Whether you’re training or racing, the moment your runs start ticking above the 90 minute mark, you need a way to top up your energy levels. Energy gels are a popular choice for bringing a big hit of carbs in a relatively portable package.
But you still need to find a way to carry them – along with all your other paraphernalia, keys, cash, phone, and travel cards. That’s where running belts come in.
Belts make it easy to stash your running essentials and keep your running fuel right where you need it. But with so many shapes, sizes and brands, it can be hard to know where to start when you’re choosing one that’ll work best for you. We’re here to help. If it’s time for you to beef up your mid-run storage, here’s our guide to the best running gel belts in 2022.
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How to choose the best running gel belt for you
When you’re choosing the best running gel belt for your needs, there are a few key considerations. Here’s a checklist of what to look for first.
Think about all the things you might want to carry on your longest runs. Your maximum haulage if you like. Then choose a belt that’ll accommodate them all but also works if you’re only porting half the gear on shorter runs. If you own a monster-sized smartphone, double check it’ll fit, because not all belts swallow the larger phones.
You want a belt that hugs tight and stays firmly in place without any distracting bounce. But it shouldn’t feel constricting. If you want extra flexibility (we’ve all had those undo-a-button days) and the ability to get a precise fit, adjustable belts are best. Non-adjustables tend to be made of stretchy fabric and will still flex a bit but might leave less wiggle room.
The lighter the better really. You don’t want to feel like a pack horse. Most running gel belts use lightweight materials to avoid weighing you down and affecting your form. But you also want to strike a balance between minimal, disappearing fabrics and a belt that’s durable, too.
Comfort is king here. Some running belt straps can be a bit scratchy or dig in, even over a t-shirt. Look for softer fabrics that are light, breathable and sweat-wicking. If you’re carrying your phone, it also helps if they’re waterproof or have a waterproof inner compartment. Some may even have anti-bacterial protection to ward off nasty stinks so you’re not washing it after every run.
The biggie: How many gels will it fit?. If you’re running for four hours you might need to carry as many as 12 gels. Veloforte’s energy gels for running deliver 22g carbs in a compact packet that takes up less space than most other, bulkier gels.
Some belts have individual loops for carrying gels like you’re wearing some kind of cowboy carbohydrate ammo belt. Others have zippable or stretch mesh pockets for keeping them locked safely inside. The best belts also have separate compartments so you can keep your phone away from any potentially sticky fuel.
Gel and hydration belts also feature hip holster-style holders for small water bottles. These tend to be small bottles, up to around 250ml. That’s enough water to wash down a gel or top up your running hydration between aid stations.
The little extras can make a big difference. Check if the belt you’re considering has key hooks for locking keys and headphone charging cases firmly in place; race number toggles, reflectivity for added night safety or holes to run your cables through if you’re using wired headphones.
Best running gel belts at a glance
- Flipbelt Zipper
- The North Face Race Ready Belt
- Lululemon Fast and Free Belt
- Inov-8 Race Elite Waist
- Nathan Trailmix Plus Insulated Hydration Belt
- Ronhill Marathon Waist Belt
Best for all-round versatility
The Flipbelt Zipper is a waistband-style belt made from a soft, moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabric. It’s essentially one single tubular compartment that wraps right around your waist, with three access points: two open to the sides and one main front zippered opening for extra security. It’ll happily hold extra-large phones, at least half a dozen gels, has a built-in key hook and sits comfy against your waist whether it’s fully loaded or just carrying a few items.
Watch the Flipbelt Zipper review here:
The North Face Race Ready Belt
Best for fast racing, from marathons to ultras
Another waistband running and gel belt, the Race Ready Belt is incredibly lightweight. It’s made from a stretchy, breathable, wicking fabric that has a water-repellent coating for added weather protection. Like the Flipbelt it’s designed to be worn snug on the waist but not so tight it’s restrictive.
Stowage includes a zippered front pocket for storing your phone, cash and cards and an ultra-friendly back pocket for porting running poles. Plus there’s a water bottle pocket, a gel stash pocket (though you can use the main pocket for gel storage too) and toggles for attaching race numbers.
Watch the Race Ready Belt review here:
Lululemon Fast and Free
Best for comfort and style
This more traditional running belt has slightly less overall capacity compared to the waistband belts. It features one large main zippered compartment for transporting your phone, plus two side drop-in pockets – one with a key hook that you can use to stash keys – cards, gels and all your other running essentials.
The belt strap is adjustable so you can find a more precise fit, it’s easy to get on and off . It’s also made from the same fabric Lululemon uses to make its leggings, so it’s nicely soft and a touch more stylish than most other functional gel belts.
Watch the Lululemon Fast and Free belt review here:
Inov-8 Race Elite Waist
Best for big storage and self sufficient trail adventures
If you’re after something with a bit more storage, perhaps for those 12-hour trail ultras, this inov-8 Elite pack is it. You get a whopping great 3-litre capacity central pocket that boasts plenty of room for all your obligatory race kit including, waterproof jacket, trousers, safety blanket and plenty of race nutrition.
There’s also side stash pockets and a flask pocket that’s compatible with a 500ml ultraflask for additional storage. This is ideal for raising your self sufficiency game. But it’s versatile too. On runs where you’re carrying less, bungee cords let you compress the pack so it’s not flapping around.
Nathan Trailmix Plus Insulated Hydration Belt
Best for hydration on the move
If you want to increase your mid-run hydration options, this fluid holster belt combines stash space for two 300ml insulated flasks with multiple storage pockets for gels, bars and fuel, plus enough space for a smart phone in a main zippered compartment.
The insulated flasks can be grabbed and replaced one handed and that insulation keeps your fluids cooler for longer. The quick release buckle and adjustable harness also make it easy to find a more precise, bounce-free fit.
Watch the Nathan Trailmix Belt review here:
Ronhill Marathon Waist Belt
Best running belt for gels on the go
When you’re running flat out chasing a marathon PB, it’s not always easy – or desirable – to faff around with zips or reach stash pockets to grab your energy gels. This belt solves that problem with eight gel loops on the band that’ll happily carry gels up 60ml in size.
You also get a stretchy main zippered compartment, though it’s a tight squeeze for the biggest smartphones. The adjustable strap makes for a stable fit and it also has race number toggles so you don’t have to suffer the indignity of pinning your race number on wonky. Has anyone ever pinned one of those on straight?
You’ve got your belt, now get your gels
Now that you’ve got the best running belt to carry your essentials, it’s time to stock up on running fuel.
Veloforte’s energy gels are the perfect combination of delicious, powerful and portable, ideal for training and racing. Don’t start a marathon or a long Sunday run without them.
You might also have room to squeeze in some of our natural hydration powders to top up your electrolytes. And if you’re running or racing long, maybe even a protein recovery bar to kickstart the bounce back once the hard work is done.