Running in the Rain: Drench-Tested Tips to Be Prepared

We all try to plan around the elements when we run, but have you ever noticed that Mother Nature never takes the time to plan around us? We can watch the weather for a dry spot on a rainy day or risk a run when it's overcast and hope the rain stays away. Inadvertently, we’ve all been caught in the rain at some point in our running careers.

As long as the lightning stays away, running in the rain can be a perfectly safe experience. If you know you're going to be out in it, though, it's best to be prepared. This guide serves to give you the knowledge you need to stay safe and comfortable no matter how much rain is coming your way.

Are You Sure You Should Be Running in the Rain?

Before you head out the door and into the rain, think about the implications of going for a run in inclement weather. It’s not the end of the world should you choose to exercise inside for the day or take a day off altogether.

If you’re coming off an injury or prone to being injured, going out in the slippery, wet weather could make things worse. The last thing anyone needs is an injury that would knock you out of the running game for weeks, months, or even longer.

It’s best to reconsider a run out in the rain if you’re just not quite feeling like yourself. Even if you’re only feeling a little bit sick, you definitely don’t want to go out in nasty weather and risk feeling even more under the weather yourself.

Even if you’re feeling on top of your game, don’t head out into the rain unless you have the gear for it. You may cause yourself anything from discomfort to sickness to injury to something worse if you’re not prepared for what’s out that door. Having the proper gear for rainy weather is worth every cent you’ll spend on it. Read on to learn more about what to buy for different intensities of rain.

Where to Run in the Rain

It’s awesome you’ve decided to go for a run in the rain. Carefully consider where your run is going to take you, though. Before you start your run, plan out your route in advance so you know more or less what to expect every step of the way. When in the rain, it’s usually best to stick to paved surfaces. Even the most well-kept dirt trails can quickly turn into a slippery, muddy mess.

When dealing with the rain, try to stick to the high ground. All that water falling from the sky has to go somewhere, and gravity always draws it down into the areas with the lowest elevation. A dip at the bottom of a hill might just become a small lake. We all know that splashing in puddles is fun, but even a seemingly shallow puddle can prove hazardous by being deeper than you remember.

What to Wear While Running in the Rain

No matter how light or heavy the rain may be coming down, it’s essential to have the right gear for the conditions you’re facing. This obviously holds true not only for the amount of water you’ll be dealing with but also taking the temperature into consideration. The top priority for running in the rain is not speed or distance but rather comfort and safety.

That being said, don’t worry too much about fashion when you’re out in the rain. Make sure your clothes fit well and can combat the rain. Wear bright clothing so cars can spot you out on the road. It can get quite dark during a rainstorm, even during the day, and you want to make sure you are seen.

If you’re going to head out into the rain with electronics, don’t forget that electronics and rain typically don’t mix. Stash that phone in a waterproof pocket or keep it safe in a waterproof bag that will fit in your pocket.

Even a steady drizzle can change the game when it comes to running.

Light Drizzle

If the temperature is warm enough outside, a light drizzle can actually feel like a gift from heaven while you’re on your route. That being said, it’s still worth considering wearing fabrics that will resist water. Artificial fabrics like polypropylene are designed to do the trick. Avoid materials like cotton that will absorb rain and stick to your skin, adding weight and leaving you less comfortable.

No matter the amount of rain, make sure your footwear is up to snuff. Even in warmer weather, thicker socks can keep moisture from getting to your feet to keep away discomfort and those annoying blisters. Steer clear of a natural fabric like cotton for your socks as well. There are some waterproof socks out there, but don't forget that while they keep water from getting in, they also don't let your feet breathe, which can be just as uncomfortable.

Before you take off, check the bottoms of your shoes for tread. We all try to get as much wear out of our shoes as possible, but while running in the rain, you want to make sure those shoes are going to give you traction on those wet surfaces.

To keep the rain from becoming a visual distraction, consider heading out in a cap with a brim. This will keep the rain out of your hair, face, and eyes, allowing you to see clearly and focus on the run at hand. If it's reasonably light outside, lightly tinted or clear glasses can also help keep vision clear.

Drizzle/Light Rain

When light drizzle evolves to light rain, you’ll want to upgrade your rain-running gear. In addition to the gear mentioned above, go one step further by adding in a water-resistant long sleeve shirt or a light jacket. Since the rain still isn’t coming down too hard, this extra layer should keep the rain from reaching your skin for a good long while.

On your lower half, consider something equally water-resistant to keep water away from your upper legs. Whether you choose to wear shorts or pants, no one wants water causing painfully uncomfortable chafing while you're out on your route.

Moderate Rain

Moderate rain is certainly a thorn in any runner's side, but running inside isn't an option for you, and that run cannot wait. It's time to take your gear to the next level so you're not wet and miserable while you're out.

Since the rain is coming down nice and steadily, make the switch from water-resistant gear to something fully waterproof. A waterproof running jacket will keep that water from building up and adding weight, all while keeping you nice and dry underneath. Keeping that extra water weight away can make a huge difference on a run.

Even if the thermometer is showing warm weather, ditch the shorts this time around for the sake of keeping your legs fully covered. Water-resistant pants or leggings will keep the water at bay for a good long while. If you can, wear something fully waterproof to stop water penetration from causing all sorts of discomfort.

With moderate rain coming down, you'll start to feel the slosh in your shoes as you pound the pavement. This is definitely the time to bring thicker socks that will absorb water and keep it away from your feet for as long as possible. After all, perhaps the only thing worse than chafing in the groin area are blisters on your feet from moisture.

This is also the time to sport a water-resistant or waterproof cap with a brim to keep you seeing as clearly as possible. Depending on cloud cover, chances are it’s too dark for glasses, so that cap is probably your only hope. Not having to wipe water from your eyes constantly is a huge blessing when you have enough else to worry about. 

Running in a downpour? Good luck.

Heavy Rain

Heavy rain may be a runner’s worst nightmare. It’s probably even worse than running in snow. Either you're a die-hard outdoor runner, or they just won't cancel that race. Running is as much mental as it is physical, and it's time to gear up, bite the bullet, get out there and show yourself just what you can really do.

You’ll want to bring out all the heavy artillery for this run. Without all the right gear, you’ll be miserable the moment you step out your front door.

In this heavy rain, only a thick waterproof jacket is going to keep you dry from the intensity of the elements. Under that jacket, you're going to want to wear a thick long sleeve base layer to keep you warm and comfortable.

For your legs, there’s nothing better than waterproof pants or leggings to keep the water away from your skin. That much water can cause chafing in record time, and that’s not the kind of record you want to set on this run.

For your feet, those thick socks we talked about earlier will keep the water away for at least a little while. If it’s unlikely your feet will be getting warm enough to sweat, you could even try some waterproof socks. Your socks will be your last line of defense from wet feet, as even waterproof shoes are designed to breathe and won’t keep the water away indefinitely.

Finish your heavy rain ensemble with a nice pair of waterproof gloves. Chances are you won’t overheat in heavy rain, and waterproof gloves can keep your hands warm, comfortable, and dry.

Running Jacket Suggestions

We mentioned a lot of gear above, but second to shoes, running jackets are the most critical piece of gear you'll leave the house with. By keeping your core warm and dry, you have a better chance at beating both the mental and the physical game while out in the rain.

It goes without saying that there are some great running jackets out there. Here are a few top running jackets to consider:

The North Face Men’s Resolve and the North Face Women’s Resolve 2 are perfect waterproof jackets for wet days. They are on the thinner side, so if the temperature takes a dip, you'll need to layer these if you want to stay warm.

The Ultimate Direction Men’s Ultra Jacket V2 and the Ultimate Direction Women’s Ultra Jacket V2 are a pair of great all-weather running jackets. They are waterproof yet somehow breathable to keep you dry from both the rain and your sweat.

If you’re going to run in freezing rain, the Arc’teryx Atom LT Men’s Insulated Hoody and the Arc’teryx Atom LT Women’s Insulated Hoody are made to keep you dry and warm. While not completely waterproof, they offer enough insulation to keep the water and the cold away from your body.

Final Thoughts

Running in the rain is an inevitable part of being a runner. Some may even call it a rite of passage. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. As long as you’ve taken into consideration everything we’ve outlined here, it can be quite enjoyable.

Be sure to ask yourself if you’re up to the challenge. Don’t risk getting sick or making an injury worse. Plan out your route in advance and avoid potentially muddy or lower elevation areas. Be sure you’re appropriately geared up for whatever type of rain you’re going to be facing while out. Finally, do all that you can to make the most out of the experience!

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Noah Zelvis
Saint Joseph, Michigan
1 Following

Long distance runner, world traveler, writer


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