With no end in sight to the ongoing global pandemic, we’re increasingly being forced to find novel—and more importantly safe—means of continuing our day to day lives. Finding an appropriate mode of exercise in a mask-mandated world has been especially difficult, as this requires the proper airflow needed to get oxygen to your lungs and muscles, without letting in the microbe-sized particles that can carry viruses. Despite requiring an admittedly delicate balancing act, a decent number of today’s leading activewear brands have stepped up to the plate to custom-engineer protective masks made specifically for workout applications.
Utilizing advanced, cutting-edge materials and technologies, modern workout masks provide ample protection for their wearer without restricting breathing or feeling like a high-altitude training mask. And, though workout masks are by no means a novel product, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted manufacturers to return to the drawing board in an effort to deliver masks that afford markedly better protection from germs and bacteria, while still allowing for the full deep breathes needed to push ourselves to our limit. Below, we’ll be breaking down exactly what it is that makes for a quality athletic mask and what to look for when shopping for one, as well as our picks for the best workout masks currently on the market.
A Well-Engineered Breathe Of Fresh Air
The Nine Main Factors To Consider When Buying An Athletic Workout Mask
While pretty much every workout mask offers a calculated balance of protection and airflow, the existing offerings on the market can pretty hugely differ in several key areas. To help shine a light on these distinguishing elements, we’ve highlighted the nine primary aspects to taker into account when shopping around for a modern workout mask—listed in order of importance.
Materials & Construction: Unequivocally the single most important aspect of a quality mask, the materials used to create a mask play an enormous role in its efficacy and durability. Almost always comprised of multilayered configurations, the more premium offerings in this sector tend to utilize cutting-edge filters sandwiched between a more rugged shell construction and a soft internal liner. Nylon blends, multiway stretch fabrics, and other synthetic materials are all fairly common on today’s more high-end masks.
Filter: A mask is only as good as the filter it contains, as this is the element that shields its user from airborne germs and bacteria. As such, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the type of filter being used, whether or not it’s replaceable or washable, and what size particles it can block out. There are also more advanced antimicrobial and electro-charged filters offered on some premium mask models.
Washability: Just like with compression shorts, performance tops, or any other exercise garment, you want to be able to run an athletic mask through the laundry in order to wash away the sweat, dirt, and grime from a strenuous workout. On top of the convenience—and much higher levels of protection—a washable workout mask also makes for a hugely more environmentally-friendly option than its disposable counterpart.
Climate: Most workout masks lend themselves to a wide variety of workout applications and conditions, though for athletes looking to train in particularly warm or cold weather, there are athletic masks custom-designed for use in more extreme climates. These particular masks tend to sport supplementary coverage in the form of a balaclava, hood, or neck gaiter, and often feature more robust waterproofing, preventing filters from clogging if exposed to precipitation or excessive perspiration.
Performance Properties: Because every mask on this list was specifically-engineered for workout applications, it’s not uncommon to see products in this segment bestowed with more performance-focused qualities such as antimicrobial, or moisture-wicking, and quick-drying properties, just to name a few.
Comfort: Rigorous workouts already involve more than their fair share of pain and discomfort, so the last thing you want when pumping iron or pounding the pavement is an itchy, uncomfortable mask. The materials used on the inner-most layer of a mask play the biggest role in determining an item’s comfort level, though the shape and style of the ear straps—and whether or not they’re adjustable—also plays a substantial part in a mask’s overall comfort.
Additional Features: Every mask on this list is largely characterized by its ample breathability and protection, though there are a handful of outlier products in this space that boast supplementary features. This includes everything from adjustable and removable straps to integrated hoods or neck gaiters to masks with built-in, resealable mouth openings from removing a mouth guard or taking a drink from a water bottle.
Additional Uses: Unsurprisingly, the lightweight, washable, and highly-breathable nature of athletic workout masks, also allows these products to lend themselves incredibly well to basic everyday use. If you still haven’t invested in a solid EDC mask, you very well may want to consider exploring the workout mask segment. What’s more, several of the workout masks on this list are also highly-conducive to skiing/snowboarding, bicycling, or being worn underneath a 3/4 motorcycle helmet.
Design & Aesthetics: There admittedly isn’t much diversity in terms of the cut and silhouettes of most masks, and as a result, a myriad of manufacturers have attempted to distinguish their athletic mask(s) from competitors’ offerings via unique colorways and designs. Whether you’re into patterns, solid colors, or over-the-top graphic designs, there’s almost certainly a workout mask on this list that will jive with your personal taste.
Zensah Performance Face Mask
Produced in 15 different color options, Zensah’s Performance Face Mask ticks just about every box one could hope for in the athletic mask space. Starting with an ergonomically-designed cut, the mask features a multi-layer, quick-drying, moisture-wicking, thermoregulating construction—comprised of an advanced polyamide, polypropylene, and elastane blend—that greatly reduces the buildup of internal moisture, increasing comfort while mitigating the growth of bacteria—the latter area of which is helped along by this mask’s embedded silver micro-particles. The mask’s comfort-focused double-strap also enables it to remain in place amidst intense exercises.
adidas Face Covers
Sold in packs of three, adidas’ Face Covers stand as a minimalistic and affordable, yet effective workout mask. Also available in a bright blue color option, the mask is part of the German brand’s Primegreen lineup, and as such features a construction made from 93% recycled polyester, with elastane accounting for the remaining 7%. Integrated ear-loops and a dual-layered fabric setup with a perforated interior layer together afford ample breathability, while still protecting its wearer from harmful particles, germs, and other containments.
ASRV 0382. ViralOff Vented Performance Mask
Designed to conform to CDC recommendations, this ASRV mask offers an over-engineered take on a modern athletic face cover, boasting a three-layer configuration with the outer-most and inner-most layers being constructed antimicrobial ViralOff-treated fabric–a cutting-edge material that prevents viral activity via interactions with specific key proteins to reduce the presence of viruses by a whopping 99%. In between the exterior and interior ViralOff fabric layers is a non-woven, co-polyamide-infused polypropylene barrier. Sold in packs of two with an included carrying case, other noteworthy details include adjustable ear straps with a cinch fastener, a pair of one-way air valves, and a metal nose strip.
Shock Doctor Play Safe Mask
Shock Doctor’s appropriately-named Play Safe Face Mask is a lightweight piece of PPE designed for use on the field or in the gym. Manufactured in solid black or white, as well as five other vibrant designs and pattern options, this low-profile mask is made from a breathable, moisture-wicking material with a chafe-free cut that enables it to remain in place during exercise. What makes this offering unique, however, is undoubtedly its “Quick-Flip” hidden opening, a patented design that allows its wearer to take a swig off of a water bottle without removing the mask.
Stance Solid Mask
Harnessing the firm’s sustainably-sourced BUTTERBLEND premium fiber material—comprised of a modal, lyocell, and elastane blend—this no-frills face mask offers an ideal combination of comfort, protection, and airflow. The mask features a lightly-heathered appearance, complemented via Stance branding, and a pair of cinch-adjusted BUTTERBLEND ear-loops. And, just like with its enormous range of socks, Stance stands behind this product with its signature 100% satisfaction guarantee. Furthermore, for each mask sold, the California-based company is donating a pair of socks to medical workers on the frontline via its ‘Stance for Scrubs’ Initiative.
SMRTFT Sports Mask
Another thoroughly-modern workout mask backed by a cutting-edge proprietary construction, SMRTFT’s Sports Mask is equipped with the brand’s MICROKNIT filter fabric which is good for shielding its user from particles as minuscule as 1.7 micrometers (as a point of reference, that’s reportedly 40-times smaller than a human hair!). Made from an amalgamation of nylon, polyurethane, and polyester, this SmartFit mask also provides UV protection and is reversible. Even after 100 wash cycles, this mask—which is sold in eight colors–remains 99% effective at blocking out dust, germs, and other small particles and debris.
BUFF Filter Mask
Long before the current global pandemic, BUFF was producing premium face masks for athletes and motorcyclists and the like, so it’s frankly unsurprising that one of the company’s ergonomically-optimized masks would find its way onto this list. The brand’s Filter Mask uses a replaceable triple-layer filter that effectively shields its wearer from 98% of all airborne particulates. Additionally, this quick-drying and moisture-wicking, four-way stretch mask also features BUFF’s HeiQ V-block antimicrobial interior mesh fabric treatment, as well as UPF 50+ sun protection.
Nike Pro Hyperwarm Hood
A longtime winter training essential, Nike’s Pro Hyperwarm Hood is light on weight and heavy on warmth, utilizing the activewear brand’s Hyperwarm fabric—a high-performance spandex and Dri-FIT blend. Capable of converting into a regular neck gaiter, this athletic hood sports an ergonomic cut and flat seams to bolster comfort and mitigate chafing. And, while this item does offer full head and neck coverage, it wasn’t engineered as a piece of PPE, and as such doesn’t afford the most robust protection from airborne germs.
Reebok Face Covers 3-Pack
With more than 125-years of experience in the sports apparel and athletic equipment sector, it really is hard to go wrong with almost anything from the exercise experts at Reebok, and the Bolton-based brand’s Face Covers are no exception. Sold in packs of three, the mask is composed of a soft, lightweight, and breathable fabric with a solid exterior cover and a perforated interior layer. An ergonomic design coupled with the soft inside layer together makes for an incredibly comfortable mask while its reinforced stitching guarantees several years of regular use.
Under Armour UA SPORTSMASK
Upon its release back in mid-July of 2020, Under Armour’s UA SPORTSMASK hugely raised the bar in the athletic face cover sector, setting a new, incredibly high standard for protection and performance that very few have since been able to match. Affording a phenomenal amount of airflow while still blocking out germs and airborne particles, the mask utilizes an external polyester shell housing an open-cell foam filter and an inner-most nylon and spandex fabric blend layer. Built to current World Health Organization recommendations, this mask is now available in half-a-dozen color options across four sizes, too.
La Sportiva Stratos Mask
Founded in 1928, La Sportiva is a high-end Italian company that trades in premium hiking boots and other outdoor gear and apparel. For its Stratos Mask, the brand has applied its typical top-shelf materials and construction techniques into a fitness-focused face cover. Made from an abrasion-resistant 3D-mesh fabric wrapped around a flexible support chassis, the mask—which is ViralOff-treated throughout—features adjustable ear straps, an innermost “Sensitive Comfort Layer” complete with internal Lycra chin and nose gaiters, and a changeable filter that’s certified to block out 99% of airborne viruses and bacteria. Best of all, this highly-calculated mask weighs in at only 0.9oz (or 0.056lbs).
Under Armour UASPORTSMASK Fleece Gaiter
After the immense success of the Maryland-based brand’s game-changing UA SPORTSMASK, Under Armour released a winterized version of its watershed athletic mask, bestowing the original multi-layered design with a cinch-adjusted fleece construction gaiter. Like the original UA SPORTSMASK, the gaiter-spec boasts a polyurethane open-cell foam filter, and an interior crafted from the brand’s antimicrobial-treated UA Iso-Chill fabric. On top of providing more coverage around the neck, the UA SPORTSMASK Fleece Gaiter’s design also enables it to lock in heat, thereby affording markedly better thermal retention.
Asics Runners Face Cover
Engineered from the ground-up specifically for jogging and running applications at the Japanese brand’s Institute of Sport Science, ASICS’ Runners Face Cover is a minimalistic yet advanced athletic mask. Made from 31% recycled materials, this quick-drying, water-resistant mask is outfitted with a multi-way ear and head-band adjustment system that allows for a precise and snug fit regardless of head shape. By covering the nasal passage, the mask is also able to mitigate the spread of droplets forming inside the face cover.
Tekto Takta Mask
In addition to already being one of the best EDC masks that money can buy, Tekto Gear’s Takta Mask also lends itself incredibly well to workout use. Made by the Portland, Maine-based EDC gear purveyor, the mask employs an advanced five-layer design that includes a pair of differently-sized electro-charged PM10 layers and an active carbon filter that together can block out viruses-causing germs and other containments as small as 0.3 microns. Tested and approved at an FDA-certified facility, this mask—which is also available in a blacked-out version—also sports a metal nose strip and a dual valve system.
Eliel Cycling Fun Facade Mask (5-Pack)
Though technically designed for bicycling, Elie Cycling’s Fun Facade Mask is an extraordinarily lightweight and breathable face cover that comes in some of the most interesting and idiosyncratic colors, liveries, and designs. Sold in packs of five and manufactured in two sizes, the California-based outfit’s mask sports a 3” ear-loop and a soft fabric that affords ample comfort, even when worn for long durations. And, though these masks aren’t sold with filters, they do feature a small gap on the side that can accommodate a filter.
The 15 Best Washable Face Masks
Want to find a less-workout-focused mask for everyday use? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best washable face masks contains more than a dozen stellar mask options for your EDC loadout.
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