The Best Running Hats to Protect Your Eyes and Face All Year Long

My name is Hilary, and I am a former Floridian. However: despite spending roughly 18 years of my life in the sunshine state, I rarely ever wore hats—and a running hat or cap is something you definitely need if you're going to be out in the sun. Sunny, humid, 90-something degree summers? “Bring on the rays!” declared teenage me. Fiercely squinting my eyes, I forever loved basking by the pool without a rim to block the sun, because who wanted their face and body to be different shades? Not this woman. But nearly a decade later, with no desire to cause wrinkles (both by sun, and, you know, by scrunching my face in order to lessen the light penetrating my eyeballs), I am now in favor of the accessory that covers my head. And more importantly, my face.

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Experts In This Article

Truth be told, I first reconsidered the idea of wearing hats while marathon training (read: running outdoors for hours and hours each week). Frankly, sunglasses—however chic, sporty and stable they may be—were just not cutting it. And so, I decided to take a deep dive into the head accessory I would normally wear only to conceal my hair on its greasiest days.

Whether you’re exercising or walking outside, or simply want some shade while sitting still, here are some cute and functional running caps.

Best running hats and caps

lululemon Fast and Free Running Hat
lululemon Fast and Free Running Hat — $38.00

Designed for running, this hat lightweight hat will keep the sun and sweat out of your eyes. The hat is make of a four-way stretch fabric that’s quick-drying, and there’s an interior sweatband that helps wick moisture away from your head.

On Lightweight Cap
On Lightweight Cap — $40.00

Victoria O’Neil, a NASM-certified personal trainer, recommends this lightweight cap that has an adjustable band and is very cool wicking. It has ventilation on the sides and a soft sweatband on the inside.

UA Shadow Run Adjustable Cap
Under Armour UA Shadow Run Adjustable Cap — $22.00

This stretchy cap is another pick from O’Neil, who says is breathable, form-fitting, and has a reflective logo so people can see you if you’re an early morning or late evening runner. It also has UPF 30, mesh panels for ventilation, and a low profile hook and loop closure that won’t snag on your hair.

Athleta Ultra Light Run Cap 3.0
Athleta Ultra Light Run Cap 3.0 — $31.00

This lightweight cap is breathable, sweat-wicking, and quick-drying to make sure your head stays cool no matter how long your runs are. The nylon ripstop fabric is stretchy and there’s an adjustable strap to keep the hat in place.

brooks propel hat
Brooks Propel Mesh Hat — $36.00

During a late-night run, it’s important to stay safe and visible, and you will definitely be seen in this brightly-colored hat. Mesh paneling enables breathability, and it’s packable so you can take it everywhere you go.

Vineyard Vines Kentucky Derby Hat
Vineyard Vines Kentucky Derby Hat — $34.00

This solid colored hat is easy to match to any outfit, whether your ensemble is bold or back-to-basics. The mesh backing allows for ventilation, and an adjustable closure allows for a desired fit in a snap. Literally.

adidas Women's Superlite Relaxed Fit Performance Hat
adidas Superlite Relaxed Fit Performance Hat — $24.00

Not only does this cap provide UPF 50 sun protection, but it also is made of recycled materials. It’s perforated on the side to give you airflow as you move, and there’s a hook and look back closure for easy adjustability.

Nike Featherlight Running Cap
Nike Featherlight Running Cap — $28.00

Stay comfy and cool with this cap that’s made with breathable, sweat-wicking fabric. There’s perforation around the hat to optimize for air flow and a knit sweatband to keep sweat off your brow. Bonus: the hat is made from at least 50 percent recycled polyester fibers.

TrailHeads Race Day Performance Running Hat
TrailHeads Race Day Performance Running Hat — $21.00

Day or night, this hat makes a great running companion. It has a dark underbill to reduce glare in the bright sun, and a reflective trim to help you stay visible in low light. It has mesh construction that’s super breathable, comes in a variety of colors, and is machine washable.

Columbia Women's Trail Summit Beanie ii
Columbia Women's Trail Summit Beanie ii — $17.00

Hot days aren’t the only time we should all be thinking about protecting our heads while exercising. When it gets colder out, O’Neil says this super fitted beanie will keep your noggin and ears warm yet dry. The fabric is both heat reflective and moisture-wicking, and the beanie is super lightweight and packable.

What to look for in a running hat

When it comes to running hats, you want something that's lightweight, cool-wicking, form fitting, and breathable, says O'Neil. "I sweat a LOT when I run, so I want a lightweight hat that ventilates well and doesn't keep moisture or heat in," she says. "Notice that these are different then your stylish typical baseball caps that are made of wool or cotton that DO not breathe well and collect sweat stains." Instead, O'Neil recommends looking for polyester or other fabrics that breathe well, as well as something with an adjustable strap so you don't have to keep readjusting the hat while you're in the middle of a run.

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