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Published Jan. 10, 2022

Most people wear a running hat when they are racing or on training runs. Hats have a rich tradition of serving a functional purpose, yet often turn into fashion statements. Running hats are no different than any other that has come before them. These are meant to shade you from the sun while keeping you cool, or warm depending on the weather. It seems like almost every brand has a hat and they come in tons of colors and themes, so there’s no limit to the options waiting for you. We can all agree that the right hat can turn anyone from zero to a hero.

When it comes to performance gear, few brands are more recognizable than Under Armour. The UA Blitzing cap has a classic ball cap profile, yet it is made from a breathable mesh material. With the traditional profile, the brim will be more than enough to shade your face from the sun and fight glare. The built-in HeatGear sweatband will help keep the sweat out of your eyes so you can focus on where you’re going. For extra comfort, the front of the cap features foam padding. It is available in five sizes that offer a flexible fit and 33 color themes, which allows you to select a hat with fashion and function. Thankfully, this cap is machine-washable, so you can put your washing boards away when it gets ripe.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Under Armour
  • Available sizes: XS/S, S/M, M/L, L/XL, XL/XXL
  • Material: Polyester, elastane
PROS

Padded front panel for comfort

Heatgear sweatband

Flexible fit

Machine-washable

CONS

Not adjustable

Mesh panels won’t block the sun

Mesh panels won’t block the sun

Many working professionals — and anyone else who has had to pack their workout gear to change into later — know how challenging it can be to pack a hat. The brim gets worn out quickly from having to roll it or flatten it out. This running hat is specifically designed to fold up for easy packing. If that’s not cool enough, the mesh paneling on the sides of the hat ought to be. Those panels break up the UV protectant fabric that will keep the harmful rays off your skin. Since the cap is unstructured, it will feel like your scalp is getting a hug while you run. Unlike many bargain-priced hats out there that use Velcro closures, this cap uses a plastic loop to run the Velcro through and close back on itself. This will offer a more secure feeling, unlike the hook-and-loop straps on cheap hats. Boasting a guarantee to replace or refund the hat, there’s no reason not to try it.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Gadiemkensd
  • Available sizes: Adjustable one size
  • Material: Nylon
PROS

Lightweight

Foldable brim

Breathable mesh

Reflective features

CONS

Hand wash only

Not ideal for cold weather

Not everything has to be overly engineered in order to be effective. The classic Flexfit is proof. Key to this hat’s performance is the flexible spandex liner which allows the fitted hat to give a custom hug to your noggin. It’s offered in three sizes that will be sure to fit you snug. Unlike traditional ball caps, the back three-quarters of the hat is made from a mesh material. This gives you the ventilation of a trucker hat without the stereotypical appearance. The front panels are structured which keeps them off your scalp for extra comfort. With 10 available colors, you’re sure to find something just for you.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Flexfit
  • Available sizes: S/M, L/XL, XXL
  • Material: Polyester, cotton, nylon, spandex
PROS

Flexible spandex liner for comfort

Breathable mesh

Classic look and feel

CONS

Hand wash only

No status signaling logos

Best Running Hat for Women

Serious runners know that it is important to train like you race, which means wearing racing gear while training. Trailheads is one of the top brands making headwear for runners, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they have a race day running hat specifically designed for women. It looks like any other unstructured running hat made from polyester mesh. This provides a secure fit that breathes so you stay cool no matter how long you’re running. The brim offers excellent shade for your eyes and face while helping cut down glare. What sets this hat apart is the Velcro closure on the back that is designed to accommodate a ponytail or other hairstyle to keep the hair off your neck. Sizing is also slightly smaller, with an adjustable range of 20.5 to 23.6 inches.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Trailheads
  • Available sizes: Adjustable one size fits most
  • Material: Polyester
PROS

Quick-dry mesh material for cooling

Reflective brim

Adjustable Velcro closure designed for ponytails

CONS

Not designed for large heads

Machine-wash delicate or hand wash only

Best Running Trucker Hat

Traditionally, trucker hats featured a foam front panel with mesh back paneling that snapped in the back for an adjustable fit. This design was cheap to produce, which is why companies would print their logo on the foam and give them away to truckers. Advertising hadn’t been so easy, but the resurgence in popularity of these simple hats has changed the way they’re made. Running Partner has taken a new approach by using a more baseball cap style front panel and brim instead of the foam front panel. It will be sure to hold up a lot longer than foam and is a great blank canvas for embroidery. The back of the hat is a nylon mesh just like its predecessors to help keep your scalp breathing and ventilated when it gets hot. With almost 80 different color combinations and a modern profile, this hat will be sure to keep you looking cool while keeping you cool on your runs.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Running Partner
  • Available sizes: Adjustable one-size
  • Material: Cotton, polyester, nylon
PROS

Trucker style mesh

Snapback closure

Tons of color options

Includes a no-sweat hat liner

CONS

Not as aerodynamic as unstructured hats

No status signaling logos

Best Running Hat for Winter

Before the rise in performance clothing, it used to be difficult to find gear to wear when running in cold weather. Much of what was available would keep you warm, but wouldn’t wick sweat or trap too much heat. Beanies were a big part of that as most are made from cotton, wool, or some other material that would turn your head into a sauna while you run. This polyester skull cap from Tough Outfitters is a fantastic alternative. It is lightweight and features flat stitching for increased comfort and compatibility with helmets, giving you the versatility if you’re a cyclist too. The cap features a blend of spandex that boasts a one-size-fits-all capability. It has been given a wind-blocking and thermal enhancing treatment that doesn’t interfere with the moisture-wicking and quick-dry design.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Tough Outfitters
  • Available sizes: One-size-fits-all
  • Material: Polyester
PROS

Lightweight and form-fitting

Keeps head warm

Flat stitching for comfort

Versatile

CONS

No brim to block the sun

Best Running Hat for Summer

If you’re like me, then you probably only thought of visors as those green things accountants wore or something for tennis players. But the visor is an underrated sports hat that is ideal for running in hot weather or for those who overheat easily. The key feature of a visor is that it is essentially just a hat brim without the full coverage of your head. Headsweats steps up the design here by making the closure a secure flexible band that is sure to stay on. Having a high visibility visor gives you the option to train during low-light hours when it is generally cooler, depending on where you live. This is a machine-washable visor that’s ideal for marathons, triathlons, or even ultra marathons.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Headsweats
  • Available sizes: Flexible fitted closure
  • Material: Polyester, terry
PROS

One-size-fits-most

High visibility color with reflectors

Dark underbill for reduced glare

Machine-washable

CONS

The open top does not offer sun protection to the scalp

Best Running Hat for Sun Protection

Why should a sun allergy or sensitivity stop you from getting out there and running? There is no reason when you have the Sunbreaker running hat by Coolibar. It isn’t just a hat, it is sun armor for those who need it most. The key to this hat’s design is the detachable seven-inch neck drape that offers excellent protection. Over the whole hat and drape is a UPF 50+ protectant, so no sunburns occur through the fabric either. Despite the extra material, this hat has ventilation panels on the sides to keep you cool while training. It uses a Velcro closure to sit securely on your dome no matter the activity. This is the hat to wear when avoiding melanoma, and is just as important as running.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Coolibar
  • Available sizes: Small, Large, XX-Large
  • Material: Polyester
PROS

Detachable neck drape

UPF 50+

Ventilation inserts

CONS

Hand wash only

Not aerodynamic

Best Running Hat for Big Heads

As a man with a larger than average-size skull, I know how hard it can be to find a hat that fits properly. If we do find one that fits, it tends to be tight and cause headaches, even when adjusted to its max. Outdoor Research makes the Swift Cap using an interesting closure system: a quick release buckle that adjusts out to fit 24-inch brain housing groups. This ensures a customized fit every time you put the hat on. The main body of this unstructured hat is made from nylon, which is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, and offers UPF 50+. On the sides are a polyester mesh for increased ventilation and breathability. Since it’s available in 19 colors, there are plenty of options to pick a hat custom for you.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Outdoor Research
  • Available sizes: Adjustable one-size
  • Material: Nylon, polyester
PROS

Lightweight and breathable design

Fits up to 24-inch heads

Machine-washable

Quick-release buckle back

CONS

Mesh sides don’t offer sun protection

Best Running Hat for Sweat

Bamboo has become a highly popular material in many industries due to the versatility of its fibers. Saaka uses the bamboo viscose and combines it with a polyester and spandex microfiber to create a soft unstructured performance hat. This unique design allows the hat to rapidly wick sweat from your scalp and the proprietary fabric does not hold onto the sweat, which allows it to quickly evaporate as you run. To stay snug on your head, there is a Velcro strap that loops through a plastic ring to offer ultimate sizing customization.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Saaka
  • Available sizes: Adjustable one-size
  • Material: Bamboo, polyester, microfiber
PROS

Moisture-wicking

Quick-drying

CONS

Hand wash strongly recommended

Best Running Hat with Sunglasses

When it comes to wearing a hat and sunglasses, they often don’t complement one another. Most of the time, you’re left flattening out the brim of the hat, which reduces the shade effect of it, or having to find a pair of sunglasses that look goofy but work with the hat. In the worst cases, you’re left choosing one or the other. Notch Gear saw this issue and designed the Notch hats to resolve it. There are two types of notches that allow you to wear sunglasses and a hat. These notches in the brim of the hat are placed so that the sunglass frames won’t be pushed down by a curved bill. Normally these hats wouldn’t be ideal for running since they are made from cotton, and cotton absorbs sweat, but the mesh trucker-style back allows plenty of ventilation. Sporting a traditional snapback ensures a snug and custom fit and feel.

Product Specs
  • Brand: Notch Gear
  • Available sizes: Adjustable one-size
  • Material: Cotton
PROS

Sunglass notches in the brim

Mesh for breathability

Moisture-wicking sweatband

CONS

Hand wash only

Made from cotton

Why you should trust us 

Running may not be my specialty anymore, but I have many friends who abide by the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other fitness regimen from when I was a runner. My background for the past 20 years has been in sports, the military, and general fitness. My experiences and those of other runners have taught me what to look for in a good running hat. 

Types of running hats

Hats have been a fundamental piece of clothing for about as long as humans have been able to make clothes. Every hat has its purpose and there are tons of designs of hats for every style and function. To make things easy, we are going to focus on the shape a running hat takes since they all have the same function.

Structured

This is typically what most people think of when you mention a hat. The traditional hat that only has a brim in the front is commonly referred to as a “ball cap” because of how popular baseball made them. What makes them structured is how the front panel(s) are reinforced with a stiff material to give them a specific profile. Because of this reinforcement, these hats are best worn by themselves. On the top of these hats, you will normally find a fabric-covered button that keeps the center of the panels held together. 

Unstructured

Unlike structured hats, unstructured hats do not have reinforced panels. The typical profile of one of these hats is a natural curve to fit closely to the scalp. This is closer to how the first ball caps were made. One advantage of this design is that they can be worn under helmets or other headwear if necessary. Part of this is because many of these unstructured designs do not include the button at the top of the hat, this can cause discomfort if worn with other headgear. 

Beanie

This particular style goes by many names like beanie, skullcap, or watch cap. While most people think of beanies as warm-weather gear, they can also be designed and used for any weather. This will depend on the material and specific features of the hat. Beanies are actually a type of unstructured hat since they conform to the natural shape of the head, but they most commonly don’t have a brim. While these hats aren’t ideal for keeping the sun out of your eyes, they pair nicely with sunglasses, and they are great in cold weather or for sweat-wicking purposes. 

Key features of running hats

Fabrics

As with all clothing, the fabrics and materials used to make a hat play a crucial role in how effective and comfortable it will be. No one wants to run for fives in a hat made from itchy straw. Things to keep in mind are that materials like cotton will soak in moisture, while microfibers will wick it away. 

Visor/brim

The brim of the hat extends out to protect your head and neck from the elements, but when it’s only in the front, you call it a bill or visor, and those are meant to protect your eyes and face. 

Closure 

The closure is how a hat secures to your brain housing group and it comes in two styles: either non-adjustable or adjustable. The former refers to hats made to fit a specific size head, otherwise known as a fitted hat, while the latter breaks down even further. An adjustable closure is called a backstrap. You’ll often see it as a plastic snapback, Velcro strap, a loop and buckle, or an elastic band. 

Benefits of running hats

Protection from the elements

The primary reason for wearing a running hat — or any hat for that matter — is to keep the sun, rain, snow, and wind off of your face and out of your eyes. If you want your ears and neck covered, then you should consider wearing a full-brim hat. 

Keeping cool 

While a hat can protect your head from the elements, it can also keep you cool. Many hats are made from materials that wick away sweat and moisture from your head so that you stay cool. It also keeps sweat out of your eyes. 

Keeping warm

While it’s an urban myth that you lose 80 percent of your body heat through your head, it’s still important to keep your head warm. Medical researchers say wearing a hat in the cold will help keep the rest of your body warm because consistent temperatures throughout your body will help maintain normal blood flow. 

Comfort

Anyone with long hair knows how hot it can be with all that hair covering your neck. Wearing a hat could help keep that hair off the neck to provide an extra cooling surface. There are even specially designed hats with ponytail openings so that the hair is kept high off the neck and not smushed up inside the hat. 

Pricing considerations for running hats

Bargain

When it comes to bargain-priced running hats, you don’t have to worry about performance or durability nearly as much as other products. The overall size and shape of the hat make it fairly easy to manufacture, which means lower market prices. Any hat under $15 is a bargain price and you can easily find quality hats in this category. 

Reasonable

The average price for a great running hat is between $15 and $30, which is pretty reasonable. These hats will often have higher-quality materials, stitching, or more aesthetic options. Some will even have popular brand names or logos. Purchasing a hat from this category will guarantee a long time of use. 

Premium

We’ve already covered that hats tend to be less expensive than other products, so any hat priced above $30 is expensive. While some may feature state-of-the-art materials or a proprietary feature, most will be on par in their quality as lower-priced hats. What makes these hats so spendy is the brand name, logo, and status that comes with wearing them. 

How we chose our top picks

Each running hat was selected for performance criteria and functionality. We avoided hats that were ridiculously priced or had a function that would interfere with your ability to run. Brim size and shape were taken into consideration, as well as materials used and the type of closure. Additional features and accessories were evaluated for feasibility and ease of use.  

FAQs about running hats

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. Is it bad to wear a hat while running?

A. No. Wearing a hat is a personal preference, just like wearing a long sleeve or short sleeve shirt. 

Q. How do I keep my head warm while running?

A. Wear a hat or beanie.

Q. Are running hats washable? 

A. Most should be. Make sure to check the tag on your hats for detailed care instructions. 

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​​Scott Whisler is a Marine Corps veteran and family man. He’s an avid student of philosophy who strives for self-growth and challenge, both found in his outdoor adventures.  As a new Okie, his focus is on exploring the South Central region. His lifetime goal is to have excursions in all of the National Parks.

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