When assessing hands-free running leashes, we want to find an option that will allow you to have comfortable runs without losing control over your dog. Below are the criteria we considered, starting with what we believed to be the most important factors.
On daily walks, you want to know your leash isn’t going to give out on you–and this only becomes more paramount when you add in some speed.
Nylon is the most common material for running leashes, but it’s important to read the details: not all nylon is created equal. Some of the leashes will sport a high-quality waterproof nylon with reinforced stitching, while others will just feature basic nylon, which isn’t ideal for long-term wear and tear.
Since we’re looking at hands-free leashes, many times the leash will connect to a belt around your waist. The material here matters for making sure adjustments stay in place (metal or plastic buckles) and that the leash stays connected.
Staying visible is one of the key factors to being safe while running with your dog. Many running leashes feature reflective stitching throughout the entire leash and waist belt, but there are some options that come in bright non-reflective colors. When deciding what is best for you, we recommend you carefully consider the environment in which you’ll be running.
It’s difficult to run and keep a grip on a leash at the same time, which is why we are specifically looking at leashes that are hands-free. As we said before, most hands-free running leashes use a waist belt–but not all. For this criteria, we’re looking at the specific hands-free design (waist belt or other?) and the size of the waist belt.
Keeping your leash safely secured to your waist belt (or other hands-free device) is a priority. For this criteria, we evaluated how the leash attached. Is it reinforced? Additionally, some running leashes will “glide” along the waist belt to give you and your dog more freedom and ease stress, while others are secured in place for added control.
This may seem generic, but it’s extremely important. If you run in a crowded city, you likely want a leash that’s shorter to maintain control. But, if most of your running is in a less densely populated area, a longer leash may give you and your dog a bit more freedom.
How Running Leashes Work
Running leashes are all about making sure that your dog is secure and comfortable, and your hands are free to move without fear of losing control. Typically, this comes from a 2-part design: an adjustable belt that slips around your waist and a leash that connects to your dog’s harness.
Please note: all of the leashes we reviewed should be used with a dog harness. A dog harness will give you more control over your dog and help prevent stress injuries. If you’re looking for a quick and easy pick for running, we love the Embark Adventure Harness. It’s padded, very secure, and sports an additional handle on the back for added safety.
There are a few features that come standard in most running leashes. Often, running leashes have shock-absorbing bungee built in, which helps to reduce pulling. Effective bungee is particularly important if you or your dog have any sort of back problems. Additionally, most running leashes come with at least one handle (many have two) to offer you immediate control in emergency situations.
When it comes to the waist belt, size and thickness are two extremely important factors. You want a waist belt size that gives you flexibility, so you can adjust as you figure out if you prefer a tighter or looser fit. Additionally, a thin waist belt can be lighter weight, but can also increase back pain if your dog is a puller. Lastly, some waist belts come with added padding for extra comfort and impact absorption.
If you’re used to conventional leashes, it may take a little bit of time for you and your dog to adjust to a running leash. The number one hurdle is overcoming the fear of losing control over your dog. If you’re used to gripping a leash with your hand, it can be difficult to trust that your dog is safe when the leash is tethered to your waist.
With that being said, we hope that these reviews can ease the transition by giving you peace of mind that the leash is an excellent, sturdy pick.
Building Up To The Run
Before you and your dog embark on your first run, it’s important to assess whether your dog is ready. There are some serious health concerns if you push your four-legged running companion too far too soon. So, be sure to work them gradually and understand what their limits are.
First and foremost, be sure you have a breed that’s fit for running. As unfortunate as it may be that you can’t take your Frenchie on a multi-mile run, it just isn’t safe. Your dog should be trained and healthy enough for it. For obvious reasons, dogs cannot tell you if they aren’t feeling well, and it’s unwise to suddenly take a couch potato dog out on a 10-mile run.
Additionally, veterinarians and trainers recommend waiting until your dog is at least 6 months old before running–some larger breeds need to wait even longer. This is because their bones and joints aren’t ready for the repetitive impact. Even once your dog is old enough, it’s important to consider what type of ground you and your dog are running on–your running shoes may have built-in support, cushion, and heat protection, but your dog’s pads don’t. For this reason, it can be best to stay off the asphalt and on more natural ground when possible.
Lastly, when in doubt, think about the kinds of things you’d do for yourself on a run and be sure you consider the same for your dog: don’t run them right after a big meal, bring plenty of water and stay hydrated, ensure adequate rest time, and take any injuries seriously.
The Cool Down
Running with your dog can be an amazing bonding experience, as well as an extremely healthy and relaxing routine. In order to create the overall best experience for you and your dog, it’s absolutely essential that you choose the right leash to fit your needs.
There are tons of options out there, some affordable and others worth every single penny, some with lots of give and others with lots of control, some rugged and durable and others lightweight and comfortable. We hope this guide helped you to navigate the incredibly varied landscape and choose the perfect hands-free running leash for you and your dog.
Please let us know which leash you went with, and happy running!