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Why you should stop holding your phone when you run

a photo of a woman looking at her phone mid-run
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re heading out for your first run in a while, or you’re someone who prefers to run clutching your smartphone, allowing you to easily skip tracks or stop and take that mid-run selfie, I’m here to tell you to stop. Yes, holding your phone as you run is a bad idea, and it’s not just because you can easily drop your expensive gadget. 

Running is great for your physical and mental health — it can help strengthen muscles, improve your cardiovascular fitness, help you lose or maintain a healthy weight, and even help you sleep better. It’s also relatively cheap. All you need is a good pair of running shoes (we’ve hand-picked the best running shoes on the market here) and a decent sports bra if you’re a female (we’ve also found the best sports bras here) and you’re good to go. 

That said, running with incorrect form can quickly cause common running injuries, such as plantar fasciitis and runner’s knee. If you overstride, you’re more likely to suffer shin, knee, and hip injuries. If you land on your heel when you run, you’re more likely to increase the impact on your bones and joints. 

For most runners, working on your form means shortening your stride, keeping your legs underneath your body as you move, and engaging your core. But if you’re running with your phone in your hand, you might, unintentionally, be ruining your form and putting yourself at higher risk of hip and shoulder injuries. 

a photo of a woman running holding her phone

(Image credit: Kevin Kozicki)

Why you shouldn’t run with your phone in your hand 

Although it might not feel heavy when you pick it up, frequently running with the additional weight of your phone in one hand might be putting you at risk of hip and shoulder injuries. U.K. athletics running coach Alexa Duckworth-Briggs says, “When you hold something in our hands, there are subtle knock-on effects to your gait. It creates muscular imbalances, affects the distribution of weight across your body, and makes you a less efficient runner in general.”

Duckworth-Briggs explains that by adding a small amount of weight to one side of the body, you’re other side is likely to overcompensate, in an attempt to stay balanced. 

“By making one arm heavier, you’re altering the momentum of your limbs. And your body will attempt to compensate for the imbalance by working certain muscles harder than others," Duckworth-Briggs notes. "That’s where repetitive strain injuries will come into play. I’d expect problems to manifest in the side of the body opposite to where you’re holding your phone."

What’s more, as phones get bigger and heavier, this problem is likely to become more frequent. “This could be happening every time you train, week after week, month after month. And all of this means you’re more susceptible to strains, particularly in your legs, hips and across your shoulders,” Duckworth-Briggs adds. 

A better idea is to invest in a running belt, or phone holder, or a pair of running leggings with pockets big enough to stow your phone (check out the best leggings to run in here). Duckworth-Briggs recommends running with a belt over anything that staps your phone to your arms —  “There are some mobile phone carriers that strap around your arms but, again, I’d say they’d still leave you unbalanced. You’re better off holding that weight centrally to your body,” she said. 

If running with a belt doesn’t sound appealing, a lot of the best running watches on the market, including the Garmin Forerunner 245, the Garmin Forerunner 945, and the Apple Watch 7. All have the ability to connect to GPS, play music, allow you to pay for a post-run coffee, and have safety devices to allow others to track your location from your wrist. So why not try leaving your phone at home on your next run? 

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.