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Running Drills

Running outside: A guide to the gear you really need

Two runners enjoy a sunny jog on a dirt path.
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After months of winter, the weather is starting to warm and the glorious prospect of running outside is once again opening up to us. That welcome shift in temperature, though, likely also means a change in gear. So, how can we select the right gear to properly prepare ourselves for running outside during the warmer months?

Footwear

For runners, shoes are an incredibly important piece of equipment. Tons of factors must be considered when deciding on your ideal running shoes, just one of which is the weather in your area. During the winter, you likely favored warm, waterproof shoes that were probably a little on the heavy side. They can take a few months off.

Spring and summer call for lighter, cooler, more breathable shoes. Features like mesh vents will help keep your feet cool and prevent overheating. Be mindful of the fit as well, since the heat can increase the risk of skin irritation and blisters. A properly fitting shoe, though, will prevent this issue.

Of course, there's also a chance you've spent the past few months in the shelter of your treadmill. If that's the case, things like waterproofing and isolation won't be an issue. Running on a treadmill, though, generally means your stride length and foot placement will be different than when you're running outside. An outdoor run will also place greater impact forces on your joints, meaning you'll probably need more cushion in your summer shoes than what you've been using on the treadmill.

But good shoes are only part of the footwear equation. Although they tend to be overlooked, your socks are also important. When running outside in the heat, make sure your socks are tight and comfortable to prevent skin irritation. Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics with vents around your arches to further fight the heat and keep your feet cool.

Two runners running outside during summer

Clothing

When it's time to start running outside, your wardrobe will likely see a major change. During the coolers months, you probably had all sorts of layers focused on keeping you warm. Now, however, you'll want to find clothes that are moisture-wicking and well vented. You should also avoid dark colors — which can attract heat — and look for fabrics that offer UV protection to shield your skin from the sun.

While there are plenty of quick-drying fabrics to choose from for your summer runs, avoid cotton. At all costs. This common fabric has a habit of trapping both moisture and heat close to your body, making it very unpleasant in the heat. Wool, on the other hand, is actually a pretty effective cooling fabric and could be a workable option. Whatever the fabric, though, look for clothes that are as close to seamless as possible to limit any rubbing and skin irritation.

You may also want to be prepared with a lightweight, breathable, waterproof jacket. This is not for warmth. Instead, this jacket is meant to protect you from the occasional summer showers you might encounter.

Two runners wearing a cap

Accessories

Although the above covers the basics of outdoor running gear, there are a few other things that could be useful. Again, the idea with all of our warm-weather gear is to manage our internal temperature, stay hydrated, and protect our skin from sun damage.

That added heat and sunshine we're all so eager to enjoy means that hydration is even more of a concern than it would normally be. So, while you may have gotten away with neglecting this basic human need in the winter, you'll need to start bringing water with you now. And, from handheld bottles to hydration belts, there are plenty of ways to stay hydrated during your runs. Of course, how much water you need to bring — and whether or not you'll need to supplement that water with any electrolytes — will depend on the length and intensity of your runs.That added heat and sunshine we're all so eager to enjoy means that hydration is even more of a concern than it would normally be. So, while you may have gotten away with neglecting this basic human need in the winter, you'll need to start bringing water with you now. And, from handheld bottles to hydration belts, there are plenty of ways to stay hydrated during your runs. Of course, how much water you need to bring — and whether or not you'll need to supplement that water with any electrolytes — will depend on the length and intensity of your runs.

Finally, we come to headgear. Hats and sunglasses, when chosen carefully, can provide ample protection from the sun. When it comes to hats, we're really just concerned with the visor and its shading abilities. Of course, a simple visor — without the actual cap that covers your head — could work here, too. If you do go full hat, make sure it fits properly and is vented as much as possible.

Similarly, sunglasses are there to protect your eyes from the sun's radiation. With that in mind, it's important your sunglasses are actually designed to block UV radiation. Look for statements about UV protection or SPF on the label to be sure. If you want to be extra sure, you could even take your sunglasses to an optician for a fancy photometer test.

Running outside is a joyous event, especially after enduring months of winter chill. By selecting your gear to keep you cool and protected from UV radiation, you can safely enjoy the next few months of outdoor running.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

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Written By
Jonathan Thompson

Fitness Nerd

Jonathan with a dog in the snow

My interest in fitness started young, primarily as the survival strategy of a scrawny asthmatic. After receiving my certifications as a personal trainer and nutritionist, I started writing fitness articles. At this point, running is a non-negotiable part of my life.