When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “into each life some rain must fall” in his romantically overwrought 1842 poem The Rainy Day, he probably wasn’t lacing up his running shoes for a brisk, invigorating jog through a freshly deserted neighborhood.
Running in the rain, sleet, snow or ice is one of the simpler pleasures enjoyed by runners.
If you’re just starting out and curious, feeling tired of being stuck inside or frowning at a weather report, read this ultimate guide for everything you need to know about wet weather running before you get out there.
- Running in Wet Weather – Benefits and Motivation
- What to Wear When Running When It’s Cold and Wet
- Tips for Running in the Rain, Snow and Ice
Feel free to skip ahead to your preferred section, or continue on.
Running in Wet Weather – Benefits and Motivation
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re considering running in rain, snow or ice, but not sure if you should.
As long as you’re not putting yourself in harm’s way by running through a lightning storm, zero-visibility monsoon, hailstorm, blizzard, ice storm, hurricane or tornado, you should absolutely get out there.
Here are some great reasons why:
- It’s liberating.
Everybody has a persistent voice that repeats “you shouldn’t,” or “you can’t.” Sometimes it’s an actual person. Sometimes it’s an inner voice. Other times, that’s the voice of so-called common sense. This time, that voice is reminding you that you’ll get wet if you run out there. You will. So what? If you want to run, it’ll take more than a little water to stop you.
- You’ll perform better.
Precipitation reduces your body temperature as you run, which can help you stay cool while also increasing your metabolic rate. Wet weather also forces minor changes to your form to avoid slipping, which can work your muscle groups differently than a usual run. You might also find that the splashy exhilaration of a wet run, combined with your desire to get back, can be natural motivators for a quicker pace.
- The results are worth it.
Think of how good you usually feel after a run. Now double it. It’s not just that you’ll have a nice hot shower waiting on you, although that will be amazing. You’ll also feel more energized and accomplished than most people ever do on a dreary, wet day. And you’ll be that much more ready to tackle everything else with the mindset of somebody who won’t let a little bad weather bother them.
If the above reasons aren’t enough to convince you to go out into the cold and wet for a run, consider this last one: it’s worth a try. If you do it with an open mind and find out you prefer a treadmill, at least you’ll know.
What to Wear When Running in Cold and Wet Weather
Running when it’s nasty out carries the same promise you’re likely to see on a sign in front of an amusement park log flume ride.
You will get wet.
No matter what you wear, or what gear you bring for a run in the rain, you’ll finish wetter than when you started. Temper your expectations. Ask, “What should I wear to run in the rain, snow or ice more comfortably?” Instead of, “How do I stay dry?”
Try the following:
- Weather-Ready Running Shoes: If your usual running route is fairly road heavy and has good drainage, a pair of waterproof trail running shoes might serve you best. But keep in mind that any water that gets into a waterproof shoe tends to stay there – a mesh option might not keep your foot totally dry, but it will prevent it from getting waterlogged. Many people choose to simply wear an older pair for rain runs. If your second-oldest pair of running shoes is truly past its prime, it might be time to rotate in a new top pair. And if snow and ice are prevalent enough in your area to make traction a true concern, a newer pair of trail running shoes with enhanced tread and grip features are a safe bet.
- Running in Ice Spikes or Snowshoes: If you’re in an area that’s frozen for a good portion of the year, you might want to invest in ice spikes or snowshoes for winter running.
- Running Socks: Stay away from cotton, as it soaks up water and constricts. What you want is a nice pair of running socks made of synthetic, moisture-wicking material. If you’re planning on a long run, consider bringing an extra pair or two in a plastic baggie.
- Running Tops: Just as cotton socks can make your life worse, so can a regular cotton t-shirt or sweatshirt. You’ll want a form-fitting, synthetic material option that’ll prevent clinging or repetitive soggy flopping. Consider bright color or reflective options that can help keep you visible, since most motorists don’t even bother to look for runners when it’s raining.
- Running Jacket or Shell: If you’re looking for an extra layer of protection, look into a light, breathable option made of quick-dry or weatherproof fabric. When choosing, remember to keep visibility concerns in mind.
- Running Shorts, Sweats, or Tights: As a general rule, the less flowy your rain running apparel, the better. Seek out form-fitting, synthetic, and lightweight options that won’t sop up moisture or chafe.
- Running Hats: All you really need is a baseball-style hat with a brim to keep the water out of your eyes, although a quick-dry or synthetic fabric runner’s hat will last longer without shrinking or developing a signature scent. For colder wet weather, a beanie will be a better option than a headband.
- Vaseline, Balm, or Powder: Especially over prolonged distances, moisture from precipitation will put you at greater risk for chafing and blistering in all the body parts where that’s frequently an issue. Prepping for a rainy run with vaseline, balm or powder can make a bigger difference than any apparel choice other than avoiding cotton.
If you’re planning on running anywhere other than from your home and back, you’ll definitely thank yourself for packing an extra dry set of clothing, and getting out of your wet gear as soon as possible after you’re done.
Tips for Running in the Rain, Snow and Ice
Once you get out there, what should you do? What do you need to do differently in the rain, snow or ice? What do you need to do when you’re done?
Remember the following:
- Thunder, lightning, low visibility, impossible traction, hail, and high winds are not your friend. As mentioned already, there are weather conditions to avoid running in. Check your local weather forecast for key words like “severe,” “warning,” “watch,” or “advisory.” If these conditions are present, wait until you have a more favorable window to complete your run. And if you have trouble with slippery footing, don’t push yourself to complete a run.
- Prevent chafing. More moisture means more friction. Use Vaseline or balm in the usual spots – thighs, nipples, etc. – to prevent chafing. If you’re planning a longer run, you may also want to powder your feet before you start.
- Visibility is key. Not only is it harder to see runners in wet weather, most people aren’t even looking. Choose high-visibility apparel options, and wear a baseball cap or visor to keep precipitation out of your eyes.
- Protect your electronics. If you run with your phone, earbuds, or other electronics, look for waterproof options, or go DIY with a baggie in a zip-up pocket or fanny pack.
- Run to avoid slipping. Water – especially when it’s frozen – makes most surfaces more slippery. Make sure your running shoes have adequate tread and grip for the conditions at hand. As you run, modify your stride length and cadence to shorter, quicker steps.
- Dry off your shoes when you’re done. Towel your running shoes off and pack them with paper when you’re done running. Letting your running shoes sit for too long when they’re soaked will age them prematurely and produce a stink.
- Remove wet clothes, shower and/or get dry as soon as you can. Running in cold wet conditions can lead to hypothermia once you stop moving. Plan to avoid this. Hang your wet clothes when you’re done with them, and remember to wash and dry them before wearing them next.
And while the above pointers are a great starting place for your first foray into all-weather running, we’d be remiss if we left off a crucial detail.
If you like to listen to music while you run, don’t forget to program your own special nasty weather run playlist.
So there you have it. Running in the rain is as simple as shedding your inhibitions, making a few extra preparations, and toughing it out.
You might even have fun.
And if the worst case scenario is you tried something you didn’t like, at least you’ll know you tried.
Good luck, and happy running. It’s Time to Fly™