We all know we need to wear a face mask whenever venturing outdoors, and we’ve already written about our favorite stylish cloth face masks. However, your standard cotton face mask isn’t designed for cycling and running. While non-joggers love to point fingers, there’s a good reason many joggers lower their masks while out on a run — wearing a face mask can get hot, sweaty and even itchy after a while — no thanks. The good news is that several sports gear companies have joined the effort to keep everyone safe, and the best face masks for running won’t slow you down or interfere with your breathing.
Some of our favorite athletic apparel companies have moved quickly to manufacture athletic face masks that help you breathe and sweat without desperately peeling off your mask because it’s too hot. There are, thankfully, many great choices out there, so let’s find the one that’s right for you and your fitness routine.
What To Consider When Choosing the Best Face Masks For Running
Most surgical masks are prone to bleeding through with sweat and are generally uncomfortable for physical activity. And have you tried running or cycling with an N95 mask? Impossible to breathe through, even if you can find N95 masks for sale. More so, many N95 masks have a vent on the front which makes it easy to breathe out, because all that breathe is not filtered — meaning you’re not protecting those around you. Instead, you want a face mask that’s designed for athletes, which means it will be sweat-resistant and won’t cause chafing. This is especially important if you’re a long-distance runner or cyclist.
The best athletic face masks for working out have a few things in common:
- The ideal exercise mask is made from moisture-wicking material, just like you would want in any type of athletic apparel. That means polyester, nylon, spandex and fabric blends instead of cotton. Wool is another option — especially because it’s winter and wearing a mask actually helps keep your feet warm.
- The best athletic face masks are breathable and comfortable around your face and ears.
- They should also offer durability, with the ability to wash and reuse the masks many times without too much wear and tear. No one needs a mask that is going to sweat through and become a sopping mess after their run.
- Many athletic face masks now come with adjustable earloops to avoid chafing and irritation around the ears..
In particular, the best face masks for working out are designed from soft, stretchy and moisture-wicking materials like polyester, nylon or spandex. High-performance athletic fabrics will generally offer more breathability and stretch than cotton or linen face masks.
Does It Have To Be a Mask? Can I Run in a Bandana or Gaiter?
Ideally, you want to look for a mask that securely attaches to your face without becoming too snug. In a perfect world, that means elastic bands that secure behind your ears or thin straps that can be tied around your head, neck and/or ears and adjusted to the right fit. You want to keep the mask tight enough to avoid slipping, but not so tight that it affects your breathing. A tighter mask will be more protective for you and those around you, and will cause less fogging of your glasses.
However, we know these masks can be a bit stifling, especially on a hot day in the middle of summer. If the trails you love tend to have a ton of sun exposure and you want something that’s a little looser, a bandana or gaiter is another great choice. These looser types of face coverings may increase your risk of exposure, and also open you up to more exposure, but they are more comfortable. There’s a risk tradeoff with comfort, but if you’re running outside the chances of spreading COVID-19 or getting it from someone else are much lower than indoors. Style points count too, and plenty of companies are producing hilarious cat prints, psychedelic universe swirls, and other weird stuff.
So don’t despair! You can still get out there and train or go for a jaunt and not feel ashamed for not wearing a mask. And remember to keep your distance!
What Are the Best Face Masks for Running & Cycling?
Below, we’ve included the best options for athletic face masks. Do your part to keep your community safe and mask up before your next sweat session. As we explained above, you’ll want to find face coverings made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics. We’ve included both traditional face masks and neck gaiters, although we recommend the former over the latter.
1. Best Athletic Face Mask: Under Armour Sportsmask
Under Armour was one of the first major sports apparel companies to design a face mask for athletes, and it’s still the best on the market. On top of that, it’s one of the only face masks for runners that’s currently in stock online.
Like a lot of great athletic apparel, professional athletes have been testing the UA Sportsmask for months in the field, and this face covering has everything we look for in the best masks for running, cycling and other sports. It’s made from performance fabrics like polyester and spandex, which wick moisture away from your face. It has a comfortable fit, with a moldable nose bridge so that it stays securely on your face. Even better, unlike the vast majority of athletic face masks, it comes in multiple sizes. And it can be easily hand washed and reused as much as you want. Pre-order your Sportsmask today, or order an entire box for your team.
2. Rhone 3-Layer Protective Face Mask
Rhone is one of our favorite athletic wear brands for men, and their face mask is great for protection during running, cycling and other fitness. It’s got a 3-layer construction that’s breathable and made to wick away sweat. It’s been treated with their permanent GoldFusion technology that decreases drying time, controls odor and contains real gold that improves color fastness. It also has a moldable nose bridge and 3M bungee ear loops that come with a silicone bead adjuster for finding the perfect fit.
3. Reebok Face Cover 3-Pack
Reebok recently debuted their face mask for running and athletic activity, and it really delivers everything athletes need to stay safe. It’s made with breathable, soft recycled polyester and elastane that’s comfortable and reusable. It’s machine-washable for daily use and comes in a three-pack so you’ll have multiple to switch between. Each one has two layers of fabric for protection and stretches around the ears easily. It has a tight fit for coverage and lack of movement while exercising and comes in a sleek black color.
4. Adidas Face Mask (3-Pack)
Who would turn down a chance to rock Adidas? Especially when it means potentially protecting others from the spread of COVID-19? This Adidas face cover is made for use during athletic activities, with a breathable fabric that’s comfortable to wear even for long periods of time. It’s made with elastic fabric for a tight, snug fit that wraps around the ears and won’t shift around a lot during activity. This face covering has two layers of protective fabric built-in and is machine washable for daily use. This soft mask is sized for most adults looking to flatten the curve but still enjoy their favorite outdoor activities, and it has the familiar Adidas logo on the side.
5. Huckberry Merino Wool Face Mask
BEST MASK FOR WINTER
This is another great mask option for the colder months. It’s made from moisture-wicking merino wool, similar to the mask above, so it carries the same breathability, temperature regulating, odor-resistant qualities. It has elastic bands on either side that loop onto the ears and has a triple layer of merino wool and cotton for both comfort, warm and safety. It’s machine-washable so it’s easy to clean, and due to the nature of merino wool it’ll keep you warm in the winter, cool in the summer and comfortable while keeping others safe.
6. Athleta Athletic Face Masks 5-Pack
Athleta is best known for making women’s athletic wear; however, they also make some of our favorite face masks for running for men and women alike. This mask 5-pack is currently on sale for only $3.99, so if you still need some masks for travel or the grocery store — now’s your chance.
We love the neutral colors and stylish prints, as well as the easily adjustable ear loops. Each of these masks are made from a stretchy, moisture-wicking polyester and spandex blend with a cotton liner for extra protection. Like medical masks, they feature three layers of fabric, but don’t worry that all that fabric will get in your way. The breathable materials will feel light and airy on your face, and your airflow won’t be blocked as you sweat. To wash these masks, hand wash with cold water and lay flat until dry. If you’re looking for the best face masks for running, this apparel company has the best option we’ve found yet.
ON SALE FOR $3.99!
7. Champion Adult Cotton Wicking Face Mask
This face mask from Champion is super affordable and made with moisture-wicking cotton fabric that’s made to be worn every day. The mask has X-Temp technology from Champion that adapts to the temperature throughout the day to keep you cool while you workout, and every mask has stretchable ear loops made from soft cotton yarn for a snug, comfortable fit. The mask also has side pleats for facial coverage that’s contoured and complete.
8. Everlane 100% Human Face Mask (5-Pack)
MASK THAT GIVES BACK
This face mask from Everlane is a part of their 100% Human project that supports fights for human rights. With every purchase, 10% of sales go directly to supporting the ACLU, so you know your purchase is going toward a good cause. Each of these Everlane face masks is made from double layers of knit fabric with comfortable ear loops built-in. Because they’re made of 100% cotton, they’re best for light exercise. They’re soft to the touch and have a one-size-fits-most design. They’re machine-washable and designed to be used and washed again and again.
9. Wise Guise Desert Violet Mask
BEST FOR BIG FACES
If you’ve got a wider face or a bigger build, and most masks suffocate you because of it, try this one on for size. It has an accordion design that typically gives a mask more stretch and room for coverage. It’s made with breathable, multi-layered fabric, and it secures around your neck rather than your ears so it won’t tug. It creates a snug seal up top around your nose to avoid fogging up glasses and it’s designed to be worn as a headband, bracelet or neckband when you’re not wearing it. This makes it convenient to carry so you’ll always have it.
10. Buff Filter Mask
Buff makes great outerwear and adventure gear for the outdoors, and they also make one of the best face masks for working out. This face mask provides particle-blocking and a secure, active fit. It’s built with 4-way ULTRA STRETCH fabric that’s also cooling and UV+ blocking. The mesh interior has been treated with an HeiQ V-block antimicrobial and the fabric wicks moisture away and dries quickly. The mask is very lightweight, breathable and built for a customized fit with adjustable back-of-head elastic bands. The bands attach at the back of your head, which takes the pressure off your ears to avoid irritation, a common complaint among mask-wearing athletes.
11. La Sportiva Stratos Mask
BEST ERGONOMIC MASK
This Stratos Mask provides plenty of room for your face inside the ergonomic shape, and it’s made of highly breathable, abrasion-resistant 3D mesh fabric so no matter what the activity is you’ll have space to breathe. Every part of the mask has been given an anti-microbial treatment and the supportive mask frame is also flexible for maximum comfort. There are internal Lycra gaiters on the nose and the chin to maximize comfort, and there’s an internal filter that’s easily changeable and filters out 99% of bacteria.
12. PAGE ONE 12-in-1 Multifunctional Face Mask
There are over 12 different ways to wear this face covering from PAGE ONE, but for your workouts, we recommend wearing it over your mouth and nose. It’s made of thin, lightweight fabric that’ll protect without making you feel smothered. The moisture-wicking fabric is quick-drying and designed to keep you cool even in high temperatures. The face covering is also breathable, durable and features 4-way stretch like all of your favorite athletic apparel. It will snugly fit most head and face sizes. It has upgraded stitched edges to prevent fraying or rolling up during movement, and it comes in a bunch of different colors and styles so you can find what works for you.
13. Self Pro Store Reusable Athletic Face Masks
This face mask for running has more than 7,400 reviews on Amazon and a 4.4-star rating for its versatile fit, breathable, 4-way stretch material and quick-dry capabilities. It provides protection against the dust, sun, aerosols and the elements in general during your workout and when used as a face covering can protect others from the spread of COVID-19. It’s reusable, designed to stay cool on hot days and the 2020 model covers your mouth and nose in one go. Stay comfortable and safe during all of your activities and choose from a variety of colors.
14. SMRTFT Sports Mask
This lightweight, stylish face mask is built for sport and blocks 99% of ultra-fine particles ranging from 1.7 to 2.6µm in size (that’s about 40 times smaller than a human hair). Even after 100 washes, this mask will maintain the same strength against foreign particles and protect you and others from infection. It’s made of a nylon and polyester blend and comes in a few different unique color choices. Sure, it looks a little bit like underwear for your face, but if you care more about safety than style, then this is another great option.
15. Buff Men’s Lightweight Merino Wool Gaiter
BEST FOR COLD WEATHER
Buff makes high-quality neck and face coverings specifically for the outdoors that are sweat-wicking and made of merino wool — a soft and light fabric that’s built to withstand heavy sweating without chafing, blistering or causing irritation. This covering has a completely pull-on closure, is hand washable and is semi-fitted to comfortably cover most face sizes and shapes. It has Microclimate control that’s breathable and contains natural odor prevention. The best part? You can wear this in the summer and winter with the same results, so as the weather gets cooler you can still hit the trails safely.
16. Jjyye Cooling Neck Gaiter
WARM WEATHER NECK GAITER
Balaclavas aren’t usually a common sight during the summer months, but there’s nothing “usual” about 2020. Balaclavas are a popular face covering, but most of these wraps are designed for winter weather, which causes overheating. This half balaclava neck gaiter is made from a light and breathable silk that has a cooling effect as you run and sweat, which makes this one of the best face masks for running or cycling in warm weather. This light moisture-wicking fabric will transfer heat, sweat and humidity away from your body. Openings for your ear will help keep this face covering in place while you cycle or run.
17. INTO THE AM Outdoor Face Mask for Running
This bandana style face covering is made from 100% polyester and comes in a ton of colorful designs. The polyester will help keep moisture off your body, while the material itself is light and breathable. You can wear this athletic mask in a variety of different ways depending on your preferences.
18. HCMY Face Masks for Running
These multifunctional bandanas serve as excellent face masks and can be reused and washed. Made from 100% polyester, these bandanas will cover your face and let you breathe. While it might get hotter with more material around your neck and head, they are still useful. They stretch to cover your nose and mouth and don’t have any strings to hold them up. They’ll move as you do, which is ideal for anyone who feels claustrophobic with a mask pressed tight against their face. Just but be sure to wash them when you get home. Better yet, choose a few of your favorite designs and have a running bandana for every day of the week.
19. FAYBOX Outdoor Masks (6-Pack)
This six-pack of outdoor athletic face masks comes with an assortment of bright and colorful patterns. Each order will include a mix of different designs, which could include solid colors, space prints and paisley. These scarf-style wraps offer UV protection and are loose and breathable. You can wear them around your neck or mouth and quickly adjust as needed during your run. These masks are made from 100% polyester material.
20. Wattie Ink Face Masks
BEST FOR RACING
These face masks are custom made by a California triathlon apparel company with the same fabrics they use to create performance racing apparel. All of Wattie Ink’s “Mask Packs” feature an assortment of designs and colors. Made from moisture-wicking material and designed to stop glasses from fogging up, these masks are great for cycling because you’ll be able to breathe easily. Be sure to wash in between uses. These running face masks are available for pre-order from Wattie Ink and come in packs of five.
21. Onzie Unisex Mindful Masks
BEST FOR CYCLING
These masks from Onzie are made of upcycled activewear fabric that’s breathable, lightweight and moisture-wicking for all your outdoor activities, including cycling. They use a multi-layered fabric made of spandex so it’s flexible, as well as spandex for the straps that’ll fit comfortably throughout your ride. The pack comes with two masks that are reusable and hand washable, each of which has breathe easy lining that’ll cover your face without suffocating you, even when breathing hard.
22. PRIME LAYERS The Everyday Mask
BEST FOR LIGHT EXERCISE
Another great choice for ultimate coverage, Prime Layers has made a mask made from a double layer of chambray cotton. This material won’t be the best for moisture-wicking during an intense workout, but it will be fine for walking or other forms of light exercise. Chambray is a lighter cotton, which makes it better for warm weather.
23. CARBON38 Athletic Face Mask Kit
CARBON38 has created a face mask designed for the strange times we’re living in. These face masks were designed to move with you, be easy to clean and, most importantly, protect athletes and those around them. The masks come in a set of two with an accompanying laundry bag for cleaning. The masks are built with a multi-layered filtration system and quick-drying fabric that’ll keep you dry and comforting during your next outing, no matter what’s on the agenda. The fit is secure with an adjustable nose strap and toggles at the strap. The masks are antibacterial and antimicrobial, offer UV protection and are non-toxic.
24. Summer Neck Gaiter
This versatile neck gaiter can be used as a face mask and will be tight around your mouth and nose. It comes in various colors and lets your sweat and moisture breathe through the material. It can be used as a headband or a sweatband and is easily tucked away into a pocket. If you’re finding face masks hard to find, consider neck gaiters or face covers that stretch easily.
25. Colorful Neck Gaiters
This neck gaiter can be pulled up to cover your face when you’re running and easily pulled back down when you’re alone. The material is a polyester microfiber that is breathable, sweatproof and moisture-wicking. It dries quickly which is nice for these upcoming hot days; another trick is to run it under cool water before heading out for your run or bike ride to keep your face cool and other people protected. It comes in wacky colors and is fun to wear.
26. Hammacher Schlemmer Antibacterial Cooling Face Mask
The best face masks for running are designed to keep your face cool and dry even while you exercise in the summer heat, and this product from Hammacher Schlemmer will do exactly that. It protects against airborne germs and is quick drying so your face won’t be irritated by heat and sweat while you work out. The mask is lined with breathable technical fabric similar to the athletic wear you’re used to wearing that allows moisture to escape and air to flow, cooling off the body in the process. Best of all, it comes with five removable filters that trap bacteria while you wear it, and has elastic earloops for a comfortable fit.
Frequently Asked Questions About Face Masks for Running
Some of our favorite brands for face masks for running are Under Armour, Reebok, Adidas and Rhone. They make great sportswear in general, and they use the same athletic fabric they make their clothes with to make the masks. This makes them breathable, sweat-wicking and great for staying protected and comfortable while exercising.
You'll generally want to avoid cotton face masks for exercising, as cotton is not a particularly breathable or moisture-wicking fabric. There are exceptions, like Rhone's face mask, but those are rare. For the most part you want a stretchy blend of polyester, nylon or spandex. A combination of any of these three fabrics, or all three, will work just fine.
It's much more difficult to catch and spread COVID-19 outdoors, so for that reason masks become less necessary when exercising outdoors. However, if you're in a particularly crowded area or on a popular trail, you should put on a mask when within 6 feet of others. If you're exercising indoors at a gym or fitness studio, chances are masks are required and you should wear one the entire time you're inside the building.