hicks - UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack - moab running

Running with the UltrAspire Synaptic 2.0 Waist Pack on a weekend in Moab, Utah. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Meghan Hicks
Meghan Hicks is the Managing Editor of iRunFar and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.