I've been a runner for a long time, but I didn't start out running with my iPhone. For years I only carried an iPod Shuffle clipped to my shirt, and before that I ran without audio. It wasn't until I started building a running app called Runtime around 4 years ago that I decided to strap my iPhone to my bicep when I went for a run.
I was never particularly happy with any of the iPhone arm bands that I used. I've owned a few, mostly made by name brands like Belkin. They've all had essentially the same set of problems:
- They aren't very comfortable. All of mine were held tight with velcro, that could occasionally chafe on your arm. It's easy for them to be too tight, or to slide down for being too lose. When you're running you always notice that it's there. Depending on your build, extra weight on one side can throw you off balance while running.
- They smell terrible. Even if you throw it in the wash machine with your gym clothes, they continue to smell like you just went for a run.
- They leave your phone vulnerable to getting sweaty. I went through a phase where I tried putting my phone in a ziplock inside of the armband to try to protect it, but I gave up. Being on your arm, directly next to your skin, they have no protection from sweat or moisture.
So when I decided to get an iPhone 6 Plus and realized that there was no way in hell it would fit in a running arm band, I wasn't exactly disappointed.
Running belts have been a trend for a while now in large part because of how well they solve the problems I laid out above. They're comfortable, and not overly distracting while running. They're worn over your shorts or short which makes them get far less sweaty, and they usually offer quite a bit of protection to your phone. Some even hold other things, like keys or energy gels. All in all, they're actually a much better solution for a lot of runners, but they also happen to be the obvious choice for iPhone 6 Plus runners.
Immediately after ordering my iPhone 6 Plus I went on Amazon and started looking at running belts. They weren't expensive, so I decided to order three completely different varieties and try them all out. As someone who runs almost daily with an iPhone 6 Plus and one of these belts, I thought I would share my opinions on what I do and do not like about each of them.
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Although I appreciate the protection offered by many water-resistant belts, protection from the elements wasn't a requirement for me when considering a running belt. I'm used to avoiding the rain when I go for a run, but I also appreciate a minimal design. The Amphipod AirFlow belt is a very minimal belt with a thin waist band and mesh pocket. It's light weight and quite comfortable.
One thing I like about the Amphipod is that I can see through the mesh to read the screen on my iPhone. If I get a notification I can flip the belt up to read it without taking the phone out. Likewise, you can actually control the screen through the mesh. Obviously typing out a text message is out of the question, but finding the pause/skip buttons on the audio controls is easy to do.
The Amphipod is also ideal for going to the gym. Because of how thin the band is, and the position of the buckle on the side rather than your back, it's comfortable to use the Amphipod belt while working out with benches/weights.
At this point you may be wondering where people position their phone on their body while using a running belt. Personally, I wear my phone on my front, right around my waist. To me it's more comfortable than wearing it on my back. I don't have any issues with my phone bouncing if I carry it in front of me. It seems to bounce more if I wear it behind me. It also poses less risk of the dreaded bending than if I wore it on my side. After a few months use my 6 Plus is still straight and level, but you can never be too careful.
The only thing I don't like about the Amphipod is the size of the phone pocket. The pocket is large enough for a 6 Plus, but just barely. The phone fits fine once inside, but you have to fiddle with it a bit to get it into the pocket. It's not a big deal when I leave to start my run, but this isn't the sort of belt you would want to use if you plan to pull your phone out of your pocket often while on a walk or a jog.
One thing you have to love about the Tapp C belt is the price. At just under $5 you really can't beat it, even if you were going to make a belt yourself.
In slight contrast to the Amphipod, the Tapp C pocket is just about the perfect size for the 6 Plus. It's easy to take my phone in and out of the Tapp C while out on the go if I need to snap a picture or change podcasts. It's also got enough space to add a gel pack or energy bar if I'm heading out for a longer run or going out on the trail.
The belt on the Tapp C is comfortable but it's also fairly large. The band is thick and wide and the buckle is downright industrial grade. For the cheap price this belt feels relatively sturdy, but I could see it being too much for some people.
The Tapp C has become a good choice for me when I go out for a longer run. It's not comfortable to use at the gym though, so for my shorter workouts or combination run/gym days I tend to leave it at home.
FlipBelt is a radical departure from the other belts I bought or looked at. FlipBelt doesn't have a buckle at all. It's a single stretchable piece of fabric with multiple pockets sewn into it in a circle. You put the FlipBelt on by stepping into it like a hula hoop and sliding it up around your waist. This seemed weird at first, but the result is actually quite comfortable to wear.
What really seemed weird to me about the FlipBelt is that the pockets don't have zippers or clasps. The pockets are actually just slots in the stretchy fabric that you can slide something into, sort of like a mailbox slot. The result is that the FlipBelt is the easiest by far to get your phone in and out of.
One of the selling points for the FlipBelt is the ability to carry multiple items all around your waist due to the multiple pockets. This works quite well when you're carrying your phone and an energy bar. You can slide the phone into the pocket on your front, and an energy bar into a pocket on your back. Their marketing materials also include carrying your keys on your back or side. This is a great idea, because it solves the problem of scratching your phone's screen by carrying them in the same pocket, like you would have to do with other belts. But, it's difficult for me to trust my keys in a pocket without a zipper. It's easy to see while using the FlipBelt that my phone is at no risk of falling out of the pocket, but I wouldn't feel the same sense of security if my keys were in one.
While the FlipBelt is very comfortable for long runs or for going to the gym, I don't tend to use it as often as the others. I think the reason has to do with being more difficult to put on. Sliding a belt up around your waist isn't difficult by any stretch, but it is slightly more complex than buckling one around you.
Running with my phone in a belt ends up being a far better experience than running with an arm band. It's more comfortable and less intrusive, doesn't get as sweaty, and lets me carry some extra goodies for longer runs.
The only downside I've seen with running belts is that while some are easier than others to pull your phone out of, none of them are particularly easy. This same issue existed with running arm bands, but to me this really points to the utility of having an Apple Watch while I run. That should significantly reduce the number of instances where I would feel the need to pull my phone out while running.
So which belt do I use the most? I alternated between all three on a daily basis for a few weeks, then settled into nearly a month straight of using the Tapp C belt. I've had no issues with it, beyond taking it to the gym. That led me to re-introduce the Amphipod into the rotation, but I don't use it as much for longer runs. I still use the FlipBelt occasionally, but it isn't a permanent resident in my gym bag yet.
I did want to add one last comment about a very popular and well made running belt called the SPIbelt. Created right here in Austin, TX, the SPIbelt is by all accounts a great product that is very popular with runners. However, it doesn't seem to be big enough to fit the iPhone 6 Plus, so I didn't buy one. I have tried using a friend's with my 6 Plus, but it didn't fit. I wouldn't be surprised if SPIbelt released a new version at some point that did support the 6 Plus and other larger phones. But, if you're in the market for a running belt that fits an iPhone 5s or iPhone 6, the SPIbelt would be worth considering too.