As much as we’d prefer otherwise, wearing facial coverings while running outdoors, at least in well-trafficked spaces, is a reality this fall. The following runner-friendly masks and neck gaiters offer a variety of unique features so you can choose what is best for your particular preferences.
Masks are only effective when the fit is snug enough that there are no gaps. Face coverings must be secured to prevent the slipping down that often results from the jostling of running.
As a bonus to doing your part in fighting a pandemic by wearing a reusable, washable face covering, in many cases the manufacturers donate PPE, money, or love as part of the purchase package. That said, please note that these masks are not intended for medical use, but rather for exercise.
Asics Runners’ Face Cover, $40
The most breathable of the lot, the design by the ASICS Institute of Sports Science concentrates on preventing droplet spread by covering air passages without restricting airflow. The fit provides ample clearance so it doesn’t rub and, thanks to strategic air holes, exhalation is uninhibited, while still restricting moisture droplets in the air. The moisture-wicking inner material is soft on the skin and exterior is water-repellent. The mask is easy to adjust and wear around the neck when not deployed.
Bedgear Performance Mask, $15
It makes sense that a bedding and pillow company would produce the softest mask of the bunch. It is also quick drying, features an inner layer with antimicrobial treatment, and is moisture wicking. But due to its triple-layer construction, it falls on the thick side of the scale and, as such, made it relatively hard to breathe through while running.
Black Diamond, $13
The simplicity of this mask is what makes it work so well: double-layer cotton with one size that truly does fit most. The lack of adjustability and other snazzy features is surpassed by the mask’s comfort, breathability, and value.
BlackStrap Civil Facemask $16
With a dual-layer barrier, these simple, form-fitting masks are lightweight, breathable, and moisture wicking. The inner layer is an antimicrobial plush mesh and the woven outer shell is protective. The tapered design helped the “one size fits most” be true to the mask’s promotion. The fabrics are domestic and repurposed/upcycled.
Buff Filter Mask, $29
If being aerodynamic is the objective, this sleek, form-fitting mask tops the list. The mask is both breathable and adjustable to ride securely on the run. It represents the company’s response to so many using the original Buff as a facial covering, and the fact that the brand is headquartered in hard-hit Spain, which is why the Filter Mask incorporates COVID-safe elements, such as the 3-layer filter that meets surgical mask standards. It is built with 4-way stretch cooling fabric that features an antimicrobial interior mesh treatment, is moisture wicking, and comes with five replacement filters that can be used for approximately 24 hours each (if you reserve the mask for the hour of running you do each day, that can last you about four months, or you can order a pack of 30 replacement filters for $22).
Buff Original Neck Gaiter, $20
When you are running in a quiet area where crossing paths with humankind is rare, wearing a neck gaiter makes a lot of sense: You can easily pull it up during the passing period and then down when distancing can be maintained. That up-and-down convenience and thin, breathable fabrics are why neck gaiters are often graded down in mask testing for aerosols, when measured indoors. But if you don’t run inside, a seamless Buff, especially if doubled up, with a plush feel, four-way stretch, and moisture-wicking ease, is a worthwhile go-to face covering for runners.
Cotopaxi Teca Cotton Face Mask, $13
This soft, lightweight, and breathable mask comes with adjustable ear loops and a nose bridge wire so they feel custom-fit. The multi-colored, reversible designs are bright and made from two layers of unused, repurposed surplus 100% cotton fabric. Besides saving unwanted fabrics from becoming waste, for every mask purchased another is given to someone in need. They were a favorite among testers.
Halo Black Mesh Mask with Nanofiber Filter, $35
This mask got major thumbs up from testers. It comes in four different sizes and, with an under-the-chin wrap, nose clip, and adjustable ear loops, it is sure to provide a secure, conforming, and unrestrictive fit. Highly breathable, thanks to the honeycomb outer material, the mask has an inner pocket to slip in a nanotech filter to protect against airborne nastiness. Each replaceable filter is good for 200 hours of use. The soft bamboo lining and antibacterial and hypoallergenic materials help to make this one of the best on the market.
Icebreaker Flexi Chute, $30
One might think that a 100% merino wool neck gaiter would be hot but, thanks to the thermodynamic qualities of wool, this tube maintained a nice temperature and wicked sweat. Nor did it get stinky. And in cooler temps, the wool provided welcome warmth.
Keen Together Mask, $14 (2 Pack)
Wash and wear; as in wash one while wearing the other. These double-layer cotton canvas masks are slightly boardy and the rigidity has the bonus of providing some breathing room so the mask won’t stick to your face. The ear loops are adjustable and the design contours nicely with the face.
La Sportiva Stratos Mask, $35
This is the mack-daddy of masks for its novel construction, versatility, adjustability, and breathability. It boasts Polygiene antimicrobial treatment and an internal Lycra gaiter for added comfort to the nose and chin. The elastic straps are adjustable and do a fine job securing the flexible support frame with an ergonomic, enveloping shape that fits snugly on a variety of face shapes and sizes. The mask comes with 30 replacement filters but, unfortunately, installing and replacing the filters is somewhat wonky, enough so that most users will likely use the mesh outer mask without them, greatly reducing its effectiveness against droplet release.
Mammut Neck Gaiter, $25
Seamless and stretchy, this quick-drying neck gaiter is well suited for colder-weather runs, when warmth and overall coverage is a plus. It is not a top choice for warmer climes.
Merrow Athletic Mask, $45 (3 Pack)
These soft, double-layer masks feel cotton-like but are made of moisture-wicking, quick-to-dry fabric. The adjustable strap wraps around the neck so you can let the mask dangle when not in use. Testers, however, found the masks thick enough to compromise breathability, making it difficult to run very hard.
Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit, $20
Also a crowd pleaser, Outdoor Research put a lot of thought into these customizable masks with adjustable ear loops, wire nose bridge, and side pockets for securing replaceable paper filters that block more than 95% of virus bacteria and particles. The kit comes with one mask and a three-pack of filters that slide in easily. The durable, comfortable polyester mask fabric is coated with a germ-resistant treatment that is full strength for 30 washes.
Voormi Everyday Neck Gaiter, $35
As a hybrid mask and neck gaiter, this washable dual-surface merino wool blended fabric face covering is versatile and comfortable. Unlike other tube-like neck gaiters, Voormi cut down on bulk by integrating ear loops and using a contoured fit that is shorter in the back and longer in the front. The fabric breaths well, is plush, and has natural odor management qualities.