With many athletic face masks still in development—or facing long shipping delays—however, a growing number of runners are turning to neck gaiters, stretchy, scarf-like accessories typically made out of polyester and worn, well, around the neck. (You might also hear them referred to as “Buffs,” a nod to one of the largest name-brand manufacturers out there.)
I’m one of those runners, and one of the best options I’ve found to run with so far this summer is a cheap, $15 neck gaiter that you can buy on Amazon right now. When I run, I tend to stick to a less densely populated, industrial area where I rarely encounter any other pedestrians, meaning it’s generally safe to keep my mask down. The great thing about wearing a neck gaiter like this one is that if I do approach someone, I can just flip it up over my face momentarily, then back down again when we’re a safe distance apart.
This model from Self Pro is also less expensive, more lightweight, and more comfortable than the Buff I used to run with in the early weeks of quarantine. It dries quickly, never left me feeling overheated, and also never caused any skin irritation, even after 7 miles of running on a recent, scorching summer morning.
The soft, one-size-fits-all fabric is also machine washable, and while it fits snugly, there’s also enough slack that you can flip up the bottom half and double the amount of coverage when needed. Finally, at just $15, you can stock up on a handful of them and always have a clean option on hand when you’re going out for a quick jog. And just in case this model isn’t for you, we’ve tested plenty of other alternatives, too.
All of that said, it’s worth noting that neck gaiters and bandannas are not considered to be as effective as cloth face masks when it comes to preventing the transmission of COVID-19, so you should only wear them when your interactions with other people will be sporadic. (I only wear mine as a safeguard when I’m anticipating that I won’t be in a crowd.) The rest of the time, it’s still worth having a thicker, more effective mask on hand. Buying from one of these manufacturers gives you the added benefit of helping a charity in the process.
Mike Darling is an executive editor at Men’s Health where he assigns and edits coverage around the brand’s core subject areas, including fitness, style and grooming, sex and relationships, and technology and gear.
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