The Best Running Hats for When You’re Logging Miles This Year

Frigid winds, blazing sun—these running hats will protect your head no matter what the weather’s doing

January 23, 2024 12:39 pm
best running hats
From sweat-wicking to dome-heating, these are the best running hats around.
Ciele/Getty Images

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In addition to shoes, socks, and shorts, there’s one running gear item I never leave the house without: A running hat. It might sound dramatic, but I feel naked when running without a hat—I need something on my melon to block the sun’s glare and keep my hair from flying all over. Running hats do all that and more, and these days, runners are spoiled with options. Whether you’re gearing up for a midsummer track workout or a wintry jog around the neighborhood, there’s a wide range of running hats that’ll keep your head comfortable.

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What to Consider When Shopping for Running Hats

The right running hat for you depends on the conditions you’ll be exercising in and your own preferences for coverage and comfort. Here’s a closer look at the features to know and the types of hat to consider.

Fabrics: Like most running gear, running hats are usually made from synthetic fabrics—polyester is the most common material. Polyester wicks moisture and has good breathability, especially when it’s constructed as a knit or mesh or perforated with vents (all common features on running hats). Some hats, like the Janji AFO Hyperlight below, also include stretchy elastane, which helps the hat conform to the shape of your head for a snug, secure fit.

models wearing Ciele running hats
A new generation of merino running hats promise cold-weather comfort

Cold-weather headwear, like the Tracksmith Fens Earwarmer, often utilizes polyester fleece. This material feels super soft and warm, but it also wicks moisture, so you don’t get drenched in sweat. Prefer natural fabrics? Look for hats made with merino wool. It wicks moisture, resists odors, and regulates your temperature in both hot and cold weather. The Icebreaker Merino Pocket Beanie is made from 100% merino and creates a cozy, comfortable feel for cold-weather runs.

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Design: Running hats come in several different shapes. Five-panel caps, like the Ciele GOCap, are all the rage among runners, and they offer a streamlined fit and tend to sit a bit higher on the head. Trucker hats or baseball caps, like the Patagonia Duckbill and Nike Featherlight, have more coverage and sit a bit lower on the head—they’re great for people with high foreheads or bigger heads in general. Bucket hats also offer a good fit for bigger domes, and their circular brims protect your ears from sunburn, too.

For cold weather, beanies and headbands are the way to go. Beanies offer maximum coverage and warmth; headbands keep your ears warm while leaving the top of your head exposed (a better choice for runners who tend to overheat, even in winter).

Janji running hat
Running hats are incorporating new fits and materials.

Adjustability: Most running hats offer some kind of adjustability, so you can fine-tune the fit to your head. Many caps feature adjustable buckles at the back. This setup usually requires you to take the hat off your head to adjust, so it’s hard to do while running, but the strap stays secure once you find your fit. Other caps have Velcro closures at the back—they’re easy to adjust on the move, but the Velcro can lose its stickiness over time. Finally, some hats, like the Fractel B-Series or Janji AFO Hyperlight, use a simple drawcord. On the plus side, you can cinch down or loosen the drawcord while moving, but compared to a webbing strap, the narrow cord might dig into your skin a bit, especially if you have to cinch it down tight.

Extra Features: In addition to the above, some hats come with notable extras. The Fractel L-Series, for example, has a built-in cape to keep bugs and sunlight off your neck (Headsweats also makes a similar hat). Many hats also feature soft “crushable” brims that are designed to be balled up and compacted, so you can stash them in a pocket or pack. If you plan to take your hat on and off while running, or you just need a hat that’s easy to travel with, look for models with soft brims.

The lids below will keep your head comfortable no matter where you’re running or what the weather’s doing. Read on for the best running hats to add to your gear rotation.

Ciele, a running apparel brand based in Montreal, has developed a rabid cult following around its colorful running hats. Spend some time poking around runner forums on Reddit, and you’ll see lots of praise for these lids. The GOCap is the company’s original offering, and it’s an excellent choice for a basic, well-made running hat. It’s made with Ciele’s lightweight and breathable COOLmatic fabric, features a soft brim (so you can ball it up and stow it in a pocket or pack), and the adjustable clasp at the back helps you get a customized fit around your head. It’s also easy to keep clean: Just toss it in the washing machine.

Long runs under the blazing sun can wreak havoc on your skin, especially on exposed areas like your ears and neck that aren’t typically covered in clothing. The L-Series Legionnaire Cap from Australian running apparel brand Fractel solves that issue. A long cape attached to the cap offers extra coverage, and unlike similar models from competitors, it includes a snap button closure at the front to keep the cape from blowing around in the wind. It’s made from Polartec Power Dry fabric that’s super breathable and dries quickly, and the textile uses 100% recycled polyester yarns. Bonus: This hat is available in a variety of bold colorways.

This trucker-style lid is a great pick for anyone who prefers a deeper-set hat with a bit more coverage (if you have a high forehead, for example, this hat should fit well). The large open mesh at the back easily vents heat to keep you comfortable, and the foam-covered bill and front panel give it a classic, laid-back look. At the back, an adjustable buckle closure allows you to fine-tune the fit, and inside, a double-knit polyester headband is designed to wick sweat for a comfortable feel against your head.

Weight weenies, this one’s for you. As the name implies, Janji’s Hyperlight Cap is all about weight savings, and at just 29 grams—less than half the weight of the Ciele GOCap above—it delivers. The streamlined design saves weight, and with its crushable foam brim, it’s also an excellent choice for travel: You can easily stuff this hat into a pack when not in use. Once on your head, the stretchy woven polyester-elastane fabric breathes well and wicks sweat, and a simple drawcord closure at the back helps you get a snug, slip-free fit.

Merino is a go-to performance fabric in any weather, but it makes an especially good pick for a winter running hat: It wicks moisture, resists odors, and keeps you warm even when wet. Icebreaker sources its merino from sustainably raised New Zealand sheep, and the 100% merino Pocket Beanie offers a warm, cozy fit that’ll keep you comfortable during chilly winter runs.

Available in an array of head-turning colorways, Fractel’s B-Series bucket hat is a must-have for runners who want to stand out. But that’s not the only reason to buy it. Unlike one-size-fits-all running caps, Fractal sells the B-Series in two sizes to better match different head shapes, and the built-in drawcord allows you to cinch down the hat for a tailored fit. The recycled Polartec Power Dry fabric offers great moisture management and dries quickly, and the all-around brim keeps the sun from roasting your ears (the brim and body are rated for UPF 50 sun protection). 

Suffering through a wintertime run with numb or aching ears is no fun, so grab Tracksmith’s Fens Earwarmer—it’ll keep your ears happy without roasting your head. Like all of the brand’s products, premium materials are the star attractions here: On the outside, the headband’s ribbed fabric gives it a distinctive look, and on the inside, a super soft polyester fleece cradles your ears and protects them from frigid temps and howling winds.

Prefer a baseball cap look when running? Grab this lid from Nike. In addition to its traditional design, it also features a Velcro closure at the back for easy adjustment, and it’s sold in three sizes, so you can pick one that best matches your melon. The mid-depth fit offers plenty of coverage, and the Dri-FIT fabric and built-in air holes evacuate heat and sweat vapor to keep your head from getting drenched while running.

Nathan’s RunCool hat shows up on multiple “best running hats” lists, and although it doesn’tlook much different than other options, it has a secret weapon: built-in pockets for storing ice cubes. Yes, you read that right. Load up this lid with some ice before a hot weather run, and it’ll keep your head cool while you jog through the heat (reviewers note the ice generally lasts about half an hour). It’s probably overkill for milder temps, but the RunCool is a compelling option for runners who deal with more extreme conditions. And at just 25 bucks, it’s a great value, too.

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