Exercising in the cold isn't most people's idea of a great time, but the right gear and layers can go a long way in making the experience more enjoyable. No matter your workout of choice, choosing the right product to protect your head — and more importantly, your ears — should be a top priority.
"The head is one of the primary uncovered areas where athletes lose body heat in winter," David Roche, head coach at SWAP Running in Boulder, Colorado, says. "You want to cover it up for the same reason that you don't go shirtless in February: Avoiding excessive cold makes [exercise] way more fun and safe."
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Although those with long hair typically lean toward headbands and ear warmers for full ponytail freedom, everyone can benefit from having a few in their closet. Browse the best workout headbands and hit your cold-weather workouts — whether runs, walks or hikes — with minimal shivers.
Best Headbands for Cold-Weather Workouts
- Best Overall: Smartwool Merino 250 Reversible Headband ($22, Smartwool.com)
- Best Early Winter: Saucony Solstice Headband ($25, Saucony.com)
- Best Reflective: adidas Unisex Alphaskin Headband ($16, adidas.com)
- Best for Racing: New Balance Unisex Grid Fleece Headband ($14.99, NewBalance.com)
- Best Eco-Friendly: BlackStrap Snowbelle Therma Headband ($21.99, Bsbrand.com)
- Best Coverage: Icebreaker Unisex Merino Chase Headband ($20, Icebreaker.com)
- Best All-Weather: ASICS Lite Show Ear Cover ($32, Asics.com)
- Best for Supercold Temps: Original Turtle Fur Fleece ‘Turtle Band’ Headband ($13.99, Amazon.com)
How We Chose
We chatted with husband-wife coaching duo David and Megan Roche, MD, who offered product recommendations and broke down what to look for in the best workout headbands for cold. We selected these products based on their criteria as well as our own testing, including:
1. Best Overall: Smartwool Merino 250 Reversible Headband
Made of 100 percent merino wool, this headband delivers plenty of warmth on chillier mornings, yet plenty of breathability during extra-sweaty workouts.
The wide-set fabric offers lots of protection across the ears and forehead and doesn't budge once you put it on, making it a top workout headband for short hair, too. Plus, this one has soft seams that never rub or dig no matter how long you have it on.
Buy it: Smartwool.com; Price: $22
2. Best Early Winter: Saucony Solstice Headband
"For milder conditions, I favor cold-weather headbands that are breathable and feel lightweight on my head," Dr. Roche says.
This contoured headband wraps the ears for full protection, but its soft, lightweight fleece doesn't feel as thick as other brands, making it perfect for shoulder-season weather that's a bit chilly but not oh-so-cold.
Buy it: Saucony.com; Price: $25
3. Best Reflective: adidas Unisex Alphaskin Headband
With a contoured shape and fleece-lined interior, this headband can keep you warm and protected from the elements on cold-weather runs. But where it shines (literally) is the high-visibility, reflective patches on both the forehead and back of the neck, providing added safety for anyone exercising during low-light hours.
Buy it: adidas.com; Price: $20
4. Best for Racing: New Balance Unisex Grid Fleece Headband
"In colder temperatures, getting excessively cold can also reduce performance and impact core body temperature," Dr. Roche says. When your performance is on the line, keeping your head and your hands covered can make a big impact on results.
This New Balance running headband is made of polyester, designed with moisture-wicking abilities to prevent excessive hair sweat during your hardest efforts.
Buy it: NewBalance.com; Price: $14.99
5. Best Eco-Friendly: BlackStrap Snowbelle Therma Headband
This headband is part of the BlackStrap's Waste-Zero initiative, which means it is made out of the remaining fabric from other warm-weather gear the company makes.
But don't think they're skimping on construction: This headband offers a technical outer layer that is quick-drying, antimicrobial and has UPF 50+ sun protection, with a brushed thermal layer to keep your comfortable during any winter activity.
Buy it: Bsbrand.com; Price: $21.99
6. Best Coverage: Icebreaker Unisex Merino Chase Headband
Can't decide between a hat or ear warmers? This headband is the perfect compromise. Made from soft, stretchy and breathable merino jersey fabric, this is a clutch base layer that maximizes head coverage without overheating.
"Everyone is different in terms of their threshold for ear warmers," Dr. Roche says. "For me, I often start runs under 45 degrees in ear warmers and may wind up tossing them in a pocket as the run goes on, but it's always nice to err on the side of warmth at the start." (Bonus: Its snug, thin fit means you can wear it under a hat or hoodie on extra chilly days, too.)
Buy it: Icebreaker.com; Price: $20
7. Best All-Weather: ASICS Lite Show Ear Cover
"Other conditions like rain, snow and wind are considerations," Dr. Roche says. "If it is rainy or windy, it's nice to incorporate ear warmers on days that are warmer, temperature wise."
This headband has a spandex-polyester blend that feels lightweight and snug. While not designed to be waterproof, it won't soak through on damp days, either.
Buy it: Asics.com; Price: $32
8. Best for Supercold Temps: Original Turtle Fur Fleece ‘Turtle Band’ Headband
For supercold conditions, bring on the fluff and extra fleece, Dr. Roche says. This brand is known for their ultra-plush headwear, and this headband is no exception.
This product is made from one of the softest and warmest fleeces on the market. It also has a double-layer construction that allows body heat to build between the layers of this quick-drying, itch-free fabric (and keep it there) while gently hugging your ears.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $13.99
3 Factors to Consider Before You Buy
You'll notice a lot of headbands don't have specific sizes, which is why women's workout headbands and headbands for men are interchangeable. Instead, they often come in a one-size fits all design, according to Dr. Roche, and they tend to be stretchy. You can read the product details for specific measurements, but chances are, your headband of choice will fit.
When in doubt, try one in person! "It can be helpful to head to a local running store to try them on before making a purchase to make sure it's not too big or too small across your ears," Dr. Roche says.
Consider your local weather conditions to determine what kind of headwear you need. Although full-head coverings can helpful, people tend to generate a ton of body heat as they exercise, David says.
For any weather below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, a full hat is best, he recommends. For weather warmer than that temp, a headband or light hat should do the trick. They can also offer some extra protection on cool days when the sun is strong — you get sun protection and breathability.
Not-so-fun fact: More than half of all facial frostbite cases are on the ears, David says. "That stat demonstrates how vulnerable our ears are to cold. Even long before frostbite, uncovered ears can become searingly painful."
Remember: a headband will do no good if it doesn't actually cover your ears. If even a tiny bit of your lobes are exposed, it's not the right ear warmer for you.