6 Ways To Carry A Smartphone While Running

Hi there, I’m Alissa, a recreational trail and ultrarunner with over 10 years of running experience. Slow and steady is my mantra.

When I first started running, amidst all the issues of form and shoes and warmups and training plans, one of my biggest unexpected questions was: How do I carry my phone while running?

Whether for communication, maps, music, emergencies, or to track our workouts, a smartphone is an essential piece of running gear for many of us. But as smartphone screens grow ever-larger, our options for carrying them keep shrinking. For me, running offers the ultimate feeling of freedom. Clutching a phone in my sweaty hands or feeling it bounce and chafe against my skin is a maddening distraction.

Though nothing is truly perfect, there are some good options for running with a phone these days. In this post I’ll lay out all the options and explain their pros and cons, so you can choose what’s best for you and get on with enjoying your run. If you’re convinced your phone is too big to run with, think again! It’s just a matter of finding the right way to carry it.

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In Your Hand

Let’s start with this, because I’m a firm believer that not everything requires fancy gear. Sometimes the best way to carry a phone while running is… to just carry it. I have carried my smartphone in my hand on short or medium runs plenty of times. It’s not my favorite, but it’s actually not that bad either. And the best part: it’s completely free.

To make this even easier and reduce the risk of dropping your precious phone, add one of these ring grips to the back. There’s even this hand strap phone holder thingy, which I haven’t tried, but it looks promising if you’re worried about losing your grip.

Pros of running with phone in hand:

  • Cheap or free
  • Simple
  • Easy access to your phone

Cons of running with phone in hand:

  • Potential for dropping
  • No water protection (might I suggest a ziplock baggie)
  • No extra room for keys or credit card (hopefully you have a small pocket in your shorts)
  • Can encourage asymmetric gait
  • Requires one of your hands, obviously

Running Shorts Pocket

This is one of my favorite ways to run with a phone because it’s accessible, comfy, and safe. If I’m going for a short run and don’t need a hydration vest, my shorts pocket is my go-to. I have a whole drawer of running shorts I bought primarily for the pocket space, and some work better than others.

Running with a phone in your pocket used to be a lot easier for men than women. Pretty much all my husband’s running shorts have a deep side pocket that can fit a smartphone, even if it’s not designed for that purpose.

Many of my own women’s running shorts, on the other hand, have tiny pockets that appear to be designed for a single sports gel. Fortunately more running clothing companies are getting with the program these days and making pants with phone-sized pockets for everyone.

The most comfortable place for a phone pocket in running shorts is generally along the thigh in a tight-fitting short. If you like the style of tight shorts, figuring out what to do with your phone while running is easier: look for a side thigh pocket on the outside. If you like to run in loose breezy shorts, look for those with an inner liner that has a hidden pocket.

My Brooks 2-in-1 short has a clever hidden pocket in the liner that’s just large enough for a smartphone.

Here are examples of women’s running shorts and tights with pockets big enough for smartphones:

And for the guys:

Pros of running with a phone in your pocket:

  • Leaves hands free
  • Less risk of dropping

Cons of phone in pocket:

  • Limits your choice of running shorts to those with big pockets (and we all know the right pair of running shorts is already hard enough to find)
  • May or may not be easy to access depending on pocket design
  • Phone can get sweaty (consider a ziplock bag cover for sweat and rain)
  • Can bounce awkwardly if shorts are not a good fit, causing chafing

Water Bottles, Belts, and Packs

If you’ve already solved the problem of how to carry water while running, you may also have a solution for where to put your phone while running. Most hydration vests, packs, and belts will easily fit a phone.

For long runs the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta is my current go-to hydration vest, though there are many different vest options to choose from. For shorter runs, the Nathan Speedshot Plus handheld bottle holds my phone and keeps me hydrated (check the dimensions, as it may not be large enough for all phones).

Pros of carrying your phone in your water pack/belt/bottle contraption:

  • Both hands free if using a pack or belt
  • Offers some protection from the elements
  • Low risk of dropping

Cons of belts/packs/bottles:

  • More expensive
  • Have to take phone out to use it, which can be tough with certain packs
  • Can be cumbersome and only makes sense if your run is long enough to require carrying water

Hip Belt

If your route isn’t hot or long enough to require water but you still want to carry a phone on your run, consider a simple waist belt with a phone pocket. This leaves your hands free and opens up your running short options to those without pockets. Personally I’ve never become a long-term belt user despite trying several — they were too fiddly to access mid-run or didn’t sit well over my waist band — but many runners swear by them.

It’s really important to find a good fit when choosing a running belt, or you’ll have issues with bouncing and chafing. Wide and flat bands like the Flip Belt, StashBandz, and Nathan Hipster are popular because they tend to minimize these issues.

Pros of using a running belt to carry your phone:

  • Keeps your hands free
  • Protects your phone from accidental drops

Cons of running belts:

  • Needs to fit well or it will bounce and chafe
  • Phone can get sweaty (protect it with a ziplock baggie)

Armband

Runners have been using arm bands to carry a phone while running for quite a while, and there are plenty of options available. This was one of the first solutions I tried over a decade ago. Personally I didn’t like it, but I think that’s because I have small arms (need to work on my bicep curls…). I also think the available products have improved since then.

Depending on the model there might be a clear touchscreen window or just a cloth pocket. Some have clever features like a rotating mount so you can see your phone while it’s on your arm. Here are two contrasting options that are both popular, with many 4+ star ratings on Amazon:

Pros of running with a phone in an armband:

  • Cheap
  • Keeps your hands free
  • Protects your phone (some claim to be water resistant)
  • Convenient placement if using wired earbuds
  • Sometimes possible to see your phone without taking it out

Cons of arm bands:

  • Can bounce, chafe, or slide if not a good fit
  • Sometimes awkward for people with small arms
  • Hard to use phone while in sleeve, and can be hard to get in and out depending on the model
  • Weird tan lines, if I’m being honest

If you want to try an arm band, look for one that’s easily adjustable, won’t chafe your arm, and is easy to get the phone in and out of, if that’s something you tend to do while on the run.

Sports Bra

Ladies, we often lose out in the running shorts pocket game, but we do have one option the guys don’t for carrying our phones while running: sports bra pockets! Obviously bra fit is a personal thing and this may not work for everyone, but this affordable pocket sports bra includes a back pocket for a smartphone and gets surprisingly good reviews. Might be worth a try!

Pros of sports bra pockets for carrying a phone:

  • Convenient location for using wired earbuds
  • Hands free
  • Protects phone from being dropped

Cons of bra pockets:

  • Phone can get sweaty (use a plastic ziplock)
  • Can be difficult and/or awkward to get the phone in and out of the pocket
  • Can be uncomfortable for some women
  • Finding a good sports bra fit is hard enough already, let’s not complicate it further

Whichever method you end up choosing, I hope this helps you find the best way to carry your phone on your next run. I know it seems like a small thing, but the easier we can make this for ourselves, the more likely we are to get out there and enjoy the miles.

More Running Tips

I’m thrilled that you’re getting out and running! It’s such a great way to explore and be active. If you’re new to running you might also appreciate these tips I wish I’d known when I first started running.

About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking the Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, and countless shorter amazing trails throughout the US and abroad. I love solitude, big views, and a good lightweight gear setup. Learn more here.

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Pictures of running gear with text: easier ways to carry your phone while running
Pictures of runners with text: comfortable ways to carry a smartphone while running

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