Gadgets for runners: ballast or booster bag? Five running belts tested

Recently during a popular Advent run in northern Germany: "Wow, the running belt is annoying.

Gadgets for runners: ballast or booster bag? Five running belts tested

Recently during a popular Advent run in northern Germany: "Wow, the running belt is annoying. Next time I'll leave it at home." Almost in the same (already somewhat heavy) breath, the two runners behind me are amazed at a like-minded person who, instead of a silly running belt, is carrying an obviously bulging hydration pack on his back through the forest. Now you can have a fundamental and excellent discussion about how useful additional ballast is when running - especially in the hobby and leisure area. It sometimes seems adventurous what some runners stuff into their running belt, jacket pocket or said hydration backpack for a half marathon. Apparently out of fear of the infamous hunger pang. It's not known exactly. Even at events where you get drinks and small snacks at least every five kilometers for your entry fee, many runners have their own provisions on board. During training, however, you usually look in vain for the brave volunteers on the side of the track. And if the junior doesn't feel like accompanying dad on his Sunday bike run, a food strategy that is as self-sufficient as possible is needed.

Essentially, running belts are the practical compromise between the smartphone pocket on your arm and the hydration pack on your back. If you only need to stow your apartment key and your cell phone for tracking or entertainment, the popular upper arm pouches are easy to do. Especially if the training run or competition should not last longer than an hour. Ordinary amateur athletes don't need energy gels or additional drinks. If you have longer training runs on the plan, it's worth thinking about some provisions for the journey. And now the running belt comes into play. Depending on the manufacturer, in addition to smartphones and keys, energy bars, gels (squeezables for adults) and even small water bottles, so-called soft flasks, fit in there. That's enough to provide the body with some extra energy and fluid every now and then.

To put it briefly: Running belts can be a useful gadget - for athletes of all abilities. Provided you tackle them with your brains. You can read how this works, why you should use a tape measure before buying and what fits into the small running belts in the stern test.

Proviz Reflect360 Laufgürtel 

Let's start with a running and multi-sport belt that is particularly interesting for early risers and nocturnal runners. Proviz focuses its products entirely on the issue of visibility in the dark. Multiple reflector patterns and the Reflect360 logo are designed to ensure visibility and therefore safety at dawn and after sunset. There are three small pockets for provisions and smartphones. They are all on the inside, which not only makes packing them a bit fiddly. Marathoners who like gels or bars should definitely try out the Proviz running belt during training. A little tact is also an advantage when unpacking while running. Wearing thin running gloves, you fidget for quite some time until you have the small snack in your hands and can eat it. A clear plus point: The Proviz running belt is unbeatably flexible. There is a comfortable 45 centimeters of space to fix the Velcro fastener. This running belt fits around (almost) every hip. And almost more importantly: it fits perfectly and after a few kilometers we had completely forgotten that we had strapped it on. It nestles comfortably around the hips and presses the cell phone securely against the stomach or back so that nothing moves when running. Also smart: To prevent the Velcro surface from sticking to other clothes, there is a small fabric cover that can be applied to this surface when not in use. Here you can find the Proviz Reflect360 running belt

VarioSports also uses three internal pockets for its running belt that are connected to each other. The Formbelt Plus also has a small zippered compartment on the outside. In contrast to the Proviz belt, you put this running belt on like pants. In our opinion, the size information is rather tight. In the test, size M (tester: 177 cm, approx. 75 kg) felt a bit too tight and oppressive in the long run, despite the correctly measured hip circumference and the pleasantly soft and elastic material. Nevertheless, with sizes XS to XXL, there should be something suitable for everyone. The reflector logo, which is only two centimeters wide, is very discreet. The zippered compartment at the front is almost 20 centimeters wide. That's easily enough for smartphone giants like the iPhone 14 Pro Max. While the inside pockets are less sweat-resistant, the (valuable) contents of the zippered pocket stay dry even during longer running sessions. As a little extra, VarioSports has equipped one of the inside pockets with a plastic carabiner attached with a rubber band. Individual keys can be stored a little more securely. During the test run, the Formbelt Plus was (a little too) tight and secure. Similar to the Proviz product, it was difficult to fumble gels or bars out of the interior pockets. But here too, practice should make perfect after a few running sessions. Here the Formbelt Plus running belt is available in different designs.

The flexi-bag is more similar to a classic bum bag or body bag. With a pocket size of just under 20 centimeters, it is significantly smaller than the currently very popular fashion accessory. There's a lot more that fits into it than it seems at first glance. The manufacturer promises that you can increase the volume of the belt by up to 300 percent thanks to the sewn-in elastane. The width of the bag can be stretched up to 15 centimeters. We packed in a medium-sized smartphone and some gel sachets without any problems. This should work well when hiking or trekking. In our opinion, the bulging flexi-bag is only partially suitable for running training. Because the actual strap is an elastic band that is only 2.5 centimeters wide. The two ends are clicked together using a normal buckle. No matter how tight you adjust the elastic band, a well-filled flexi-bag bounces up and down on your hips while running. If you only need storage space for a tissue, a key and some glucose, the flexi-bag is a great choice. The “little black dress” gets a bonus point for the two flexible loops on the elastic band to which a starting number can be attached. Here you can find flexi-bag in different colors.

The Salomon brand has its roots in winter sports. But what's good for cross-country skiers should also work for athletes who can do well without a cross-country ski trail. And so the French have been heavily involved in the market for runner gadgets for several years. In our opinion, the Agile250 running belt is aimed primarily at runners who spend a lot of time off-road. This robust belt is clearly oversized for short runs (e.g. during the lunch break). The Salomon belt is the only one in the test that comes with a so-called soft flask, a flexible drinking bottle that holds 250 milliliters of liquid and fits perfectly into the zippered pocket. There is also space for solid or the already mentioned semi-liquid provisions. A flexible pocket made of stretch material on the back keeps the smartphone dry. Everything stored in the main compartment also stays dry. The pleasantly soft back made of mesh material absorbs sweat. Salomon has adapted the closure from classic Velcro fasteners on shoes. Depending on your waist circumference, the length of the belt can be adjusted with a small tweak. To do this, a hidden Velcro fastener behind the main pocket must be released, which fixes the strap. Now this can be pulled in both directions and thus shortened or lengthened. Once the desired length has been set, the Velcro fastener must be pressed together again. We tested the Agile250 on a 26-kilometer trail run. The four energy gels were easy exercise for the high-quality running belt. It also sat firmly and securely without causing any disruption. The zipper is easy to feel even without looking down. The food is ready to eat within seconds. Here you can find the Salomon Agile 250 Running Belt in black.

The multisport discounter Decathlon also has running and drinking belts in its range. In our test, the Marathon Belt from Kiprun's own brand goes into the race. Similar to the Formbelt Plus, it is available in different sizes. In our case we were spot on with size 2. The best way to get started is with your feet, because the Decathlon hydration belt also comes in the form of a tube. Noticeable: All but one of the storage compartments are located on the outside. There is no zipper at all. The space available is comparatively generous. Two 250 milliliter soft flask bottles can be stored in the large compartment. Unfortunately, these are not included in the scope of delivery. Overall, the almost twelve centimeter wide belt sits comfortably and firmly on the hips. No swaying, no bouncing. In our opinion, the storage compartment for the smartphone is not only small, but also not an optimal transport solution despite a rubberized opening. The anti-slip strip on the inside of the belt is a nice touch. Not more. The internal cord, which can be used to make the belt a little wider or tighter, also seems unnecessary to us. The Marathon drinking belt from Kiprun does what it's supposed to do, namely holds flexible drinking bottles. If you can't do without your smartphone while running, you should stay away from this Decathlon model. The Kiprun Marathoin drinking belt is available here.

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