8 Expert Ways To Make Running in the Rain Less Miserable (and Maybe Even… Fun)

Photo: Getty Images/urbazon
Most runners probably know that “nothing new on race day” applies to everything you’re going to be wearing during a race, plus your fueling, hydration, and even sleep schedule.

But did you know that it also applies to the weather?

Obviously, it’s impossible to control or even predict what raceday weather will look like. The only way to make sure you’re prepared for all possible conditions? Train in all possible conditions (except when it’s unsafe, of course).

“I think it’s to athletes’ benefit to experience everything,” says Elizabeth Corkum, aka Coach Corky, a New York City-based running coach and personal trainer. “Because on race day if it’s an element you’ve never experienced before, that’s another variable that you just don’t know about.”

Experts In This Article

Even if you don’t have any races planned, running in the rain is sometimes just part of being a runner. “If we wait for ideal conditions, we’re never going to be as consistent with our training,” says Corkum. “And depending on where you live, sometimes there are rainy seasons, and that’s just part of reality.”

Running in the rain doesn’t have to feel like a slog. In fact, according to Corkum, it can unlock a new, playful side of running. Use her tips for fun, safe, and chafe-free rainy runs.

Ward off chafing

If you’re a heavy sweater who has run in hot, humid summer weather, you know that the feeling of being soaked to the bone isn’t reserved for rainy days. The same gear that you rely on to prevent chafing in sweaty weather can do the same in the rain. That means avoiding cotton and any non-technical fabrics, which can chafe and get heavy with moisture. (And don’t forget: Anti-chafing products are your friend.)

Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm, 8 oz — $9.00

Body Glide slides on just like a deodorant stick would, helping provide a protective layer against any rubbing or friction that could lead to chafing.

If it’s a warm, rainy day, Corkum says less is more—that way there’s less material to hold the moisture. “I’m out there in a sports bra and shorts,” she says. “The rain has a cooling effect on the skin, which is nice.”

In colder weather, you may want to opt for a water-resistant layer. “But be careful, because if you’re out there for a speed workout or a long run, you’re going to start heating up and sometimes those shells hold in our body heat.” Figuring out what gear works for you may require some experimentation and flexibility, says Corkum, especially since conditions can change midway through your run.

Prioritize visibility

Having to squint through rain that’s blowing into your eyes is going to make your run harder than it needs to be—and could pose a safety risk if it's keeping you from seeing where you’re going. Opt for a visor or a hat to keep the rain out of your eyes as much as possible, suggests Corkum. “You don’t want to miss a step, or roll an ankle on a pothole because you weren’t able to see clearly,” she says. “And you don’t want to waste energy worrying about the variable of vision.”

If you’re going to be sharing the road with cars, remember that drivers’ visibility will also be impacted by the rain. Corkum recommends wearing the same kind of bright colors and reflective gear that you’d use on a nighttime or early morning run.

Janji x La Sportiva AFO Hyperlight Cap — $38.00

This super-lightweight hat from Janji and La Sportiva is made with a fast-drying material that doesn’t get waterlogged, no matter how many rainy, sweaty miles are on your plan for the day. The bright design and reflective details help it perform double-duty by adding visibility.

Go for grip

If you have a pair of waterproof shoes in your arsenal, you’re in good shape for a rainy day run. But it’s also usually fine to wear your regular training shoes, says Corkum. As long as your shoes fit correctly and you don’t wear cotton socks, blisters shouldn’t be a huge concern.

What’s more important than waterproof shoes is grip. “Make sure you’re in shoes that aren’t super old where the grip is worn down,” says Corkum. If you’re running in the rain in a new pair of shoes, take it easy at first to make sure they offer enough traction to support you on slippery roads.

Plan a safe route

A rainy forecast may be reason to rethink where you’re going to be running. Corkum’s ideal rainy route? A park, where you don’t have to worry about drivers’ lower visibility, and the trees can give you some coverage from the rain.

Wherever you’re going, be mindful of areas that may be at lower elevation and at risk of flooding, says Corkum, and avoid running on busy roads or roads with higher speed limits (and as always, run against traffic so you see what’s coming at you).

Trails can be fun in the rain, says Corkum, as long as you’re already comfortable on them, and have good trail shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. Just take it slow and be extra cautious on slippery rocks and wet leaves, she suggests, and in heavier rain, leave your ears open so you can be alert to the risk of falling branches or debris.

Choose your workout wisely

Whether or not the rain changes the type of run you had planned for that day largely depends on your experience as a runner, says Corkum. Veteran runner with lots of rainy runs under your belt? Try to proceed with whatever workout you had planned. Especially if you have races on the horizon, “you want to know what it feels like to run fast in those elements,” says Corkum.

New to running—or to running in the rain? Corkum suggests sticking with an easy run, or at least a steady pace, and save your speed workout for when the conditions are more optimal.

Hydrate and fuel as usual

If you typically use how sweaty you feel as a gauge for how much water and electrolytes you need, you’ll have to change your strategy when it’s raining and you won’t be able to feel yourself sweating. Try to stick with whatever hydration and fuel typically works for you, says Corkum, even if you feel like you don’t need it in the moment. Same goes for if you’re running a rainy race—don’t change your fueling plan just because you don’t feel like you’re sweating.

When to hop on the treadmill

Some conditions just aren’t safe to run in. A good rule of thumb, says Corkum: If the weather is bad enough that a race would be canceled (so thunder, lightning, or high winds), your run should be canceled, too. And while running in freezing rain can be safe with the right gear, be cautious and look out for symptoms of hypothermia, says Corkum, and don’t hesitate to cut your run short or take it inside if it feels risky. (If you do run in cold rain, be sure to take off your wet clothes and warm up as soon as you’re finished.)

“It’s fine for runners to pick their battles,” says Corkum. “If it’s going to be a monsoon for five days, I get a runner not wanting to be out there five days in a row. It might be that you choose three of those days to be out there in the elements, and then hop onto a treadmill for one of those runs to give yourself a mental and physical break.”

Make rainy runs fun

“Once you’re wet, you’re wet,” says Corkum. So, embrace it, she suggests, and approach your rainy runs with a sense of play—whether that means traipsing through puddles or airplane-arming through the downpour. “Then if it happens on race day, you can tap into those memories of it being a positive experience and not being this thing that you dreaded,” she says. “Because if you have that negative feedback loop going, you’re not setting yourself up for a great day.”

Plus, “there’s something that feels really badass about being out there in the rain,” says Corkum. She points out that if you typically run on a busy path, you’ll have it almost to yourself on a rainy day. “It feels like the park is yours,” she says. “And the few people you see out there running with you, you feel like we are part of a tribe that is embracing the elements—we’ve figured out the secret that this is actually really fun.”

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