Tangle-Proof Hairstyle for Runners

Tangle-Proof Hairstyle for Runners

It’s the bane of the female runner’s existence: you can run your race or workout perfectly, be riding on the high of a shiny new PR, and then have to come home and spend 30 minutes painfully detangling your hair. 

Does this happen to you? No matter how long or short I keep it, my hair tangles easily. I have lots and lots of fine hairs, which result in one huge rat’s nest if I’m not careful. And from what I’ve heard from other female runners, I’m not the only one who struggles with post-run tangles.

As I participated more in the sport of long distance running, I eventually had to figure how to style my hair for long runs, hard workouts, and races. While top knots and ponytails were simple to style before an early morning run, any time saved was lost later and paid with the pain of detangling.

During a race, whether it’s a fast 5K or a goal marathon, hair is the last thing you want to deal with during the race. Flyaways can be itchy, hair can stick to a sweaty face, and you certainly do not want to pause during your pursuit of a PR to fix an undone hair style.

Braids tug less on your hair (which means less damage to your strands), stay put even over 26.2 miles (I’ve tested), and look good in race photos! So today, I want to share a few tips on how to style your hair for racing with a step-by-step tutorial through my tried and true race day hair style.

Tangle-Proof Hairstyle for Runners

Race Day Hairstyle for Runners

1. Blow dry your hair the day before (optional)

You do not need to do a full salon-grade styling, but spending a few minutes with a blow dryer and a round brush will make your hair more manageable. This step isn’t necessary for everyday, but I find it worth the time the day before the race.

This step is particularly valuable if you have curly, wavy, or thick hair, since it will slightly straighten your hair and make it easier to work with.

You do not need to use any products, although a heat protectant may be useful if you dye or regularly heat style your hair. After washing and conditioning your hair, use a round brush to pull sections of your hair taut and blow dry those sections.  You do not even need to completely dry your hair or perfectly style every section. I probably spend five minutes at most on this step the day before a race.

2. Prevent tangles and flyaways with coconut oil

I use a tiny bit of coconut oil immediately before I style my hair. Just take a tiny bit (half of a teaspoon or less) of coconut oil, soften it with your hands, and work it into your hair from the bottom up. The coconut oil create enough texture in your hair to prevent any hair from slipping out of the braid, while also eliminating any flyaways.

You can use additional products, but really coconut oil is all you need. It’s cheap, easy to use, and doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals such as parabens and sulfates.

Tangle-Proof Hairstyle for Runners

3. French braid on one side of your natural part

Why a side french braid? From my experience, it stays more secure and decreases the amount of flyaways than a traditional French braid. It’s also much easier to do since you can see the braid in the mirror as you style it.

My hair naturally parts to the right, so I begin my French braid on the left of my part where there is more hair. After combing your hair, grab a 1-2 inch wide section of your top layer of hair close to your part and near your face. Begin to braid this section, pulling each strand taut as you cross it over the center strand.

As you cross over each strand to create the braid, grab more hair from the same side to add to that strand. Slowly work your way down and back, from your part near your forehead down towards the nape of your neck.

Once you reach the nape of your neck, secure the French braid of bobby pins (flat side up).

4. Secure in a ponytail and braid

Once the French braid is secure, gather the rest of your hair and secure it in a snug and low ponytail. Be careful not to pull too tight (you don’t want to cause headaches). Use bobby pins to secure any layers, particularly on the opposite side from the French braid. Then braid your ponytail and secure it at the bottom.

If you have long or very layered hair, tie another ponytail holder at the halfway point of your braid. This will keep your braid from becoming undone during the race.

If you have short hair, simply secure the rest of your hair in a ponytail and bobby pin it all over to stay in place.

Ta-da! Now your hair is perfectly styled for the race. With enough bobby pins, you don’t even need to worry about a headband.

You will probably want to practice this style a few times before race day, since with practice it will become easier and take less time.

Trust me, if I can French braid my hair, you can! A side French braid is significantly easier to master.

Share your go-to hairstyle for running!
What’s your biggest pet peeve during running?
Headphones annoy me so much that’s half the reason I always run without music. 
Do you have long hair or short hair?

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22 Responses

  1. When my hair was longer, I would braid it (just a standard braid) with a hat for rainy days, and bun it for long distance, most of the time. I’m not coordinated enough to French braid! I wish I was!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! As I have said before I have issues with my hair getting tangled, especially when its humid or rainy. I do notice if I straighten my hair the day before that it is more manageable after my run. Not sure if I could pull off the french braid but I want to give it a try!

  3. Great tips! I don’t really run, but I do have problems with keeping my hair out of my face when I workout. My hair is a little too short to braid right now, but I’m definitely keeping this in mind!

    1. Braids work for all types of workouts! I braid my hair for strength training and hiking also, the only one I don’t is Pilates because a top knot helps keep the neck straight. And when in doubt, more bobby pins 🙂

  4. I have HUUUUGE hair, but for some reason I have never had a tangling problem. Weird, hey? And my running buddy has fine blonde hair and hers gets SO tangled, like dreads. She puts it in a ponytail and then she wraps elastic bands all the way down to keep it all tucked in.

  5. I love these tips! I have found that I cannot run anywhere without my Sweaty Bands or Bani Bands to keep the crazy flyaways out of my face. I always have trouble when it rains, then my ponytail becomes a giant knot. Braiding definitely helps in this weather!

  6. coconut oil is a great one. I actually do ok most of the time with my hair in that it doesn’t tangle so long as it’s in a pony. It’s just annoying to take out of the pony when it’s sweaty! If I notice any issue of a possible tangle situation, I do conditioner before washing it, that seems to help it untangle without me having to fight it.

  7. Ugh I wish I could french braid! I just can’t get my fingers to handle it unfortunately. I love that you run in a braid – it’s probably really comfortable and it ensures you’ll never have a bad hair day in your race pictures!

  8. You have the cutest race hair!! A braid won’t stay in my hair, especially during a run. I think my hair is too thin for the band to hold on! I usually do a pony with a headband, because I have so many freaking flyaways haha.

    1. Awww thank you! Headbands are definitely a must for me if I skip the french braid – so many flyaways also! Thank goodness for whoever invented the grippy headband, right? 🙂

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