Best Running Hats of 2021

After running hundreds of miles on trails through granite canyons, rugged mountain slopes, and rolling desert sandstone, our team narrowed down the best running hats to help protect trail runners and ultrarunners.

Shielding your face, eyes, and lips from soaking up the sun saves energy on trail and prevents a tough recovery later. Today’s running hats have evolved from simple and utilitarian tools into nuanced pieces of gear. Hats for runners not only block harmful rays, but also soak up sweat, dry swiftly, and keep heads cool. Some trail runners and ultrarunners also place a premium on hats that fit into our running packs when we don’t need them, pair well with our favorite sunglasses, are easily adjustable on the fly, and don’t impair visibility. An entire spectrum of sleek and featherweight or roomy and hardy caps are available for your quiver.

To help you choose the best running hat, our seven-member crew of professional, competitive, collegiate, and recreational trail runners and ultrarunners donned a range of the most popular, top-rated running hats for hundreds of miles. The team included male- and female-identifying runners training for myriad goals, from Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile to the 40-mile Grand Traverse Mountain Run. We ran from dusk to dawn across the Rocky Mountains and western United States facing an array of conditions from dusty trails to rocky singletrack, mud-packed routes, sandstone, snow, rain, and endless hours of sunshine.

While this guide isn’t comprehensive of every stellar trail running hat, it’s a solid launchpad to help you find the ideal headgear that fits your needs. Scroll through to see our recommendations for the best trail running hats, or jump to the category you’re looking for to see our top picks. You can learn more about our methodology, read our answers to your frequently asked questions, and peruse our suggestions for how to choose a running hat at the end of this guide.

Best Running Hats of 2021

Our experts trying out the best running hats of 2021. Photo: Morgan Tilton

Best Overall: Black Diamond Dash Cap ($35)

Black Diamond Dash Cap product photo

The Black Diamond Dash Cap. Photo: Black Diamond

Why It’s a Top Pick: The Black Diamond Dash Cap is comfortable, light, and durable, with a sweeping brim that protects the face from the sun.

Beyond overall comfort, one of our favorite features of the Black Diamond Dash Cap is the full-coverage bill that is slightly wider and longer than most other hats we tested. For that detail and more, this cap received the highest score of our product pool.

The material — a lightweight polyester dobby weave, which adds texture without losing flexibility — felt airy, breathable, and durable. The synthetic high-tenacity yarn is water resistant and dries fast. The cap’s external textile feels a bit coarse, but the inside of the hat is soft with wide, flat seams between the panels and a broad, buttery sweatband that wicks perspiration super well.

“I don’t prefer hats that are tight and minimal — I like trail running hats with more material on the sides to tuck in the tops of my ears, like the Black Diamond Dash Cap. The material is robust, but the sweatband is smooth without any itchiness or abrasive seams,” said one product tester who took this hat for sun-soaked, high-altitude runs in Colorado’s Elk Mountains near Crested Butte.

Our primary critique: It’s not easy to adjust the plastic clip-in back closure, and we had to pull off our cap to do so. This isn’t ideal if a huge gust sneaks up on you, especially if you’re wearing a wide brim that acts like a sail in exposed terrain. That said, we loved that the adjustment strap slides tidily into a garage in the cap, so we can wear the hat backward without a tail slapping our forehead. We just barely feel the two pressure points of the seam ends on the front panel, but it doesn’t create any lasting pressure and goes unnoticed during runs. Ultimately, this silhouette is one of the best hats for men and women.

Pros:

  • Excellent sun-protective brim
  • Tenacious material
  • Sweat wicking
  • Comfortable

Cons:

  • Higher price tag
  • Not easy to adjust while being worn
  • No ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating
Shop the Black Diamond Dash Cap

Best Runners-Up: Janji Transit Tech Cap ($38)

Janji Transit Tech Cap product photo - best hats of 2021

The Janji Transit Tech Cap. Photo: Janji

Why It’s a Top Pick: The Janji Transit Tech Cap provides a secure fit and features super-smooth, weather-resistant fabric that’s breathable and extremely sun protective.

The Janji Transit Tech Cap is very comfortable; the softshell buttery fabric is durable, and the smooth pull-through back tab makes dialing in tightness easy mid-run. “The interior sweatband is nice and wide — about one inch — and non-abrasive. I have sensitive skin, so it’s nice to pull this cap on out-of-box and have zero itch or irritation against my forehead,” said one of our veteran product testers and ultrarunners.

When pulled tight, despite the hat’s streamlined fit, it caused no headaches during gusty ridgeline runs, reported one trail runner who wore the hat while traversing rocky singletrack in southwest Colorado’s high-altitude desert. The robust textile blocked the chilly wind yet felt breathable and perspiration dried fast.

The cap dries quickly partly due to the durable water repellent finish. To screen the sun, the material boasts UPF 50 — the second-highest possible rating in apparel — meaning less than 2% of ultraviolet (UV) radiation is permitted through the fabric. There is a zipper compartment, but overall, our testers didn’t find it useful. Goods like keys can clank against the head and any paper items get wet from perspiration. It might be a good spot for a credit card.

Choosing this classic silhouette also makes our green thumb feel good: the material is 91% recycled polyester.

Pros:

  • Back strap is easy to adjust while being worn
  • Weather resistant fabric
  • UPF 50 fabric rating that’s extremely UV protective
  • Breathable

Cons:

  • No garage to hold the back strap, which isn’t ideal when wearing the hat backward
  • Higher price tag
Shop the Janji Transit Tech Cap

Best Runners-Up: Ciele Athletics ALZCap ($45)

Ciele Athletics ALZ Cap product photo - best hats of 2021

The Ciele Athletics ALZ Cap. Photo: Ciele Athletics

Why It’s a Top Pick: The Ciele Athletics ALZCap material provides excellent sun protection while being quick-drying, breathable, and packable.

The low-profile Ciele Athletics ALZCap is “everything you want in a running cap: lightweight, breathable, good sun protection with UPF 40-plus, and a style that makes you look good doing what you love,” said our gear tester, a Colorado-based ultrarunner and coach who ran with this hat on dirt mountain passes and singletrack switchbacks.

The mesh cap is quick-drying and breathable, which helped keep our head cool during warmer runs.The interior is lined with an absorbent sweatband. The adjustable strap has a hide-away garage, so the strap doesn’t flap around. Also, the soft brim is a bit shorter for packability yet shaded the majority of our face. Compared to the popular Ciele Athletics GoCap, this hat has a shorter brim and weighs less. It’s also ever-so-slightly smaller.

One tester added, “The fit is very comfortable, even after a few hours of wearing it running or backcountry skiing. That hat stayed on snug even with some headwind.”

Pros:

  • Quick-drying
  • Comfortable
  • Packable
  • UPF 40-plus rating that’s extremely UV protective

Cons:

  • High price tag
  • Very quick-drying but not ideal for conditions requiring water resistance
Shop the Ciele Athletics ALZCap

Best Runners-Up: On Running Lightweight Cap ($40)

On Running Lightweight Cap product photo - best hats of 2021

The On Running Lightweight Cap. Photo: On Running

Why It’s a Top Pick: The On Running Lightweight Cap fits comfortably and securely despite being featherlight with a robust bill.

The On Running Lightweight Cap is one of our favorite workout hats for being so lightweight and soft yet boasting a rigid, wide brim. “The cap is pliable and soft. The brim is very rigid and is not foldable, but seems like it will withstand abuse and offer consistent form and protection over time,” said one product tester. He wore this hat throughout meandering miles in Montana’s sandy beaches, pine forests, and on rocky singletrack in Wyoming’s Teton Range.

The cap’s sides feature uniform ventilation holes that are laser cut into polyester fabric. The fairly soft one-inch-wide sweatband snags salty droplets really well. The hat also has a garage to secure the adjustment strap’s tail.

“With sun overhead, the bill does an excellent job of blocking light from hitting my entire face and a huge portion of my neck and upper chest. I can even cover and tuck in the tops of my ears,” added our tester.

Pros:

  • Quick-drying
  • Lightweight
  • Ventilation ports in sweatband

Cons:

  • Sweatband texture is a bit abrasive when we slide the hat on and off
  • Not easy to adjust tightness while being worn
  • Higher price
  • No UPF rating
Shop the On Running Lightweight Cap

Best Classic: Patagonia Duckbill Trucker Hat ($35)

Patagonia Duckbill Trucker Hat product photo - best hats of 2021

The Patagonia Duckbill Trucker Hat. Photo: Patagonia

Why It’s a Top Pick: The Patagonia Duckbill Trucker Hat is a comfortable, extremely breathable, quick-drying, and adaptive hat for running and crosstraining adventures.

The Patagonia Duckbill Trucker Hat hardly needs an introduction. We originally bought this hat for trail running years ago, and have ended up pulling it on for nearly every other outdoor adventure. The cap is a nylon-foam blend and polyester mesh, which means it’s super breathable: it’s among the best cooling hats for men and women. The design fits seamlessly beneath climbing and mountain bike helmets. The crown and bill has a durable water repellent finish which wards off rain, splashes, and snow. To our surprise, the material floats well too, as discovered on a multi-day standup paddleboard trip.

The plush sweatband is soft, absorbs perspiration quickly, and dries fast. Overall, the hat is super light. If you’re looking for a comfortable, breathable, heat-releasing hat that pairs well with other activities, this hat is your new friend.

Critique: There’s no garage to secure the dangling adjustment strap, which is annoying when you wear the hat backward. Also, though the hat is packable, the upper can look a bit wonky for a bit after it’s been smushed.

Pros:

  • 100% recycled nylon
  • Back clip is easy to adjust while being worn
  • Very packable
  • Super breathable

Cons:

  • Mesh portion on half of cap doesn’t block sunlight from head
  • Pliable bill can curl upward over time
  • No UPF rating
Shop the Patagonia Duckbill Trucker Hat

Best Technical Trucker: Headsweats TruckAir Hat 5-Panel ($26)

Headsweats TruckAir Hat 5-Panel product photo - best hats of 2021

The Headsweats TruckAir Hat 5-Panel. Photo: Headsweats

Why It’s a Top Pick: The Headsweats TruckAir Hat 5-Panel fits super well with just-right aeration and provides great sun blockage with a protective bill.

“I completely loved the fit of this hat — I like a larger hat like this one compared to the flimsy running hats that fold up. It stayed on my head in very windy conditions,” said one competitive ultrarunner who trained with this hat through granite canyons, sandstone desert, and high-altitude mountains in central Colorado while training for the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile.

The Headsweats TruckAir Hat 5-Panel terry sweatband is comfortable and absorbed moisture well — even for runners who sweat a lot — without soaking the cap fabric. The perforated back panels provided ventilation, but we didn’t feel cold on windy and snowy runs. The long brim protected our face and neck, but we did get snagged by a branch one day that was obscured by the bill.

The traditional snap back closure is easy to adjust and the hat integrates well with long hair. “I wear my hair in two braids or one braid and the hat stayed put both ways. I could also pull the hat down over my ears or tuck it behind, depending on how my hair was done,” added one tester.

Pros:

  • Quick-drying
  • Very comfortable
  • Stayed put without being tight
  • Moderate price point

Cons:

  • Doesn’t fit well with large frame sunglasses
  • Bill occasionally obscured visibility on trail runs
  • No UPF rating
Shop the Headsweats TruckAir Hat 5-Panel

Best Budget: Gone For A Run Ultra Pocket Hat for Runners ($25)

Gone For a Run Ultra Pocket Hat for Runners product photo - best hats of 2021

The Gone For a Run Ultra Pocket Hat for Runners. Photo: Gone for a Run

Why It’s a Top Pick: The Gone For A Run Ultra Pocket Hat for Runners is a lightweight, sweat-absorbing, and quick-drying hat with a lower price tag.

“I didn’t think I’d like the fit of this hat, but I loved it. It stayed on in the wind and didn’t strangle my head. The adjustable strap was easy to use,” said our tester who wore the Gone For A Run Ultra Pocket Hat for Runners in drizzly, cloudy, and sunny runs in Colorado’s Gunnison Valley. The interior liner doesn’t have any pinch or rub points and caught sweat before it hit our brows. Even for our sweatiest runners, the hat didn’t feel stuffy. The hat provides decent sun protection for the upper face and eyes. “I was easily able to see all around me and even avoid a snake taking a sun bath on the trail,” added one tester.

Though this hat had a pocket, our testers didn’t find it necessary. Items like key fobs can move around and cash can get wet from sweat. The pocket would be most useful for an identification card, for heading right to the brewery post-run.

Pros:

  • Low price point
  • Moisture-wicking fabric catches tons of sweat
  • Material dries fast

Cons:

  • Velcro closure is testy with thick or long hair
  • Hand washing is required
  • No UPF rating
Shop the Gone For A Run Ultra Pocket Hat for Runners

Best Lightweight and Stowable: Buff Pro Run Cap ($25)

Buff Pro Run Cap product photo

The Buff Pro Run Cap. Photo: Buff

Why It’s a Top Pick: The Buff Pro Run Cap is a great warm weather hat that provides strong protection against the sun.

The Buff Pro Run Cap feels soft, and you barely notice it’s on your head. The 100% polyester fabric feels like it retains zero heat and is very breathable thanks to the small mesh panels on the front of the hat. It’s among the most packable on our list: You can smoosh it down into a pocket and it still looks smooth when pulled back out. The back panel features laser-cut holes for extra ventilation. With a unique addition, the front panels of the cap feature two sleeves where the seam has a spot to slide in sunglasses arms. The feature adds a bit of security for holding sunglasses when a runner places them on their head.

“Putting sunglasses into the two insertion points is finicky. If I need to quickly put sunglasses on my bill, I do it. If I need to slow down, potentially even stop, to slide the sunglasses arms into the holder, it’s not that beneficial for me,” said one product tester, an ultrarunner based in the Elk Mountains. “With precise-fitting hats, I often experience that the length is sacrificed and the hat sits too far up on my forehead but that’s not the case with the Buff Pro Run Cap — it’s the perfect length,” added one product tester.

Pros:

  • UPF 40-plus to 50-plus, which is extremely protective
  • Super lightweight

Cons:

  • Velcro strap isn’t ideal for folks with long hair
Shop the Buff Pro Run Cap

Best Sun Shade: Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap ($38)

Outdoor Research Sunrunner - best hats 2021

The Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap. Photo: Outdoor Research

Why It’s a Top Pick: The Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap adapts to provide 360-degree skin protection of the head, face, and neck via a breathable, moisture-wicking, and detachable sun cape.

The Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap and cape is made from a water-resistant material that’s breathable, moisture-wicking, and dries fast. While testing the hat and cape, we experienced no issues with field of vision, and didn’t feel claustrophobic or hot.

“Overall, this is a very comfortable setup with the cape. I have sensitive skin, but the fabric hangs around, not against, your face, so it couldn’t rub and didn’t irritate my cheeks or neck,” said one product tester who wore this setup to protect against intense sunshine at 9,000 feet above sea level, in 85-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures. “I used the chin cord and tightened it up, so that the fabric of the cape wouldn’t flap around as I ran, which can also be a bit noisy. I could still feel air around my face, and the fabric was non-sticky,” added the ultrarunner.

Superior to many hats here, the 100% nylon fabric is treated to protect skin against harmful UV sun rays. The hat’s wide sweatband absorbs perspiration well and feels soft against the forehead. The design is light and packable, too. The hat’s mesh side panels help release heat.

“There was a bit of discomfort with the arms of my sunglasses rubbing against the bottom edge of the cap, which was challenging to identify and adjust with all the layers: the velcro adjustment strap on the back of the hat slides through an opening in the cape, in order to secure the fabric. Plus, I had a ponytail, so velcro straps aren’t ideal. The end of the chin cord also flaps around a bit, but the tightening tab is rubber, so it never hurt,” shared one tester.

If you need to block your skin against fierce sunlight or want to take extra good care of your health, this hat is a top-of-the-line choice.

Note: We did not test this hat in triple-digit temperatures but intend to in the future and will update this guide.

Pros:

  • UPF 50 rating that’s extremely UV protective
  • Convertible hat that pairs with a breezy sun cape
  • Fair price as it includes the cape

Cons:

  • Bill is an iota smaller compared to other hats tested
Shop the Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap

Best of the Rest: Headsweats Race Hat ($21)

Headsweats Race Hat product photo - best hats of 2021

The Headsweats Race Hat. Photo: Headsweats

We experienced no bouncing or shifting of the Headsweats Race Hat during our outdoor jaunts.

“The hat is extremely comfortable to the point you don’t really notice it on your head. The material is very soft and subtle, such that the hat seems to sit lightly on your head. The brim shades well too,” said our product tester, a professional ultrarunner who took this hat around Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and the rolling high-altitude desert of southwest Colorado. The hat never felt restrictively hot.

The tradeoff: “The brim sits low over your eyes, even if you tighten it down a lot, which makes for excellent shading but a limited field of view, especially directly above. I was annoyed that I couldn’t adjust the hat to move the brim up and out of my eyes like I wanted to,” shared one product tester.

Pros:

  • Lower price
  • Great fit

Cons:

  • No UPF rating
  • Limits field of vision
Shop the Headsweats Race Hat

Best of the Rest: Boco Gear Technical Running Trucker ($30)

Boco Gear Technical Running Hat product photo - best hats of 2021

The Boco Gear Technical Running Trucker. Photo: Boco Gear

The Boco Gear Technical Running Trucker is a solid option at a moderate price. In the forefront, this model is extremely breathable.

The side and back panels have laser-cut holes to dump heat during big cardio and hot days. The material doesn’t easily scuff or wear, and our sunglasses do not bounce much on the hat’s brim. “The liner absorbs and catches sweat endlessly and it never dripped in my face on a run, especially while climbing. The hat would dry in minutes when I took it off,” said one competitive ultrarunner based in the Elk Mountains. The hat sits a trace deeper on your head with a bit of protection over the tops of the ears. Make sure to adjust the hat well before use: One of our testers experienced raw ears due to maladjustment.

Pros:

  • Super breathable
  • Mid-level price tag

Cons:

  • Hand washing required
  • No UPF rating
  • Not the most packable
Shop the Boco Gear Technical Running Trucker

Best of the Rest: Territory Run Co. Loowit Trucker Hat ($34)

Territory Run Co. Loowit Trucker Hat product photo - best hats of 2021

The Territory Run Co. Loowit Trucker Hat. Photo: Territory Run Co.

“The Territory Run Co. Loowit Trucker Hat is awesome and stays put throughout long runs, including on fast descents with strong winds,” reported our tester who ran through high-altitude desert rollers and ridgelines in Colorado.

We were quickly able to adjust the hat and never experienced any headaches or irritations, thanks to the great stitching, even when worn for nearly three hours. We could feel a breeze hit our head, making this a cool hat even on hot days and during intense workouts. This hat provides a bit more sun protection than a minimalist mold. Plus, “I never needed to take the hat off to wipe off any sweat. This is clutch, as I have used hats that basically drain the sweat from your head straight into your eyes which is the worst,” shared on tester.

Pros:

  • Great fit
  • Breathable
  • Moisture-wicking

Cons:

  • Shows sweat stains
  • Cost
  • No UPF rating
  • Front panel retains creases for a bit after being packed down
Shop the Territory Run Co. Loowit Trucker Hat

Frequently Asked Questions About Running Hats

What is the best running hat?

The best running hat is one that fits your head well, is breathable, dries fast, and provides adequate sun and weather protection for extreme conditions. For some trail runners and ultrarunners, having a hat that doesn’t impede visibility for trail obstacles as well as the ability to pack the hat down during outings that continue after sunset is clutch. For many runners, it’s important to like the look of a hat too.

While this guide isn’t comprehensive of every trail running hat that’s stellar, it’s a good start point for finding the best hat that works for your needs. Our team voted the Black Diamond Dash Cap as the best running hat we tested.

Which is better, a visor or a running hat?

A visor blocks the sun from your face and eyes and prevents sweat from dripping into your face. A visor is more breathable than a hat, because it doesn’t have a cap. A visor is generally more lightweight and packable than most hats because it is made of less material. However, a running hat can help prevent UV radiation from reaching your scalp, which is especially important for hair-free heads. The hat’s crown also protects the top of your head from absorbing rain or snow. The material, if dense enough, can even protect the top of your head from insects.

Using a visor versus a hat comes down to personal preference, which might change based on the season and environment.

The best running hats of 2021

A lineup of some of the best running hats of 2021. Photo: Morgan Tilton

Why not just run in your ball cap?

A ball cap should suffice for a short run, so if that’s what you have, then go for it! However, most baseball caps are 100% cotton, which retains moisture. Cotton is a hydrophilic fabric that attracts or absorbs precipitation, water, and perspiration. Cotton doesn’t dry fast either, so it wouldn’t be very comfortable to don a baseball cap during a sweaty jaunt or tumultuous weather. Traditional ball cap designs are also not well ventilated. The more time you spend running, the more returns you’ll see from an investment in a specific running hat. If you are interested in wearing a hat while running that looks more like an everyday hat, have a look at the Headsweats TruckAir Hat 5-Panel, which offers technical specifications in a trucker-style hat.

Why do I get headaches when wearing a running hat?

External compression headaches caused by headwear occur when the material places continuous pressure on either the forehead or scalp. The majority of running hats are one size fits all with an adjustable strap in the back. If you experience a headache, adjust the back strap to loosen it. Be sure your hat fits well on your head without being too loose — it shouldn’t jostle around — or too tight and restrictive. Normally, you should not have forehead imprints or red marks after wearing your hat — unless, you know, a serious wind event happens and you need to buckle down for a while.

Why is it important to wear a hat when I run?

A hat protects your skin from sunburn and your eyes from strain. Hats also have an interior sweatband that wicks sweat, preventing salty droplets from blurring your vision or burning your eyes. A hat also helps to protect your face and sunglasses from weather such as rain and snow. For runners with lots of hair, a hat can also help secure wisps from flying into their eyes, especially on windy days.

Backcountry running with a hat for sun protection

A running hat will protect you from the sun and other weather. Photo: iRunFar

Buying Advice: How to Choose a Running Hat

Fit

The majority of trail running hats are one-size-fits-all with a spectrum of tightness and size adjustability. The back adjustment is usually a velcro, snap, elastic, or buckle-and-slide closure, which also serves as the tightening system. Consider what type of closure works best for you, your hair, and your hands. I have small hands, yet I find the tiny pull-through elastic closures more challenging to adjust. Traditional snap closures are easy to alter on the fly and don’t get stuck in my long, thick hair.

It’s nice to have the ability to loosen a hat if you need to add a buff around your ears if a cold gust picks up, especially for those of us with sensitive ears. Though it also works to layer a buff around the hat’s exterior.

Some running hats are more streamlined and precise-fitting. Other running hats provide a smidge more space and structure in the cap but weigh a bit more. Some hats reach further down your forehead, which can help stabilize the hat and make it feel more secure while providing additional shade.

The best fit hinges on a runner’s head and forehead size and shape, hair type, and personal preference. It might take some experimentation to narrow down the types of hats that pair well with your head and your physical needs.

Testing the best hats of 2021 in the mountains

One of our experts testing a hat high in the mountains. Photo: Morgan Tilton

Amount of Sun Protection

A long or wide bill on a running hat provides more shade, which will inherently block a larger portion of your face, neck, ears, and chest from direct light. The tradeoff with a wider bill is that it has more surface area to catch wind, so you definitely want to be sure you can tighten it down to your head. Hats with wider bills generally feature a cap that has a more relaxed fit too, yet still have the ability to be tightened down.

A handful of wider bills, depending on the exact shape, can obstruct the field of vision for some runners, which is important to keep in mind if you are running heavily vegetated routes. Runners with wider heads might prefer a wide-billed hat due to the overall coverage. Wider bills will add a little bit more weight to the profile. Wide and narrow bills can be soft or firm.

Alternatively, a narrow bill provides less sun shade and doesn’t catch gusts as easily as a wide bill. Often, a narrower bill has a more streamlined, snug cap. Hats with narrower bills are typically lighter. Runners with narrower faces might prefer a narrower bill, due to the overall fit.

Some running hats include an additional sun shade to protect the entire neck like the Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap, which features a snap-on cape made of breathable fabric.

The color of apparel also can inhibit sunlight from reaching your skin. Dark or bright colors absorb and prevent UV rays from hitting you, so they offer more protection compared to lighter shades, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. In general, synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are more protective than sheer cloth or natural fibers. The density of the construction plays a role too: if the fabric is loose, or you can see through the fabric, UV radiation can more easily reach through to the skin. Shiny polyester fabrics can reflect radiation. Other fabrics are treated with chemicals or dyes that absorb or prevent UV rays.

An increasing quantity of hats also offer a UPF label, which informs shoppers how effective the material is at blocking ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B light. A UPF 15 or 20 rating indicates the fabric provides good protection; UPF 25, 30, or 35 delivers mid-level protection; and UPF 40, 45, 50, and 50-plus are the highest tiers of protection possible.

Best running hats of 2021

A pull cord may be a better option than a velcro strap for runners with ponytails. Photo: Morgan Tilton

Ventilation, Breathability, and Ability to Wick Moisture 

Running hats are specialized for cardio workouts with synthetic material that wicks sweat, is breathable, and dries rapidly. The interior is usually lined with a wide, absorbent sweatband to prevent stinging sweat from falling into the eyes. Various designs have additional ventilation features like laser-cut holes, mesh panels, and streamlined eyelets. Some internal sweatbands have ventilation ports too.

Reflectivity

Reflective panels on a running hat are a nice safety addition so other people can see you approaching on a trail in the dark. If you’re running near road traffic, it’s essential for motorists to see you as well. Ideally, reflective material on the front and back of a hat would help warn approaching traffic from both directions. However, many hats only feature a reflective logo on the front or back of the hat — or don’t have reflectivity at all.

Price and Durability

The majority of the hats in our guide range from $20 to $45. If you purchase a well-constructed hat and follow its care instructions, the material should withstand years of use. If you sweat a ton, consider buying a darker-colored hat so it doesn’t carry sweat stains. We voted the Gone For A Run Ultra Pocket Hat for Runners as the best budget hat because it delivers lots of technical features for just $25.

Territory Run Co. Loowit Trucker Hat - iRunFar special edition hat

The Territory Run Co. Loowit Trucker Hat is a great option if you want to wear a hat with a more casual trucker style that still has plenty of technical features. Photo: iRunFar

Methodology

First, we polled members of the 20-plus-person iRunFar team about their favorite — and less favorite — running hats. We also researched dozens of the highest-ranked, most popular, and top-selling hats for runners. In doing so, we honed a list of 17 running hats for regimented testing.

Our seven product testers covered hundreds of miles with those 17 hats to pinpoint the best of the best. Altogether, we followed rocky and smooth trails through high-altitude desert and mountain slopes, sandy singletrack, steep granite canyons, sun-beaten loops, dense aspen groves, crusty postholing ventures, and mud-caked routes. On some runs, we pounded pavement and packed dirt. Our runners managed frigid rain, blasts of snow, sunshine at 10,000 feet above sea level, and lip-chapping gales. We tracked miles through a range of environments across the San Juan Mountains, Elk Mountains, and Front Range of Colorado, as well as peaks and desert throughout Utah, Wyoming, and Montana.

During each trail run, we each meticulously examined the hats and ranked each product on a 90-point scale that included nine essential qualities including breathability, sun protection, field of vision, comfort, and overall durability. Based on the scores, these hats are the frontrunners: Black Diamond Dash Cap, Janji Transit Tech Cap, Ciele Athletics ALZCap, On Running Lightweight Cap, Patagonia Duckbill Trucker Hat, and Headsweats TruckAir Hat 5-Panel. Many hats scored high in multiple traits while others we tested didn’t make the top-tier cut. None of our testers’ foreheads were sunburned during the creation of this guide but we apologize for any strawberry-colored chins and chafed upper ears.

Call for Comments

  • Is there a hat that has made your running that much better? Share it in the comments below for us to consider for future updates to this guide.
  • Is there a hat that has lasted you years longer than you thought it would?
Jim Walmsley - 2021 Western States 100 bucket hat

Jim Walmsley wore a bucket-style hat for extra sun protection at the 2021 Western States 100. Photo: iRunFar

Morgan Tilton

is an adventure journalist who writes about the outdoors with a focus in travel, industry news, and human endurance. She is a recipient of multiple North American Travel Journalists Association awards including two double-award articles—“Wild & Broken: A First SUP Descent of Utah’s Escalante River” and “A Wild Space”—that share her first descent on stand-up paddle board of Utah’s wild Escalante River, a self-supported journey she shared with four friends. She works with close to 50 publications. Follow Morgan on her website and Instagram account.