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The Best Hands Free Dog Leashes for Running [2022]

The Best Hands Free Dog Leashes for Running [2022]

While I prefer to run with my dog off-leash when possible, there are times when you need a leash. On leash-required trails or when we run on the road, I use a hands-free dog leash.

I have been running with my dogs for many, many years. It is one of my favorite activities to do together and it’s an incredible way to bond with one another.

Running together really is a team sport and it’s important to get the right system set up so that you are both successful and having fun. I have used a variety of hands-free running leashes for dogs over the years and talk about my picks in this post.

I break the leashes up into a few different categories:

  • Basic dog running leashes
  • Dog running belt combos
  • Leash handles for quick access while running off-leash

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Top Picks for Best Hands Free Running Leash for Dogs

  1. Overall Best Dog Running Leash: Ruffwear Crag Reflective Leash – This is my go-to dog leash for running, and it goes seamlessly from your daily dog walking leash to your running leash.
  2. Best Bungee Dog Running Leash: Iron Doggy Hands-Free Dog Leash – Clearly designed by runners, this leash has several knots and handles for easier control over your dog when you need it.
  3. Best Dog Running Belt: Ruffwear Trail Runner System – When you are out for a longer run and need to stash some fuel or other items, this belt + leash combination has you covered.

Why Run with a Hands Free Dog Leash?

Running with a hands-free running leash provides several advantages for both the human and the dog:

  • You can run with a normal running gait. Running with something in your hand, whether a water bottle, leash, or phone alters your gait. Long term, this could result in injuries.
  • Eliminate the risk of shoulder or back injury if your dog pulls suddenly at something. Dogs can be insanely strong when they want to, even small dogs.
  • Running hands-free means that you’re not constantly tugging at your dog’s collar each time you move your arm back and forth. Not only is that annoying to them, but it also can be confusing for dogs who have been taught about pressure/release for loose leash walking.
  • For trail runners, it means that you have better balance and use of your arms over technical terrain.

Related reading: Best Dog Breeds for Running

Different Styles of Hands Free Dog Leashes for Running

There are a variety of setups for hands-free running with your dog. Try a few different combinations out to see which one works best for you and your pup.

I switch mine up depending on the type of run we’re doing, distance, and whether I need to bring additional gear along.

I have or will have tried all of the suggestions below and am happy with all of them. 

Waist Belt + Bungee Combo

This is usually my personal go-to set up. I keep one in the car and another at home, so I always have one wherever I go.

Usually these are sort of like small fanny packs with a larger pocket for treats, poop bags, and car keys. My phone sometimes fits, depending on the other items I need to carry, but I have yet to find a pack with a large enough capacity to truly fit my phone.

The waist packs include an attachment to connect the leash and many feature a water bottle holder so you can carry water for your pooch.

I love these because If I choose not to wear my running vest, I can still carry essential items in an easy to access pouch.

Bungee Leash

Bungee leashes are great for running because they allow your dog a few extra inches of give in case they pull or you stop suddenly. They have an adjustable waistband that clips around your hips and are otherwise like a normal leash.

I personally like the ones that include a traffic handle or at least a section of non-bungee material close to the dog so that I can grab my dog easily when we pass other trail users.

Bungee leashes come in a variety of lengths, so choose accordingly depending on your running style and your four-legged running companion.

A long leash on a well-trained dog means that it will drag along the ground and cause a tripping hazard. A short leash on a dog that pulls that they’ll be constantly under your feet and you run the risk of stepping on them or falling.

Also consider the size and height of your dog. A short leash one a short or small dog is probably not the ideal combination

Leash Handle

For dogs that are trained to run off leash and/or use an e-collar, these leash handles allow the handler to quickly take control of their dog on the trail. They either come in the form of a collar with a built-in short handle, or are a short tab that connect to the collar and hangs down.

Features to Look for in a Hands-Free Dog Leash

There are a ton of hands free running leashes out there on the market and some are better than others. I am a huge proponent of buying for quality in order to have a product that last a long time. It might mean spending more, but it’s worth it in the long run.

The best leashes for running with a dog include the following features:

Strong bungee. You want to make sure that the leash you get is made from strong bungee material, otherwise, it’ll lose its elasticity quickly and you’ll just have to buy leash after leash. It’s worth it to spend more and buy a quality leash.

But not too much bungee. If the majority of the leash is bungee, then rearing in your dog when you need to do so quickly is really difficult. I’ve used such leashes and they just left me frustrated.

Think carefully about how much your dog pulls, lunges toward distractions and decide the maximum bungee amount to give your dog that give, but also reign him in when necessary.

Easily adjustable waist belt. Whether using a waist pack or adjustable handle, you’ll want to make sure that it adjusts easily, especially if there are multiple dog runners in the household.

Comfort. Depending on your mileage, you want to make certain that the waist attachment doesn’t chafe or ride up while you run. Nothing is worse than constantly having to adjust a leash or waist pack while you’re just trying to run.

Gripping points on the leash. Since bungee leashes allow that extra give to dampen any sudden pulls or stops, they make it a little more challenging to control your dog with little notice. Leashes with knots or traffic handles along the leash make this task infinitely easier and bring peace of mind.

My Picks for the Best Running Leash for Dogs

I have personally tested all the leashes listed below hundreds of miles of running. I vary which one I use depending on where I’m running, the terrain, and the distance we’re going.

Best Dog Running Belts

Kurgo K9 Excursion Running Belt

About: The Kurgo K9 Excursion Belt features a pocket, two sliding leash clips on both the left and right side of the belt, and a water bottle holder next to the zippered rear pouch. The dual-sided leash clips are great for those with two dogs who don’t want to use a splitter. 

Features:

  • Adjustable waist band
  • Reflective piping
  • 12 oz BPA-free water bottle
  • Zippered pocket with key clip
  • Smaller front stash pocket for poop bags

Pros:

  • I love that the sliding leash clips keep your dog from crossing in front of you
  • Waist belt adjusts easily among different users
  • Velcro material stays keep extra fabric from flopping around
  • Side clips allow for easy running with two dogs by keeping them separate

Cons:

  • Larger zippered pocket fits some phones, but you really have to find the right angle
  • Leash does not detach easily from side clips. Would love to see an O-Ring or D-Ring to attach to side clip.
  • Zipper sometimes gets stuck 

Ruffwear Trail Runner System

About: The Trail Runner System is a bounce-free waist belt that includes the 3.3-.59” Ridgeline bungee leash. The belt includes a zippered water resistant pocket, side mesh pocket, water bottle holder. 

Features:

  • Larger rear pocket
  • Comfortable belt with easy adjustment
  • Low light visibility with light loop and reflective trim
  • 21-oz BPA-free water bottle
  • Leash attachment release for quick disconnect

Pros:

  • Zippered pocket fits my phone better, but you still have to get it in at the exact right angle
  • Easy to slide dog to either side when passing other users on the trail
  • Side mesh pocket has elastic, which keeps treats from falling out during run

Cons:

  • Water bottle bounces when full
  • The extra leash attachment material flails around because there is nowhere to secure it

Best Hands Free Dog Running Leash

Iron Doggy Hands-Free Dog Leash

About: Iron Doggy founders created these leashes when they couldn’t find what they wanted on the market. Both leashes include innovative features designed with the runner in mind, like extra grabbing points for quick access, a traffic handle, and ability to recoil the leash.

See full review of the Iron Doggy Leash.

Features:

  • Sliding snap buckle that acts as a stopper (flip upside down if your dog runs on your left hand side)
  • Marine grade bungee
  • Length ranges from 30” to 54” (37” for SideKick)
  • Multiple grabbing points with conveniently-located knots and holds.
  • Reflective stitching

Pros:

  • Lots of spots to grab the leash in case of sudden pull or lunge
  • Heavy duty materials
  • Breaking strength of 132 to 215 (depending on leash), perfect for large dogs

Cons:

  • Heavy materials

Ruffwear Crag Reflective Leash

About: This versatile leash can be adjusted from 6 to 3.5 feet in length, depending on your needs. Keep it long for a regular walk, or shorten it when you need more control. It can be used as a normal leash or clip it around your waist for hands free usage.

Features:

  • Adjustable padded handle
  • Reflective strip down the center
  • Length ranges from 30” to 54” (37” for SideKick)
  • Multiple grabbing points with conveniently-located knots and holds.
  • Reflective stitching

Pros:

  • Easy to transition from everyday dog walking leash to hands-free running leash
  • Talon clip
  • Easy to adjust to different lengths

Cons:

  • Lacks traffic handle

Ezy Dog Road Runner Leash

Price: $42

About: This is a very basic running leash and I love it.

It clips around your waist easily, you can attach it to posts as a tether, the bungee isn’t so long that you can’t easily grab your dog quickly to move aside on the trail or stop a lunge, plus the traffic handle allows for a quick grab. This leash goes from your daily walk to the trails easy peasy.

Features:

  • Adjustable handle
  • 6.5’ length when used as a walking leash
  • Soft neoprene handle
  • Reflective stitching
  • D-ring and Barrel lock for accessory attachment

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable waistband
  • Grab handle
  • Multi-use

Cons:

  • Not sure what I would attach to the accessory attachment that wouldn’t bounce around

Best Leash Handles for Off-Leash Running

Nite Ize RadDog All-in-One Collar + Leash

About: This genius collar contains a hidden retractable leash wrapped inside. While I normally dissuade folks from using retractable leashes, this particular one serves a great purpose. The short length allows for quick access to your dog when you are running off leash and need to grab them quickly.

Features:

  • Built in 36” retractable leash
  • Made from durable material
  • Auto retraction upon handle release
  • Salt and freshwater safe

Pros:

  • Great for mostly off leash dogs
  • Easy to find handle
  • Can quickly secure dog

Cons:

  • Some users complained about the handle size being too small when wearing gloves

Ruffwear Quick Draw Leash

About: The Quick Draw is an adjustable leash ranging from 7” to 27” that clips to your dogs existing collar, wraps around your dog’s neck, and secures closed with a hook and loop feature. To use, simply grab the tab.

This is my go-to when my dog is running off leash. This gives me the option to grab ahold of Sitka quickly when we pass other users and dogs on the trail.

Features:

  • Adjustable leash length
  • Clips into any existing collar

Pros:

  • Great for mostly off-leash dogs
  • Allows for quick access to your dog
  • Long enough to hold your dog without bending over
  • Made from strong and thick material

Cons:

  • Secures with Velcro, which can get filled with dog hair
  • Loop handle not comfortable when you have to hold your dog for longer periods of time
  • Not long enough for dogs with larger necks

What is your preferred method of running with a dog on leash?

Do you have a favorite hands free dog leash for running?

Angela Schneider

Sunday 10th of October 2021

I have the EzyDog Road Runner and I love it. I've tried so many different waistbelts. I think I love this one for the one-clip release in case I need to let Bella go for safety's sake while hiking. I don't run much with her so I use the accessory attachment to clip my EzyDog Neo Mongrel handle in case I need more security in holding onto her than I feel the traffic handle can provide.

Jen Sotolongo

Monday 11th of October 2021

I'm glad you like it, too! They did a great job with it!

Rachel

Monday 9th of August 2021

Do you have any recommendations for a prong collar replacement for running for dogs that have been trained on loose-leash walking with a prong collar?

Jen Sotolongo

Tuesday 10th of August 2021

I do! I have tried a lot of different ways to find what works best for my dog and me and recently switched to using a dominant dog collar for running coupled with teaching my dog to run behind me. So far, it's my favorite option!