10 Best Face Masks You Can Buy for Exercise

Updated: Jun. 04, 2021

These face masks for exercise are designed for maximum breathability and comfort. Health experts explain how to find the best one for you and your fitness routine.

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woman stretching before work out and wearing face mask protection
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Face masks for exercise

As mask requirements are rolled back, one question lingers in everyone’s mind: Should you still wear a face mask for exercise? “I know from experience that it’s tough to exercise with a face mask on,” admits Nate Favini, MD, medical lead at the at-home primary care company Forward. “It can be uncomfortable and make it harder to breathe.”

Even so, the benefits of wearing a mask for reducing the spread of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases like colds and flu are clear. “The main job of the mask is to keep your respiratory secretions from being spread into the environment around you,” says Michael Bell, MD, deputy director of the division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And because these secretions can increase when you’re exercising and breathing heavily, according to a May 2020 study in Risk Analysis, there are factors that need to be taken into account when it comes to fitness.

“Wearing cloth face coverings is most important when physical distancing is difficult and when exercise type and intensity allows,” says Dr. Bell. “Consider doing any vigorous-intensity exercise outside when possible and stay at least six feet away from other participants, trainers, and clients if you are unable to wear a face covering.”

gym weights and disinfectant under sign about keeping the gym clean during coronavirus
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Staying safe at the gym during coronavirus

If you do head to the gym, Dr. Bell suggests these practices in addition to a cloth face mask. “Maintain at least six feet of separation as much as possible in areas that may lead to close contact (within six feet) among other people, such as weight rooms, group fitness studios, pools and saunas, courts and fields, walking/running tracks, locker rooms, check-in areas, parking lots, and routes of entry and exit. Ensure equipment is clean and disinfected. Wipe down machines and equipment with disinfecting wipes and use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol before using machines.”

If you’re ready to get your sweat on, here are 10 face masks that will help you do so safely and comfortably.

onzie face masks
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Onzie Mindful Masks

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These masks from American-made yoga wear company Onzie are made from full-flex spandex to ensure comfort and breathability if you’re heading back to a socially distanced yoga or Pilates class. They boast multiple layers of fabric and soft elastic ear straps and come in stylish colors and prints. Plus, Onzie is donating all the proceeds from mask sales to healthcare workers through the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

mission cooling neck gaiter
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Mission Cooling Neck Gaiter

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Mission is known for its cooling towels, which are used by professional athletes like Dwayne Wade and Serena Williams. Their neck gaiters use the same water-activated instant cooling technology, which makes them perfect for hiking or running on a crowded trail where it is difficult to remain six feet away from other exercisers. (Or, if you’d rather, check out neck gaiters for infection protection.)

simlu face masks
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Simlu 3 Pack Washable Reusable Double Fabric Layers Mask

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“I’ve made a conscious effort to exercise with a variety of masks to determine which are most comfortable, breathable, lightweight, and unobtrusive,” says health and wellness coach Kiki Walker, founder of Kiki Walker Wellness. “100 percent cotton was by far the most comfortable and breathable and performed best while working out.” These highly rated cotton masks have a double layer of fabric to prevent the spread of respiratory secretions and are durable enough to wash and reuse again and again.

sports fanatics face masks
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Fanatics Branded Adult Official Logo Face Covering

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One of the most important things to look for in a face mask for exercise is how secure it is on your head. “I recommend you avoid masks with ties so you’re not disrupting your workout to re-tie them again and again,” says Walker. Likewise, masks with ear loops can tangle or interfere with headphones. The fix: These masks from sports merchandise company Fanatics, which you can purchase with your favorite team’s logo, are designed with two straps wrap around the back of the head to secure the mask in place.

windrider UPF neck gaiter and face mask
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Windrider UPF 50+ Ultimate UV Protection Neck Gaiter and Face Mask

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“If you’re going to be encountering other people while you exercise, you should have a face mask with you that you can put on,” says Dr. Favini. “Consider getting a “Buff” or a neck gaiter that you can keep around your neck and pull up when other exercisers go by.” This well-reviewed Windrider buff offers UV protection and is made with a moisture-wicking blend of polyester and spandex for maximum sweat absorption. (Plus, here are the best sunglasses for UV protection.)

athleta face masks
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Athleta 5 Pack Non-Medical Face Masks

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Made by athleticwear company Athleta, these masks are designed with three layers of fabric for maximum efficacy: A polyester and spandex outer layer and two layers of cotton on the inside for a soft, comfortable fit. The ear loops are even equipped with small plastic sliding adjustment pieces to ensure the straps are snug and tight.

adidas face mask
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Adidas Face Covers

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These sporty and stylish Adidas masks are made with the same soft and breathable material used in their exercise gear. What’s more, $2 from every pack of the double layer masks sold is donated to the Save the Children’s Global Coronavirus Response Fund. (These are the 11 kinds of exercise equipment to buy for at-home workouts.)

wattie ink face masks
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Wattie Ink Mask 5 Pack

$50 for five

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Wattie Ink offers unique, functional, and stylish triathlon gear for swimming, cycling, and running. Their masks are no exception, featuring fun patterns and a slick, comfortable fit. Speaking of swimming, Amy Baxter, MD, founder and chief medical officer of Pain Care Labs, recommends wearing a swimmer’s nose clip if you’re exercising around others and masks aren’t required. “It will prevent inhaling circulating virus into your nose, which is overwhelmingly where the sickness starts,” she says, noting that wearing a mask will protect others while this strategy can protect you. (Pair it with a cold-weather jacket for your outdoor runs and walks.)

jjiyee neck gaiter
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Jjyee Neck Gaiter

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For those who prefer a buff or neck gaiter but have trouble getting it to stay up, this one from Jjyee has the solution: Ear holes allow you to loop the soft, breathable buff over your ears to prevent it from falling and pooling around your neck.

Eliel Fun Facade Five Pack Mystery Masks03
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Eliel Fun Facade Five Pack Mystery Masks

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“Pleasantly surprised by the comfort, breathability, and quality of these masks!” writes one online reviewer. “The tech fabric and secure fit make using them on the ride or run so much better than the other masks I’ve tried. Will be ordering more.”

The best part: These masks from cycling company Eliel feature fun messages like “my eyes are up here” and “nothing but smiles” to encourage and bring cheer to those around you. With this five-pack of mystery masks, you get a mix of masks and a discount.

(Here are little ways to instantly brighten your mood.)