Immediately after getting my iPhone 6 Plus I started testing out several running belts to hold my phone while out running. I wrote a review about my experience using each of them and the response to that has been overwhelming. That blog post has become the most popular article on my site, and I think it's because people love running with their iPhones and are looking for a good way to carry them on the go.
Between the three belts I tried out, I had plenty to choose from for my workouts. But I decided to try out two others that have come on the market recently to see how they stacked up against the belts I was already using. Especially now that the Apple Watch has come out, running with a running belt has become a core part of my workout routine. Never have I considered switching back to arm bands for running. And while I look forward to the day that I can run with only my Apple Watch, I don't mind running with my phone in a running belt at all.
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In my original review, I mentioned SPIbelt as a product worth considering but wasn't big enough to fit the iPhone 6 Plus. SPIbelt actually reached out to me later and let me know that they had released a larger version of the SPIbelt that does support the iPhone 6 Plus. They sent me one to try out that I've been using for several weeks now.
The Large Pocket SPIbelt is the most well made with the best materials of all the belts I've tested so far. The band, buckle, pocket and zipper are all high quality components. The design and branding are all very tasteful. The fit and feel is also very good. The band feels like just the right width and thickness. It's also easy to adjust and seems to keep it's adjustment well.
The pocket itself is comfortable and plenty big enough to fit an iPhone 6 Plus, even with a case. I started using a case on my iPhone after it cracked falling out of my workout shorts pocket, ironically enough. The SPIbelt pocket is made of a stretchy material that expands to easily fit more than just a phone. I've run several times with my car key and an energy bar or gel pack in the belt along with my phone.
It's fairly easy to get your phone in and out out while wearing the SPIbelt. I attribute this to the stretchiness of the pocket, since you don't have to apply much pressure to fit it snugly into the pocket. The pocket just compresses to fit around the phone.
SPIBelt advertises it's product as not bouncing, which is important. The last thing you want is your phone bouncing around while you're running. In practice, I don't feel like the SPIbelt bounces up and down while I run, which is a good thing. This is most likely because the band and pocket are stretchy. If you tighten the belt to where it fits snugly, the elastic will already be tensioned around your waist, which prevents it from bouncing.
However, the stretchiness and size of the pocket creates a separate issue. I notice that my phone tends to shift position in the pocket fairly easily. The most comfortable resting position for your phone in the belt is parallel to the band and your waist line. Sometimes though, especially on longer runs, my phone will shift in the pocket to rest at an angle. This results in the corners of my phone sticking up and down, which tends to be uncomfortable while running. This could be solved by making the pocket slightly smaller to prevent the phone from moving around quite as much.
The SPIbelt does tend to be fairly comfortable to use at the Gym, mostly because of the relatively thin straps and smaller buckle that can be positioned off to the side depending on your preferred adjustment. The only issue I've had with it at the gym is wearing it while doing pushups. The pocket tends to flip over a little and can hit the ground below your body if you go low enough while doing a push up.
The Large Pocket SPIbelt has definitely earned a place in my running belt rotation. It's well made and comfortable and feels like it will last a long time. But there a few improvements that could be made to turn it into an even better product for my purposes.
I picked up the Active Rhino belt recently after reading about it on Tools and Toys. It's named the "Adjustable" running belt on Amazon, and with good reason. The entire band is covered in velcro, making it simply and infinitely adjustable. Of all the belts I've tried, this one is the easiest to get the right fit.
The Active Rhino eschews the zippered pocket of many other belts, making it very similar to the FlipBelt (Amazon), which I tested in my original review and continue to use frequently. This design makes it very easy to slide your phone in and out through slots along the main section of the belt. The Active Rhino also includes a welcome addition to this design that the Flip Belt lacks, which is a tether hook to keep your keys from escaping if they pop out. I felt much more confident storing my car keys in this belt because of that feature.
The downside to the Active Rhino's reliance on velcro to create the band is that velcro tends to be itchy or scratchy if not perfectly adjusted or when worn beneath clothing. This was always something that bothered me about the running arm bands I used to use. I end up having to fidget with the band quite a bit to position the velcro where it isn't irritating while I run. This isn't an issue that I've had with any of the other belts I've tested.
Finally, the pocket of the Active Rhino isn't sown symmetrically on both sides. The seams are set at the top and bottom of the pocket, rather than in the center. You can see the seam running across the top of the belt in the image above. As a result, the seams themselves are also friction points that can be irritating while running. I think this is mostly caused by the difference in design between the two sides. On one side of the belt is the Active Rhino logo, and on the other are the slots to slide objects in and out. The fabric for the side with the logo sticks out slightly above the pocket, adding to the seam irritation issue.
While the seam and velcro imitation issues frustrate me while running, I still anticipate using this belt for going to the gym. The lack of a buckle, and a secure fit for both my phone and keys make this one a better gym companion than any of the other belts I've tested except maybe the FlipBelt.
Running with both a running belt and Apple Watch has been a great experience. The Apple Watch makes it easy to check my running stats on Runtime, and having several belts in my workout bag lets me cycle through them so that no single one ends up getting worn out.
So which belt do I use the most now? I've been using the SPIbelt quite a bit lately, but the FlipBelt has really become my go to favorite. After several months of running, the Tapp C belt has started to wear out, which is unfortunate. It would be easy to replace it, but the SPIbelt is a similar product with higher build quality. The Amphipod is still in the rotation, but tends to stay in my travel bag for when I need to work out away from Austin. It's a great travel companion because it's so small and light.
I hope this helps you choose the running belt that is right for you. I think we can anticipate Apple shipping an iPhone 6s Plus this year, which will make these running belts great running companions for us for at least another year.