Best Running Armband of 2021
The LifeProof LifeActiv sets itself apart from the rest as the most versatile and functional armband we tested. Removing the phone is quick and easy, so reviewing a map or changing the playlist can be done without interrupting your run. Some armbands come with a rotating mount, but those still require neck-craning and arm-twisting maneuvers to use your phone. The LifeActiv allows you to detach the phone one-handed just by flipping a lever and giving the phone a twist, and magnets guide the phone into place for quick and easy reattachment. It only took a few quick tries to get the hang of detaching and re-attaching, all while keeping our focus on the road ahead.
One thing that may be a dealbreaker for some is that the LifeActiv requires a mounting piece to be permanently attached to the back of your phone using a strong glue. It's not difficult to do, and the mount is slim, but it ultimately adds some volume to your phone. Still, we didn't mind dealing with the extra bulk in exchange for long blissful runs with little time lost to fidgeting with an armband. Another important thing to note is that this armband doesn't offer any protection from the elements since your phone isn't encased in a sleeve of any kind. However, if you're a serious runner who needs GPS navigation and likes to switch up your playlist often, we think you will enjoy this model.
The LOVPHONE Armband is a super affordable armband offering solid performance. This model gives you a convenient way to carry your phone along to track your fitness, and we recommend it for those who don't intend to utilize apps or switch up playlists during their run. This armband doesn't move once it is strapped into place, meaning it won't chafe, allowing you to focus on your run. A small pouch behind the main phone pocket gives you another safe place to stash tiny essentials like a key or credit card, and there is a little velcro tab to keep your headphone cord from flying all over the place.
Although this armband keeps your phone safe and secure, it isn't easy to use apps or make adjustments to your music on the fly. The clear plastic cover allows for tapping, pinching, and swiping, but you'd have to contort yourself to actually see what's on the screen, and you'll definitely need to stop running to use your phone. If you're the type of runner who likes to "set it and forget it" while focusing on putting miles under your feet, this is the armband for you.
Initially, we were skeptical about the thin padded strap on the Tune Belt Sport, but we were pleasantly surprised a few miles in to realize it stayed in place well and was actually quite comfortable. Its comfort is owed to the mostly neoprene construction. The thin velcro strap is easily adjustable while on the move, allowing you to promptly change the band's position to get a better view of the screen. The neoprene sleeve and clear plastic screen cover also add a bit of weather protection.
It's not too challenging to remove the phone from the band, but only our most determined and dexterous testers could place the phone back in the sleeve without removing the band from their arm. The plastic screen cover allows for touchscreen operation but slightly impacts the touch response of the screen. All in all, the Tune Belt Sport occupies a happy medium between a floating mount style armband and a more protective sleeve, while offering comfort for the long haul.
"One size fits all" is a bold claim, but the Newppon 180 delivers with a grippy silicone mount that stretches to accommodate devices as large as an iPad mini securely. We even tested it with a smaller iPhone 5, and it remained in place as we sprinted our way through our tests. There is no sleeve to interfere with the screen, and the rotation function makes it much easier to see the screen and use your phone while it's still attached to your arm.
This armband employs a solid plastic component to keep the phone firmly in place, and there is very little material to pad the plastic. If the band isn't situated high enough on your bicep, it can feel uncomfortable. When worn over a shirt sleeve in colder weather, this was less of an issue. We also found that the advertised keyholder is a bit small to hold most keys securely. If you're always upgrading to the newest device, this armband is a good choice since it can handle many different models and case sizes.
Do you loathe the feeling of your phone shaking and wiggling against your arm as you run? Are you looking for an armband that will hold your phone as snugly against your arm as possible? The low-profile Tribe Fitness Water Resistant Armband is a solution for folks who just want a simple, effective way to run with their phone without having it flop around annoyingly in their pocket. Additionally, the Tribe provides a key holder pocket and a headphone clip without adding any extra bulk.
If your phone is in a bulky protective case, you may need to remove the case to fit your phone in the slim neoprene sleeve. The armband has a snug fit, so removing the phone from the sleeve while the band is still on your arm feels nearly impossible. Although the neoprene backing feels soft against the skin, our testers occasionally felt the vinyl front piece poke them in the arm. For those who don't want to fuss with their phone while hammering out the miles, the Tribe Armband will do the trick.
On this armband, Tribe utilizes a removable and rotatable mount to alleviate the challenges associated with in-stride phone access and usage. The Tribe Fitness Running Phone Holder has the ultimate feature set to provide incredible accessibility, so you can use your phone with minimal interruption to your activity.In reality, this mounting system is not as smooth or user friendly as the
LifeActiv armband. The entire mount slides out to disconnect from the armband, but it requires some effort, and it's easy to accidentally pull the phone out of the silicone bands if you don't grab it just right. Additionally, the mount holds the phone farther away from your arm than other systems. This causes the phone to jiggle around more. Fortunately, this band can fit various device sizes with no need to permanently attach a mounting piece to your device. If you're looking for a decent and more affordable alternative to the LifeActiv armband, this band is a good option.
The E-tronic Edge Armband Sleeve is unique among its contenders. It consists of a one-piece lycra sleeve with a zippered pouch. This design has many advantages, such as comfortable straps, no pressure points, a key or card pocket, and a zippered pouch that can fit most phone sizes. If you nail the sizing, the whole sleeve stays put nicely at the base of your elbow.
The zippered pouch keeps your device secure, but it isn't easy to unzip while it's on your arm. More often than not, pulling the zipper tab just ends up pulling the sleeve up or down your arm without opening the pouch. This armband can also be difficult to put on over a long-sleeved shirt or a jacket. Forget about accessing your phone or messing with your apps while wearing this armband, but if you're a smartwatch owner who pairs their device with some wireless headphones, this unique sleeve may be the most comfortable choice.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review comes to you from lifelong runners Matt Bento and Hannah Hall. Both are seasoned gear testers who are very critical of their equipment. From backcountry slogs to urban marathons, these two have enough miles under their feet to know how much a comfortable armband can enhance a run. Matt likes to curate long playlists to stay focused as the miles go by, while Hannah likes to adjust the music on her phone mid-run, blasting the right tunes to charge the next hill, or check her GPS app to monitor her progress. Their diverse preferences and needs provide for a complete and comprehensive assessment of the top cell phone armbands.
We did the majority of the testing by strapping these armbands on and hitting the local trails and neighborhood streets. We also wore the armbands while performing various exercises like pushups, pullups, and burpees. We paid special attention to how comfortable each model felt on our arms, how easy it is to view our phone's screen and use apps while the armband is strapped on, and how much movement or wiggle we felt while we ran. We conducted our tests with three different phones of varying sizes.
Analysis and Test Results
We identified four key metrics to evaluate armbands. Comfort was first and foremost. Although comfort can be somewhat subjective, the Tune Belt Sport is an easy favorite. Ease of use also greatly affected our choice in armbands, with the LifeActiv coming up on top due to how easy it is to attach and remove our phones while the band is strapped to our arms. We took versatility into account, specifically asking, "can this armband fit a variety of phone sizes?" Finally, we looked at stability, paying close attention to the movement of our devices and whether or not the armbands shifted on our arms.
Why do you need an armband?
Although you can keep your phone in a pocket, fanny pack, or backpack, an armband will give you the most access to your device with the least interference to your workout. Most athletic wear has small pockets (or none at all), and the feeling of a phone jostling around while you move can be distracting or downright uncomfortable. Anyone running longer distances with a small backpack will need to stop their activity and remove the pack to operate their phones. If your earbuds aren't wireless, you'll need to run the cord down your shirt or out of half-opened zippers to connect to your device. Many armbands also include a clip or velcro tab to manage the slack in your headphone cord. All these small conveniences add up to a lot of what will improve your running or workout experience.
A comfortable armband can encourage you to rack up the miles while listening to your favorite songs. An uncomfortable armband, in contrast, will have you turning around and heading home in disappointment. The most comfortable armbands we tested feature some type of moisture-wicking padding, highly adjustable straps, and soft, flexible components. The least comfortable models had rigid plastic parts that uncomfortably dug into our arms when we bent or stretched, or unpadded straps that pinched or chafed during a long run.
The Tune Belt Sport is a favorite in terms of comfort because it is heavily padded with neoprene and provides good adjustability with its velcro strap. The strap is thin and easy to adjust on the fly and wide enough to avoid pressure points. The E-tronic Edge is also a comfy model, distributing pressure evenly over a soft, stretchy sleeve and forgoing any velcro straps. Because the E-tronic Edge isn't adjustable, it's important to pay attention to the manufacturer's sizing guidelines. Among the removable mount-style armbands, the LifeActiv Armband is the most comfortable, with only a small bit of plastic included for the mounting piece that never interfered with our movements.
The less comfortable models were the mount-style with larger plastic components like the Newppon 180 Rotatable and the Tribe Fitness Running Phone Holder. While neither were particularly bothersome while running, we noticed the rigid plastic poking our arms during specific exercises and stretching positions.
Ease of Use
Some runners like to "set it and forget it," strapping their armband on and enjoying their infinite playlist as the miles fly by. Most of us, however, will need to occasionally access our phones to change up the tunes, check our splits, or glance at a GPS app. Although we'd like to ignore our phones while running, constant connectivity is a necessity for some, so being able to quickly access your phone to receive a call is an important function. When assessing ease of use, we looked at how quickly we could strap on and remove the armbands, how difficult it was to see our screens and perform basic functions like texting and choosing songs, as well as whether or not we could remove our phones without removing the entire armbands.
The LifeActiv Armband easily takes the cake when it comes to convenience. After installing a thin plastic mounting piece to the back of your phone or phone case, you can easily attach it to the band on your arm, and remove it again by clicking the lock switch and twisting the phone. Then you can quickly check Strava, switch to your favorite metal playlist, slap your phone back in place, and run off into the sunset.
Armbands with rotating mounts like the Tribe Running Armband and the Newppon allow you to change the viewing angle to make reading and typing a little easier while the phone is on your arm. This means you don't have to bend or crane your neck as much to use your phone as you do with a fixed armband.
Armbands with clear plastic screen shields like the Lovphone Armband and the Tune Belt Sport offer some protection for your phone while letting you see and manipulate the screen. However, they can't provide the same accuracy or sensitivity as an unprotected screen. The E-tronic Edge holds your phone in a zippered pouch. You'll need to completely remove your phone from the pouch to use it.
Almost all the models we tested employed some form of velcro strap to cinch the armband down and secure it to your arm. The Tune Belt is the quickest and easiest to adjust, and most others are close behind. The advantage of the velcro strap design is that you can adjust the tightness of the band and easily put it on over a jacket or long sleeve shirt. The E-tronic Edge employs a strapless sleeve design that you slide on over your arm. It's comfortable but very frustrating to put on over a shirt sleeve.
A versatile armband would ideally fit a variety of devices and help you avoid buying a new armband whenever you have to get a new phone. The Newppon 180 Rotatable and the Tribe Phone Holder both have stretchy silicone bands that secure phones in place surprisingly well and accommodate devices as small as an iPhone 5 all the way up to an iPad mini.
Assuming that new phones will continue to keep getting bigger, the sleeve-style armbands are not as accommodating. In our testing, putting a small phone in a sleeve that is too big for it didn't detract from our experience at all. After you cinch down the velcro, even a small phone won't move around. The E-tronic Edge has a pretty stretchy pouch that could hold a small phone, keys, and even a couple of energy gel packets.
Extra features also enhance a model's versatility. The Lovphone Armband, both Tribe armbands, and the Newppon include a key holder. With the exceptions of the LifeActiv and the E-tronic Edge, every armband had a small velcro clip to remove slack from your headphone cords and prevent them from flying all over the place.
Closely linked to comfort, stability refers to how much a device moves around or jiggles in the armband as you move. Some users may not find this to be an issue, but many of our testers found too much movement to be infuriating. If your phone feels like it's bouncing all over the place while secured in an armband, you might as well just keep it in your pocket. Although some models permitted more movement than others, none of the armbands had us worried that our phones would fall out.
The sleeve-style armbands are certainly the most stable, holding our phones snugly in place, especially after cranking down on the velcro straps. These include the Tune Belt Sport, the Lovphone, the Tribe Water Resistant Armband, and the E-tronic Edge.
Less stable are the floating mount-style armbands. The wiggle factor here seems to depend on how far away the mount holds the phone and can be compounded by the size of your device. The LifeActiv is the most stable. It keeps the phone mount close to the armband and includes a locking mechanism. On the Tribe Running Phone Holder, the mount sits farther away, and we found that this caused the phone to move quite a bit while we ran.
We hope you find that this deep-dive into cell phone armbands helps you find the best product to get you off and running. Remember, the whole point of these armbands is to provide more comfort and convenience than running with a phone in your pocket. Pay special attention to the size of your phone and the size of your arms when ordering an armband, and consider how much you like to tinker with your phone while you run.
— Matt Bento
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