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Five things to check before you buy a running armband

Running armbands come in different sizes, some don’t fit all phones and lack storage. Our testing also found some that wouldn’t operate phone touchscreens

Five things to check before you buy a running armband

A running armband phone holder might be on your shopping list if you’ve taken up running during lockdown, or got more serious about it as the months have dragged on.

While on the go it’s important to keep your phone, keys and any other valuables secure and comfortable to help you feel unencumbered.

If you’re after a new running armband phone holder, we’ve tested 10 of the most popular you can buy, but there are some key checks you should do first before clicking ‘add to basket’.


Or head straight to our picks of the best running armbands and phone holders


An iPhone 12 out of the box

1) Check the dimensions of your phone

Phones come in all shapes and sizes, and so do the armbands that carry them.

You’ll be stuck if you end up with a running armband that won’t fit your phone, so make sure to compare the dimensions of your phone with those the armband is designed for.

Our reviews list the maximum height each armband can take as well as the screen window dimensions to help you make sure it’s the right size for your handset.

If you aren’t sure about the size of your phone, check the dimensions in the Tech Specs tab in our mobile phone reviews.

Measuring arm circumference

2) Measure your arm circumference

If you have particularly bulky or slim arms you need to check carefully when shopping for a running armband.

All but one of the popular running armbands we tested came in just one size. That size fitted a minimum arm circumference of around 25cm. But each one fitted different maximum arm circumferences, so you need to check, although a couple of them do have extra loop attachments that effectively double the range of arm sizes the armband can fit.

We also tested one running armband that comes in a range of sizes starting at 18cm circumference, which might be for you if you have particularly slim arms.

How to measure your arm circumference:

  1. Hold your arm at a 90-degree angle (like it would be when holding a dinner plate)
  2. Wrap a tape measure around the centre point of the upper arm
  3. Where the two points of the tape measure meet around your arm is the circumference of your arm. It can help to have someone else measure this if you struggle to do it one-handed.
Keys, cash and headphones on a table

3) Think about what else you’ll need besides your phone

Once you’ve worked out if the running armband will fit you and is the right size for your phone, consider what other valuables you need to take out with you running.

You may need your keys or an ID card in case of an emergency when you’re running.

Check whether the armband you’re considering has extra pockets for these essentials, how big those pockets are and where they’re located.

Some pockets will be on a separate part of the armband, while others will be inside the phone holder or even wedged between the armband and your arm.

Comfort is just as important as fit when it comes to running armbands, so make sure the pockets aren’t in a spot that will press into your arm uncomfortably when they’re full.

Our running armband and phone holder reviews tell you where on the armband the pockets are located, as they can sometimes be tricky to spot from the pictures.

Running in the woods wearing a running belt

4) Is a running armband phone holder your best option?

Running armbands work well for me, but they aren’t for everyone. Every runner has a unique style and you might find you run better wearing a different type of phone holder.

Running belts are a popular alternative as they usually have larger pockets and some can hold water bottles if you like to stay hydrated on the go.

You might find these cumbersome, though, especially when sprinting or running on inclines.

You can also buy chest running phone holders, which are essentially harnesses with a pocket for your phone.

Using phone touchscreen through armband window

5) Consider how much you’ll need to use your phone

Whether it’s to answer a call or skip to the next song, you might find yourself needing to do a little swiping when you’re out for your run.

You’ll want to avoid stopping to use your phone, so it might be important for you to be able to use your phone’s touchscreen through the screen window on your armband.

In our tests, we found huge differences in how well touchscreens on running armbands worked through screen windows.

Some were as responsive as when the phone was in our hands, while others didn’t respond at all. Some were so responsive we were even able to unlock the phone using the fingerprint scanner.

If this is a deal-breaker for you, make sure to check if the screen window on the armband works with touchscreens before you buy.

Our round-up of the best running armbands and phone holders will tell you how responsive our phone touchscreen was in our tests.

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