apple watch on man's wrist
Apple

What to Look for in an Apple Watch Band in 2021

When Apple first released the Apple Watch in 2015, it was difficult to find replaceable watch bands that fit everyone’s style and needs. Nowadays, bands are a dime a dozen with thousands of third-party options available. However, sifting through that pile of straps can be a hassle, and it’s important to know what to look for to separate the good from the cheap.

For instance, some third-party bands don’t fit in the slots on your Apple Watch as well as Apple’s first-party straps, so they can protrude and potentially malfunction as a result. Then there’s the trouble of spotting the right materials. While bands are generally inexpensive nowadays, that doesn’t mean they’re all good. Some might look good on the outside, but offer poor construction and cheap parts when you finally unwrap it.

Getting the right size is also important. Over the years, Apple has made it a little bit confusing when it comes to picking a band that fits your Apple Watch. Back in 2018, the company switched from 38mm and 42mm case sizes to 40mm and 44mm cases. Despite this, it seems that all bands designed for smaller Apple Watches will continue to fit generation over generation, while those designed for the larger model will also fit.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that not all bands are for everyone. There are many different ways you can use an Apple Watch, so it’s important to shop for a band that can strike a balance and accommodates every task and activity you’ll be performing while wearing it.

Below, we’ve highlighted a handful of bands that offer good materials, construction, and looks for whatever you need to use your Apple Watch for.

Best Apple Watch Band for Running: Nike Sport Band

nike sports band on green background
Nike

Pros

  • Comfortable materials with protrusions for breathability
  • Secure fit with various sizing options

Cons

  • Decent list of color options, but not very diverse

Apple’s collaboration with Nike has resulted in a range of excellent bands for virtually any fitness activity. If you’re a runner or enjoy a good jog around the neighborhood, we recommend checking out the Nike Sport Band.

This band is made of a lightweight fluoroelastomer (a.k.a. silky-smooth rubber) and features lots of perforations that make the band breathable to wick away sweat. The holes also provide many different secure points to ensure your Apple Watch is fitted properly before you take off. Speaking of fitting, it’s available in both 40mm and 44mm sizes.

The Sport Band is priced at $49 and comes in a decent array of colors. However, that list of colors isn’t very diverse, so there’s a chance you might not find a finish that suits you.

Best Apple Watch Band for Running

Nike Sport Band

Nike’s Sport Band is made of os a silky smooth rubber and has plenty of perforations, making it breathable and comfortable when out running.

Best Apple Watch Band for Weight Lifting: Nike Sport Loop

nike sports band on purple background
Nike

Pros

  • Very lightweight, breathable material
  • Soft and flexible to move with your wrists
  • Reliable, secure fit

Cons

  • Fabric look might not be for everyone

Another great option in Apple’s Nike collection is the Nike Sport Loop. We’re recommending this one for weight-lifters and other activities involving lots of bending of your wrists in the gym. This Apple Watch band is made of a nylon weave that’s breathable and extremely lightweight. It doesn’t feel like you’re wearing anything at all, even when you’re curling those biceps.

The Nike Sport Loop uses a hook-and-loop fastener for a secure fit and is easy to wash, both of which are important when you’re sweating at the gym. And, of course, it’s available in 40mm and 44mm sizes.

Some may not care for the fabric look and there aren’t many colorways to choose from, but this band is definitely more geared for function over form. It’s priced at $49 and should make for a great addition to your gym gear lineup.

Best Apple Watch Band for Weight Lifting

Nike Sport Loop

The nylon weave of the Nike Sport Loop makes it breathable and flexible, two things you need when pumping iron at the gym.

Best Apple Watch Band for Swimming: UAG Active Watch Strap

Person wearing UAG strap while preparing to surf
UAG

Pros

  • Durable yet comfortable material
  • Secure fit even under 50m of water

Cons

  • Price is a bit steep
  • Limited color options

It’s hard trying to find an Apple Watch strap that’s as good in the water as it is out, but luckily UAG has just that with its Active Watch Strap. Available in both 40mm and 44mm sizes, the band is made of a high-strength nylon weave and stainless steel hardware, helping it withstand being submerged in 50 meters of water all while staying as secure on your wrist as it was before you take a dive.

The sport strap is a little pricey at $60 and it only ships in two colors (orange or black), but if you want a robust watch strap that can handle everything from a surfing excursion to a scuba-diving adventure, the Active Watch Strap won’t let you down.

Best Apple Watch Band for Swimming

UAG Active Watch Strap

UAG’s band straps on tight and can be submerged in up to 50 meters of water, ensuring it stays tight on your wrist when swimming or in the surf.

Best Apple Watch Band for Large Wrists: Carterjett Tire Tread Band

person wearing carterjett band while sitting
Carterjett

Pros

  • XXL size offered
  • Flexible material
  • Good price and color options

Cons

  • Design isn't anything special

If your wrist happens to be a bit on the larger side, we’ve got you covered. Carterjett’s Apple Watch band is made of silicone and is perfectly flexible. While it ships in sizes up to 10-inches, it can expand a bit if that’s still not enough so you’re practically guaranteed a good fit.

It ships in a few different colors including black, red, blue, and a special glow-in-the-dark variant. It’s also pretty affordable at $25 and is available for both 40mm and 44mm watches, although you won’t be showing it off very often due to its somewhat boring appearance. Still, if it’s a large Apple Watch strap you’re after, you can’t go wrong here.

Best Apple Watch Band for Large Wrists

Carterjett Tie Tread Band

When you have big wrists, it can be difficult to find an Apple Watch band that fits and isn't expensive. Carterjett's band is both!

Best Apple Watch Band for Small Wrists: Apple Braided Solo Loop

person wearing solo loop at dusk
Apple

Pros

  • Various size options for a snug fit
  • Soft, breathable material for all-day comfort

Cons

  • May take a couple of tries to get the size right

For those who have smaller wrists, we recommend Apple’s own $49 Braided Solo Loop. This band comes custom-fitted to whatever size wrist you have, so you can find the right size that fits snuggly. Available for 40mm and 44mm watches, the band is made of stretchy, breathable polyester and ultrathin silicone that’s blended together for maximum comfort. It’s also good at wicking away sweat and water if you get it wet.

The only real downside is the sizing process. If you don’t nail Apple’s size test on the first try, it’ll take you a bit longer to finally get the watch band you’re after since you’ll have to ship the incorrect one back and wait for the new one to come in. But it’s worth it for the perfect fit.

Best Apple Watch Band for Small Wrists

Apple Braided Solo Loop

The Braided Solo Loop is a band that Apple makes custom-fitted to your wrist size. You can’t beat that if you have small wrists and most bands are too big!

Best Designer Apple Watch Band: Hermès Leather Attelage Double Tour Band

hermes leather band on light grey background
Hermès

Pros

  • Classic design that's very elegant
  • Branding that's well-known
  • Beautiful construction thanks to Apple's partnership

Cons

  • You'll definitely pay a designer price
  • Leather might not be for everyone

If what you’re looking for is something luxurious, classy, and (dare we say) designer, look no further than Apple’s Hermès collection. The $489 Leather Attelage Double Tour band, in particular, is a stunner with its twice-wrapped design and elegant accents. Plus, it’s available for both the 40mm and 44mm watch models.

Its minimal aesthetic makes for a classy addition to any outfit, and its construction is carefully crafted by artisans in France. This is a sure-fire way to make a statement no matter the occasion, and its price certainly matches that. If you have the cash to spare, though, this Apple Watch band will make your accessory stand out like none other.

Best Designer Apple Watch Band

Hermès Attelage Double Tour Band

Featuring a stylish twice-wrapped design, the Hermès band is designer in every sense of the word, including price.

Best Leather Apple Watch Band: Nomad Modern Band

nomad leather band on black background
Nomad

Pros

  • Fantastic leather finish and design
  • Good construction

Cons

  • Price is a bit high
  • Very limited color options

When it comes to leather accessories, few companies do them as well as Nomad. The company’s Modern Band for Apple Watch is our pick for the best leather strap you can buy.

Nomad’s design and high-quality genuine leather make for a band that’s classic, modern, and rustic. It’ll also patina over time as you use it, which will give it a unique worn look. It’s relatively pricey at $70 and there aren’t any colors to pick beyond brown, but it’s an overall great look nonetheless for both 40mm and 44mm Apple Watch users.

Best Leather Apple Watch Band

Nomad Modern Band

Nomad’s leather band is sure to look great and last forever. It’ll patina over time and give your Apple Watch band a unique look.

Best Apple Watch Band for Sensitive Skin: Apple Watch Sport Band

person wearing apple watch while doing yoga
Apple

Pros

  • Soft, flexible material that's gentle on the skin
  • Plenty of colors to choose from

Cons

  • Design is a bit lackluster

If you’re looking for an Apple Watch band that’s gentle against sensitive skin, the $49 Apple Sport Band is a great option. Is it a bit boring? Yes, a bit, but it does come in a ton of different colors to make up for it.

The Sports Band is also the default band that ships with every Apple Watch, and it’s made of the same silky rubber as other Sport bands from Apple. Its coating is soft and gentle, so you shouldn’t have any problems if your skin needs a little TLC. And since it’s coming from Apple, it’ll fit nicely on both the 40mm and 44mm watches.

Best Apple Watch Band for Sensitive Skin

Apple Sport Band

Apple's standard watch band is the best if you're allergic to typical band metals or otherwise have sensitive skin. You can get a variety of colors to make your watch stand out, too.

Best Metal Apple Watch Band: KADES Link Bracelet

person wearing KADES band
KADES

Pros

  • Good construction
  • Genuine stainless steel
  • Toolkit for adding and removing links

Cons

  • Won't feel as nice as some more expensive offerings

Shopping for a metal Apple Watch band to add a classic look to your wardrobe? We recommend KADES’ Link Bracelet. It comes with genuine stainless steel links and a sturdy clasp that adds a premium aesthetic to your watch, regardless of whether it’s a 40mm or 44mm case size.

What’s more, it comes with a kit to add and remove links based on how large you need the band to be. It comes in silver or black and costs $22, which means it may not feel as nice as some more expensive offerings. Regardless, it’s a great all-rounder for those who want that timeless metallic appearance.

Just be careful if you have sensitive skin, as metal is the most likely material sensitive skin will have an allergic reaction to.

Best Metal Apple Watch Band

KADS Link Bracelet

Looking for a classic metal look for your Apple Watch? KADES' band has a great, classic look without breaking the bank.

Max Buondonno Max Buondonno
Max Buondonno is a technology enthusiast and writer who’s been covering the future of computing since 2015. His blog, Matridox, serves as a creative outlet for him where he can share thoughts on the latest technology news, gadgets he reviews, and more.
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