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7 best running armbands: Carry your phone while you jog

Free your pockets and keep your phone in an easy-to-reach place with one of these running accessories

Charlie Allenby
Wednesday 19 May 2021 12:06
<p>Put your phone in an easy-to-reach place, allowing you to skip songs or pause an activity without having to fumble around in a pocket</p>

Put your phone in an easy-to-reach place, allowing you to skip songs or pause an activity without having to fumble around in a pocket

Whether you’re just getting started on your jogging journey or are a seasoned marathon runner, a running armband can be an essential accessory that you won’t want to leave home without.

The general design of a running armband is quite simple – your phone is held securely within a pouch or harness that can be carried securely on your upper arm. But it can make all the difference when you’re out pounding the pavement.

They free up your shorts or legging’s pockets, which can sometimes get weighed down by a cumbersome smartphone. Your phone is also in an easy-to-reach place, allowing you to skip songs or pause an activity without having to fumble around in a pocket.

Aside from carrying your smartphone, some running armbands have additional features that can come in handy when out for a jog. Good extras to look out for include somewhere to store a key, while reflective detailing is an easy way to boost safety and visibility when running after dark. The majority have the ability to connect wired headphones to your phone too.

To help you find the right one, we put several of the best running armbands to the test and shared our findings below.

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We compared each one for comfort, how easy it was to change a song when our Google Pixel 4A was in position on our arm and how well the armband stayed in place when running. Training runs were between 5km-10km in distance, so each was truly put through its paces.

From inexpensive additions to your running wardrobe to a design that allows you to harness your full potential, these are the best running armbands to buy in 2021.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best running armbands for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Proviz y-fumble reflective arm pocket, £14.99, Provizsports.com
  • Best budget buy – Kalenji smartphone running armband, £7.99, Decathlon.co.uk
  • Best forbreathability – Lululemon fast and free run armband, £35, Lululemon.co.uk
  • Best for users of plus-sized phones – 2XU run arm band, £19, Wiggle.co.uk
  • Best protection from the elements – Armpocket X Armband, £35.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for multi-sport athletes – Quad-Lock sports armband, £29.95, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best fornight running – Freetrain VR vest, £29.99, Freetrain.co.uk

Proviz classic y-fumble reflective arm pocket

Best: Overall

Proviz is renowned for its innovative hi-visibility running jackets and bags, but it also makes a test-topping running armband too. It was easily the best on test for comfort thanks to its construction from a soft, stretchy material. The design’s four-way elasticated fabric also means that, unlike some of the other running armbands tested, the Proviz offering adapts and fits to you – meaning there’s no way it can slip down your arm, regardless of how hard you’re pumping them.

Your smartphone is carried within a pouch and felt secure throughout testing. It also features Proviz’s signature reflective detailing, which is subtle in daylight but eye-catching after dark. Its only downside is that you have to remove your phone from its pouch to operate it, but it’s tough to beat if you’re someone who goes running for a screen break.

Kalenji smartphone running armband

Best: Budget buy

Decathlon’s in-house brand Kalenji offers up great kit for pocket-friendly prices. At a penny under £8, its running armband is almost half the price of the next cheapest product on test, but you’re not left with a piece of kit that’s half as good.

Your phone is secured in a sealable pouch, making the design slightly more water-tight than the fabric-constructed alternatives on test, but we wouldn’t trust it to keep our phone moisture-free during a downpour. The strap is held in place with a Velcro harness that’s soft on the skin, but we found it to be tricky to find the sweet spot between being so tight it was uncomfortable-yet-tight enough that it stayed in place on longer runs. Also, the smaller size required us to remove the case from our phone to use it. Still, for the money, it’s tough to beat.

Lululemon fast and free run armband

Best for: Breathability

Premium sportswear brand Lululemon’s running armband describes itself as “fast” and “free”, but does it live up to its name? Fitting the armband is anything but fast. The hook closure system (instead of the standard Velcro) certainly gives it a high-end look and feel, but in practice was quite fiddly to get on. It definitely felt free though – the lightweight fabric ensured it was comfortable throughout testing while its sweat-wicking features helped prevent any hot spots.

Its mesh pouch is translucent (rather than fully transparent), meaning it’s not possible to read and reply to messages on the go, but it allowed enough visibility to change songs with the armband in place. At £35, it was the second most expensive on test but is a solid buy if you’re after an armband that you can forget you’re wearing once it’s on.

2XU run arm band

Best for: Users of plus-sized phones

When comparing the 2XU run armband with the Kalenji band (£7.99, Decathlon.co.uk), we were struck by their similarities. Both had a Velcro strap, a grip-seal closure on the pouch and even the same reflective detailing. This is when we realised they are near-identical armbands, albeit with different branding. The only subtle difference was the lack of porthole in the centre of the case, but otherwise, we couldn’t tell them apart. Its size swamped our Google Pixel 4A but would be ideal for bigger smartphones such as the iPhone 12 Pro or Galaxy S21 Plus.

Armpocket X armband

Best: Protection from the elements

Your smartphone is worth a lot of money so it’s a good idea to try and protect it from both rain and sweat when running. The Armpocket X does this and more and is even IPX4 certified – meaning it is protected from water splashes from every angle. Although it only encountered a light spring shower during testing, the armband had kept our phone dry (even if we hadn’t managed it).

It’s quite a bit bulkier than the other armbands tested, which means you do notice its presence on your arm. That said, the pouch includes an interior compartment perfect for bank cards, keys and could even fit a face mask too – ideal if you’re planning a well-earned post-run treat from a café.

Quad Lock sports armband

Best for: Multi-sport athletes

A fraction less than £30 might sound like a lot of money for an armband with some plastic bits on it, but it all makes sense if you’ve already converted to Quad Lock.

If you’re not familiar with the Australian brand, it makes phone cases that allow your smartphone to be mounted to corresponding locking points – whether that’s on your bike, car or, in this case, running armband. It’s yet to release a Google Pixel 4A case (although its range is fairly comprehensive if you have an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy), so we had to attach a universal adaptor to our phone before getting started.

The width of the strap helped spread the band’s pressure – even when done up tight – and the Velcro closure system didn’t slip once. Our phone felt secure in its mount and the removal of a pouch meant it was completely usable throughout. It’s worth noting that you might want to opt for something with a bit more water protection if running in all seasons, but the compatibility of the Quad Lock makes it a good choice for those who want a multi-sport option.

Freetrain VR vest

Best for: Night running

Although it’s not an out-and-out armband, this product from Freetrain was well worth including because of its unique design. Rather than strapping your phone to your arm, the VR Vest features a pouch that is located on the centre of your chest, making for a comfortable, slip-free experience. Changing a song or checking a message is as simple as unfastening a popper, and unlike other armbands, its smart design means you can type with both hands.

The fabric is perforated to keep it breathable and the adjustable straps hold the vest in place without restricting movement. What’s more, the VR vest is fully reflective, adding visibility to night runs. There is also a zipped pocket perfect for keys.

The verdict: Running armbands

Proviz’s Y-fumble reflective arm pocket was unlike any other armband that we tested and stood out from the crowd for all the right reasons. Its lack of screen visibility does mean it won’t be for everyone though.

The price of the Decathlon Kalenji armband makes it a great budget buy, while the Quad Lock set-up is worth investigating if your exercising extends beyond running. A final notable mention goes to the Freetrain VR vest which, although not an armband, paired comfort and safety in a well-designed package.

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