Muslim athletes are a regular presence on the world’s most elite podiums. Take Ibtihaj Muhammad, the fencer who took home bronze at the 2016 Summer Olympics. And hurdler Dalilah Muhammad, who won gold in the 400 meters in Rio. I am a nine-time marathoner and a two-time sprint triathlete. I have run 15 half marathons and am on a quest to run all six World Major marathons. I was also the first hijab-wearing woman to make an appearance on the cover of a U.S. fitness magazine: Women’s Running, in 2016.
Yet one challenge for those of us who cover our hair while competing is the relative lack of performance hijabs. While Muslim-owned brands like Capsters, Asiya Sport, and Sukoon Active have produced athletic hijabs for almost a decade now, no major U.S. athletic brand had entered this market—until now.
On December 7, the $35 Nike Pro Hijab went on sale online. (Nike's out of stock at the moment but bringing it back in late spring.) The swoosh above the left ear is what excited me the most. My dream as a Muslim athlete is to be able to walk into a running store and shop from various athletic hijabs, Muslim-made or not, and the fact that the biggest sports brand in the world took the initiative to make one is heartening.
Last month, I tried out the Pro while running. I found that it’s best suited to low-impact activities, as they require fewer movements that can cause the hijab to slip. In these environments, I appreciated Nike’s Dri-Fit technology—with tiny holes perforating the polyester—which felt light and breathable in sweaty studios.
I didn’t like the Pro nearly as much for more dynamic activities, such as running and yoga. During my runs around Milford, Michigan, I found that the hijab slipped often. My hair was constantly slipping out the front when I ran, and I kept having to pull the Pro back so my forehead would be uncovered. It’s possible to reduce this slippage by wearing an undercap, yet this would obviously reduce the hijab’s breathability. And the Pro made my head appear—as we hijabis like to say—“egg-headed.”
So how does the Pro stack up to the other hijabs I’ve tried? I’d say it comes in at a solid second place.
Nike’s offering performs better on runs than Sukoon’s, which is made of merino wool and wraps around the wearer’s head with Velcro atop an undercap. This is good for colder weather. Sukoon’s design is street-friendly and the least odd-looking, but I found it too cumbersome for warm-weather activities. The Pro is more breathable than hijabs I’ve tried from Capsters, which are made from a heavy fabric that traps sweat and weighs down my head when waterlogged.
In my mind, the best performance hijabs are made by Asiya Sport. They’re made with an ultralightweight fabric that I found breathes well and feels supersoft against the skin. Composed of a polyester-spandex blend, Asiya’s hijabs are light and versatile, have no fringes to deal with, and are easy to put on. The only downside is that there’s too little material around the neck, so it has a tendency to come loose while I’m running. Asiya hijabs also have that “egg-headed” look, so I wear them under a cap.
Surprisingly, it’s the non-hijab headgear that I find works best. Buffs are often my go-to choice for everyday runs. They’re versatile and easy to put on and, honestly, the best I’ve found as far as aesthetics go. Top one with a hat and high-collared top and I’m good to go. Besides, I can find them at any running shop.