It’s the worst feeling—you look outside or check the weather app on your phone and realize that you’ll have to do today’s run in the rain. While I’m guessing that not many people like running in the rain, sometimes it’s just something that you have to do.
In this article, we’ll cover everything that you need to know about running in the rain. We’ll go over what to wear (and what not to wear!), general tips for running in the rain, and some race day tips for bad weather. By the end, you won’t worry as much if you have to run in the rain because you’ll be prepared.
What to Wear in the Rain
Running is one of those activities where it’s important to dress the part. If you’re not wearing the proper stuff, you’ll either be too cold, too hot, or, in this case, too wet. Make sure that you have the following items in your running gear arsenal for those rainy days!
Hat With a Brim
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like wearing hats. However, when one of my friends and I ran a 10k and it suddenly started downpouring, I was pretty envious of her hat with the brim. She could see just fine, but I kept pushing water away from my eyes because it was pouring in.
Don’t be like me. Instead, have a hat with a brim for those overcast and rainy days. You don’t have to wear it any other time, but you’ll be glad to have it when it’s keeping rain out of your eyes.
This is the most important component to make sure that your run in the rain is as comfortable as possible. Don’t skimp on your rain jacket. The joy you feel at saving a buck will evaporate quickly the first time you are out in the rain with a sub-par rain shell.
If it’s heavy rain, throw on a GORE-TEX or waterproof jacket so that you aren’t completely drenched when you finish your run. If it’s light rain, a windbreaker or water-resistant jacket is fine, but remember that light rain can always very quickly turn into heavy rain. So be prepared.
A base layer can always be helpful, but especially so if it’s cold outside. Don’t be caught like I was during a recent 10k, with only a tank and no base layer, as cold rain poured down. Depending on the temperature, pick either a short-sleeved or long-sleeved base layer.
I always like to step outside with my running gear on and see how I feel. If I’m super cold, chances are that even when I start running and getting warmer, it still won’t warm me up enough. If that’s the case, I add another layer. Remember you can always take off a layer mid-run if it’s too warm!
This is especially important when you run on the side of the road. Rain greatly reduces visibility for drivers, making it very difficult to see runners. A reflective vest – or even a light-up option – makes you more visible in even the heaviest downpours. Don’t be subtle trying to catch drivers’ attention with a reflective vest.
Waterproof Running Shoes
While these are not a necessity, waterproof shoes can be nice to have, especially if it tends to rain a lot where you live. Just remember that they aren’t foolproof. Your feet may still get wet from sweat. Rain can, of course, also seep into your shoe through the ankle, so don’t worry if all you have is just a normal pair of running shoes.
What NOT to Wear in the Rain
While it’s always important to be wearing the right running gear, you definitely don’t want to be wearing some articles of clothing when it’s raining, as it will be doubly uncomfortable.
Cotton Clothes and Shoes
This is so important—no cotton! Cotton is definitely not ever a recommended fabric for running in. If you run in a cotton shirt or shoes in the rain, it will basically be plastered to you. You will be dripping wet your entire run, and this makes you a much more likely candidate for a cold or the flu several days later.
While you might be tempted to dress like it’s 10 degrees outside to stay warm, you are likely going to shoot yourself in the foot. If you have too much on, you’ll overheat and sweat too much. This will make your clothes even wetter, and counter-intuitively, you’ll be even colder.
Make sure that you dress for the weather, but don’t overdo it. Even if you feel like you’re going into 10-degree weather, remember that it’s actually 50 degrees and dress for that weather with some slight changes since it’s rain.
While you might want to save you new shoes from getting wet, this is actually the wrong idea. It’s better for your new shoes to get wet and dry than to run in old, worn-out shoes that might make it more likely for water to seep in.
Now that you have a broad idea of what to wear, here are just a couple other tips that will make your life easier and more comfortable.
If you’re someone who likes to run with your phone, a great way to keep it dry is to put it in a Ziploc bag. Incidentally, this also works if you’re headed to the beach. There are plenty of rain-resistant phone armbands as well, if you you don’t mind dropping a few bucks.
While it’s okay to run in the rain, you do not want to run in a thunderstorm. Be prepared to stop your run if you hear thunder or see lightning. Remember the two always go hand-in-hand and you don’t want to be struck by lightning.
This goes without saying, but it’s going to be more slippery, especially just when the rain starts. That means that you need to be more careful. If it’s a route that you run a lot, try to remember all the weird contours of the road—the unexpected dips, the raised sidewalks, and so forth.
Unless you live in Florida or Hawaii, you should do at least a couple training runs in the rain to prepare for a race in the rain. This is especially important if you’ll be running a longer race like a half marathon. You need to prepare for a long run in the rain!
Finally, it’s just going to be uncomfortable, but it’s a good opportunity for you to strengthen your mind. By running in the rain, you’ll be teaching yourself that you can do hard things. And you’ll be able to warm up with a hot shower once you get home!
What to Do Post-Run
After a rainy run is not a good time to be haphazard with your cool-down and post-run routine. To warm back up, change immediately after your run into completely dry clothing. Also, don’t forget to dry out your shoes post-run.
You should stuff newspaper inside the shoes to keep the shape, and then leave then outside after the rain stops to dry in the sun. But make sure that you keep an eye on them. Don’t accidentally get them drenched with more rain.
Rainy Race Day Tips
You were hoping for great weather, but you have suddenly realized several days before your race that it’s going to be rainy. Here are some ways to prepare and still have a great race.
Use a garbage bag pre-race to stay dry and definitely stay underneath a tent if that’s an option. Also, make sure that you bring a change of shoes and clothing. If you need to, you can swap your clothing and shoes before the race if they get wet.
Finally, just grin and bear it. While it’s definitely not the ideal race day, it could be worse—blazing hot, or unbearably cold. At the end of the day, you’ll be proud of yourself for crossing the finish line!
Not everyone likes running in the rain, but if you’re prepared, you can make the best of it. Running in the rain makes you a stronger and better runner, and person in general. Good luck!