Unless you live in California and bask in eternal sunshine, you are probably going face the wet stuff from time to time. But don’t let rain put you off running. Part of the beauty of running outdoors is observing and feeling the different seasons on your skin.
We show you how to waterproof your wardrobe, the precautions you can take to enjoy a safer and more comfortable run in the rain, and how to look after your running gear afterwards.
Running in the rain isn’t completely different from running at any other time, but requires a little more vigilance and a bit more planning. You can’t just step out as you would on a bright, sunny day.
Run defensively rather than aggressively. Rain and low light reduce visibility, and also seem to make people less observant. This may be because people are rushing to their destination or perhaps withdraw into their own little worlds blanketed by the downpour. Whatever the reason, runners should be extra vigilant on rainy days and assume that other road users have not seen them.
Here’s what else to watch out for when heading out for a rainy day run:
- Check the weather forecast. Running in light rain is generally safe. But avoid running during heavy downpours, strong winds, hail, thunderstorms, or lightning.
Check the weather forecast, and if it points to dangerous conditions in your area skip your run or move your workout indoors.
- Modify your route and your workout. Stick to a running route you know well, isn’t remote, and allows you to run safely. Try to avoid muddy, slippery running surfaces or areas that are likely to flood. A rainy day run isn’t the best time for a speed workout or setting a personal best. Slow your pace and keep it safe.
- Take shorter strides. Striding out and heel striking in the rain increase your risk of slipping and injury. When running in the rain, run a little more flat footed than normal to ensure you get plenty of contact with the ground.
- Puuuudddles. As enticing as they may be, run around puddles. It’s hard to tell whether a puddle is mere millimeters deep, a water-filled pothole, or obscures a hazard that could cause injury. Be careful hopping over puddles, especially if running on trails. When you land on mud, you risk slipping and wiping out.
- Beware of slippery sidewalks. Run carefully on sidewalks, which usually slant down slightly toward the roadside and can become very slippery in the wet. Watch out for fallen leaves, metal potholes covers, and even painted stripes which can all be extra slippery. Stay in the middle of the sidewalk or away from the edge of the road as much as you can. This also helps minimize the chance of getting splashed by cars driving through large puddles.
- Scrape muddy soles. If you’ve run through mud at any point, it can stick to the sole of your shoe and reduce traction. Scrape off any buildup from the bottom of your shoes on a rock or sidewalk to maintain grip – regularly if necessary. Try to stay away from very muddy areas.
- Consider breaking distances. Because of less traction on wet surfaces, runners, cars, cyclists and every other road user will need more time to come to a stop in an emergency. Do not rush across roads and try to avoid making sudden course corrections. Slow things down and allow for lack of traction for everyone.
Take extra care crossing junctions and running near cars. Be aware that people with umbrellas have a very limited range of vision and may inadvertently step into your path.
Clothing + Gear
What to Wear Running in the Rain
You are going to get wet when you run in the rain. It’s more a question of how much.
The right workout clothes and equipment will help keep you as comfortable and dry as possible. It’s often a question of striking the right balance between keeping the rain out and not getting too warm from the waterproof layers. So the temperature outside will affect your choices.
Protective Outer Layer
A rain jacket made of water- and wind-resistant breathable fabrics can help keep some of the rain off your skin. However, even the best materials will make you sweat more than normal.
- Water-resistant, breathable, lightweight jacket or vest. Best for light showers. Water-resistant jackets tend to be more breathable and work well in warmer weather.
- Waterproof, breathable rain jacket. Good for heavier rain. This will keep you warmer and isn’t as breathable, so tends to be more comfortable in cooler conditions.
If going for a quick run (under 45 minutes) in light drizzle, it may be better to dress for breathability and temperature, so you might not need a rain jacket.
Brimmed Running Hat
A hat with a brim can make running in the rain more comfortable by keeping driving rain out of your eyes. A running hat with a peak that is designed to protect you from the sun is ideal.
- Warm rain: Opt for visors, which will keep the rain out of your eyes, protect them from the sun, and also allow body heat to escape through the head.
- Cold rain: A light, quick-drying cap will help keep your head warm and keep the rain from your eyes. Add a light beanie or headband for extra warmth, if needed.
Check Your Shoes
Regular running shoes are fine, as long as they have good traction. You can save your favorite running shoes for drier days, and opt for your older running shoes instead. However, make sure the treading of those old running shoes aren’t worn down and still have grippy rubber outsoles. If you have running shoes with extra traction, wear those.
- Waterproof running shoes with Gore-Tex are an option. However, once they get wet inside these shoes trap water. For this reason, many trail runners prefer breathable, non-waterproof shoes with excellent grip instead.
- Gaiters over the tops of your shoes to stop the rain from getting in are an option, if you’re heading out in pouring rain.
- Socks. Your feet will get wet from the rain above and the puddles below. So go for socks made with quick-drying fabric (manmade or wool) and avoid cotton. Think about taking an extra pair of socks with you, if you’re going on a long run.
Running (or splashing) though puddles may be inexplicably joyous and bring out your inner child, but also results in waterlogged running shoes. While your shoes are going to get wet running in the rain, it’s not quite the same as totally immersing them water. Running with soaked shoes and socks isn’t a whole load of fun, and can cause friction, chafing and blisters.
It can be very tempting to wrap up warm when you head out for a run in the rain and initially, you will be cozy and comfortable. Alas, once you begin to warm up, your run can turn into an unpleasantly sweaty and overheated affair. In other words, you’ll be sweaty and damp on the inside and wet from the rain outside.
Dress in layers so that you can remove items of clothing as you get warmer. Remember, if you start your run feeling a slightly cooler, you will warm up soon.
Running Weather Rule
Take the guesswork out of choosing running clothes with the following rule of thumb:
Add 20°F (10°C) to the outside temperature (taking windchill factor or humidity into consideration) to estimate what your running temperature will be and dress accordingly.
This is a starting point. Tinker with it. Some people run hot, while others run cold. Try out different layers until you learn what works best for you.
If the weather is a little drizzly but warm and you’re heading out for a shortish run, there is no need to worry too much about getting wet. Rain doesn’t bite, and can actually be nice and cooling. As long as you stay away from water-loving cotton, rain will run off your exposed arms and legs without any ill effect.
Wear quick-drying fabrics. Cotton is a natural, cool and comfortable material, but as soon as it gets wet, cotton can quickly become waterlogged, heavy and chaffing. Instead, wear running clothes made with moisture-wicking fabrics such as nylon, Lycra, and lightweight merino wool. They are designed to move moisture away from your skin, keep you dry, and help prevent chafing and blisters.
Break out the reflective gear. When running in dark or low-visibility conditions, wear bright colors and reflective gear. You can wear outer layers with reflective elements or add reflective tape to your running clothes. Consider a headlamp to illuminate your path and make you more visible to cars.
Waterproof your phone. Electronic devices and rain don’t mix, so make sure your phone is safely tucked away in a waterproof pocket or running belt to keep it dry. Waterproof cases designed to protect your phone are worth considering if you frequently run in the rain, or try a ziplock bag.
Don’t wear white. When light-colored clothing gets wet, it also becomes transparent. Choose dark colors for your sports bra, top, and running bottoms when running in the rain.
Chafing is caused by friction when skin (especially damp skin) rubs against skin or clothing. While chafing can happen during any run, it’s more likely to occur when running in the rain.
Apply lubricant such as Vasoline or Bodyglide to areas you’re likely to experience chafing to reduce friction. This can be parts of your body that are likely to rub together such as you inner thighs or underarms, as well as areas your skin may rub against clothing such as your feet, nipples, and sports bra lines.
How to Look After Your Running Gear
Unless you’re running with an umbrella, your running clothes are going to get wet. But how you treat them after a run can affect their lifespan.
Dry Your Shoes Naturally
Do: Take out the insoles and gently clean your running shoes by hand, using a sponge or toothbrush and mild soapy water. When clean, stuff shoes with newspaper or paper towels and allow them to air dry slowly and naturally. This draws out moisture, preserves their supportive and cushioning properties, and helps the shoes keep their shape.
Don’t: Avoid soaking your shoes in water, tossing your wet running shoes into the washing machine, or drying them on the radiator or dryer. This shortens the life of your running shoes:
- Force-drying your shoes using a high external temperature will make your shoes stiff and uncomfortable and may cause them to shrink.
- Washing running shoes in a machine can cause the glue holding them together to melt or weaken.
If you really need a fast turnaround for your wet running shoes and often have to run in the rain, have two pairs that you can wear in rotation.
Launder Running Clothes
Change out of your wet clothes quickly and into something dry. Wet clothes are cold clothes. When you’re wet your body temperature lowers, and when the weather is colder this may lead to hypothermia.
Do: Wet running clothes launder much more easily and completely if washed immediately, preferably while still wet from your run. Alternatively, hang up your wet gear immediately after your run and allow to dry. Then put it the hamper and wash it whenever you’re ready.
Running clothes are generally best laundered at low temperatures, with detergent designed for high-performance sportswear.
Don’t: If you toss your clothes in a laundry basket and they are allowed to dry, muddy stains and smelly odors can become very hard to shift.
Care for Your Rain Jacket
If you’ve invested in rain gear, be sure to look after it.
Do: Dry your jacket by placing it on a clothes hanger. Place it somewhere warm and airy. Once dry, brush off any loose mud or dirt. Some jackets need to be washed using a specialist detergent to preserve the waterproof properties of the material.
Don’t: Avoid putting your rain jacket away while still damp. Don’t dry it on the radiator. Try not to wash it more often than absolutely necessary, as that may reduce its waterproof properties.