This post was originally published in July 2021. It has been updated to reflect current inventory.
It recently dawned on me that the best running hat for long runs in the summer, or in any warm, sunny climate, isn’t your typical sports cap, but a bucket hat. This was a revelation. Both my husband and my friend’s husband wear bucket hats when they run in a non-ironic way, simply for the reason that a bucket hat offers 360-degree shade. Both of these men have fair skin, are pretty pragmatic, and probably don’t read GQ, so you know they aren’t wearing bucket hats to run because they think they look cool. I was initially intrigued by the bucket-hat-as-running-cap concept because I think it looks nice and even though I occasionally wear a cotton t-shirt with food stains, I’m not above the temptation to look fashionable when running.
I became more interested in the utility of a bucket hat after ultra-runner Jim Walmsley won the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run (WSER) in June 2021 for the third time in a row, wearing a Hoka One One breathable bucket hat. The race traverses a variety of terrain in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, including canyons where the temperature exceeds 100ºF and the sun is grueling. One of the major challenges for runners, other than, well, running 100 miles in less than 30 hours, is staying cool. Enter bucket hats. Because they have more surface area than baseball caps, bucket hats not only offer more shade to their wearer, but hold more water, so if you were to dip your hat in a river or under a water fountain, it would absorb more. Many bucket hats specifically designed for running or warm-weather outdoor adventures are made of a breathable fabric, often with some kind of mesh element, that absorbs water well and ensures that heat doesn’t get trapped.
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1. The Hat That Started It All: Hoka One One All Gender Adventure Hat
Alright folks, this is the running bucket hat that started it all: the Hoka One One “All Gender Adventure Hat.” Walmsley wore this hat (without the straps) at Western States in 2021. Made of a 100% polyester breathable mesh material, it has an adjustable back strap and an under-chin drawcord. The flexible brim makes the hat easy to travel with and it offers enough shade to keep your neck cool. This hat has been in and out of stock for almost a year, so get it while it’s hot!
2. The Best Status Running Bucket Hat: Ciele BKTHat Standard
Ciele is a French-Canadian brand founded by two design-oriented entrepreneurs who noticed a gap in the active apparel industry: there were stylish hats that weren’t adapted for running, and there were running hats that weren’t particularly stylish. Ciele caps fill that gap. Its bucket hat is made of a moisture-wicking fabric that keeps you cool, and aside from the 360° shade it provides, features UPF+40 protection on the front and back panels, plus the brim. I wore this bucket hat for a trail half marathon and was surprised at how I barely felt the weight of it throughout the 2+ hours of running. It’s not the best for maximal coverage as the brim isn’t crazy extensive, but it does keep you decently shaded.
3. The Best Running Bucket Hat That Can Pass As Street Style: Nike Dri-FIT Perforated Running Hat
This bucket hat from Nike running features the brand’s dri-fit technology and has perforations across the panels to make it breathable. Its brim is smaller than the rest of the options in this article, a trend that puts it less in the function camp (larger brim = better sun coverage) and more in the style camp. If you’re looking for a hat that you can wear on a run AND to wait in line for Supreme’s latest drop, this is it.
4. The Best Running Bucket Hat for the Pacific Northwest: Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero
We have entered the Outdoor Research bucket hat section of this buying guide. My husband’s aforementioned bucket hat is the all-black version of the “Seattle Sombrero.” Made of Gore-Tex, this is a great hat for those us of whose runs are often interrupted by rain—year-round Pacific Northwesters, yes, but don’t forget about us Northeasterners who deal with many a thunderstorm. You’ll notice that there is velcro attached to the side panel, where you can attach the brim in true cowboy hat form.
5. The Best Running Bucket Hat for Minimalists: Outdoor Research Sombriolet Sun Hat
This Outdoor Research hat is a little less loud than its cousin above. It’s more sun- than rain-oriented, but has all the good things going for it: water-resistant, breathable, lightweight, quick-drying, you know. There are also side vents on the crown (which is mesh-lined) to help keep your head cool. Yes, there is an OR logo in the middle but it’s such a little-known brand that the logo basically means nothing.
6. The Simple Guy Bucket Hat: New Balance Lightweight Bucket Hat
This unisex bucket hat from New Balance is made of a lightweight cotton, so it isn’t as high-tech as some of the other options on the list, but it’s great if you’re a recreational runner looking to get in on the bucket hat trend. It comes in three colors (white, navy, and black) and at just shy of $25, it’s our most affordable pick.