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Pandemic life has changed the way we do everything, including exercise. If you’re ever going to head back to the gym, run a race, or exercise in any kind of group setting, masks are going to be part of your reality.
Thankfully, athletic wear manufacturers have jumped into face mask production. If masks are here to stay, we wanted to find the best workout-approved options available.
So what makes a workout mask different from your everyday paper mask? Materials, that’s what. We’re talking about breathable performance fabrics, mesh, and cool cottons. Here are 10 options to try (plus, check out these everyday masks for casual out-and-about wear).
- Performance-focused materials: We didn’t want any soggy paper options or stuffy T-shirt material.
- Comfort and fit: The masks had to fit well without slipping or tugging.
- Style: These masks make a great addition to any workout lewk.
- Moisture-wicking and breathability: Each of these masks helped control sweat and optimize airflow during a range of workouts, from running to cycling to HIIT to weightlifting.
Note: Some masks may be temporarily out of stock due to increased demand.
Wattie Ink makes triathlon and cycling clothing, so they’re well aware of the needs of perspiring athletes. The Wattie mask comes in two sizes. We tested five of the size small masks, and they were nearly perfect for our tester, whose bridge of nose to chin measurement was 5.5 inches. We say “nearly” because there was a slight variation in size between masks.
Running with a mask on isn’t exactly cool temperature-wise, but colorful performance fabrics with fun designs make these a very cool option (Dad jokes for the win). Most importantly? A breathable inner liner wicks away moisture so sweat doesn’t pool — even in the summer heat.
Sold as: 5- or 6-pack
Exercisers looking for that pro-athlete vibe, this sleek design is for you. The mask’s two layers of fabric include a high performance recycled fabric and a breathable liner. While options are limited, with just two sizes available in two colors (blue and black), the fitted design molds to the face for a snug fit.
Athletes and gym rats may prefer this fit because the masks don’t slip — ideal for rigorous workouts — and the ear loops don’t tug or pull. Breathing through a barrier takes some getting used to, as one of our testers reported: The snug fit means the fabric gets pulled against your mouth when you inhale. (If you’re concerned about the snugness, go for the larger size.)
However, the overall comfort and stay-in-place fabric landed this mask near the top of our list.
Sold as: 3-pack
Nike takes a different approach to face masks with its Hyperwarm hood. This isn’t one to wear on hot summer days, since it’s designed for warmth. But it’s still incredibly breathable, washable, and versatile enough that it’s worth adding to your fall/winter gear.
Bonus: The hood can be worn on or off, depending on how much coverage you’re looking for. You may also prefer this wrap style to a traditional face mask because it doesn’t slip off and is blissfully free of ear loops, which can be painful when worn for long periods. If you have trouble finding a well-fitting mask, this is worth considering.
Sold as: Single hood
As far as sizes go, UnderArmour takes top prize. We’re talking five sizes, so you get to do some measuring before ordering this fitted mask. But of all the masks we reviewed and/or tested, these are the most customized by fit.
High performance fabrics, including a waterproof outer layer and cooling inner liner, make this one of the most technical masks on our list. You can also adjust the fit around the nose, which glasses-wearers will love. A better fit over the nose means less fog, especially when you’re breathing hard.
Sold as: One mask
Note: Available for preorder for shipping in September 2020.
This California-based company makes everything cycling, from bibs and jackets to gloves, socks, and neck gaiters.
These masks are very similar in design to those of Wattie Ink. They’re made from a mix of moisture-wicking performance fabrics with a breathable lining. Bright colors and patterns let you coordinate your look with any of your other Eliel gear. Masks come in small and large sizes. We tried and loved the size small.
The soft performance fabrics breathe well and keep moisture away from your skin as much as possible. However, if you’re doing a particularly taxing workout, like HIIT or sprints that leave you gasping for air, the mask does get sucked into your mouth. Truth be told, though, we ran into that problem with every mask we tested. 🤷♂️
Sold as: Single mask
Zensah makes high performance compression socks and sleeves. They’ve used their manufacturing expertise to make unique masks that offer a close but breathable fit.
Of all the masks we tried, the Zensah fit the best, even when we were going hard on the treadmill. This unique fabric combines polyamide, polypropylene, elastane, and silver for a touch of antibacterial power.
It’s not as soft as some of the other performance fabrics but was still comfortable. The over-the-head straps also worked better with glasses than the ear straps on other masks.
One caveat: This mask has only a single layer of fabric as opposed to two. The single layer feels cooler than any of the two-layer designs, but does it provide enough protection? We just don’t know.
Sold as: Single mask
Reebok’s polyester (made from recycled materials) and elastane mask fits nice and tight, so it stays in place while you’re on the move. We like that it comes in two sizes and includes an optional filter pocket for extra protection.
Filters, of course, make breathing more difficult, but you can use the mask with or without one. Plus, the price is one of the most affordable compared with those of other big-name athletic brands producing masks.
Sold as: 3-pack
Athleta is the athletic branch of Old Navy and Gap. These masks are intended for active, but not necessarily hard-core, activities. At the time of writing, the women’s full-size masks were only on preorder (and Made to Move Masks were on backorder), so we tried the Athleta Girl Everyday masks designed for kids ages 5 to 10. These masks will fit petite women and teens, but adult sizes should be coming soon.
While they’re too small for the average adult (our ears looked a little Dumbo-esque), they’re made of soft cotton that felt great on our skin. These will definitely do the trick for a jog, walk, hike, or any other low intensity workout.
Sold as: 5-pack
Boco Gear makes running hats, running socks, running belts, and running gloves. Do you notice a theme? Yup, it’s running gear. Now they’ve taken that expertise into mask making. Boco is known for custom designs — you can snag matching business or team masks in specialized performance fabrics.
Their X masks (meant for exercise) have two layers of performance knit fabric with a pocket for a removable liner. Performance fabrics wick moisture so it’s not sitting against your face.
Sold as: Single mask
Koral specializes in women’s athletic wear, and the masks reflect the company’s stylish vibe. This one-size-fits-all design was created for female faces and uses Lycra to provide comfortable stretch. While the fabric is super cozy, if you’re nervous about fitting into the one available size, this may not be the mask for you.
Koral uses high performance fabrics with antimicrobial properties to keep bacteria and viruses out (or in). The inner layer’s stretch mesh wicks moisture so it doesn’t build up against your face. As a bonus, the masks provide UV protection — just don’t skimp on the sunscreen on the rest of your face.
Sold as: Single mask
It’s a mask. How hard can it be? Well, there’s a right and a wrong way to wear a mask, so we’ve got some tips for you:
- Wash your hands. Wash them before and after putting your mask on. If you don’t have soap and water, use hand sanitizer.
- Cover your nose and mouth. If the only thing you do right is covering your nose and mouth with the mask, you’re ahead of the game. This is the absolute most basic rule. Your nose and mouth are where you breathe in and out, which means that’s where you’re going to expel or inhale germs. Keep. Them. Covered.
- Get a good fit. You want snug but comfortable. If the mask is too big, it’ll fall off your nose. If it’s too small, it could get pulled off your nose every time you talk. One-size-fits-all is fine if you’re of average size. But many women are petite enough that child sizes might work better.
- Don’t readjust. This tip is easier to stick to if you get a good fit. Once you put that mask on and head into public, leave it alone. The outside of the mask may harbor bacteria or viruses. If you touch it, they’re now on your hands.
- Wash masks regularly. If you only wear your mask for 15 to 20 minutes, you can wear it several times before you need to wash it. In fact, you can lay it in the sun as a natural disinfectant in between washes. But if you wear it for a long time, it gets sweaty, or you’ve been in a crowded public space, wear it once and wash it.
If you’re asking yourself, “When should I wear a mask?”, the answer is simple: when you’re in public and around people not living in your household.
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Protect yourself. Protect others.