That said, if you’re a distance runner you’ll know that this is where bigger, technical belts can really come into their own for carrying water, food, first aid kit and a waterproof.
Whether it’s for a 5K run or an ultra-marathon, what you want from your belt is comfort, no chafing, no riding up and no bounce.
All of the below met this criteria when we took them for a run, so other things to consider when choosing the best one include budget, what kind of running you need it for and how big your phone is.
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You can’t go wrong with a FlipBelt – just one piece of stretch fabric with no clips or zips. You post your phone, keys and snacks through openings into the four stretchy pockets and then flip the belt over so it sits against your body, which keeps them extra-secure. There’s also a key hook to be doubly sure and it fits large phones such as the iPhone XR. It sits around your hips, rather than your waist, which we find less restrictive than having a belt around your middle.
Be sure to look at the sizing carefully (XXS to L) – go too big and it won’t do its job. It doesn’t move an inch while you’re running and its soft, light, moisture-wicking material doesn’t chafe either. It’s not waterproof but it tends to sit underneath your running top so nothing gets too wet in a shower and the fabric offers some protection too. The only small downside is that it doesn’t provide instant accessibility if you like to look at your phone a lot while you’re out running.
SPIbelt large pocket
This is the brand’s best-selling belt for running and it works a treat. What looks like a very small zipped pocket is actually a tardis that stretches to fit up to an iPhone 12 Pro/Max, a Galaxy Note S10 Plus, and other bits and bobs such as cards and keys. It’s adjustable to fit waists from 63.5cm to 119cm (25in to 47in), the strap is soft and the pocket doesn’t bounce around when you run.
We also tested its newer offering – the SPIbelt Running Belt with Window (£29.99, Spibelt.co.uk). The pocket has a see-through window at the front and it’s touch sensitive so you can operate your phone without taking it out – the window works well, unlike some that you have to jab at repeatedly. It has an internal divider for tucking, cards, cash, keys etc behind the phone.
Eono water resistant running waist pack
This budget water-resistant option does the job. The main zipped pocket will house phones up to 6.5in and a smaller pocket is just right for keys, tissues or a gel. The adjustable waistband will fit from 70cm to 108cm (27.5in to 42.5in), so not for very small waists. Also, the positioning of the pockets can be a little awkward, as you can end up with either the small pocket or the clip on your hip (dependent on your waist size, but this was the case with a 27in and 32in waist).
The softness of the strap means you need to pull it fairly tight to hold to the body, so we’re unsure how durable it will be over time, though that’s not something we tested, and it performed well on a 10K run.
Fitletic mini lycra belt
This is a simple but effective belt consisting of a single stretch pocket that holds up to the iPhone Plus series or Samsung Galaxy S10, with an interior pocket for tucking in cash or keys. The stretch in the narrow waistband is quite firm, making it more comfortable around the hips than the waist.
Decathlon adjustable running belt
This is a good budget option with a comfortable strap and slimline clip. A nice touch is the small fold-over pocket inside the main compartment to hold your keys so they don’t fall out if you open the zip.
As is the case with similar budget options, the soft strap needs pulling in fairly tight to hold to the body, so again we’re unsure how durable it will be over time. It houses phones up to 20cm x 9cm (8in x 3.5in) and fits waists up to 95cm (37.5in).
Ronhill marathon waist belt
A great little belt for organised races where hydration is available. It has three tiny tabs with poppers to attach your race number, eight external loops for slotting your energy gels into (in two different sizes for 32ml or 60ml gels) and a stretchy zipped pocket for your card, cash and phone (although it may not quite stretch to the very biggest phones). It weighs just 45g and the adjustable waist strap will accommodate most waist sizes.
Inov-8 race elite waist pack
This water-resistant pack steps in for longer off-road races that require you to carry a compulsory kit or just long runs that take you away from civilisation. It’s well-designed and full of thoughtful details – it’s capacious 3l central pocket is very wide and sits perfectly in the small of your back but has breathable mesh backing for comfort. We did get slightly warm underneath it but no more than other large, technical packs, and there are double straps meeting in a v-shape to enhance its fit and stability.
There is a front mesh pocket secured with Velcro that can house a 0.5l Inov-8 flask and two smaller mesh pockets to hold anything you want quick access to – we used them for gels and sweets. There’s also a tiny but loud whistle if you need to attract attention and a bungee cord on top if you need to stuff a jacket into it. All that and it only weighs 115g.
Lifeventure hydration waist belt
A lightweight, adjustable and durable belt with a rigid strap (you may or may not like this, depending on preference) for medium-length adventures when you need a little more with you than just your phone and keys. It comes with a 285ml water bottle that can be easily accessed from its mesh pocket on the outside of the flatpack, which is comfortably wide and has breathable mesh backing. A zipped compartment will hold essentials while a stash pocket and smaller open pocket is also useful for energy gels or sweets.
Ultimate Performance titan runner’s pack
If you’re on a budget and looking for something simple yet effective to pop your phone and keys into, you can’t go wrong with this. The main compartment is made from neoprene – wetsuit material – which has a lovely bit of stretch and feels comfortable next to your body. It has a smaller front zip for a gel and set of keys, then a main zip from the top for your phone, which also has a handy hole for headphone wire to be placed.
Ultimate Performance fitbelt
Another stretch fabric belt, this one fastens with a zip instead of stepping into it. The zip has a soft fabric covering so it doesn’t chafe while you run and it performs well with no bounce or riding up. It’s also moisture-wicking and has one large zip pocket and two smaller ones with a slit opening that are big enough to house everything you need while on an everyday run.
Sizes range from XS to XL – sizing is according to waist measurements but we prefer belts like this around our hips, so go for hip size if that’s your preference too.
The verdict: Running belts
The FlipBelt is such a simple concept but so effective. It’s at the more expensive end of running belts but it lasts and lasts and it’s so comfortable that you forget you’re wearing it. There are belts for quicker access to what you’re carrying but for everyday, recreational running, it’s spot on. For racing or long runs where you want to carry nutrition, hydration and weatherproof clothing, the Inov-8 is excellent.
Looking for a powerhouse pair of trainers? Read our 12 best running shoes for women that will really go the distance
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