December 8, 2020 By admin Off

The Best 10 Face Masks for Runners

Running has been considered an ideal social-distancing sport amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. As runners, we can seek out empty trails or explore new neighborhoods with less foot traffic. Worst case? We hop over to the other side of the road to avoid other pedestrians.

Most runners and outdoor exercisers get their workouts in without a mask, but there’s no question, based on mounting scientific evidence, that wearing a mask or other face covering when indoors or in close proximity to others can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus to others.

The masks in this review have all been thoroughly tested, but because of supply issues or brand retail policies, not all are in stock or available to purchase online. If you’re looking to purchase online today, we recommend these five options. Some have been tested; others we recommend based on their technology or because they come from brands we love and trust. Please note some masks were not designed as performance masks (masks specifically made for athletic activities) unless otherwise noted.

→ Best All-Around: Under Armour SportsMask. Buy here.

→ Most Lightweight: Boco X Performance Mask. Buy here.

→ Most Form-Fitting: Seirus BIO Arc Masque. Buy here.

→ Easiest to Adjust: Keen Together Mask. Buy here.

→ Best Bundle: Caraa 5 Universal Masks. Buy here.

Running and Virus Transmission

A study published in June in Proceedings of the Royal Society found that widespread mask use helps reduce transmission rates. And another study from June, published in Health Affairs, found that wearing masks led to a slowdown of daily growth rate of COVID-19. The good news when it comes to running, says Amesh Adalja, M.D., senior scholar with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is there is no evidence that suggests running by someone for a brief moment sans face covering will spread the coronavirus.

“Transmission doesn’t occur through fleeting contact,” Adalja tells Runner’s World. “That’s not significant exposure. Significant exposure is less than six feet for at least 10 minutes.”

But in some states—Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Arizona, and California—governors are requiring people to wear a mask or covering in public spaces when they cannot maintain a distance of six feet. (And as cases have started to rise around the country, this is a smart move to protect others.) In running hot spots like along the Charles River in Boston, for example, it’s nearly impossible to social distance, making masks omnipresent. Adalja acknowledges that if you’re running alongside a friend with whom you’re not quarantining, transmission might be an issue, and wearing a mask will help mitigate that risk.

You might be curious about the recent study performed by researchers at the University of Duke that went, er, viral. It suggested that gaiters might do more harm than good, sending the running community into a tizzy. We covered it in-depth here. (Spoiler: the researchers clarified that wearing something is still better than nothing in slowing the spread of the virus.)


Lakota Gambill

What to Consider When Choosing a Mask for Running

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made its recommendation to wear “cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” it seemed like everyone and their mother started creating and selling masks. So, how to choose?

For running, it’s about comfort, Adalja says. That’s because, as he continues to point out, there is no evidence that suggests a fleeting encounter on the road or trail will lead to infection. “Any covering is fine,” he says. “It comes down to comfort like a pair of running shoes—whatever works best for you when you try it on.” (Just know that unlike shoes, you can’t return masks for obvious reasons.)

Breathability is an important consideration, too, because of the nature of exercise. Some masks come with filters (or have the option to purchase a filter) for increased protection. I find wearing a mask with a filter, however, makes it much harder to breathe. Adalja also says no one should be running in an N95 mask—those will severely impede breathing, and they should be reserved for healthcare professionals.

Runners should think about the fit of their masks, which go hand-in-hand with comfort. But, the looser the fit, the less effective the masks become at trapping your breath, and consequently, any virus particles. A tighter fit also means less bouncing and less sunglasses fog.

Decipher Differences in Mask Marketing

You’re probably served up ad after ad of cloth masks and coverings. Shoe companies like Asics and Puma, and outdoor activity companies like Keen and Sunday Afternoons, have started manufacturing masks. But then companies you’ve never heard of surface on those Google Ads screaming the release of their cloth coverings.

So, how do you figure out what is the best mask? Like Adalja said, for running, it’ll come down to comfort. But it’s also important not to fall into a false sense of security if you purchase a mask that emphasizes coverage and protection. For example, one brand I tested markets the fact that it’s “antibacterial.” That’s great and all, but for those who don’t know better, they might think that means it’ll kill the coronavirus. It won’t.

What’s more, companies cannot market a product as antiviral in the United States without approval from federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Most brands have a disclaimer on its product website and packaging that says it’s not medical-grade and has not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for surgical or medical uses. In many cases, companies are following the CDC guidelines for mask production.

How to Properly Wear and Handle Your Mask

Once your mask is on, the safest thing you can do is keep it on. The more you touch your mask and then your face, the more likely you are to infect yourself, Adalja says. (Outdoor activities pose less of a risk, especially if you’re not touching anything.)

“Many people are wearing homemade masks and touching their faces more than usual,” he says, pointing to Face ID on phones as a culprit for constantly removing a mask. “Masks are effective, but they’re just one layer of intervention. When you’re wearing a mask, it’s not going to be [as] effective if you’re touching your face all the time, wearing it inappropriately [under the nose], and littering it on the ground.”

If you do pull your mask down while out running, be sure to avoid touching anything, including your face. And, as always, wash your hands upon returning home.

How We Chose

We tested nearly two dozen masks. Some I knew right away that I couldn’t, in good conscious, include in this roundup because they were so uncomfortable or made breathing impossible. We tested masks with ear loops—adjustable and not—and back-of-the-head straps. At the end of the day, we included our favorites, and if there were downsides, we’ve made that known.

We’ve also included a recommended section, with additional reporting by commerce editor Paige Szmodis, for masks that are more readily available and suggested by fellow runners and staff.


Under Armour SportsMask


Under Armour SportsMask


I didn’t think anything would dethrone the New Balance Face Mask V3, which I absolutely love. But then the Under Armour SportsMask came across my desk. I had been eagerly awaiting to try this mask for months, but they sold out immediately when first released, and it was impossible to get my hands on a sample.

Under Armour was the first mask designed for athletic performance that I had heard about, and it did not disappoint.

The padded material was like a pillow for my face—in a good, non-suffocating way—and it made me realize that a performance mask can be comfortable and functional. Under Armour used its Iso-Chill fabric on the interior lining and ear loops, which keeps the material cool to the touch. And its polyurethane open-cell foam makes the mask breathable without heating your face up like a sauna.

The contoured fit is comfortable, and the adjustable nose piece is subtle but effective in providing a better fit. When ordering, check out Under Armour’s updated sizing chart. Reviewers said the masks seem to run a little big.


Boco Gear Performance X Mask


Boco Gear Performance X Mask

Boco Gear’s offering is a performance mask, which is lighter and geared toward exercise versus its everyday mask. I loved the kids/small fit over the one-size-fits-all. The performance mask has a tight knit face and knit layer on the inside, making it a lighter mask than traditional ones.

Because the feel and design of the Boco Gear mask was similar to another I tested that was causing me to suck in fabric like crazy, I was skeptical. But Boco Gear was a pleasant surprise in its comfort and light weight. It even fit into my tiny running shorts when I no longer needed to wear it.

The mask also has a pocket for a filter (sold separately). These five-layer filters add an extra level of protection, but make it harder to breathe while exercising. Adding a filter doesn’t make the mask medical grade, either, and they’re only effective for about 40 hours.

It’s worth noting that the filters Boco Gear uses are PM2.5, which means their original use was for protection against particulate matter 2.5, the smallest and most dangerous form of air pollution. The coronavirus is even smaller than PM2.5.


Keen Together Mask

Lakota Gambill

Known for its outdoor footwear gear, Keen (sold as a two-pack) has created a comfortable, adjustable face mask, which will be back in stock July 28. When I first put this mask on, I thought my run was going to be a “sufferfest” because the material is canvas, which is not known for being lightweight or breathable. But once I got moving, the mask fit comfortably and I could breathe decently well.

The downside is how badly my breath fogged up my sunglasses. I further adjusted the ear loops, but ultimately had to take my sunglasses off. Because fogging is reduced when you tighten a mask (and decreases the amount of escaped air), I wonder if there’s more breath coming out than is ideal in a pandemic situation.


Seirus BIO Arc Masque

seirus facemask

Lakota Gambill

Seirus BIO Arc Masque
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Earlier this summer, Seirus released the BIO Arc Masque. It has a similar style and material to WhitePaws RunMitts but with a more contoured fit and what the company calls, “a flexible central arc.” The arc fits the face better than traditional cloth masks, making it easier to breathe.

The BIO has since evolved into the EVO model. Its material and design are the same, but it’s made with HeiQ V-Block, a Swiss technology that protects materials from microbes and germs. Materials with HeiQ V-Block don’t necessarily protect the wearer or others against pathogens. But wearing a mask can reduce the transmission of the coronavirus.


WhitePaws RunMitts FaceMitts Mask

runmitts facemitts face mask

Lakota Gambill

WhitePaws RunMitts FaceMitts Mask

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If you want a no-frills, lightweight mask, look no further than FaceMitts from WhitePaws RunMitts. With no adjustable anything, the mask was a little loose on my small face, but it stayed up and covered the important areas. Because Adalja doesn’t believe a fleeting encounter with another person while running will transmit the coronavirus, even if this mask is looser than I’d otherwise like, it’s a fine covering.


Knit Engine Mask and Ear Guard

Lakota Gambill

Knit Engine Mask and Ear Guard

Finally! A mask that covers the important parts—nose and mouth—but doesn’t weigh you down with excess material! I was pleasantly surprised with the Knit Engine mask, which has four layers of engineered-knit fabric and still remains lightweight and breathable.

Unlike the majority of masks I tested, the Knit Engine design has a shape that pulls the fabric away from your nostrils and mouth, providing coverage without you sucking in the material.

You can tell almost immediately that the mask is designed for performance, and its water-repellent technology does a good job at helping to wick away that upper lip sweat.

On its own, the mask has ear loops. But when you purchase a mask you will also receive an adjustable soft ear guard, which goes around the back of the head for added comfort. Knit Engine sells the ear guard separately as well, to turn your existing ear loop masks into a back-of-the-head design. (I’m not sure why the Knit Engine mask isn’t designed that way in the first place.)

The downsides? Despite adjusting the nosepiece, there was a lot of fog (read: escaped breath) on my sunglasses.


Caraa 5 Universal Masks

caraa mask


Caraa 5 Universal Masks
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Caraa Sport offers a five pack with plenty of color options from assorted dark colors to pastels. These dual-layer cotton masks have an interior pocket for an optional filter, an adjustable nose bridge wire, and adjustable elastic ear loops.

Athleta Everyday Non Medical Masks


Athleta Everyday Non Medical Masks

Athleta’s five pack of masks is also a great option for those going out for daily runs. Made with three layers, this mask is light and breathable thanks to the polyester outer layer and soft cotton interior. The ear loops are also adjustable, and the masks are machine washable.

Cotopaxi Teca Cotton Face Mask


Cotopaxi Teca Cotton Face Mask

B-corp certified Cotopaxi is creating cotton face masks from unused fabric to reduce waste. Available in five different bright color options, these masks are light, reversible, and machine washable, with an adjustable wire nose and ear loops. As the “Do Good” phrase on the mask promises, Cotopaxi will spread goodness by donating one mask to someone in need with your purchase.

Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit

outdoor research mask


Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit
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This durable polyester mask by Outdoor Research comes with adjustable ear loops and a nose wire so you can get the right fit, as well as a protective pouch and three disposable filters. It’s also treated with HeiQ V-Block, making the fabric resistant to microbes.

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