Running in the rain might sound unappealing, but trust us, with the right gear, it can actually be fun. Here's all you need to know to face down one of Mother Nature's toughest elements.
That dawn patrol alarm rings and you're instantly hit with the sound of falling rain outside. Pull the covers over your head, or gear up and get out? We're actually fans of running in the rain, so we vote for the second choice. If you want to learn to embrace the elements, you should know it's all about attitude and the right gear.
Embrace the elements
Let's start with attitude: Rainy runs are never, ever as bad as you think they're going to be. Getting out the door is the hardest and worst part. It may take a few runs for you to become a believer, but once you've given it a go, we think you'll agree. In fact, running while the rain falls can make you feel like a child again – remember splashing through puddles?
The Norwegians even have a word for enjoying the outdoors in any element, and they know a thing or two about cold, rainy weather. It's friluftsliv, which loosely means "the art of embracing the outdoors". To their culture, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.
To channel your own friluftsliv, then, you need to gear up with the right pieces. From head to toe, there's running clothing designed to get you through wet runs comfortably so you can get the most out of your time on the roads or trails.
What to wear when running in the rain?
You are probably wondering what kind of clothes you should wear when you are running in the rain. Starting at the top, look for a hat that's both quick-drying and features a brim – some might even be wind- and water-resistant. The brim will help keep the rain off your face so you can see clearly. A fabric that dries quickly means you won't be stuck with a wet head for long once you head indoors or if the rain stops mid-run.
When it comes to your torso, there are plenty of choices, depending on the temperature and your personal preferences on how warm or cold you tend to run. But layering can be the best strategy with rain. Start with a technical top that sits close to the skin so it won't weigh you down when wet. A jacket that features wind- and water-resistant materials can go on top of that. Look for a jacket in a breathable fabric that will allow heat to escape as you warm up.
On the bottom, opt for shorts, tights or trousers made to take on the wet elements. Look for wind- and water-resistant fabrics that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying. This will keep your chief running muscles warm and ready for action throughout the run.
While you lose much of your heat through your head, with rainy conditions, you'll want to pay just as much attention to your feet. That means picking shoes and socks ready to take on the elements. Start with socks: This is not a time for cotton, which will soak up the water and leave you vulnerable to blisters. Instead, pick technical fabrics that can dry quickly and wick moisture away from your feet.
When it comes to shoes for running in the rain, whether you're headed to wet, muddy trails or out on rain-soaked roads or pavements, look for waterproof models designed to keep the water out. Other considerations, especially for trails, include added traction to prevent slipping and sliding.
Finally, don't forget your hands, which are just hanging out when you run. Slide on high-tech gloves that will help keep the elements out and your fingers warm and ready to embrace that cup of coffee when you head back inside.
Benefits of running in the rain
From making you run faster to building mental strength, running in the rain has a host of benefits. Here’s why you should brave the rain and run happy whatever the weather:
Build mental grit
It can be tough to get out there when it’s pouring down outside. But running when you don’t particularly feel like it can help to improve your mental resilience. Training when it’s difficult will help you to build the mindset you need to power through when the going gets tough in races.
Sometimes, you just need to laugh at yourself. And what’s funnier than getting soaked to the bone while running in the rain? Laughter is the best medicine, so if you’re feeling stressed about work, or life in general, a run in the rain might just help to make everything feel a little better.
Okay, so heavy rain might not actually increase your speeds – studies have shown that, generally, rain makes for slower running. But the thought of getting back to your nice, warm house might help you to pick up the pace at the end of your run, giving you a confidence boost – and extra kudos on Strava.
Burn more calories
Running in the rain may help you to burn calories faster than running in mild weather. That’s because our bodies must work harder to stay warm, therefore increasing your metabolic rate – and burning more calories in the process.
Can you run in the rain, safely?
Of course it is possible to run in the rain. You just have to think about your gear. With any gear you're wearing in the rain, it's important it stands out, whether in a bright colour or with reflective qualities. Without the benefit of the sun, grey skies and pouring rain can make it harder for cars to see you if you're running roads. Look for reflective logos or piping or a bright pop of colour to contrast with the darker, greyer landscape. You might even want to add reflective running lights or a vest for extra safety and/or a headlamp that announces your arrival.
You might want to give some thought to the route you're choosing when running in the rain, too. If you've got a tree-lined course, take advantage of the coverage the leaves can provide. Also, consider safety: Steer clear of heavy traffic as much as you can so you don't have to worry as much about cars seeing you in the grey, cloudy conditions. Consider, too, avoiding any roads that tend to take on lots of water during rainstorms. However, if you do find yourself stepping in a puddle, make sure to properly clean your running shoes afterwards.
Ready to get out the door? Remember, running in the rain only sounds bad. Choose the right pieces of gear, and get ready to embrace the elements. You'll be happy you did.
Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition or fitness routines.
I've been a runner for more than two decades and a journalist for just as long. I'm also a certified running coach and nothing makes me happier than marrying up writing and running. Find me on the trails with two- and four-legged friends.