Trail Running 101: How to Run in the Rain

Choose dark-colored, moisture-wicking, close-fitting clothes

This is not the time for running in a casual cotton tee. Cotton retains water when wet and is notoriously slow to dry. Soggy tops and shorts will sag and bunch, which can make for some pretty uncomfortable running. If you have form-fitting athletic clothes, now’s the time to deploy them. Generally, apparel made from synthetic materials is best. Wool can also be great, especially when layered under a rain jacket, but it does tend to absorb more water than most synthetics. I should also add: light-colored clothing often turns see-through when it gets soaked, so keep that in mind next time it rains and save yourself from some potential trail-side embarrassment.

Do you need waterproof running shoes?

Probably not. That might sound counterintuitive, but most waterproof running shoes feature a liner or coating that does a good job keeping water out… but does just as good of a job keeping it in, too. A misstep into a puddle — or even just an accumulation of sweat — can mean a day with wet feet. Regular (non-waterproof) running shoes typically have mesh overlays great for letting excess moisture squeeze out, whether from rain, creek crossing, or sweat. Because waterproof shoes also tend to be less breathable, they generally run a bit warmer, so unless it’s quite cold, your feet will probably be more comfortable in a pair of regular running shoes. However, that’s not to say waterproof running shoes are obsolete; one of their best uses is in truly frigid temperatures, like snow conditions, where your feet may be at risk of frostbite.

Waterproof or not, if you’re running in the rain you’ll want to make sure your shoes have plenty of grippy tread. Leave those flat-bottomed road shoes at home and reach for a pair with deeper, more widely spaced lugs for better traction on slick rocks and in slippery mud.

Protect your vision

It’s hard to see when water is in your eyes, but a waterproof cap with a brim or lightly tinted sunglasses can help. If glasses are more your style, make sure to apply an anti-fog treatment to your lenses before heading out (most moderate- to high-end glasses come pre-treated with a hydrophobic coating). Doing so prevents raindrops from accumulating and impairing your vision.

Pay attention to your socks

The wetter your socks, the more at risk you are for blisters and other issues. Provided they pair well with the fit of your shoes, socks that are synthetic, lightweight, and thin are generally best for wet conditions. The less absorbent, the better.