How to Run in the Rain

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A father and daughter pass a cyclist as they run in the road down a paved road.

Nobody looks out the window on a drizzly day and thinks, “Looks like a great day for a run!” But there are real perks to getting outside no matter the weather. A run in the rain can lift your spirits and boost your self-assurance. Plus, running in the rain means you’ll be prepared if a storm cloud suddenly appears overhead come race day.

Still, you can’t just head out for a rainy run in the same nonchalant way you would on a sunny day. There are a few steps to take before, during and after your soggy run to prepare yourself for the conditions:

●      Gear up for rain: A shell, socks and quick-drying fabrics can make a difference. 

●      Plan with the forecast in mind: Check the weather and take time to warm up.

●      Watch out for rainy-day hazards: Beware of puddles, lightning and low-light conditions.

●      Cool down and recover: Change out of your wet clothes and dry yourself and your gear. 

Gear Up For Rain

Layer properly. A T-shirt may work great for dry summer runs, but if you’re running in a cold or wet environment, you’ll want to layer wisely. Remember that your body will warm up as soon as you start moving, so avoid wearing too many clothes, which can lead to overheating. The choice of shorts or long running pants or tights is up to you.

Choose quick-drying fabrics. Consider the fabrics you’re donning for your base layer against your skin. Cotton gets soaked and doesn’t dry quickly, which can cause your body temperature to plummet. (So, let’s avoid that, shall we?) Choose fabrics with a nylon or polyester blend, or a lightweight merino wool that will keep you warm even when it gets wet. These fabrics are designed to stay dry and move moisture away from your skin.

Wear a water-resistant outer layer.lightweight rain jacket will keep the moisture off of you. That outer layer will get wet if you’re running in a downpour, but if it does its job right, it’ll still keep you comfortable and dry underneath. Opt for a packable jacket that’s water resistant but also breathable enough so that you don’t turn into a sauna.

Try different layering systems to see what works. Some of us tend to feel cold, others run hot. If it’s 45 degrees out and lightly raining, some runners will be comfortable in shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, while others may want long pants and multiple layers on top. Know yourself and try out a few layering systems until you find one that works for you.

Focus on your feet. If your feet are happy, you're more likely to be happy—this is especially true on drizzly days. 

  • Socks: You’ll want quick-drying socks (again, avoid cotton), since your feet may splash through wet surfaces. Pro tip: If you’re going for a long run, consider packing an extra pair of socks to change into if your first pair gets soaked.
  • Shoes: The running shoes you wear the rest of the year will work fine. Or grab an older pair of running shoes you don’t mind getting wet. If you do that, make sure the shoes still have enough traction on the bottom to keep you from slipping. If your run takes you on trails, you may prefer a waterproof shoe with GORE-TEX® protection for really wet days. For more on picking a running shoe that works for you, read How to Choose Running Shoes.

Accessorize with intention. A few key accessories can go a long way in keeping you happy and dry(ish).

  • Running Hat: A brimmed running hat made from light, quick-drying fabric can prevent raindrops from falling into your face. Gloves can keep your hands warm if it’s cold out, but fleece gloves may get wet in a downpour, so consider skipping the gloves and tucking your hands inside your jacket for extra weather protection.
  • SunglassesSunglasses with a clear, low-light lens can be a good option if you want to protect your eyes from pelting rain or wind, or if you need prescription eyewear, but glasses can also fog up if it’s super wet out.
  • Reflective Gear: If you’re running in the dark, wear bright colors, reflective gear and bring a headlamp to light the way and help keep you visible to cars. 
  • Phone: If you’re running with your phone in a pocket or belt, consider wrapping it in a waterproof case

Plan With the Forecast in Mind

Check the forecast. Note the conditions you’re going to be running through. Light drizzle and some breezy winds? You’re probably OK to venture out. Threatening storm clouds with a forecast calling for hail and heavy winds? It might be a day to run on a treadmill inside, cross-train at home or take a rest day. You should never run outside if there’s a possibility of lightning; if you hear thunder or spot lightning while you’re out, turn back or seek shelter as quickly as you can. Public spaces like a protected bus stop, gas station or other public building can work as shelter in a pinch.

Warm up your body. It’s always a good idea to warm up before hitting your top running speed, especially if it’s cold and wet out. Do some dynamic movements like jumping jacks or squats before you head out, then start with a swift walk or relaxed jog for several minutes. That’ll help get your body get ready for what’s to come and reduce your chances of injury. Learn more tips in How to Start Running.

Prepare yourself mentally. There will be moments of discomfort while running in the rain. You will get wet. Remind yourself that you can do this. Mental toughness is a huge part of running in any conditions, so running in the rain helps build that up. There will be moments that make it all worth it, like a rainbow appearing in the clouds, a misty morning sunrise, or that feeling of accomplishment when it’s all over.

Watch Out for Potential Rainy-Day Hazards

Pick a route you know well. A rainy day isn’t the best time to get lost exploring a new zone on foot, just in case you need to bail out sooner than you planned. If you’re running on sidewalks, watch out for cars splashing water. Also, remember that inclement weather and low light can make conditions challenging for drivers, so consider wearing reflective gear, bringing a headlamp or other light, and exercising caution when crossing streets or running near cars. For more information about running after hours, read our night running tips.

Go puddle hopping. Puddles are inevitable on a rainy day, but you can usually avoid them by running around them or hopping over them. (Or find the spot that’s the shallowest to walk through.) Stomp through a deep puddle and you’ll end up with soaked socks and shoes, which can be uncomfortable to run in for any distance. Extremely wet socks can also cause chafing, which can lead to blisters.

Be mindful of trail hazards. Sidewalks and pathways can also become slick in the rain, especially when covered with leaves or other debris, so step with caution. If any part of your run leads you to dirt trails or paths, mud can pack on the bottom of your shoe. This may make your feet feel heavy and require more energy to run, and it’ll reduce your traction. So scrape your shoes on a rock if the mud builds up, and try to avoid the muddiest sections. For more inspiration, read Learn to Love Running in the Mud.

Watch out for see-through fabrics. Remember that whatever you’re wearing will likely get wet, so if it’s white or light in color, it may become slightly transparent when wet. Consider bright, non-white colors that will ensure privacy even when damp.

Cool Down and Recover

Dry yourself. After your run is over, swap out of your wet clothes for dry layers as soon as you can to help your body warm up and recover. You don’t want to linger in damp garments for long. Consider packing a towel in your post-run supplies to towel dry your hair or wipe off muddy legs.

Then dry all your stuff. Dry out your shoes thoroughly before you run in them again. Don’t put them in the dryer—that’ll cause damage to your shoes. Instead, set them near a heat vent or another warm, dry place. Or here’s a trick: Remove the insoles and stuff your shoes with paper towels or newspaper. That’ll help pull the moisture out from inside your shoes.

Cool down. Even if you’re cold and wet, don’t forget to stay hydrated and to cool down with some light stretching or foam rolling.

Remember: Safety is your responsibility. No internet article or video can replace proper instruction and experience—this article is intended solely as supplemental information. Be sure you’re practiced in proper techniques and safety requirements before you engage in any outdoor activity.


Article by Megan Michelson. Megan is a contributing writer and editor for Expert Advice and the Co-op Journal based in Tahoe City, California. She’s formerly an editor at Outside magazine, Skiing magazine and ESPN.com. REI member since 2009.

 

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Contributing Experts

Jay Ell Alexander

Jay Ell Alexander is the owner and CEO of the national running organization, Black Girls RUN!. She has been running since 2010 and is a Road Runners Club of America certified run coach. She also owns her own public relations firm. 

Monica Queen

Monica Queen is a Doctor of Physical Therapy who has been a runner for 20-plus years and was an NCAA Division I student-athlete at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, from 2001 to 2004.