You want to run when it’s cold and when it’s raining, pouring down on you. There’s nothing you can do but put your running shoes away and skip your run, right? Wrong!
Whether you’re training, participating in a race or running for fun, you certainly can run through rainy weather. In this article, we’ll look at 15 tips for running in the rain so you don’t have to skip a run and miss out!
‘When it’s pouring rain and you’re bowling along through the wet, there’s satisfaction in knowing you’re out there and the others aren’t.’ – Peter Snell, New Zealand runner who won 3 Olympic golds medals
Why do people choose not to run in the rain?
The amount of people I know who skip their run and opt for bed, Netflix or their mobile phone on rainy days makes me sad. These people don’t know they are missing out on the fantastic experience that is running in the rain.
A few of the reasons people despise rain and choose to avoid running in it are:
1. Social conditioning
Growing up, many of us (especially in the UK) have been programmed to have a dislike of ‘bad’ weather which includes rain.
On a rainy day, you may have heard common soundbites from those around you including ‘awful weather today’ or ‘oh no, it’s not raining again.’ You will have heard these negative descriptions of rainy weather throughout your life and subconsciously have learnt to associate rain as bad.
Ultimately, this social conditioning leaves you inclined to put off running in rainy weather, so you skip your workout or race and make no running progress. Not good.
Not your fault; lots of us are brought up to dislike the rain, but through reading this article, this attitude can be changed!
2. Not being prepared to get wet
Okay, this is slightly obvious but it’s worth noting. If it’s raining and you are dressed in nice everyday clothes not suited for rainy conditions, chances are you will get wet.
People don’t like getting wet because it can feel uncomfortable, make them itch, ruin their hair, make up and even damage their clothing i.e. suede shoes and rain are not a good mix. This attitude crosses over to running and it’s common for runners to dislike the rain too.
More than often, people only hate getting wet in rainy weather because they didn’t expect or prepare for it. Therefore, the rain comes as a surprise and makes them damp which can be a nasty shock.
After all, travelling from A to B in several situations (class, work locations, meeting family members) is never fun when you rock up at B looking like you’ve just come out of a bath. Right?
However, you’ll soon see that with some preparation you can reduce how wet you get and mentally ready yourself for getting wet.
3. You’re more likely to chafe during rainy runs
Excessive moisture on the skin, like a combination of sweat and rain (during a rainy run), can intensify the effects of chafing and irritate your skin.
If you don’t prepare for chafing during a rainy run, chances are your skin will start to painfully rub and this experience will put you off running in the wet.
I’ve experienced this first-hand. I ran the Bewl water Half Marathon in Kent this year (2019) and 6 miles in, we experienced a torrential downpour which lasted until the end of the race.
I neglected to check the weather forecast and as a result I began to chafe bad, especially around my nipples. Not fun. I learnt the rainy chafing lesson the hard way.
4. Reduced visibility
Some runners fear working out or racing in the rain due to not being visible. As rain can only occur when it’s cloudy in the sky, there is naturally a decline in natural light when it rains.
This reduces visibility can make it difficult for other traffic, pedestrians and other runners to see you, which could be a safety risk. Not ideal. You’ll soon learn how to combat the risk of reduced visibility and you’ll have tonnes of confidence to run in the rain.
So how do we combat these reasons for not running in the rain? Without further ado, here’s some top tips for running in the rain.
1. Check the weather before running
Before setting off for your run, it’s always a good idea to check the weather.
It takes about 20 seconds to check and can be the difference between you being soaked, miserable and weighed down or running with confidence, being prepared and feeling as light as possible.
Checking means you will be properly prepared for rain and can have the best run you possibly can, given the weather.
You can check the weather using a variety of methods. Smart phones, the TV, newspapers, radio and online are all quick, easy ways to check the weather. Don’t forget; always check the weather before running so you know whether it will be a rainy run or not.
2. Wear old running shoes
A massive objection lots of my running buddies use to not running in the rain is ‘I don’t want my new shoes to get wet.’ You might even recognise this objection because you’ve used it yourself so many times.
Understandably, running in rainy weather might mean your shoes get soaked which could damage them ever so slightly. Seeing as some runners treat their brand-new Asics Gel-Phoenix 9’s, Brooks Ghosts or Mizuno Waveriders like a new-born baby, the chances of them venturing out for a rainy run are slim to none.
The solution? Wear old running shoes during a rainy run. Older running shoes are going to be more worn out and less visually appealing than fresh creps, so you don’t mind if they wet.
Note: Make sure your old shoes aren’t so worn out that they aren’t fit for running. If you have already ran 400-500 miles in your old shoes, there’s a good chance the cushioning is worn out and your legs and ankles won’t be protected from the impact of pounding the pavement. You can use old shoes for rainy runs but first make sure they are fit for purpose!
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3. Wear waterproof running clothing
When running in the rain, it’s a good idea to wear waterproof clothing to block out as much moisture as you can.
Most running jackets on the market are made with water repellent microfibers which keep rain out, whilst still being incredibly breathable. This means you reduce rain getting onto your skin whilst eliminating the risk of overheating during your run.
It’s important to note that no jacket is going to be totally water resistant. You will feel some rain on your body, which will be difficult to separate from the sensation of your sweat, but it’s much better than dripping like you’ve just come out of a bath.
Remember, you must wear the jacket over a technical base layer i.e. a proper sports / running top. If you wear it an inappropriate material for running, like cotton, you will get overheated and stay wet from sweat and any rain that manages to get in. Not good. Always wear proper running tops underneath a waterproof jacket and you will be fine.
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4. Prevent chafing
Whenever I’m going to run in the rain, I always take steps to prevent chafing. After all, nobody wants sore and painful nipples!
You should be fine on short 2-4-mile runs, but for anything longer I would always recommend spreading some Vaseline or Body Glide onto parts of your body where chafing can occur.
Usual suspects include the nipples (men), feet, inner thighs, under arms, sports bra lines (women) and the lower neck. Applying a thin layer of Body Glide or Vaseline to these areas will act as a protective barrier between your skin and your clothing.
If you remember to do this, you should be able to run through the rain chafe free. Hallelujah!
5. Make yourself visible
Wearing luminous, bright outer layers which have reflective strips is an absolute must during rainy runs. No black, navy blue or other dark colours should be worn in the rain because they’re ‘slimming’ or ‘fashionable’. Sorry guys; safety first, runners second!
Neon and luminous colours, like green, yellow, orange and bright pink are easy to spot from a distance. The chances of you being seen with bright clothing on when running in the rain is hugely increased, and the chances of you being hit by a car, motorbike or another person are greatly reduced.
Wearing bright colours practically makes you a lighthouse beacon in the rain so you can be assured of being seen!
There are also a range of accessories which you can wear to be more visible. Flashing L.E.D. lights can be clipped to your waist, shoes or top, and you can even purchase items with L.E.D. lights built in like vests, headbands and waist belts.
Spending a couple pounds or dollars on a few of these bands is a reasonable investment for safety during rain running in my book!
6. Wear a brimmed running hat
A brimmed hat is a fantastic idea for rainy runs. Wearing a hat with a brim keeps rain off the face, meaning you can see where you’re going, even in a torrential downpour.
As a rule of thumb, wear a breathable brimmed hat with plenty of venting during warm and rainy weather. This means rain won’t get in your eyes and you won’t overheat.
In cold and rainy weather, wear a thicker brimmed hat to ensure you’re kept warm and can see properly. If it’s cold and windy, put a fleece headband on to protect your ears whilst keeping the hat from blowing off your head in case of a sudden wind gust.
I remember during the Bewl water half marathon when it rained torrentially, and I had nothing on my face but a pair of running sunglasses. I couldn’t see anything, and I wondered if I was worried, I’d slip over at any moment.
Though I didn’t slip, I now know if I had checked the weather and prepared with a brimmed running hat then I would have been able to see where I was going. Lesson well learnt; I now wear a brimmed hat whenever I run in the rain (after checking the weather).
7. Watch your feet
Whilst you should always pay attention to where your feet step when running, you should be extra vigilant during rainy runs.
Rain makes the path slippery, creates puddle, loosens rocks and roots, and can even cause tree branches to fall if it’s windy too. Risks include tripping over, twisting your ankle and getting your feet totally soaked (not good) to name a few.
To run safely and effectively in the rain, keep watch for what’s directly ahead of you and then tactically manoeuvre or avoid it. Doing so will keep you safe and allow you to run effectively without having to worry about injuring yourself.
8. Protect your electronics with waterproof cases
Waterproof electronics cases are easy to use, cheap to purchase and can be a real-life saver during a rainy run.
One thing no runner wants is to discover their mobile phone, headphones and any other electronics are water damaged after a run in the rain.
This could have easily happened to me at the Bewl Water half marathon I completed this year where is down poured torrential rain for the last 7 miles. However, I luckily always store my phone in a waterproof phone case whilst I run just in case it does rain, so my phone was protected from water damage.
Would you rather spend £5 – £15 (or 10$- 20$) on a waterproof phone case for your mobile and headphones, or risk them being water damaged? It’s a no-brainer.
A waterproof case is a must-have for runners and it’s an investment you can reuse repeatedly, truly allowing you to get your moneys worth.
Top tip: I use my waterproof phone case for every single run that I do, even if it’s not raining. My reason for this? I keep my phone in a back pocket and I (like everybody else) sweat quite a lot when I run.
To protect my phone from water damage (from sweat), I keep it sealed in my waterproof bag. It works wonders and I recommend anybody else does the same if they are worried about sweat ruining their phone on a long run.
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9. Don’t overdress
Always dress with the number of layers to match the temperature, not the weather conditions.
When it’s raining, there’s a temptation to dress in multiple layers of clothing because some runners mistakenly associate all rain with it being cold. Sometimes it will be cold and rainy, which would justify wearing a couple of layers to keep you warm.
However, if it’s hot and rainy, and the runner dresses with multiple layers to ‘keep them warm’ in the rain, they will soon overheat and have a dreadful time. I know this one from experience so don’t repeat my mistake and learn from it!
As a rule of thumb, wear one layer during a hot temperature with rain, and two layers when it’s cold and rainy. Of course, if it’s ridiculously cold and you have icicles coming out of your nostrils, you might want to wear three layers. This is for general guidance so it’s up to you on the rainy race or training day.
10. Wear a water and sweat-wicking synthetic fabric
Synthetic fabrics are used in most modern-day running clothing, and they’re a must for running in the rain.
‘Synthetic’ means made by chemical synthesis, in other words running tops of these kind have been scientifically engineered to have the best qualities needed for running. One of those qualities is water and sweat resistance.
Synthetic fabrics keep you dry and comfortable, wicking sweat and water away from your body as they are highly breathable.
Rain friendly synthetic fabrics to watch out for and wear are:
- Polypropylene – Water-resistant and a good base layer.
- Nylon – Sweat-wicking, breathable and super stretchy.
- Polyester – Ideal for running jackets as it’s breathable, lightweight, and non-absorbent.
11. Have dry clothes and a towel waiting for you
When you finish your rainy run, you don’t want to be stuck in wet and sweaty clothing. Not only will you smell (not good), you’ll also feel uncomfortable and leave yourself vulnerable to painful chafing as the wet and sweaty skin rubs against your clothes. Not good. Instead, have dry clothes and a towel waiting for you at the end of every rainy run you do.
If you’re running a race, pack dry clothes and a towel in your bag for the finish line. After you finish the race the wet, sweaty and exhausted you will feel much better after drying yourself off and slipping into some dry clothes. This will make the journey home to a shower much more enjoyable and you won’t risk the painful chafing which can occur in wet, sweaty clothes.
When training in rainy weather, place a towel and your dry clothes by the shower before setting off. This way you can easily jump straight into the shower for a freshen up and into your dry clothes after finishing the rainy run. As good running practice, I always leave fresh clothes and a towel by the shower regardless of the weather but it’s especially important when it’s raining!
12. Air dry your shoes
After finishing the rainy run, be sure to air dry your shoes immediately.
Take off the shoes and stuff them with crumped balls of newspaper. Doing this means your shoes will keep their original shape and the moisture will be drawn away from the shoes and into the newspaper.
Under no circumstances should you put your wet shoes by a heater or, even worse, in the washing machine!
Asics say ‘Don’t wash your running shoes in the washing machine. … Don’t dry your running shoes in the dryer, near a radiator or in direct sunlight. Heat can cause your shoes to lose their shape or come apart. Air-drying is best.’ If it works for Asics, it works for me!
13. Don’t aim for a PB
This tip will likely infuriate competitive runners out there, but it’s in this list for a good reason.
Rain is not the optimal weather condition for running. It makes the ground slippery, hinders your sight, makes clothing feel heavier and can push you back if it’s raining in the opposite direction.
For these reasons, rainy runs are not the time to be aiming for a personal best. You might risk doing yourself injury by slipping or tripping up which could cause you to miss out on weeks of running due to injury.
Also, the chances of you achieving a personal best in the rain are very slim. In all my time as a runner, I have never beaten a distance or course PB in rainy weather. This isn’t to say it’s impossible, but the chances are very unlikely because the odds are stacked against you.
Instead of aiming for a PB, have the mind-set of running in the rain for enjoyment. It is a unique, fun and pleasant experience, after all.
14. Don’t run during a thunderstorm
Okay, I know this list is ‘tips for running in the rain’ but there may be sometimes when you absolutely shouldn’t be running in the rain. As you can probably guess, a thunderstorm is one of those times.
A thunderstorm is a violent storm with torrential rain, thunder and lightning. These three weather conditions combine to create a cocktail of natural fury you really don’t want to get stuck in. Yes, running is important but it’s not so important that you should risk being struck by lightning or having a tree branch hit you when trying to run through a thunderstorm. It just isn’t worth the risk, believe me.
Just because there is a bad thunderstorm out, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your run altogether. You could run on a treadmill at home or a neighbour’s house, or perhaps visit a nearby gym or indoor athletics track.
If you do venture out of your house to go to a friend’s house, gym or indoor athletics track, make sure you aren’t outside for too long to minimise your exposure to the potentially dangerous thunderstorm.
15. Have a positive mind-set
Something that really annoys me is everyone moaning and complaining about the rain ‘stopping me from my run’ or ‘I hate running in the rain!’ All this negativity is not good for anybody; you, me and the people who complain themselves. I believe a positive mindset is key to successfully running through the rain.
There is nothing you, me or anybody can do about the weather. Rain included. The sooner we accept this and adapt to running in the rain with a positive mind set and by using the tips above, the sooner we will have great time.
Some tips to create and maintain a positive mind set for running in the rain are:
- Think of rain running as a unique experience – It’s not everyday you get to run through the rain. Think of it as a rare opportunity and relish the experience; running in the rain makes you feel truly alive!
- Remember how lucky you are to be able to run – Some people can’t walk and have been paralysed either from birth or by some life event, such as an accident.It annoys me when I hear runners complaining about running in the rain when there are thousands of people confined to beds and wheelchairs who would give anything to be able to walk and run. Think how lucky you are, and you’ll have a positive attitude to run gratefully through the rain.
- See running in the rain as good because it builds mental toughness – Use running in the rain as a strategy for building up mental toughness which will serve you for life.Rocky once said ‘the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, it’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.’Rocky’s words are so true. We all need mental toughness to get us through the trials and tribulations of life. Whether that be financial difficulty, having a sick child, losing a job, having low self-confidence, running in the rain can build up mental toughness.When you are mentally tough, you have the confidence and willpower to deal with challenging situations in life. I’d strongly recommend thinking about this before running in the rain.Undoubtedly, this will create a positive ‘I’m a hardcore badass for running in the rain’ attitude, and your mental toughness will increase.For more information on running and mental toughness, check out the following blog post: