Running While Natural, Plus the One Hair Accessory Every Natural-Haired Runner Needs

Photos: Tierra Washington

Photos: Tierra Washington

by Elizabeth Rene

I don’t think of myself as a typical runner. I was never really into sports growing up, let alone long distance running. I only started running when I moved to the Washington, D.C. area almost four years ago.

Although I never kept track of how long I’ve been natural, I do know I have been natural for as long as I’ve been running. I did not mark the date on my calendar, and I don’t have a “natural hair anniversary” to celebrate the day like some do. I just know that one day, just before I graduated from the University of Georgia, I decided to stop getting relaxers and had my sister who is a stylist in the Atlanta area, cut out all traces of my relaxed hair.

Six months after graduating, I moved to the D.C. area and decided to get serious about my fitness goals and overall health. In D.C., I finally saw women who looked like me out there doing fitness-related things, too. Something about being in the Chocolate City, where so many other young, Black professionals are prioritizing their health and their careers, felt very inspiring—and still does.

Now, I want to inspire others like myself who are looking for a reason to run. For me, that means running where and how I feel most comfortable—in my own backyard, in the Black community, and ‘Running While Natural’ (RWN).

Protecting the Style

A couple of years after I went natural, one of my sorority sisters introduced me to what is now my most sacred hair accessory—a simple, black headband. This may sound too easy to be true, but thanks to this one accessory, I’ve been able to maintain my kinks and coils during even the toughest of workouts and long runs. You can keep it simple and grab a pack from Walmart, or get innovative and invest in a few Snappee headbands to protect your natural styles.

To show you just how versatile this type of headband is, here are a few of the go-to styles I like to rock while running:


Sun’s Out, Fro’s Out

My go-to twist out is a three-strand twist out. I like to rock my 'fro after a fresh twist out. You can also wear a headband to pull your hair back a bit and keep it out of your face during runs.

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Puff All Day, Erryday

Using your headband, pull your hair up towards the top of your head and double the headband to make it more secure (but not too tight).

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Half and Half

This style is great if you want to keep your hair out of your eyes while still leaving some out for volume. Section out about ¼ or ⅓ of your hair at the front, then secure it with your headband and a few bobby pins if needed.

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Bun Life

High buns are no easy feat with thick, natural hair. I separate my hair into two sections (similar to my 'half and half' style). I bun the top section closest to my crown and then sweep the bottom half up with another band, securing stray hairs with bobby pins. You can also add a wider headband, but beware of forehead tan lines on sunny, long runs!

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Black Goddess

The Black Goddess braid is my go-to right before wash day. No headband required! Braid hair down on both sides and cross the braids over in the back. Secure with bobby pins.

All of these styles can be worn from one wash day to the next. Their versatility allows me to retain my curls, with low manipulation for one to two weeks. Between washes, I regularly use leave-in conditioner, oils and Eco Style gels (gotta show my edges some TLC!) for regular maintenance.

Our natural hair and fitness journeys are way more fun when we are in this together! 

Note: This post is not sponsored. Products mentioned are based on the writer’s own recommendations.

Lizz Rene


Lizz lives in Capitol Heights, M.D. and is an equity coordinator for District of Columbia Public Schools, where she promotes equity to celebrate diversity in our public schools. When she’s not running, you can find Lizz at trivia, enjoying brunch or multi-tasking on the Metro.

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