Hairstyles for running and triathlons

I suppose I could always forget about a hairstyle and just go for this wild, au natural look instead.

Firstly, apologies to any male readers. This post probably doesn’t apply (unless you have long, gorgeous man-locks like Carl, the Mikkeller Running Club leader!)

Figuring out how to tame my hair for races is a constant struggle. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find the right hairstyle that has the perfect combination of durability and simplicity. And, if it could look halfway decent too, that would be great.

My struggle is exacerbated by the fact that I’m really quite bad at doing my own hair. I struggle with a simple braid or plait. A ponytail or a messy bun is pretty much the only two tools in my arsenal. I am basically hair inept.

Triathlon or duathlon also present an added, more complicated challenge with the necessity of wearing a swim cap and bike helmet. My usual ponytail just won’t do. It’s too low for the swim, and too high to fit in the helmet. In fact, in my first triathlon, I found myself adjusting my hair style for each of the three sports, adding precious minutes to my transition times. This cannot be the best way, I thought. I studied the girls around me for inspiration and ideas.

After a rigorous internet search, I found a variety of options. Here I will rate them on two criteria:

  • Could I actually do this?
  • Would this actually work for a running or triathlon?

Low Ponytail. Yes! Here is something I can do. From a simplicity perspective, this gets a 10/10, but usefulness scores low points. I hate hair on my neck when running. This could work, but would make for a matted, sweaty hair mess. No post-run brunch without a shower first, that’s for sure!

High Ponytail (with headband). My preferred running style, this wins big points for simplicity. It keeps my hair off my neck while running and looks good, and it can easily be tossed into a messy bun after a run for a reasonably acceptable post-run outing.  Sadly, it doesn’t work for triathlon or duathlon. And it sometimes makes me look bald in photos.

High Bun. I can manage a messy high bun. It generally works and manages to stay put for running, though it does bounce around a little bit, like a floppy potato on the top of my head. Positioning is key! For triathlon it’s great for the swim, but doesn’t work for the bike because I can’t fit my helmet over it. So this scores decent points from a simplicity perspective and lower points for usefulness.

Fishtail braid. No. Just no. I’m not even going to bother with a photo because there is no chance I could ever do this. It looks pretty but I don’t have enough hair or the skills. It would be useful, but it can’t work for me.

Braided Ponytail.  Braids/plaits are hard for me. I can do them on someone else, but my own head seems to present a challenge akin to a rubiks cube. This was my best attempt. While it could work, I don’t really see any great benefit of this vs. a ponytail. Especially because my attempt looks ridiculous. If you had very thick hair, this would likely be a good option.

Braided Side Ponytail. Winner! I can actually do this and it was a very useful style for my recent duathlon. My hair was off my neck for the run, and easily fit under my helmet for the bike. The only downside is that it makes me look about 13 years old.

The Princess Jasmine. Inspired by the Disney princess, I guess some people find this useful? I personally feel like I look ridiculous. It was easy enough, but I fail to understand the usefulness, unless perhaps you had really thick hair… maybe. Anyway, not for me. It itched my neck and felt weird.

French braid. No-go. I literally tried 12 times, watched various YouTube videos and I still can’t do it. It’s probably useful. I wouldn’t know. There’s about 15 different, beautiful and seemingly very functional French braid variations like the crown French braid into a ponytail, but I lack the hair-styling prowess for this look. I’ll keep trying.

So… for running, I have some options, but sadly, I still haven’t found anything that works perfectly for triathlon. If anyone has suggestions, please leave me (detailed!) instructions in the comments, or better yet, come over and do my hair before my next race. I’d be very gracious!


  1. afastpacedlife January 31, 2017 / 1:27 am

    Ah, the Princess Jasmine takes me back to elementary school. My mother did my hair that way for many years because I had lots of wispy hair of different lengths and that was the only hairstyle that kept my hair neatly off my face for the entire day.

    • thoughtsandpavement January 31, 2017 / 9:57 am

      Awww memories. It’s a good way to make you look WAY younger than your actual age now! Maybe you should resurrect it for your next race? 🙂

  2. Lindsay January 31, 2017 / 3:28 am

    Messy low bun of sorts? Won’t bob around on top of your head, won’t be on your neck because it’s wrapped up in a bun, and low enough to get bike helmet on…

    • thoughtsandpavement January 31, 2017 / 9:56 am

      Good idea! I imagine it looking very nun-like 🙂 haha I’ll try it next time I go for a ride outside.

  3. Carl January 31, 2017 / 9:52 am

    Yay! Thanks for the nice words Miranda 🙂 It’s a helpful article/guide for a men like myself !!

    • thoughtsandpavement January 31, 2017 / 9:55 am

      So much hair envy for your lovely man-locks 🙂

  4. Tina January 31, 2017 / 7:56 pm

    Shave your head! 😉 j/k

    I usually do change my hair as part of transitioning during triathlons… but while on the move! Once I get out of the water, while running up to transition area, take off swim cap and change hair to low ponytail. After biking, usually make some kind of bun while starting out on the run and my legs feel like bricks so I’m still getting up to speed anyway 🙂

    • thoughtsandpavement January 31, 2017 / 8:10 pm

      You know… I have actually looked at short-haired girls with extreme envy on race day. Good to know I’m not the only one changing the hairdo up with each event of the tri! I thought that was a real rookie move!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.