Armbands are a great alternative to running belts if you don’t like having something around your waist or want to be able to see and use your phone more easily.
The ones we’ve tested will keep your phone securely on your arm without riding down.
If you want to use your phone without taking it out of its pouch, you’ll find that it’s hard to use the home button on many smartphones. However, some have a setting that moves the home button to float on the touchscreen so you can use it through plastic – on iPhones, this is called “AssistiveTouch” under “Accessibility” in the Settings menu. There are also various apps that achieve a similar thing.
These bands state the arm circumference they cater for, and some come in different sizes – these are best if you have very small upper arms as you don’t want lots of excess strap hanging out. Most can be hand washed if you’ve sweated into them, but check the label.
The two main types we’ve tested on our runs are pockets (where you slide your phone inside a casing) and those where the phone is mounted on the armband so that it’s more easily accessed but not as protected.
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This armband is the brand’s bestseller and we can see why. It isn’t the lowest profile armband that we tested, but it ticks all our performance boxes. Its padded backing with sweat wicking mesh feels smooth against the arm and wraps nicely around it. The soft strap has ventilation holes in it, and it stayed put throughout a run. The pocket is also weatherproof, which many are not, so it’s our choice for muddy trails and rainy runs. A small internal pocket can house a key and some cash, or a credit card, and there are three holes for headphone port access at the bottom. There's a nod to sustainability too with its bamboo rayon mesh and recycled plastic fabric. It fits devices up to 5.5in in length and the racer plus model houses bigger phones.
VUP universal running armband
An innovative design that mounts your phone onto the armband within a rubber casing that clamps over either end of the device. Once it’s fixed in, you can rotate it 180C to view or tap the screen more easily. The adjustable strap itself isn’t the softest we tested, and it isn’t breathable, but you soon forget it’s there. The panel on which the phone sits has a soft foam backing and ventilation holes, and the small Velcro flap on the side secures headphone wires. We like the simplicity of the design as it will hold multiple phone sizes from 4in up to 6.5in. It offers no protection from the elements so it’s for dry runs only.
Ronhill phone armband
We really liked this lightweight, low profile armband for medium sized phones (it fits an iPhone 7) – it feels smooth and breathable and stays put. Made from a soft neoprene material, the wider armband makes for a secure and comfortable ride. Three headphone access points sit at the bottom and two at the top, and the window allows you to see and use the touchscreen easily. It doesn’t state that it’s waterproof, but it handled some drizzle.
i2 Gear running phone armband
This is made from a soft neoprene that feels good next to the skin and it stays put on a run. There is a small key holder that fits a single key. Three holes at the bottom and two at the top allow for headphone port access. You can use the touchscreen easily through the window. It fits phones up to 6in and is a reasonable armband for the price, although we found the strap a little chunky under the arm.
Kalenji big smartphone running armband
This is a sound budget option for bigger phones up to 6.26in – in fact, it’s our favourite in that category. There's no bells and whistles, but it does what it needs to. It’s lightweight, comfortable and the soft, adjustable strap has a loop for any surplus that hangs out. The phone works well through the window and the pocket is easy to open and close with a freezer bag type seal. It’s not waterproof but could probably handle a light shower.
Ultimate Performance ridgeway phone holder armband
Along with being very lightweight, low profile, smooth and comfortable, this armband stayed put and it’s water resistant. It adds some thoughtful touches such as a credit card holder in the back, a small key holder for a single key, and a tab for securing excess headphone wire. The window works well with a touchscreen, there are five openings for headphone port access and the pocket fits devices up to 5.5in, such as an iPhone 7 or 7+.
Sweaty Betty media armband
A low profile, lightweight pocket, with a breathable, grippy backing fabric that helps it stay put while running. There are two openings for headphones at top and bottom and the adjustable Velcro strap is soft and comfortable. The window is not the most sensitive we tried but it works. It’s not waterproof, so save this for dry runs only.
Quad Lock run kit universal fit
A nifty design that allows you to lock your phone onto the adjustable armband with a simple twisting motion; detaching in the same way – it’s instantly accessible if you want to change tracks, take pictures, look at stats or take a call. The phone stayed firmly locked in throughout a trail run and the armband itself is soft, comfortable and secure. Advantages are that you have less material in contact with your arm than a pocket as the phone sits away from the skin and it certainly beats fidgeting about trying to get it out of a pocket or pressing buttons through plastic. The downside is that there is no protection from rain or mud. To use the armband, you can buy the Quad Lock phone case that fits your phone model or an adaptor that sticks to the back of your phone.
Belkin large universal armband
Another pocket designed for larger phones – it states that it will fit screens up to 5.5in, but the pouch itself measures 6.3in x 3in to make room for the bezels surrounding the screen so would accommodate a slightly larger phone. There’s no getting around the weight of carrying bigger phones and we’d argue that a more flexible casing and a wider strap might keep it feeling closer to the arm here, but if you dislike wide straps, this armband does the job and stays put. Two access points for headphone wires sit at the top and two at the bottom, and you can use your phone screen effectively through the window.
Proviz Sports classic y-fumble reflective arm pocket
A simple offering from this hi-vis specialist. It’s a stretchy, breathable, single piece of fabric with a slide-in phone pocket. The hi-vis is excellent, as would be expected from the brand, and the fabric holds the phone tight to the skin without budging. You can’t access or see the phone screen without taking it out and it’s a little tricky to get it out once the band is on your arm. We think it’s better suited to carrying your keys, card, energy gel, or small MP3 player as a good alternative to a running belt.
The verdict: Running armbands
Armpocket specialises solely in running armbands, so it’s no surprise that it does them well. The Armpocket Racer is one we’ll be running with again and again, as it scores highly on durability and comfort, and we like not worrying about a change in weather on a run. If you take part in trail races that require water submersion, there’s also the Armpocket Aqua, which is 100 per cent waterproof and can be used for water sports.
For a slightly cheaper option, the Ronhill phone armband works a treat if you’re on a budget. The Quad Lock is the best-mounted armband we tested. It’s at the pricier end, but worth the money if you want a well-designed armband with easy access to your phone.
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