One winter spent running in the Pacific Northwest without waterproof gear was enough to teach me a lesson. It’s miserable. Even with layers of clothing on, the wet still seeps in and you’re left slogging along with marshy feet and about 10 pounds of additional weight on your body due to water-logged sweats. But, you don’t have to take your tempo run to the treadmill or be a martyr to the monsoon. It’s actually possible to enjoy wet-weather exercise when you use these tips for running in the rain. Trust me, they work!
GET THE GEAR
Yes, workout clothing can be expensive, but I promise you’ll never regret investing in a few high-quality pieces of waterproof gear. If you’re on a budget, start with waterproof shoes and a waterproof jacket. You can protect your face with a brimmed cap and you can keep your thighs semi-dry by choosing a jacket with a longer torso, but nothing will make you more miserable than squishy socks, cold toes and a top that’s soaked-through. Most high-quality brands offer waterproof options, but after testing lots of gear, my two favorite pieces are both from Brooks. I think it helps that the company is based out of Bothell, Washington, a Seattle-area suburb that’s all-to-familiar with never-ending rain. I seriously don’t know what I’d do now without my Silver Bullet jacket or Adrenaline GTX shoes.
See the Adrenaline GTX review at the bottom of this page.
Know what’s worse than dry thighs rubbing together? Wet thighs rubbing together! To prevent the painful chaffing action of skin rubbing against skin, make sure you wear high-quality seamless tights when you head outside in the rain. If you also experience chaffing under your arms and around your sports bra, a tight, long-sleeved base layer will also help. Finish your preventative measures by slathering on BodyGlide or Vaseline wherever you tend to experience “the burn” before starting your workout.
BE A DEFENSIVE RUNNER
Even if you run during the day, driving rain, cloudy skies and slick road conditions all add up to a more hazardous running experience. Don’t take any chances! Never assume that a driver can see you — allow for extra space along roadways, stop at every intersection and skip the music so you can listen for approaching cars. Also, be aware that stormy conditions can affect your ability to see as well, so be prepared to slow down or stop if you’re unable to keep your eyes focused on the road ahead.
INCREASE YOUR VISIBILITY
Knowing that drivers may not be able to see as well in the rain, go ahead and take extra precaution to increase your visibility by wearing high-viz, reflective gear in bright colors. Consider investing in a wristband, vest or head lamp with LED lights that will cut through misty weather. You don’t have to spend a lot of money — most options are available for $40 or less, and some lights can clip onto your existing gear, saving you some cash. For instance, Amphipod’s Full-Viz Flash Clip-On LED is only $13.
KNOW YOUR COURSE
Your standard neighborhood run becomes a lot more interesting when things get wet. That ditch in the park? It’s now a raging river. That hill you love to race up? It might as well be a slide. And the freshly painted curbs? They’re now freshly painted slip hazards. Even something as seemingly-innocuous as wet leaves can throw you for a loop if you’re running in cold weather. Leaves and shadowed areas are more likely to remain frozen, even if everything else has thawed, and wet, icy leaves are the perfect primer for a fall. Scope out these potentially hazardous areas in advance and plan around them. If your algae-covered hill becomes slippery when wet, slow down when you hit the slope. You may even discover that you’re better off running in trail shoes when things are wet because of the extra traction, weight and ankle support they provide.
KNOW WHEN TO CALL IT
Sometimes running in the rain simply isn’t worth it. I like to compare it to swimming in the rain. There’s nothing wrong with swimming in moderately rainy conditions, but if it starts to pour or if the lightning arrives, it’s time to head inside. Similarly, running in rainy conditions is okay, but running in extremely stormy conditions is not. Lighting, extreme winds and a heavy downpour are Mother Nature’s way of telling you to stay inside. Wait for the storm to pass or come up with an alternate plan.
BROOKS ADRENALINE GTX REVIEW
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know what I would do without my Brooks Adrenaline GTX shoes. Now that I’ve got them, I can’t imagine getting through a rainy-weather run without them.
Over the last four years, I’ve tried about 10 different pairs of water-resistant or waterproof shoes from at least four different brands. Trust me, in Oregon, you need that many! But even the waterproof shoes I tried were only waterproof to a point. They could handle a wet-weather jog, or a very quick dip in a watery gutter, but the second I accidentally misstepped into a deeper-than-expected puddle, “Bam!” they were soaked through. Even though they would then wick the water away from my feet, the damage was done. My socks were wet and my run was less-than-awesome.
About a month ago I requested and received the Women’s Adrenaline GTX shoes from Brooks. I specifically requested this pair because of the shoes’ waterproof GORE-TEX membrane — I was curious to see if it would really work.
Shortly after I received the shoes, Oregon had an unusual dry spell. So I had these awesome-looking shoes that I was primed to test out, but no puddles to test them in. So, I took them to the trails instead.
Now, there’s something you should know about me: I have big feet with long toes. While I can usually make a size 11 work, I decided to go up to an 11.5 to give my toe-fingers a little extra space. Length-wise, these shoes fit perfectly! No more cramped or sore toes when running up and down hills. That said, the heel was a little wider than I was used to, and the sole a little stiffer. I ended up needing to lace the shoes all the way up to the highest opening to prevent my heel from moving around, but once I did that, the fit was solid. My ankle felt supported when running through rough, single-track trails and after a few outings, the sole seemed to loosen up as well.
A couple weeks into my trial, the rain returned! I went out during a downpour and decided to start by avoiding the puddles, thinking that the rain alone would be enough to test the shoes’ waterproof ability. Mid-way through the run, I realized the shoes were still dry, so I figured I’d test them out a little more, seeking out a few shallow puddles. At the first few puddles, I stepped in and out quickly, allowing the water to just slosh up around the base of the shoe, throwing waves up over the mesh outer-layer.
I felt nothing.
So, I went in search of deeper puddles.
I still felt nothing.
Finally, I decided to slowly drag my feet through a gutter. I slowed to a walk, allowing the water to flow around and over my shoes. The only water I felt get through to my feet was the water that sloshed up to my ankle and down through the ankle opening.
Seriously, these are miraculously waterproof shoes and I’ll be wearing them to every Pacific Northwest running event I attend this year. Two thumbs way up!