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From the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, 2021 was a wet year, and while the West was drier than normal, precipitation across the United States was above average. Whether spring brings a transition from snow to rain or the wet season comes on later in the summer, it’s a good to know how to handle rain if you’re going to be exercising outdoors.
For many runners, rain serves as a potential barrier to running safely and injury-free.
“Safety is a huge component of rainy running,” says Heidi Lueb, a running and triathlon coach with Valor Triathlon Project in Oregon. Here are her Pacific Northwest-approved tips to help you run your best (and safest) when the rain starts pouring.
Check the Weather Ahead of Time
Sometimes rain comes without warning, but if you know before you go out that it’s a possibility, it’s easier to be prepared. And knowing what’s forecasted can also help you determine if it’s better just to stay indoors.
If the temperatures drop to near-freezing or you hear or see thunder or lightning, it’s OK to find an indoor alternative such as a track or treadmill. Don’t risk injury from falling on black ice or the stress of getting caught in a violent storm.
“While it’s not ideal for those who love to be outside, the treadmill is a great training tool for specific pacing and being able to control the environment,” Lueb says. “Plus, you can watch TV.”
Follow A Familiar Route
In rainy weather, Lueb prefers to run on roads and trails she already knows well so she can anticipate potential hazards. She’ll skip routes that flood easily and stick to sidewalks over roads with painted lines, which can be slippery when wet. No matter where you run, watch carefully for obstacles, and don’t be afraid to slow down for fallen limbs, mud pits, large puddles, and ice patches, she says.
“Getting to the other side is more important than keeping the same pace. Ten seconds of safety isn’t going to compromise a good workout,” she says.
Dark gloomy clouds, heavy precipitation, and fog can limit visibility even during daylight hours, so it’s important to make sure drivers, cyclists and other runners can see you, says Lueb.
Consider wearing a headlamp or carrying a handheld flashlight designed for running for early-morning and late-evening runs, plus a high-visibility layer like a reflective or lighted vest that can also be worn during the rainy parts of the day.
How you layer for a rainy run depends on the air temperature and whether you tend to overheat, Lueb says. For wet and cool weather, she prefers a light outer layer like a windbreaker/rain shell and a combination of a visor and ear warmer to protect her head and face while still allowing heat to escape. A hat with a stronger bill will also help to keep rain out of your eyes and help you see better.
Lightweight, wicking, and waterproof materials are your best bet for staying (relatively) dry and warm without getting weighed down by soaked clothing.
If it’s not raining when you start your run but you know it might start at some point, consider bringing a jacket and hat that can pack down small enough to fit in your running belt, hydration vest, or even your pocket.
Protect Your Feet
Wet socks can cause painful hot spots on your feet, so anti-chafing balms and merino wool are lifesavers for rainy runs, says Lueb. She wears Feetures Merino+ Cushion socks, which also keep feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and uses an anti-chafe balm to reduce friction and the chance of blisters. “They really are the key to happy feet,” she says.
Also, consider how waterproof your shoes are, so you don’t have to rely on your socks to do all the work in keeping your feet dry.
Check Your Tread
With the increased risk of wet and slick surfaces during and after a rainstorm, it’s even more important that your running shoes have good traction, says Lueb. If the tread is worn down, it won’t help you grip the road or trail.
Don’t wait until you slip and fall to replace a worn-out pair of shoes—even if you haven’t hit a certain mileage in your current pair.