Nov 16, 2023
The 7 Best Dog Running Leashes, Per Reviews And Editors
Women's Health may earn commission from the links on this page, but we only feature products we believe in. Why Trust Us? The right gear is key to a good run with your pup. Some runners—this author
Women's Health may earn commission from the links on this page, but we only feature products we believe in. Why Trust Us?
The right gear is key to a good run with your pup.
Some runners—this author included—like running solo. It’s not that I don’t like the company of other people. I just enjoy the solitude and quiet of a morning run alone. It’s relaxing. It’s meditative. But I’m not going to lie, running with a dog is another story. As with almost everything, most dogs enjoy running in the same way, which is why they make great run partners. (My old roommate’s Dalmatian was still the best run partner I ever had.)
Shop the best dog running leashes, below
The right gear is key to a good run with your pup. While you can get by with pretty much any old lightweight, comfortable clothes, your dog needs a good collar and a good leash to pair it with. It keeps them from getting into trouble and from wandering too far off while you’re out on the street, the trail, or the track. We’ll assume you’re a good dog parent who already has the collar part sorted out. Now, you just need the best dog running leash you can find.
That’s why we’re here to help. Our dog-loving editors and writers tested dozens of top-rated and best-selling dog running leashes. We ran, we chased, we even heeled, and in the end, we settled on the seven leashes below. These are the best dog running leashes of 2023.
If you’re looking for a straight-up dog leash, without the matching waist belt, this is a simple, yet durable option from Ruffwear. Many dog running leashes are built with alternating sections of thick nylon webbing and bungee material. But this leash is made with bungee material running the entire length, from the handle to the buckle. The result? A whole lot more stretch and give, making it perfect for trail running.
Our most active test panelists—the trail runners, in particular—loved the super-stretchy design of this running leash. The Wavelength material is incredibly shock-absorbing, too, so we never felt those sudden, perpetual “jerks” that often come with running with our pups on-trail. We also found the swiveling, locking clip that connects the end of the leash to the collar ring moved very freely, ensuring that our dogs were comfortable, no matter how and in which way they moved their neck and head. Lastly, at just 2.2 ounces, this is the lightest dog running leash in our roundup, making it very pocketable and perfect for travel or keeping on hand just in case we might need it.
As a straight-up leash, the design of this trail-run-friendly dog leash can’t be beaten. It’s also priced right at just under $25, making it a great value. Plus, it pairs seamlessly with Ruffwear’s own Trail Runner Running Belt for hands-free, on-leash running, in case you need to mix things up.
Sometimes simpler really is better. Runners Athletics’ Rove Hands Free Leash is a thick, durable rope that’s designed to be comfortable to hold and to wear around the waist. The carabiner and adjustable middle loop make it easy to clip and unclip to switch between handheld and hands-free “modes.” This also makes it easy to use as a tie-up option for tethering your pup to, say, a bike rack while you pop into a store. The versatile design is strong enough to support up to 500 pounds but lightweight to not feel like it's weighing you down if you opt to run with it like a traditional leash.
Although it looks like a basic rope, our testers found this dog running leash to be comfortable to hold and to wear around the waist (though not quite as comfy as a traditional waist band). Even on longer runs with hard-pulling pooches, it never chafed or rubbed our hands raw. We loved the quick clip design that made it easy to switch between hands-free and handheld modes, especially in changing environments with different crowds and traffic. Two of our testers regularly run before sunrise every morning, and they also liked how reflective this leash was. We found the reflective detailing was bright and easily identifiable in any of the six colors in which this leash is available.
While the Rove works great as a traditional leash, it really shines (pun intended) as a hands-free dog running (or walking or jogging) leash. It’s a design that should appeal to just about any runner with almost any size dog, up to and including heavy pullers. At $39, it’s priced right in the midrange of the best dog running leashes we tested this year. Runners looking for extra storage and a bit more length can also pair this seamlessly with Runners’ Cross Body Bag.
There’s no getting around the fact that some dogs just love to pull. This is more true of certain breeds, but really any dog can have a puller’s temperament. (Side note: for your and your pup’s safety, it’s key to get this under control as much as possible before attempting to run with them on-leash) If this is you, you need the best dog running leash designed for your pooch’s running “style,” if you can call it that.
We tried Atlas Pet Company’s Lifetime Lite Leash on a few especially strong-willed puppers. The opinions were unanimous that this was a fantastic dog running leash for heavy pullers. “My Berner loves to tug me along, and this waist leash keeps my gravity centered,” said Women’s Health Editor-in-Chief Liz Plosser. “Two years of zig-zaggy runs and walks with Willa and it’s still going strong.” After months of use, our test models looked almost brand new. The 1-inch nylon webbing is extremely durable, and we found it easy to clean, too. What also stood out about this model was its versatility. Like the Rove, the Lite Leash moves seamlessly from hands-free to handheld to tie-up positions without missing a beat. The hardware is cleverly designed, so you don’t have to think or work too hard to change things up on the go.
In the end, we were hard-pressed to find much of anything to dislike about this leash. It’s incredibly well-made, and Atlas is so confident of that fact that it warranties this leash for life, “even if your pup destroys it.” That said, this is the priciest dog running leash in our roundup at almost $70. But, when you consider it might be one of the last leashes you ever have to buy, that seems pretty reasonable.
Read more: Women's Health Fitness Awards
You probably don’t need us to tell you that most dogs are hard on their gear, and big dogs are another story. If you’re a runner with a jumbo-sized pooch, you need the best heavy-duty dog running leash you can buy. Iron Doggy’s Runner’s Choice Hands-Free Dog Leash is made of marine-grade, military-spec nylon webbing that’s extremely resistant to wear and tear (think lots and lots of chewing). According to Iron Doggy, the unique bungee system also has a breaking strength of more than 200 pounds.
Our big-breed-owning dog parents abused this model as much as they could to see just how well it held up. The German Shepard parent among us said, “I let Sarge chew on it like a chew toy for a few days, and it’s still going strong.” While we don’t recommend doing this, it was proof enough for us that this was the best heavy-duty dog running leash we tested this year. The hands-free, around-the-waist design adjusts to sizes from 28 inches to 48 inches. We found the leash a little on the short side at 54” (less than 5 feet), but that length is actually best for larger breeds anyway, as it provides better control while you’re running. We tested hand-holding this leash, too, and our panel unanimously loved the two hold-knots designed to prevent “leash burn” and hand injuries.
At roughly $70, this is one of the pricier options we tested for 2023. But this dog running leash does include the belt, making it more of a complete kit. Plus, that premium price tag gets you a much stronger, more durable leash, so it’s a safer option for you and your pup.
You can easily spend over $60 on a premium dog running leash, but the truth is you don’t have to. SparklyPets’ Hands-Free Running Dog Leash is the best value model we tested this year. At a little over $20, it’s less than half the price of the very best models we tested. Yet it offers all the essentials we look for in a good dog running leash.
Our testers didn’t have high expectations for this leash, given its dirt-cheap price tag, but we were pleasantly surprised. The design uses two stainless steel clasps to divide your dog’s pulling force around the belt. This results in not only a safer but a more comfortable design. We found the adjustable waist comfy to wear, even on long runs and with medium to larger breeds, and the bungee section provided just enough stretch and “give” anytime our doggos wanted to wander. Like many of the best models we tested, this leash can be used hands-free or hands-on like a traditional leash. It switched between the two modes effortlessly for us, even when we were on the move.
Our biggest gripe is that the padding around the waist section is very thin, and it seems some Amazon reviewers agree. Other reviewers also note questionable durability, particularly with fraying of the nylon webbing. While this wasn’t an issue during our six-month test, we feel it’s something to be aware of.
Bottom line: The price alone makes this a win in our book. It’s easily the best value dog running leash in this year’s roundup. It’s also an “Amazon’s Choice” pick with over 15,000 reviews, including more than 11,000 five-star ratings, so it’s clearly a customer favorite. We also like the option to upgrade to SparklyPets’ larger two-dog running leash model for around $40. It’s a virtually identical design, but with the option to add an additional pup on the same lead.
Another great value, this model from iYoShop is “Amazon’s Choice” for the etailer’s best dog running leash overall. It’s a wildly popular, top-selling pick with roughly 12,000 five-star ratings. It’s no surprise given that, like the SparklyPets model above, it ticks all the boxes for what we look for in a good dog running leash. That includes a high-quality nylon webbing, stretchy bungee sections, heavy-duty clips for added strength, and an adjustable waist and leash length for maximum versatility.
Our panelists loved the simplicity of this dog running leash. It’s available in two sizes (Medium and Large) with a leash that adjusts to up to 68”, making it incredibly versatile for a wide variety of dog sizes, breeds, and run styles. We loved that it features two grab handles, spaced apart on the line, which made for better control in different situations while we were out running. This leash also features two shock-absorbing bungee sections with the perfect amount of give, even for the dog parents on our panel with larger breeds. “I jog with my 140-pound Newfie every day, and this leash has the perfect amount of control and give,” said one of our editors. Plus, the lead also has built-in reflective threading making it a great option for night and early morning runs.
Our biggest complaint: The three-month warranty is lackluster, especially compared to the minimum three-year warranty of most of the competition. Still, for the price (around $20), this is another great value option for one of the best dog running leashes of 2023. If you’re looking for a dead-simple alternative to the premium (and pricey) leashes in our roundup, this is a solid pick. Bonus: It’s available in more than a dozen colors, so you can coordinate with your dog’s own fashion sense (and, really, isn’t that the only thing that matters?).
Most of the dog running leashes we tested offer similar designs. Nite Ize’s Raddog All-in-One Collar + Leash Combo is something entirely different. It’s a typical dog collar, but with one unique feature: A 36-inch leash that retracts into a small, streamlined pouch built into the collar. It’s the perfect leash/collar combo for dog parents with well-trained pups who typically run off-leash, but who want the versatility to be able to “leash” their pooch on the fly.
While most of our panelists only jog, run, or hike with their pups on-leash, a couple of our testers often let their doggos run free when there are fewer people or cars around. Both found the Raddog to be a great option that’s surprisingly versatile and allowed them to pack less without the need to bring a separate leash “just in case.” One of them noted, “This is the kind of thing I never knew I needed (or wanted) until I tried it. Genius!” We found that the design is best suited to dogs who are mostly off-leash with only occasional on-leash use. That’s mainly because the grab handle isn’t as comfortable to hold as others in our roundup, and the lack of an integrated waistband (and hands-free use) makes it less than ideal for long-distance jogs or runs.
Still, this is a niche dog running leash that we know some owners will absolutely love. It’s compact, versatile, and mostly stays out of the way until you need it. At under $30, it’s well-priced, too—only slightly more expensive than the best budget and value leashes we tested this year. Plus, the four available sizes (Small to XL) make it easy to find the perfect fit for your pooch.
The short answer is: Maybe. If you’re a runner or just very active, and you like to bring your pup with you everywhere, a run-friendly leash is a good idea. There are a few specific features that set dog running leashes apart from traditional leashes.
The first is that they’re typically designed to be worn around the waist for hands-free “operation.” This is important because it prevents the leash from slipping out of your hand while running. This style is also much more comfortable than having to hold onto an old-school leash for miles at a time.
Second, these leashes are usually made with a bungee construction, to provide plenty of stretch and “give” throughout your run or whatever activities you’re into. It’s a great way to make sure that neither you or your dog are constantly getting jerked around in one direction or another if you’re not moving 100% sync.
Like “regular” leashes, dog running leashes aren’t complicated. But there are a few key things to look for to find a model that works best for you and your pooch.
The most important thing to consider when shopping for the best running leash for your dog is to find the right size. In general, larger breeds need shorter leashes, and vice versa. A shorter lead provides better control—important for dogs who like to pull or wander.
Unfortunately, there are no standardized sizes between brands. Your dog may be a size “Large” in one brand, but an “X-Large” in another. Finding the best one for your pup may require a little trial and error. The manufacturer will usually know best. So, if there’s any question as to which size will fit best, reach out to them directly and ask what they recommend for your dog’s specific weight, breed, and activity level.
Many dog running leashes are designed to be worn around the waist (or crossbody over the shoulder) with some type of durable, stretchy nylon to provide plenty of “give” between dogs and their parents. These are often more convenient than traditional leashes while running. But, they can pose a hazard for owners with larger dogs and dogs that like to pull very hard. Sometimes it’s best to start with a traditional leash before your pup is properly trained to run in sync with you, rather than trying to “do their own thing” while out on the trail.
Dog collar or harness?
Dogs that frequently run with their owners are often better suited for a traditional flat collar. Even the best harnesses can cause a lot of friction and begin to chafe or rub after the repeated movement that comes with hard running. This might seem obvious, but choke collars should never be used with a dog running leash. They can be downright dangerous because of the quick, jerky movements that accompany running.
Other nice-to-have features
The best dog running leashes offer additional features that are nice to have but not essential. These can include built-in storage pouches (for treats, poo bags, etc.) and water bottle holders. Reflective stitching or trim is another good option for better visibility, especially if you frequently head out when it’s dark.
Read more: Working Out With Dogs
Our editors and writers love their dogs, and many love running too. That’s why we put dozens of top-selling dog running leashes to the test over the last six months. We tested models from well-known brands like Ruffwear and Atlas Pet Company, plus several smaller under-the-radar manufacturers with great reviews on Amazon. We compared everything from durability to hand comfort to price to how seamlessly (or not) they worked with our regular runs. And, of course, we paid close attention to how comfortable they were for our pups. The list above includes our honest picks for the seven very best dog running leashes worth buying this year.
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Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South Africa, and survived a near-miss great white shark attack in Mexico. His travel advice has appeared on the websites for Forbes, Travel + Leisure, CNET, and National Geographic. He loves the great outdoors and good bourbon, and (usually) calls Tulsa, Oklahoma home. Mike also enjoys speaking in the third person.
Jennifer Nied is the fitness editor at Women’s Health and has more than 10 years of experience in health and wellness journalism. She’s always out exploring—sweat-testing workouts and gear, hiking, snowboarding, running, and more—with her husband, daughter, and dog.
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