Photo: Matt Trappe/Tandemstock

How To Choose the Right Running Hat

A quality lid can make your run more comfortable.

A hat may seem like an optional accessory for running. Compared with essentials like running shoes, it is. But for many runners, the right hat is the difference between an enjoyable run and an uncomfortable, sun-scorched one. 

Running hats do triple duty: They protect your face and the top of your head from UV exposure, they cut down glare on bright, sunny days, and they wick sweat off your brow to keep it from dripping into your eyes. Many brands make running-specific hats, available in several styles with a considerable amount of features. Not to worry: Choosing a hat for making miles by trails or road isn’t something to flip your lid about. Here’s your guide to finding the right running hat for you.

Running Hat Styles

Combining hardworking performance features with sleek, stylish designs, there are four main types of running hats to know.

Caps

These low-profile hats look similar to baseball caps, but they’re made of lightweight materials better suited to running. Brim length—how far the brim extends from your forehead—ranges from very short (like a cycling cap) to full length (like a traditional baseball cap).

Trucker Hats

These hats have flatter brims and a fuller head shape compared to baseball-style caps. They also usually have open mesh backs and sides (great for breathability) and polyester front panels.

Bucket Hats

A common sight on beaches and fishing trips, these soft, flexible, circular hats have a small brim running all the way around the perimeter. Although less common than other styles, there are some running-specific bucket hat models on the market.

Caps with Sun-Protection Flaps

These caps have removable flaps that attach to the back, designed to provide added sun protection for the back of your neck.

Visors

These simple hats are basically just a brim that shields your face from the sun and wicks sweat from your brow. While their open-top design leaves your head exposed to the sun, it also maximizes heat venting to keep you cool. 

Protection and Performance

Running caps need to strike a balance between protecting you from the elements and preventing you from overheating or drowning in sweat as you run. 

Sweat-Wicking and Quick-Drying

Most hats and visors intended for running have sweat-wicking panels sewn into the brow. They’re made of either a terry cloth-like material or smooth polyester blends that can wick moisture and dry quickly. These panels help keep sweat from dripping into and stinging your eyes.

The rest of the hat should also be made of sweat-wicking, quick-drying material such as a polyester blend. Stay away from hats made from cotton—they’ll just soak up sweat and get heavy.

Sun and Heat Protection

Many running hats feature UPF-rated fabrics that block the sun’s harmful UV rays and keep your head from getting sunburned. Caps with a solid fabric across the top of the head will offer more sun protection than a visor or an open-mesh trucker hat. For extra heat relief, some hats even have a small pocket meant to hold ice to keep you cool.

Weather Protection

Some caps are made from water-resistant and water-proof, breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex. These hats are a good choice for wet climates or winter running as they’ll prevent your head from getting soaked with rain and snow.

Breathability

As with all running apparel, breathability is key. Look for caps made with breathable fabrics like polyester that will let heat escape from your head. Mesh paneling is especially breathable but sacrifices sun protection; perforated fabrics can be a good compromise between protection and breathability.

Additional Features 

Consider a few other features when shopping for a running cap.

Adjustability

Caps, trucker hats, and visors are usually size-adjustable via a snapback or Velcro closure at the rear. Bucket hats are usually not adjustable, but some have a band sewn into them that allows you to fine-tune the fit.

Foldability

Some runners prioritize foldability when choosing a running hat. A foldable hat is easy to shove into a running pack (or the waistband of your shorts) when conditions change. They’re also easier to pack when traveling.

Dark Brim

If glare is a concern, look for a hat that has a dark-colored underside on its brim. That dark color absorbs light (rather than reflecting it into your eyes), reducing glare. 

Reflectivity

If you frequently run in low-light conditions or at night, look for hats with reflective details. They’ll make you more visible to traffic.

Pockets

Some hats come with a small pocket sewn into them. This pocket is good for storing small, lightweight items (like a house key) that you don’t need to access while running.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.