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The best face masks for runners 2021

Running with face covering
(Image credit: Vadym Pastukh / Shutterstock)

The laws on face masks vary greatly between countries, states and even cities, but even if wearing a face covering isn't mandatory where you live, you may still choose to wear one when you're outdoors to minimize the spread of coronavirus.

Wearing a mask while traveling to work and running errands is one thing, but wearing one while you're running or working out is quite different, and a face covering can easily become hot and uncomfortable when you're working hard. That's why many well-known sports brands have brought out their own coverings specially designed for sports.

The masks vary greatly, but all do a good job of keeping material away from your nostrils, helping you breathe more easily than a handmade cotton mask, and all are washable and reusable.

We've tested a sample of the most popular masks on a hill running session and an indoor spin class to test their breathability and comfort (note that none of them are designed for medical use). We'll be extending this guide in the near future as we put more masks through their paces.

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Asics Runner's Face Cover

(Image credit: Asics)

1. Asics Runner's Face Cover

The most comfortable face mask for tough workouts

Specifications
Colors: Navy
Sizes: One size, adjustable
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of room inside+Fully adjustable+Breathable panel
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

The structured design of the Asics Runner's Face Cover means there's plenty of room inside so you don't have damp material pressed against your mouth when you're breathing hard. There's a special breathable panel at the chin to allow for improved airflow without letting through droplets.

It's the only mask in this guide that fastens at the back, which means there's no pressure on your ears and it's very unlikely to come away accidentally. It's tightened at the back of the head with a toggle and secured with rubber cord adjusters, enabling you to get a secure but comfortable fit.

The only downside is the price – at $40/£35 (about AU$55), it's one of the most expensive masks around, though its robust build quality means it should last a long time. We've put ours through the washing machine on a high temperature at least 30 times, and it still looks like new.

Under Armour UA Sportsmask

(Image credit: Under Armour)

2. Under Armour UA Sportsmask

Extremely soft and comfortable for long endurance sessions

Specifications
Colors: Black, gray, navy, purple, red
Sizes: XS/S, M/L, L/XL
Reasons to buy
+Anti-microbial coating+Very soft and comfortable+Includes hygienic carry bag
Reasons to avoid
-Not a very close fit under eyes 

Under Armour's soft, comfortable face covering is the only one in this test to come with a hygienic pouch so you can put it safely away when you've finished your workout until you're ready to wash it. 

Both the bag and the lining of the face cover itself have an anti-microbial treatment, which helps prevent odors, and the mask is filled with polyurethane foam that's breathable but also captures droplets from your breath.

Like the Asics mask above, it's structured to give you plenty of space inside to breathe comfortably, though in our tests it didn't fit quite so closely under the eyes, which could cause fogging if you're wearing glasses or shades.

The UA Sportsmask isn't adjustable, but it comes in three sizes so you can choose a comfortable fit, and the ear loops are made from soft, stretchy material that won't dig in or pull. Just make sure you choose the right size my measuring your face using the instructions on the website before ordering to make sure you get the correct fit.

Caraa Sport Mask

(Image credit: Caraa)

3. Caraa Sports Mask

Well designed, with optional disposable filters

Specifications
Colors: Black, neutral, neon, Harajuku
Sizes: Junior, Adult, Large
Reasons to buy
+Close fit around eyes and nose+Optional disposable filter layer+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Lining might stick to face

The most noticeable difference between the Caraa Sports Mask and the others in this test is the flexible wire embedded in the nose area that allows you to fit the mask snugly onto your face with no gaps under your eyes. We've put the mask through the washing machine several times, and there's no sign of the wire deteriorating so far.

The mask has two layers of fabric; the outer is a breatheable material similar to the upper of a sports shoe, while the interior is closely woven cotton. It's possible to slip a disposable filter in between these layers, In our tests the inner layer tended to get sucked against our face sometimes, but the advantage of the extra filter layer meant we were willing to tolerate that small inconvenience.

It's good value, with a pack of three costing $25 (about £20 / AU$30), three sizes (junior, adult and large), and a range of colors. Adjustable ear straps make the mask comfortable to wear, even for long events, with simple toggles to keep them in place.

Adidas face cover

(Image credit: Adidas)

4. Adidas Face Cover

A good value multipack for workouts on consecutive days

Specifications
Colors: Blue, black
Sizes: XS/S, M/L
Reasons to buy
+Supplies in packs of three+Very affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Fits close to mouth-Less coverage under eyes

Of all the masks on test here, the Adidas Face Cover is the most affordable, with a pack of three coming in at just $20/£14.95/AU$12. Not only is that much cheaper than the Asics and Under Armour masks, it also means you'll always have a clean mask to hand when one is in the wash.

Unfortuntely, we found that the Adidas mask fitted much more closely than the other two, touching our lips and making our workout a little clammier than we would have liked. It doesn't fit very securely under the eyes, either giving less coverage here than the other two.

If you don't mind the close fit, it's a soft and comfortable mask that provides two layers of material to stop droplets and takes up minimal space when not being worn.

The Adidas Face Cover isn't adjustable, but comes in two sizes designed to fit most adults. The largest of these is M/L, so if you think you'd prefer a large mask to avoid pulling on your ears, you'd be better off with one of the other options.