I never used to think about is it bad to run in the rain, I’d just do it. If my schedule said “run”, out the door I’d go.
Yet it’s a question I’m often asked by beginner runners: “Is it safe to run in the rain?”
The answer of course is yes. Where I live right now it rains A LOT. Does that mean I don’t get to run much? Of course not. You just need to apply a bit of common sense and take a few precautions.
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The Benefits Of Running In The Rain
Rain may put you off leaving the house, (I know heading out on a cold, wet day sucks), but there are quite a few benefits to running in the rain…
Your Performance Improves
Hot weather running will do nothing for your performance. A cooling rain shower on a hot day can stop you over-heating and up your speed. Just being a few degrees cooler can make all the difference when you’re chasing a PB.
Of course it’s a different story if you’re heading out into gale force winds and energy-sapping horizontal rain. For racing in cold winter rain, it’s best to hold back a little. You’ll need to hang onto some extra energy to get around the course.
It’s A Challenge
The best runners can adapt to all running conditions. Training in bad weather toughens you up and makes you able to face whatever race day brings.
It can be fun running in bad weather. Maybe “Type 2” fun, where the enjoyment comes after you’ve completed the run. When you’re back at home, warm and cosy, euphoric that you survived the rain.
It can be easier to focus
I find running in the wet makes me withdraw into a little bubble. I’m not looking at views and sunsets, I’m focusing on the road or trail ahead.
The world shrinks to just me and my running. To my breath, pace and those little things you don’t notice when there’s something to look at. Running smoothly, keeping my hips level, arms relaxed…
Escape The Crowds
A rainy day keeps most people indoors. Even popular areas become deserted. Only a few other hardy souls braving the weather.
For many of us it’s hard to find places to go to if you want to run on your own. Yet when it’s wet, the crowds disperse.
When It’s Not A Good Idea To Run In The Rain
There are a few unbreakable rules for running in the rain:
Don’t Go Out In A Thunderstorm
I’ve climbed peaks with lightning flashing all around me. Trust me on this one – it’s a very scary experience. Being out in a thunderstorm is best avoided.
Always check the weather forecast before you head out for a run. If you’re caught out in a storm, where the lightning’s directly overhead, get off the top of hills or mountains as quickly as you can. Avoid sheltering under cliffs or in gullies and never shelter under an isolated tree.
Look for depressions or low points away from fences, trees or poles. If you can reach safety in time, before the storm strikes, head for it and get inside.
Avoid Running In Strong Winds
It’s better to use a treadmill or reschedule your run on days with strong winds, especially if you’re a trail runner. The wind chill factor cools you down quickly exposing you to the risks of hypothermia.
If you’re the type of person who insists on trail running in any weather, (I guess I’ve been there), never underestimate the clothing you need for running in the rain. Take spare layers and make sure you have a full set of waterproofs.
Always avoid exposed mountain ridges in strong winds. A easy ridge on a calm day becomes a dangerous place to be when the wind picks up.
How To Run In the Rain On Roads
When you run in the rain on roads the main safety issue is being seen by drivers. Vehicles with wind screen wipers going full pelt will be struggling to see the road ahead, never mind a runner in their peripheral vision.
Make Sure You Can Be Seen
Wear bright colors to make sure you stand out. Running in the rain is a time to break out those neon running tights.
On dark overcast days don’t wait until nightfall to reach for the hi-viz. This Tracer360 reflective vest can be worn anytime, anywhere…
What To Wear To Run In The Rain?
Sometimes it’s okay to just get wet. If it’s a warm but wet day, wearing a waterproof jacket will just make you overheat.
Of course it’s different in cold rain, but you may still find a water-resistant, windproof jacket will be enough to keep you warm. You won’t be dry at the end of your run but it will keep out the worst of the weather trapping warm air around your core.
Beef up your normal running kit. A long sleeve top, possibly a mid layer and running leggings will all help to keep you at optimum temperature running in cold rain. If in doubt about what to wear, it’s always better to play it safe – go for more layers rather than less.
Quick drying, wicking fabrics are key. They help to keep moisture away from your skin. Cotton fabrics are never a good idea for running gear – especially in the wet.
Go for clothing that fits well. Loose fitting gear is more likely to chafe.
I’m a big fan of the Salomon Agile jackets for wet weather running.
It would have to be really awful weather or perhaps on a long slow run before I’d reach for a full waterproof for running on the roads.
For most fabrics, as they become more waterproof, they also become less breathable. That’s fine if you’re walking the dog and exerting minimal effort, but you can quickly overheat on a hard run.
So unless you have deep pockets or you’re hitting the trails, I’d put up with a little dampness running on the roads.
✅ This is the ONLY waterproof jacket I’ve found that really works for running. It’s incredibly lightweight, really breathable and fully waterproof. Find out more here…
Go For Good Traction
Running in the rain is not the time to test out your racing flats. You need some good traction on slippery wet roads.
Look for shoes with grooves that can channel water and cope with mud on the roads. Slipping often leads to twisted knees, sprained ankles and injury time. It’s best avoided.
It’s always a good idea to have more than one pair of running shoes. Starting a run in wet shoes is always unpleasant! Alternate shoes in spells of bad weather so you always have a dry pair.
A good tip for drying out shoes is stuffing the toe box area with paper. Try it and you’ll find your shoes dry out much quicker. Look for a warm place to dry out your shoes but be warned. Drying out your shoes on or directly under a radiator will damage your shoes. Don’t put them too close.
Keep The Rain Out Of Your Eyes
I prefer to wear a cap. Even if I’m wearing a jacket with a hood, wearing a cap under the hood provides a better brim for keeping the rain off.
Hoods tend to get in the way when you’re running and make it harder to see. Unless it’s really bad weather, a cap can be the best way to keep the rain off your face.
Protect your phone
I think this is something you only do once – let your phone get wet on a run! I keep mine in a plastic bag and stash it in my flip belt.
You’ll find other tips for protecting your phone in my post “Where to put your phone when running“.
Avoid Cotton Socks
If you’re still running in cotton socks you’re not the only one. Somehow socks can be the most over-looked item in a runner’s wardrobe.
In wet weather it’s time for an up-grade. Cotton socks retain water and chafe causing painful blisters. It’s no fun running in cold, soggy wet socks. Look for specific running socks in man-made fabrics. These are some of my favorites…
Chose Your Rainy Day Run Route Carefully
Watch out for roads that flood or routes where visibility will be a problem. There’s a lot to be said for sticking to sidewalks or parks when running on wet days.
Take care splashing through puddles – yes it can be fun but just make sure you stay upright! Wet leaves can be surprisingly slippery – you have been warned!
Dry Off Quickly
Sitting around in wet clothes after a run is asking for trouble. Your muscles will get cold and stiff and it’s easier to catch a cold when your immune system is temporarily compromised from your run.
Change out of wet clothes as soon as you get inside and grab a hot drink and something to eat. I find it’s best to eat first before heading for a hot shower. A sudden change in temperature can make you feel dizzy on an empty stomach.
Extra Tips For Trail Runs In The Rain
Trail running in the rain can get serious very quickly. With running on trails and in the hills you’re always living on the edge.
A slip or twisted ankle on a sunny day in the hills is one thing. You can limp back to safety with no real harm done.
In cold wet rain, with the extra effect of wind chill, you can suddenly be exposed to the very real risk of hypothermia where your body temperature drops to dangerously low levels. Signs of hypothermia are shivering, slurred speech and mumbling.
Always TAKE Full Waterproofs
Water-resistant won’t cut it on the trails. Make sure you have a fully waterproof jacket and over trousers.
You need to put them on in good time. Don’t wait until you’re shivering with cold – it could be too late.
It’s hard to find really effective running waterproofs. The Arc’teryx Novan SL Hoody is my favorite waterproof jacket for running. Incredibly lightweight, fully waterproof and amazingly breathable, it keeps the rain out without overheating.
Carry Safety Kit
Be prepared – it’s a motto that really works for the trails. I always slip a survival bag in my running pack, take a spare warm layer, map and compass, high calorie food, some water, and a headtorch.
It may sound like a lot but it’s easy enough to carry in my Salomon running vest. The aim is to be self-sufficient and be able to get myself back down to safety.
Don’t forget your feet
When it comes to trail runs in the rain, traction is incredibly important. You may get away with your road shoes running on dry and dusty trails but you won’t when that dust turns to mud.
Invest in some good footwear. There’s a reason most trail runners are clad in Salomon or Inov8 trail shoes. These shoes have good grip and are supportive when you’re running in steep and slippery conditions.
You can chose from waterproof or non-waterproof trail shoes. I find waterproof trail running shoes tend to get sweaty and once they fill with water, (over the top of the shoe), they won’t drain. You end up sloshing around in very wet shoes.
A better option is to match non-waterproof shoes with waterproof socks. Sealskinz waterproof socks are a big favorite with trail runners in cold wet weather. It’s really hard to stay warm with cold wet feet and these socks are the answer.
These tips aim to keep you safe when you run in the rain. There’s no harm in being cautious and finding a treadmill when the weather gets bad. Running in the rain can be very enjoyable – just make sure you wear the right clothing and mitigate for extra hazards. If you’re struggling to find the motivation to get of the door, take a look at these tips…
Frequently Asked Questions
Run in shoes with good traction and plan your route carefully to avoid burst river banks and mudslides. Stay warm with a fully waterproof jacket for long runs in cold rain. Make sure you can be seen easily by traffic, keep your phone dry, wear a cap to keep water out of your eyes and change into dry clothes straightaway after your run.
Most of the time it’s safe if you take some precautions – the exceptions are thunderstorms, strong winds and really poor visibility. Dress for the conditions and make sure you have shoes with good grip. You need to be especially careful if you’re running on trails.
Constantly washing and drying out running shoes will shorten their life and you’ll never get your running shoes completely clean after a muddy run. It can be best to save your old running shoes for running in the rain.