The best face masks for running outside in 2021
If you run or exercise outside, you may want to consider having a collection of face masks that are made especially for workouts. Standard surgical masks and face coverings don’t hold up to the job as well and can start to smell or get wet with sweat. As COVID-19 regulations continue, and in some cases expand across the country, masks will still be in play.
I tested each of the masks by wearing them on 2-mile runs; I’ve completed 24 miles to date. Who says writing is a sedentary profession?
Whether or not you wear a face mask while you exercise outside is up to you (and your state’s COVID-19 regulations). But if you want to or have to wear masks while running, these are the ones I found to be the best face masks for running.
Remember, these running face mask options aren’t medical-grade masks and aren’t guaranteed to protect you from the coronavirus. However, athletic masks like these can reduce the spread of respiratory droplets when you’re exercising in public, which makes them worth wearing.
I’ve separated this workout mask list into two sections: First, I write about my top five face masks for running out of the 12 I’ve tested so far. Then, I write about the remaining seven, because they still might be worth buying for some runners or for other activities.
Read more: Best running headphones and earbuds to use for 2021
The 5 best face masks for running
During my testing, the following five masks stood out to me for various reasons, but they all had one thing in common: They didn’t make my run suck exponentially more than usual.
Editor’s note, Dec. 18, 2020: Athleta has discontinued this mask for women (you can still buy it for kids) and replaced it with the Activate face mask. Like the Made to Move mask, the Activate mask is made with layers of breathable fabric and has wires to get the perfect fit for your face, but does not come with a pocket to hold a filter. We will update this list when we get the chance to test the Activate mask.
Below is our original review of the Made to Move mask.
I. Love. This. Mask. I had to put extra emphasis there so you know exactly how much I love this mask. I want to shout how much I love this mask from the rooftops. OK, gushing over. Here are the specs: The Athleta Made to Move Mask is a soft, nonmedical mask made of polyester, spandex and mesh. That alone should tell you how light and breathable this mask is.
The Made to Move Mask has two layers of fabric and extremely soft, adjustable ear straps for a comfortable fit. The breathable mask also features a semi-stiff but flexible nose band to keep everything in place. You can also fasten the optional head strap to use in place of the ear straps to prevent your ears from getting sore.
When running, this mask stayed put the entire time and I didn’t feel like I had trouble breathing at any point (aside from, you know, the usual heavy breathing that happens during a run).
Lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking and adjustable: This product is everything you need in a face mask for running. The Buff USA Filter Mask features performance fabric made of 95% polyester and 5% elastane (spandex), which gives it the perfect amount of stretch.
It also features wide elastic head straps that adjust easily — it employs the same mechanism used to adjust a bra strap. I found the wide straps to stay in place better than thinner straps on other masks.
This mask technically requires the use of a filter, which I’m not a huge fan of, but you can always leave it out. It just might not be as effective at reducing the spread of germy particles without the filter.
If you’re more of a neck gaiter person, go with the Mission Cooling Gaiter/Face Cover for running. I’m not sure exactly how this thing works, but it’s like it takes your sweat and turns it into cold vapor. I was fully expecting to dislike this neck gaiter, but it quickly became one of my favorite face masks for running when I realized I wasn’t turning into a sweaty mess.
The product description does say it “activates with water to cool to 30° F below average body temperature,” and I suppose sweat can work as water. I did have some issues with this neck gaiter slipping down slightly, but I think I might just have a small head, because I let a friend try this face covering out and she had no problems.
The Beyond Yoga face mask came in a very close second to the Athleta mask for me. The one factor that kept this mask from snagging first place? The head straps. Everything about the Beyond Yoga mask is perfect for running, but yikes, I struggled with the straps.
This mask features two ties, which you have to secure at the back of your head. I kept getting my hair tangled in the ties and it took me several tries to secure them in a way that kept the mask in place.
The mask is perfectly stretchy and insanely good at wicking sweat, though, which made up for the complicated straps. Now that I can actually work it, I want another set to get me through more workouts with fewer washes. Plus, once you secure the straps, you can leave them tied until you wash the mask.
Zensah makes all kinds of performance clothes and accessories, so an athletic face mask was a natural addition to the brand’s offerings. I loved this mask mainly because of the fit: It felt snug but not restricting. The seams of the mask stayed glued to my face, yet there was space between my nose and lips and the interior fabric.
There’s silver embedded in the fabric of the Zensah mask (the fabric is 2% silver), and apparently silver has some antimicrobial properties. You should still wash this face mask after use, however, to ensure it’s disinfected.
The Zensah mask wasn’t the best at wicking sweat. At the end of my two-mile run, it definitely felt wetter than my other top four face masks for running, but it still did a pretty good job. I think this mask could use some sort of adjusting mechanism, because although it fit me well, I could see the nonadjustable head straps posing a problem for others.
While the following masks are also good for running, they weren’t my favorites. For each, I explain why and what they might be good for instead.
These masks are incredibly soft and comfortable, but might be a better fit for lighter and less bouncy activity, such as walking or hiking. I enjoy them for running errands in hot weather because they don’t hold onto sweat and have a more relaxed fit.
The reusable masks from Kitsbow are super fashionable and comfortable — without the HEPA filter in place. The extra filter seems like a good idea, but I struggled to breathe with it in the mask while running. I took the HEPA filter out for the second mile and felt fine. The nose band on this mask is extraordinarily adjustable, which helps it stay in place.
This cloth mask is very thick, so much so that I would only wear it for exercise in cold weather. It’s definitely a high-quality mask, but it isn’t great for running outside in hot summer weather. For winter, you know where to look.
The Fila mask is nice, but it’s made of 100% cotton, so it’s not ideal for running or any intense exercise. Cotton can quickly become soaked in sweat, but this mask could work for yoga and other low-intensity workouts.
I really love this mask, but not for running. The Lapcos face mask is stretchy, soft and made of quick-dry material, but it felt rather dense while running. I tried it out while lifting weights, and it’s become one of my favorites for that. I imagine this is because I sweat less during strength training workouts, partly because I’m indoors and partly because it’s a lower-intensity activity. If you plan on going back to your gym, I recommend this mask.
This mask was actually great for running, except for one key factor. For me, the head straps just didn’t work. The mask didn’t fit me correctly, so it was of basically no use during running. However, the Myant Endura Mask is made of light, breathable material, so if it fits you, it would probably be a phenomenal running mask.
This is another stylish mask I’d wear around town for errands and such, but it probably wouldn’t make it into my running rotation. It’s comfortable but rather thick, so it didn’t feel as breathable as the others that topped the list.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.