Skip to main content

The best running headbands: for sweat management and warm ears

A runner wearing a headband at the beach
Your running headband can make or break a long trail run and the best running headbands let you focus on the ground beneath your feet rather than the wind in your ears (Image credit: Moof)

Your running headband can make or break a long trail run and the best running headbands let you focus on the ground beneath your feet rather than the wind in your ears. You might think that any old circle of stretchy fabric will do, but if you’re stopping every other mile to adjust your headband and fix your hair or you get home with frozen lobes and a sunburned part line, you need a better headband.

Running headbands perform a few vital jobs when you’re on the trail. First and foremost, they wick away sweat and keep your eyes from stinging. They also keep the wind out, which means you don’t have ringing in your ears for hours after a run. Running headbands can also provide vital warmth on cold days but still let your head breathe, something a beanie can’t do. Some running headbands even have added features like handy holes for your sunglasses legs and ponytail and reflective details for high visibility when you’re crossing a road, while others go for low profile performance.

A man trail running wearing a headband

You’ll be surprised at how much this relatively small investment can add to your ability to focus on your running technique (Image credit: Westend61)

We’ve tried and tested the best running headbands and found the ones that perform perfectly while still being comfortable and staying put. After all, the best running headbands are the ones you don’t even notice are there. You’ll be surprised at how much this relatively small investment can add to your ability to focus on your running technique, especially when paired with the best running tops and best trail running shoes

Best running headbands: for cold weather

Smartwool headband

Smartwool takes a straightforward approach to this headband, opting to rely on the power of merino wool instead of fancy frills (Image credit: Smartwool )
If you want a straightforward approach to keeping the sweat out your eyes and the wind out your ears, look no further than this warm, comfortable, high quality headband

Specifications

RRP: £19.99 (UK) / $22 (US)
Sizes: One size
Materials: Merino wool (100%)
Colors: Black, Charcoal, Heather, Deep Navy, Pinwheel
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, cross country skiing

Reasons to buy

+
Very comfortable, not too tight
+
Warm
+
Sweat wicking
+
Reversible
+
Made using natural materials

Reasons to avoid

-
No high vis details
-
Only one size available
-
No ponytail hole 
-
Too warm for summer trail runs
-
Pricier than others

Smartwool takes a straightforward approach to this headband, opting to rely on the power of merino wool instead of fancy frills, and the approach pays off. The Reversible Headband is a wide, four-inch band that offers plenty of coverage whether you’re trying to keep the wind out of your ears or the sun off your scalp.

Made using a double layer of 100% merino wool, this band offers plenty of warmth on cold days, however its moisture wicking properties mean you don’t overheat and it works for milder conditions too. It also doesn't get stinky quickly if you’re sweating a lot.

It wears extremely soft next to the skin and manages to be snug and stay in place without being tight or pulling your hair, making it an extra comfortable alternative to a beanie hat. The reversible feature means you can choose between a fun pattern or bold solid depending on your mood.

Patagonia headband

This warm, cosy knit headband has a classic ski movie vibe and provides shovels full of protection, breathability and comfort on snowy adventures  (Image credit: Patagonia )
This warm, cosy knit headband has a classic ski movie vibe and provides shovels full of protection, breathability and comfort on snowy adventures

Specifications

RRP: £30 (UK) / $35 (US)
Sizes: One size
Materials: Recycled polyester
Colors: Dark borealis green, Fitz Roy sunrise knit, Park stripe band
Compatibility: Winter sports, winter hiking and trail running

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra warm  
+
Breathable fleece lining 
+
Made using 100% recycled polyester and fair trade sewn 
+
Extra wide for great protection 
+
Cosy and comfortable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one size available 
-
No ponytail hole – but wears easily without it 
-
Pricey 

Patagonia’s Powder Town headband looks like the stuff of classic ski movies but performs alongside the best of today’s headbands combining both warmth and breathability. This warm, cosy headband is thick without being bulky and wide enough to give protection from both wind and snow.

Though it’s built for warmth, the fleece lining means it wicks away sweat if you’re on a cold winter run, ski touring or snowshoeing and it’s soft against your skin. The snug fit keeps the breeze at bay and it makes a worthy replacement for a beanie where you want warmth without overheating. The 4” band is the same width all the way round and doesn’t have a ponytail hole, but works well with all hairstyles and stays in place when you’re gliding through the snow.

It definitely comes at a premium price, but you’re not only paying for a seriously durable piece of kit, it’s made using 100% recycled polyester and Fair Trade sewn, so you can feel really good about this purchase. Pick from three classic designs that will make you the envy of the slopes and keep you warm on cold days.

Columbia headband

This lightweight, snug-fitting fleece headband is compatible with your eyewear and retains your body heat on chilly days (Image credit: Columbia)
This lightweight, snug-fitting fleece headband is compatible with your eyewear and retains your body heat on chilly days

Specifications

RRP: £13 (UK) / $16 (US)
Sizes: S/M, L/XL
Materials: Polyester (100%)
Colors: Black, Chalk
Compatibility: Winter trail running and hiking, snowshoeing, skiing

Reasons to buy

+
Thermal reflective technology retains your body heat
+
Fleece is sweat wicking
+
Eyewear compatible, so you can comfortable wear your glasses or sunglasses 
+
Wider around the ears
+
Two sizes available

Reasons to avoid

-
No high vis details
-
No ponytail hole
-
A bit warm for running in milder conditions
-
Not as stretchy as some headbands
-
Doesn’t cover part line for sun protection

In the Trail Shaker Headring, Columbia goes for optimizing warmth using thermal reflective technology and a wider design around your ears, and they’ve even provided holes for the legs of your trail running sunglasses. The inside of the band uses is thermal reflective technology, which basically means it’s studded with lots of tiny, silver dots that reflect your body heat back into you, while in between the dots the band is made of fleece, which is breathable and means it’s great if you’re working up a sweat on a cold hike or trail run.

The band is a bit narrower (under three inches) at the crown and nape and wider around the ears, so it’s designed for keeping your lobes and forehead warm more so than keeping the sun off your scalp. The narrowness around the nape also means you don’t notice the lack of ponytail hole. Two small holes at the temples are perfect for sliding your glasses or sunglass legs through, so that you can wear them comfortably and securely while you move.

It’s not as stretchy as some headbands, but comes in two sizes so you can size up if you need a larger band and should expect a snug fit.

 Best running headband: for warm summer runs 

inov-8 headband

(Image credit: inov-8)
Luxuriously soft protection for warm and cool trail runs

Specifications

RRP: £15 (UK)
Sizes: One size
Materials: Meryl hydrogen (94%), Elastane (6%)
Colors: Black/white, Blue/red, Pink/blue
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable, sweat wicking and fast drying 
+
Comfortable, stretchy fit and super soft
+
Lightweight 
+
Fun logo design 
+
Only one seam that can be worn at the nape of your neck 

Reasons to avoid

-
No high vis details 
-
Only one size available 
-
No ponytail hole – but wears easily without it 
-
Not insulated 

Not surprisingly, the inov-8 Race Elite headband is made with runners in mind, focusing on the comfort you need when you’re out on a long trail run. Made using buttery soft Meryl Hydrogen microfiber, this headband is soft on your skin and constructed with only one seam that can easily be tucked away at the nape of your neck. With lots of stretch, it’s designed not to be too tight so there’s no worry of developing a headache after a few miles, however it stays in place when you’re on the move.

This lightweight headband is made using breathable fabric so it’s great for keeping the sweat out of your eyes and it’s fast drying whether it gets soaked in sweat, rain or both. It’s wide enough to cover your forehead and still protect your part line from the sun and while it’s not insulated, it does help keep your ears warm enough on a chillier run. It doesn’t have a ponytail hole but stays low enough you don’t need one. Overall, most runners and hikers will love the feel, performance and look of this headband with it’s fun, but not-too-flashy logo design.

BAM Bamboo headband

Whether you’re trail running, hiking or on the yoga mat, you won’t even notice this soft, sweat wicking all-rounder headband is there (Image credit: BAM Bamboo)
Whether you’re trail running, hiking or on the yoga mat, you won’t even notice this soft, sweat wicking all-rounder headband is there

Specifications

RRP: £12 (UK)
Sizes: One size
Materials: Bamboo viscose (68%), Organic cotton (28%), Elastane (4%)
Colors: Black, Blackcurrant Marl, Acid Lime, Ecru/Black Space Dye
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking

Reasons to buy

+
Climate positive
+
Breathable and sweat wicking
+
Soft on your skin
+
Snug fit without being too tight
+
Doesn't get stinky easily

Reasons to avoid

-
No high vis details
-
Not thermal
-
Only one size available
-
No ponytail hole – but with the design, it doesn’t need one

This super soft, breathable running headband makes the perfect companion for long trail runs, warm weather hikes, sweaty yoga sessions and basically any activity where you want your hair and sweat out of your eyes. Made using a blend of bamboo, organic cotton and elastane, it is just stretchy enough, plenty soft against your skin, breathable for sweaty pursuits, doesn’t get stinky easily and is better for the planet.

The snug fit ensures it stays put when you’re running but with such soft fabric you’ll barely notice it’s there. It’s wide at the top to cover most of your crown and protect your part line from sunburn, but gathers nicely at the nape of your neck meaning you can wear it with a high or low ponytail or even with your hair loose. Though it’s not thermal and doesn’t have any high-vis details, it makes for a great all-rounder headband that you can wear in all seasons, and it looks good enough that you might even just wear it around town because you love it so much.

Madison Isoler Mesh Headband

This low profile headband may be designed for cyclists, but it’s great for summer trails runs where you just want to keep the sweat and hair out of your eyes (Image credit: Madison)
This low profile headband may be designed for cyclists, but it’s great for summer trails runs where you just want to keep the sweat and hair out of your eyes

Specifications

RRP: £7.99 (UK)
Sizes: One size
Materials: Polyester (85%), Spandex (15%)
Colors: Black, White
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable and sweat wicking
+
Lightweight
+
Very comfortable with flat lock seams
+
Low profile 

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one size available – but it should fit most heads
-
Not thermal
-
No high vis details
-
No ponytail hole

British brand Madison is a cycling apparel company, but their Isoler Mesh headband can easily cross over into your running kit. This is a pretty simple, but effective, piece of kit that’s geared more towards warm weather.

Made from polyester, this headband is good at wicking away sweat and the mesh panel at the nape of your neck adds breathability. It boasts a really comfortable, non-bulky fit with good stretch and flatlock seams to prevent annoying rubbing and chafing. Without features like a ponytail hole or high visibility reflective details, It is minimal and perfect for anyone just looking for a simple solution for sweat and it stays in place when you’re on the go. 

 Best running headbands: for all seasons 

Pearl Izumi headband

This low profile, lightweight headband contains all the practical details you want from your headwear in an exceptionally comfortable piece for your cool weather trail runs (Image credit: Pearl Izumi)
This low profile, lightweight headband contains all the practical details you want from your headwear in an exceptionally comfortable piece for your cool weather trail runs

Specifications

RRP: $14.99 (US)
Sizes: One size
Materials: Polyester (90%), Elastane (10%)
Colors: Screaming yellow
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable and sweat wicking
+
Thermal
+
Lightweight and comfortable fit 
+
High visibility color and reflective details
+
Ponytail hole

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one size available – but with good stretch it should fit all heads

Pearl Izumi is one of the best cycling apparel brands around, but this headband makes a perfect trail running companion whether you’re seeking sweat management on warm days or a little lobe warming on winter runs. This bright yellow band with reflective details  is high visibility meant for road riding, so if your trail runs take you along any trafficked areas or hunting territory, you’ll be glad for the protection. It is extremely lightweight and stretchy, so you can wear it for hours without really noticing it. It stays in place when you’re on the run and is wider around the ears for more warmth.

Speaking of warmth, it is thermal but not thick, so it keeps you warm on cold days without being bulky, and is breathable enough to be used as a sweat wicker on warm days too. With a hand ponytail hole, you can use it comfortably with long hair and it’s wide enough to cover most of your part line if you’re seeking sun protection. Finally, it’s designed with odor protection so you can get lots of use out of it between washes.

Artilect headband

Warmth meets breathability in this lightweight, streamlined headband made for runners and skiers (Image credit: Artilect )
Warmth meets breathability in this lightweight, streamlined headband made for runners and skiers

Specifications

RRP: £20 (UK) / $30 (US)
Sizes: One size
Materials: Wool (90%), Nylon (10%)
Colors : Black, Moonbeam, Storm Blue, Super Red, Twilight Mauve
Compatibility: Trail running, hiking, skiing, snowboarding

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable and sweat wicking
+
Lightweight 
+
Comfortable fit and soft on your skin
+
Helmet friendly
+
Climate positive fabric

Reasons to avoid

-
No high vis details
-
Only one size available
-
No ponytail hole
-
Moves around a little when you look up
-
A little pricey

The Artilect Darkhorse Headband was designed in Boulder, Colorado, so it’s meant for trail runners and skiers alike. Made using Nuyarn, a merino wool spinning technology, this headband boasts faster drying, more natural stretch and better wind protection and durability than regular merino. 

In performance, this all means it’s soft against your skin and thanks to the stretchiness and light weight, you barely notice it’s there. It is quite thin and low profile, but still offers good warmth and wind protection, and easily fits under your ski helmet. At almost four inches wide it does cover your entire part line for sun protection, though not if you pull it forward over your forehead. This running headband definitely provides suitable protection for cold and milder temperatures. 

Best running headbands comparison table
Running headbandPriceMaterialsBest use
Smartwool Merino 250 Reversible Headband£19.99 (UK) / $22 (US)Merino wool (100%)Winter trail running and hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, cross country skiing
Columbia Unisex Trail Shaker Headring£13 (UK) / $16 (US)Polyester (100%)Winter trail running and hiking, snowshoeing, skiing
BAM Bamboo Headband£12 (UK)Bamboo viscose (68%), Organic cotton (28%), Elastane (4%)Trail running, hiking
Madison Isoler Mesh Headband£7.99 (UK)Polyester (85%), Spandex (15%)Trail running, hiking
Pearl Izumi Unisex Thermal Headband$14.99 (US)Polyester (90%), Elastane (10%)Trail running, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing
Artilect Darkhorse Headband£20 (UK) / $30 (US)Wool (90%), Nylon (10%)Trail running, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding
Patagonia Powder Town Headband£30 (UK) / $35 (US)Recycled polyesterWinter sports, winter hiking and trail running
inov-8 Race Elite Headband£15 (UK)Meryl hydrogen (94%), Elastane (6%)Trail running, hiking

What to look for in the best running headbands

For such a seemingly innocuous item, your running headband can really be a distraction if you pick the wrong one. The best thing to do is try a running headband on before you buy it, and you’ll find that your choice largely comes down to personal preference. That said, there are a few key things to look out for when it comes to choosing a headband.

First, you need to know if you’re looking for a running headband that mostly provides warmth in cold weather, or whether it’s solely for wicking sweat on hot summer runs. Some headbands provide the best of both worlds, using thermo-regulating fabric, and can be worn year-round which is good if you live in a more temperate climate.

Running headbands come in a variety of fabrics these days, both synthetic and natural, and you want to be sure that yours does effectively wick sweat, so avoid cotton headbands.

When it comes to protection, you may want to make sure that your running headband is wide enough to cover your ears to keep the wind out, and you may also want one that covers your part line if you live somewhere sunny and don’t love getting sunscreen in your hair.

Speaking of your hair, if you have a lot of it, you’ll want to make sure your running headband works with your ponytail. They all work with a high pony, but as you may know, high ponytails don’t love to stay in past mile two. Make sure yours works with a low ponytail, whether that means a ponytail hole or a narrower width at the nape of your neck.

Last, but certainly not least, you need to consider comfort. Look for a headband that both stays in place when you’re moving and feels good against your skin. If it doesn’t you’ll end up pulling it back over your hair and lose the benefits of keeping the sweat out of your eyes and the wind out of your ears.

Comfort

If your running headband is made of wool, make sure it’s not itchy. The fabric needs to be soft against your skin and the seams should be flatlock to avoid rubbing or chafing. It’s also key that your headband isn’t too tight or it will pull your hair or give you a headache. 

A woman running in the snow

If your running headband is made of wool, make sure it’s not itchy (Image credit: Westend61)

Breathability 

Breathability is key for a running headband, even if it’s a thermal one for cold days. Of course, not having the top of your head covered helps a lot, but you also want to look for a breathable fabric like synthetic, fleece, bamboo or wool and you might want one with a mesh panel to let more moisture escape. 

Stretch 

Unlike heads, most running headbands come in one size, so the stretchier the better. The best running headbands have at least 10% stretchy fabric like Elastane or are made from specially spun wool that is naturally stretchy. This makes sure the band is flush to your head to be able to wick sweat and tamp down your hair without being too tight. 

Odor control 

You are probably going to sweat a lot in your headband so if you can find one made from a natural fabric like wool or treated for odor control, you’ll need to wash it less, making it last longer. 

A woman running on the trail

Running headbands can offer protection from the wind and cold if they’re thermal and cover your ears and if they’re wide enough, they can also cover your part line for sun protection too (Image credit: Plume Creative)

Protection

Running headbands can offer protection from the wind and cold if they’re thermal and cover your ears and if they’re wide enough, they can also cover your part line for sun protection too. 

Durability

Just because running headbands are fairly low cost in terms of your kit, you shouldn’t treat them as disposable. Get a well-made band made from good quality materials with double-stitched seams and make sure it’s not too small or it will lose its stretch.  

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.