The best running hats are an essential accessory, however far you plan on running — they’ll keep you comfortable, dry, and protected from the elements, allowing you to focus on your run. Far from being just a summer running essential, running hats keep you protected all year round — they'll keep sun off your face in the summer, and rain from running into your eyes on a long run in the fall.
Check out the best running shoes, the best running phone holders, and the best running apps to download here.
Unlike standard ball caps, running hats are specifically designed to help you go the extra mile. They’re often made from lightweight, sweat-wicking materials, have extensive venting systems in place, and closely hug the curves of your skull. Some running hats feature shorter panels for a tighter fit, and many have flat, flexible brims that allow for easy storage and a wider field of vision.
Running hats are available in an almost countless number of styles and designs, to best suit a variety of environmental conditions. Whether you want to stay warm, cool, or safe from the sun’s harmful rays, choosing the right running hat for your needs is crucial.
To help make your decision easier, we tested some of the best running hats on the market. We tested all of the hats below over a number of hours, both on long runs and faster miles on the track. We looked at how comfortable they were, how much they moved on the head, and how easy they were to keep clean once they'd gotten a bit sweaty. Read on to find our top picks.
The best running hats you can buy today
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The Nike Dri-Fit Aerobill Featherlight is as close to a perfect running hat as you can get. Efficiently designed with a classic aesthetic, it’s a crowd-pleasing cap in every sense of the word.
Made from recycled polyester (a construction that can reduce carbon emissions by up to 30%), the Featherlight lives up to its moniker — if not for the brim in my eyeline, I would have completely forgotten the hat was on my head. The thin, almost silk-like material laid flat and snug against my scalp while venting across all six triangular panels allowing heat and humidity to escape nearly undetected. Paired with a thin and stretchy sweatband around the hat’s entire circumference, the Nike Dri-Fit Aerobill Featherlight kept me almost as cool at the end of my run as when I began.
Some running hats will feature shorter panels for a more secure feel, but Nike achieves a form-fitting tightness without straying too far away from the norm — the Featherlight’s crown and panels are a relatively average height, which is good news if you’re looking for a hat that can transition into more casual usage. And in even more good news, a velcroed back opening allows runners to select just the right hat circumference for their comfort.
For those of us who run bespeckled (check out the best running sunglasses here), the size and curvature of a running hat’s brim will usually determine whether or not we have to squint our way through a 5K. At first glance, I assumed the Featherlight’s bill was going to be too big and too curved for me to pop on my shades. Fortunately, I found the bill to be incredibly pliable, and I was able to flatten it out enough to make room for my sunglasses. The brim did start to push down onto my frames after a while, but I was able to keep them on for the entirety of my run.
Small holes in the Featherlight’s fabric provide effective venting, but they also provide an opening for sunlight. This shouldn’t really be a concern for runners with a full head of hair, but if you’ve got an exposed scalp it’s something to keep in mind.
Bottom Line: The Nike Dri-FIt Aerobill Featherlight is the gold standard of running hats, featuring an incredibly efficient yet versatile design.
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of running in hats — I hate wearing my ponytail low so that it fits through the opening at the bottom of the hat. I much prefer securing my hair higher, in a tight bun if possible. That feat would be nearly impossible in every single hat I’ve ever tried, with the exception of one: the Lululemon Women’s Fast and Free Ponytail Running Hat.
Thanks to a much wider-than-average back opening, women (or anyone, really) with long locks aren’t relegated to ponytails that sit at the base of their skulls. I was able to wear both a high pony and thick bun on several runs, while the Fast and Free stayed comfortably on my head. Try wearing a bun with most other hats, and it would either fly off mid-run or give you a tension headache bad enough to cut your mileage short.
Like a lot of other selections on our list, the Fast and Free is constructed from a lightweight wicking material that kept me cool and dry during testing. The forehead band did a great job at mopping the sweat from my brow, and the stretchy fabric helped the hat stay both secure and comfortable. And despite a pretty wide brim, I was able to pull the cap back enough so that I could maintain a decent field of vision.
Aside from a bigger back opening, the unstructured shape and smooth curves of the Fast and Free lend itself to a slightly more feminine fit and feel. The bright “raspberry cream” hue of the material helped matters, but don’t worry if you’re not into pink — the Fast and Free is available in four colors.
The Fast and Free isn’t without its faults, although they’re relatively minor: the sides of the hat extend pretty low, so your ears may get an irritating rubdown. Despite a flexible construction and an elastic adjustment band, the Fast and Free may feel too tight for those with bigger heads. And as with most things Lululemon, you’d never consider the Fast and Free to be a “budget-friendly” purchase. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Bottom Line: With ample room for your ponytail and a sleek, feminine design, the Lululemon Women’s Fast and Free Ponytail Running Hat is a top choice for women runners.
The UA ArmourVent Core 2.0 may look like a basic ballcap, but it’s got some great tech woven into its design. With smooth lines and a masculine silhouette, it makes a great run-day companion for men who pound the pavement.
While most running hats have some sort of venting in place, the downside is sun exposure — holes in the fabric of a hat may allow excessive heat to escape but they can also let potentially damaging UV rays in, resulting in what could be a very spotty scalp sunburn. UA’s trademarked “ArmourVent” technology solves this problem with small, breathable vents in a light and flexible polyester material that provides full coverage from the sun.
The ArmourVent Core performed well during all of my test runs — the mesh construction kept my head relatively dry, and the patented “HeatGear” sweatband across the forehead wicked away moisture effectively. There is some stretch in the polyester backing, but it doesn’t give as much as some of the other hats on our list. That’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, since the Core comes in four different sizes — from S/M to XL/XXL — to fit a variety of heads. But without a back opening or adjustable closure, you won’t be able to customize a fit to your specific comfort level. A lack of a back opening also means there’s no slot for a ponytail — a factor to consider for men with long hair.
Besides the technical aspects of the ArmourVent Core’s design, the aesthetic elements are noteworthy for their simplicity. The Under Armour logo sits off-center on the front, recognizable but not overpowering. A curved brim and structured crown give the hat a cool, streamlined look. It’s a stylish hat for sure.
But because of its structured crown, the Core looked (and sometimes felt) weird on my head. I tested a M/L, and while it was generally comfortable overall, I could never pull the hat onto my head enough to hug my skull completely — there was always a stiff pocket at the top that made me look very square-like. And the structured crown paired with a curved brim made it difficult for me to wear my sunglasses and the hat at the same time. Then again — I’m not really the target market for the ArmourVent Core.
Bottom Line: The Men’s UA ArmourVent Core 2.0 Cap is specially designed for men runners — from its shape and style to its innovative tech.
When prepping for a long run day, the last thing you’ll want to bring along are heavy accessories. And as many runners will admit — something that seems light at the starting line may begin to feel weighty as the miles tick by. Fortunately, the ON Lightweight Cap maintains its practically invisible presence, from your very first stride to the finish line.
It’s fair to assume that you’ll never find a truly “heavy” running hat — they’re designed with movement and performance in mind, after all. But little details will make a big difference, and ON has perfected them to create the lightest of lightweight hats. Constructed from a smooth, matte polyester, the ON Lightweight Cap makes a departure from the stretchy mesh of some popular designs. My initial thought was that this was going to be rather sweltering on a warm day run, but that could not be further from the truth — I stayed cool thanks to the cap’s fast-drying materials and side venting. And because the cap was form-fitting without an uncomfortable cling to every curve of my skull, I was able to run without really noticing its presence.
Additionally, the ON Lightweight Cap’s fast-drying materials come in handy when you’re caught in a sudden downpour, as I was (that’ll teach me not to check the weather before I head out for a run). Despite enduring some quick and heavy rain, the cap didn’t get soaked to the point of saturation. By the time the skies cleared, it was almost completely dry.
Venting on the sides of the ON Lightweight Cap will keep you cool on long runs, but it will also leave small parts of your scalp unprotected (if you’ve got a lot of hair, this should be a non-issue). And while the cap is widely adjustable to fit most heads, I had some difficulty altering the size. You’ll need some pinch strength and hand dexterity.
The ON Lightweight Cap has some outstanding specs, but they come at a price. Almost double the price of some selections on our list, in fact. But if being “barely-there” matters more for the top of your head than for the cash in your wallet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better hat.
Bottom Line: The aptly-named ON Lightweight Cap keeps you cool and dry while feeling virtually weightless.
Ciele Athletics took their popular GOCap, added more of their patented “COOLwick” material, shortened a few panels, and toned down their logo to create the ALZCap — a great piece of headwear for your warm weather efforts.
You won’t have to worry about excessive sun exposure with the ALZCap — with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of +40, your noggin will be guarded from about 97% of the sun’s harmful rays. All that coverage doesn’t mean the ALZCap will feel stifling though, thanks in the most part to Ciele’s COOLwick mesh and super lightweight construction.
I tested the ALZCap on an unseasonably warm day — 85 degrees Fahrenheit with 75% humidity — and the COOLwick did an impressive job of keeping me as cool as the name implies. Generally, running under these conditions will leave me with hair so wet it looks like I just stepped out of the shower. While I wouldn’t say I was bone dry as I finished my last mile, I definitely noticed less sweat running into my eyes.
Usually, I’m forced to choose between eyewear or headwear in the summer since most hat brims curve at an angle that makes it impossible for sunglasses to stay on. But with the ALZCap’s flat, short and flexible brim, I was able to slip on both a pair of shades and the hat simultaneously. This was game-changing for me — I could focus on the road ahead without having to squint while protecting my face and scalp from the sun. Another plus side to ALZCap’s flat and soft brim? It allows you to fold up the hat for packing or storage.
Depending on your head size, the downside to this shorter brim is that more of your face may be exposed to sunlight. It’s also important to note that the ALZCap features shorter-than-average front and side panels for a snug fit. Neither of these aspects affected me too much — in fact, I much preferred ALZcap’s fit to most of the other hats on this list. But it may feel too small if you have a large skull or a tall forehead.
Bottom Line: Patented “COOLwick” material and a high UPF rating make the Ciele ALZcap your go-to running hat for the summer.
Donning a pair of shorts for a wintertime run isn’t the smartest idea, and neither is wearing a running hat that won’t keep you warm when the temperatures drop. Fortunately, the Craft Sportswear Light Thermal Outdoor Beanie is designed to do just that — without adding any extra bulk.
Appropriate ventilation is important even during cooler months, and that’s part of what Craft does really well with their Thermal Beanie. Often I find that fleece-lined hats will feel cozy at the start of my run, but way too steamy by the end of it. That wasn’t the case with the Craft Thermal Beanie — the thick yet breathable inner lining kept me toasty but nowhere near overheated (and I tested it on a day that was only moderately chilly).
Another key factor in good winter running apparel is sweat-wicking properties —ending a five mile race in freezing temperatures with perspiration covering your skin could spell disaster (I learned that the hard way, unfortunately). Again, this is an area where the Craft Thermal Beanie really shines. Despite having a soft fabric construction that seemed like it could get soaked with sweat, it wicked moisture away efficiently and then dried quickly.
Craft offers their Thermal Beanie in two sizes — S/M and L/XL — which is a nice option given that most beanies are one-size-fits-all. I tested the S/M size, and noticed that it kept riding up my skull during testing (having a slot for my ponytail might have prevented this from happening). The easy fix would be purchasing the larger size, but my head isn’t what I would consider a “L/XL.” If you have a bigger-than-average head, you may find that Craft Thermal Beanie is too small even in its largest size.
The Craft Thermal Beanie worked well for my moderately cool runs, and I would suspect it would perform just as well if the temperatures hovered at or slightly below freezing. But if you’re running in truly frigid conditions, you’ll need something a little more heavy duty.
Bottom Line: The Craft Sportswear Light Thermal Beanie will keep you warm and dry for your winter efforts.
Sure, having a high-tech running hat with all the bells and whistles is nice. But if you’re just looking for something to cover your head and keep the sun out of your eyes, the Headsweats Performance Race Hat is a solid choice that won’t break the bank.
Like a lot of running hats, the front and side panels have been shortened on the Headsweats Performance Race Hat, resulting in a more snug and secure fit. And with the exception of a stiff brim, it’s made entirely from a soft and flexible polyester mesh. These two factors ensure that the Headsweats Race Hat will be comfortable for any head size — it felt great on my average-sized skull, but I felt like it could fit bigger or smaller heads without issue.
Also ensuring a comfortable fit for most is the Headsweats’ easily adjustable back closure, which can widen or reduce the hat’s circumference by up to 2.5 inches. It may sound silly, but this was one of my favorite aspects of the Performance Race Hat — obviously, a lot of hats have adjustable closures, but it often takes some refined motor skills and an impressive amount of finger strength to make any size changes. A small, almost effortless tug on the Headsweats will render a looser or tighter fit. You can even make adjustments mid-run without slowing your pace.
The polyester mesh is light and does a decent job at wicking away sweat, but towards the end of my 5K, it started to feel a bit stifling. I wouldn’t consider it largely noticeable, and to be fair I tested the Headsweats on brutally hot days. But it’s still worth mentioning, especially for runners that live in humid environments. I should also note that there isn’t any reflective detailing on the Performance Race Hat, so be sure to wear it solely for daytime runs.
Another small annoyance was the Performance Race Hat’s sweatband, which would bunch up or stick out of the bottom of the cap frequently. I’d have to run my fingers along the edge to even out the fabric pretty much anytime I donned the cap. Again this was just a minor irritation, and the sweatband was successful at its intended purpose — keeping my forehead dry.
Bottom Line: The straightforward Headsweats Performance Race Hat is a budget-friendly cap that gets the job done.
Increasing your mileage into double-digit territory will likely require some new gear for your arsenal. And while a great running hat is as beneficial on a 5K as it is on an ultramarathon, the Nathan Quick Stash Run Hat is a particularly useful option for your longer-distance efforts.
Two side pockets on the Nathan Quick Stash’s exterior provide an excellent and easily accessible place to store energy gels, credit cards, IDs, or other small essentials. At first, I wondered whether or not I’d like this feature, but it ended up being an incredibly efficient and safe way to carry around what I needed. I have a run belt for the days I slip on my shorts with no pockets, and to be honest, I hate it — it rides up constantly, and the velcro closure always scratches my skin. I loved being able to tote along with the things I needed in the Quick Stash’s pockets, without having to wear an annoying belt.
Aside from storage space, the Nathan Quick Stash Run Hat’s pockets can also be used to cool you down — fill each side with ice, and regulate your temperature while chasing your next PR. Using the pockets for this purpose allowed me to go a little further than usual, even in 90-degree Fahrenheit conditions. It’s a feature you’ll definitely want to try out on a warm, sunny day (and with no reflective detailing on the Quick Stash, you’ll only want to wear it during daylight hours).
The Nathan Quick Stash Run Hat does have slightly shorter paneling than a standard cap, but it’s not excessive. It’s also the most widely adjustable of any hat on our list, with a closure that can be tightened or loosened by up to five inches. Unless you’ve got an abnormally small or large head, it’s probable that this hat will fit you comfortably.
The Quick Stash’s soft, flat brim and lightweight mesh construction are great for packing purposes — it's easily foldable to fit in your bag or coat pocket. It’s also great for sun protection since Nathan claims the Quick Stash is UPF rated (although a specific value was not published). But in terms of cooling, the brim and mesh did an average job — it wicked away sweat, but felt a little suffocating near the end of my run.
Bottom Line: Two multi-purpose pockets make the Nathan Quick Stash Run Hat a perfect companion for your long-distance races.
The Salomon XA Unisex Cap is a technically-advanced and aerodynamic running hat that, in all honesty, would benefit anyone. But thanks to a few key aspects, it’s a welcomed blessing for runners with larger heads.
The vast majority of running hats are “one size fits all,” but sometimes that “all” fails to include head sizes that fall at the ends of the spectrum. Less frequently you’ll find caps that are offered in various sizes, but those models often lack adjustable properties. Salomon takes the best of both worlds and combines them into the XA Unisex Cap — runners can select a size appropriate for their head circumference, and then fine-tune the fit with an adjustable strap.
That adjustable strap is especially significant because of its design — with the exception of the Lululemon Women’s Fast and Free Ponytail Running Hat, it’s the only strap on our list made from an elastic material (which increases the hat’s circumference range by between two and four and a half inches). This trait made the XA feel like it was specifically contoured for my head, seamlessly hugging my scalp for the entirety of my runs. I tested the smallest size — the S/M — and the XA stayed secure without feeling too tight. Since I have a pretty average-sized head, it's safe to say that runners with larger-than-average skulls could easily find an XA size that fits appropriately.
The XA’s lightweight mesh and textured sweatband also have some give to them, but to a lesser degree. What it does have a lot of though, is breathability — testing it on a warm weather 5K resulted in a dry scalp, a sweat-free brow, and a cool head. It might have been the most breathable running hat I tested that didn’t have any noticeably extensive venting.
It was hard to find too many faults with this nearly perfect cap. The stiff brim’s curvature made it somewhat difficult to pair with sunglasses, but eventually, I was able to position it in a way that worked.
Bottom Line: Runners with larger heads will find their ideal running hat with the Salomon XA Unisex Cap, featuring a variety of sizes and an elastic adjustable strap for a customizable fit.
If you’ve got a thick head of hair, the thought of running in a muggy hat might cause you to break out in a sweat before you’ve even laced up. For runners who prefer to let their locks flow freely but still want some protection from the sun, the Buff Pack Speed Visor is a perfect compromise.
With no connecting fabric panels to withhold heat and humidity, the Buff Pack Speed Visor keeps you cooler than most of our other selections. Obviously part of that is due to its inherent design, but you can also attribute some of its success to its incredibly lightweight construction and soft, stretchy wicking fabric. That stretch allows the Pack Speed Visor to fit almost any head size or shape easily — it stayed fixed in place during testing without slipping down or digging into my scalp.
As with any visor, the Buff Pack Speed leaves the top of your head completely exposed. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting any sun protection — a UPF rating of 50 means your forehead and face are shielded from 98% of damaging UVA and UVB rays.
One of my biggest pet peeves of running in a hat is what to do with it when I’m not treading the trails. I frequently run from my house to the gym a few miles away, and unless I want to tow a running hat along with me while I lift (which means I leave it on the floor and forget it), I have to wear it during training. Amazingly, the Buff Pack Speed Visor can be folded down to an almost unbelievable size — small enough to fit in your pocket — while still maintaining its shape. I was able to stuff the visor in my hoodie at the gym, pull it back out again when I was ready to leave, and pop it back into place without a crease or fold in sight.
The Buff Pack Speed Visor is pliant enough to fit most, but there’s no way to adjust it for a precise fit. Since it’s only available in one size, there aren’t any options for those with heads substantially smaller or larger than average. And although the wicking material did a decent job during most of my test runs, the sweatband got pretty damp on one particularly warm longer-distance effort.
Bottom Line: The Buff Pack Speed Visor allows for maximum breathability while still offering sun protection.
How to choose the best running hat
It’s important to consider a few factors when selecting a running hat — namely your head shape and size, your desired coverage from the elements, and the kinds of temperatures you’ll be running in the most.
A running hat should fit securely but comfortably against your scalp, without feeling like it will slip out of place, fly off of your head, or block your eye line. Many running hats are adjustable, allowing you to select just the right fit. Several of the selections on our list are not adjustable however and are instead offered in various sizes. Others have shortened panels with a flat brim, for a more form-fitting result. To ensure you select a running hat that fits well, measure the circumference and crown height of a hat you currently own and choose a model based on those numbers.
If you tend to run in bright, sunny environments, it may be worthwhile to choose a hat with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. These hats will block out a moderate to high percentage of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, providing an extra layer of protection for your skin.
Finally, you should think about the temperatures where you’ll be running. If you live in an area with a mostly cool or cold climate, you’ll want to select a hat with thermal properties to keep you warm. If you live in an area with a hotter climate, you’ll want to select a hat made with lightweight, sweat-wicking materials and venting to prevent potential overheating.
How we tested the best running hats
We tested each running hat on short to mid-distance runs (two to six miles), with the exception of the Nathan Quick Stash Run Hat which was tested on a long-distance effort (eight miles). All hats were tested on road runs, in varying weather conditions and in moderate to high temperatures.
All running hats were evaluated for comfort, fit, performance, design, and other usability factors.
What color running hat keeps you the coolest?
For maximum sun protection in the summer months, opt for a lighter-colored running hat. Sun hats with a white, or lighter-colored top will reflect heat from the sun, keeping your head cooler.
Can a running hat cool you down?
In a word, yes. By design, running hats will be well-ventilated, allowing air to flow through the vents to cool you down. They also wick sweat away from your head in warmer weather.
How often should you wash a running hat?
Unlike your everyday baseball cap, if you're wearing your running cap for sweaty running sessions, you're probably going to want to wash it after a couple of runs. Be sure to follow the washing instructions in regards to whether or not you can chuck your cap in the washing machine, but if not, use some detergent and warm water to clean the cap, then allow it to air dry.