6 Ways to Carry A Smartphone While Running

So many new runners are hitting the streets and trails in search of fresh air and exercise these days. I think this is fantastic! I’ve been running for about ten years now and can’t imagine my life without it.

But I remember 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.

In this post I’ll lay out all the options for what to do with your phone while running, and explain the pros and cons of each so you can choose what’s best for you and get on with enjoying your run.

In Your Hand

Let’s start with this, because 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 seems promising if you’re worried about losing your grip.

Pros of running with phone in hand:

  • Cheap or free
  • Simple
  • Phone stays easily accessible

Cons of running with phone in hand:

  • Potential for dropping
  • No water protection (might I suggest a ziplock baggie)
  • Requires one of your hands, obviously

Running Shorts Pocket

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, not so much. Most have pockets that appear to be designed for carrying 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.

Brooks 2-in-1 short has a clever hidden pocket in the liner

Here are a few of my favorite 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 wile 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 fits my phone and keeps me hydrated.

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 running waist belt with a phone pocket. This leaves your hands free and opens up your running short options to those without pockets.

It’s important to find a good fit, 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, nearly ten years ago. Personally I didn’t like it, but I think that’s because I have small arms (need to hit those bicep curls…). I also think the available products have improved since then.

Depending on the model they might have a clear touchscreen window or just a cloth pocket, and various other features like a rotating mount so you can see your phone while it’s on your arm. Here are two options that are very different but 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 these may not work for everyone, but the Nike Swoosh Pocket Bra is a creative solution. This more affordable option places the pocket in the back which may work better for some women.

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. 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 or say hi.

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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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