(The Gear Loop) - Running in the summer months brings with it a host of benefits when compared to braving the cold and wet. When you step out the front door to clear skies, a warm breeze and picturesque views, it can make ticking off your training runs a thing of joy instead of a reluctant chore.
But there’s a reason that many people training for a marathon prefer to do their miles in winter. Running in the heat without the right kit and some smart planning can turn seemingly perfect conditions into one of the toughest sessions you’re likely to partake in, and, if you don’t take the right precautions, it can even have an impact on your health.
Picking up the right kit for warmer sessions is an investment well worth making if you’re planning on training through the summer months. As well as lighter clothing that keeps you as cool as possible, it’s also a good idea to pick up a hydration solution that means you’re not caught short on the trails with only a questionable stagnant pool to drink from.
Here, we highlight the best gear to make running in the heat a doddle, from sweat-wicking vests down to essential items to keep you safe from UV rays.
The best running gear for warm weather
Buff 5 Panel Go Cap
- Machine washable
- Easily storable without losing its shape
- Not the most attractive design
A running cap is a necessity for anyone doing long runs in the heat, and even more important if you’re limited in the amount of hair covering your head. Not only will it protect you from harmful UV rays, but the peak will shield your eyes from the relentless glare of the sun.
The Buff 5 Panel Go Cap is our favourite option for all types of running and is a great piece of kit to have in your armoury all year round. The light, stretchy fabric is one of the most comfortable we’ve tested and can also be scrunched up in a bag or pocket, returning to its original shape when you pull it out – trust us, that’s not the case with most caps, we’ve sent many to early retirement by stuffing them in a pocket during a run.
The other big plus point for this cap is the fact that it’s machine washable, so no matter how much you run in it, you can always keep it fresh without ruining the design.
Nike AeroSwift Vest
- Very light fabric
- Perforated holes for additional ventilation
- Tight fit may be restrictive for some
Vests aren’t for everyone, but it’s always good to have one in your cupboard for the days when it really heats up. Chances are that even if you don’t like the idea of them, once you’ve used one for a few runs, you’ll end up being a convert due to the benefits of wearing less fabric when you start sweating.
The Nike AeroSwift is our favourite choice for performance in the heat and can help make a sweaty run considerably more comfortable. The lightweight design is one of the leanest we’ve tested and the main reason the vest is favoured by athletes around the world. As well as stripping down the material to minimise coverage across the body – which helps overall mobility, as well as ventilation – Nike has also included perforations to increase airflow.
The other big plus point to the Nike AeroSwift vest is that it’s made from at least 75 per cent recycled polyester fibres, which means you can confidently feel like you’re making a difference as you proudly journey across the natural landscape.
Salomon Agile 2 Running Vest
- Can carry lots of water for the size
- Limited storage for accessories
Hydration is by far the most important thing to plan for when you’re running in the heat. You may not feel thirsty when you step out of the front door, but due to heavily increased sweating on a warm day, you’re likely to feel the effects of liquid depletion sooner than you realise.
If you’re heading out for a shorter run through an urban area, the need for a hydration solution is lessened due to the convenience of shops, but when you’re out on the trails you can be miles away from drinking water when your thirst kicks in. That’s when you need to invest in a lightweight running vest like the Salomon Agile 2. Not only does it mean you can carry your essentials, but it’ll hold 2 litres of liquid to keep you going until you return.
Hydration vests come in many shapes and sizes, but the key is balance. If it’s too bulky or uncomfortable, you’ll know about it as you get further into your run. The Salomon Agile 2 is one of the lightest packs we’ve tested and keeps the amount of fabric covering your torso to a minimum, with a 3D mess design to improve airflow.
There’s also a stretchy pouch for storing your valuables without them flapping about as you run, and additional space to carry an extra flask, as well as two front shoulder pouches. It comes with two flexible water bottles that shrink as water is removed and a handy elastic hook so you don’t drop your front door key in the middle of a woodland.
Goodr OG Sunglasses
- Can be used for day wear
- Not as performance focussed as dedicated running shades
- Not as durable as some pricier option
Sunglasses have two big benefits when heading out in the heat. One is to stop the glare from the sun, causing you to squint and making it difficult and uncomfortable to see the terrain, and the other is to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of UV rays.
The range of running sunglasses available these days can vary enormously when it comes to cost. For most people, the marginal benefits you get from spending big bucks on the leading performance specs is minimal, so save your money and get yourself a pair of Goodrs. As well as having features made specifically for running, most of the designs mean that they can be used for every day use without looking like you’re from the future.
The lightweight frame stays in place on the head, even when you’re going all out on a run, due to Goodr’s "Cat Tongue" anti slip design, and the glare-reducing lenses are polarised with UV400 protection to block 100 per cent of UV and UVB rays.
Asics Ventilate 2-in-1 Shorts
- Limited design options
- No storage
The biggest difference when running in the heat when compared with cooler months is the amount of sweat you lose, and there’s few parts of the body that will make that fact more relevant than your nether regions. You might be okay on a shorter run, but as soon as you pick up your distance, that moisture in your shorts is going to cause rubbing and become noticeably uncomfortable.
A pair of small, lightweight shorts will improve ventilation, but to protect yourself against skin-on-skin rubbing, you need to invest in shorts with a liner. The Asics Ventilate 2-in -1 Short is our favourite pick of the bunch, as they’re the perfect balance of lean design and a thin inner liner to stop chafing.
The fabric has open mesh panelling to allow for the maximum level of airflow, letting cool air in and moisture evaporate. The inner liner is one of the thinnest options we’ve tried, which ensures that they don’t become uncomfortable or sweat-drenched over the course of a longer run. There’s also reflective detailing on the outer shorts, which is a nice addition if you’re somewhere really hot where daytime running isn’t an option.
New Balance Impact Run Light Pack Jacket
- Very lightweight
- Carry using an in-built waist strap
- Can only handle light rain and wind
Adding a jacket to a warm-weather gear list may seem like an odd choice, but more often than not, you'll find that your beautiful summer's day will turn nasty at the drop of a hat. If you’re 10 miles into a trail run across the Peak District and the weather changes suddenly, you’re a long way from home if you’re just wearing a vest and shorts.
The New Balance Impact Run Light Pack Jacket is the ideal accessory to own as a backup for uncertain weather and one that we’ve been using for many years. The lightweight design is just enough to take the edge off the cold and can be easily packed into its own pocket and strapped around the waist with the in-built belt.
Although the thin material is incredibly breathable - so you won’t need to worry about moisture building up inside - it’s also water and wind-resistant, so you’re ready for light showers in an instant.
What you need for running in the heat
Hydration is one of the most important factors to focus on when running in the heat, and an area that is often overlooked or managed poorly by people who aren’t experienced in warm weather training.
The amount of fluid that the body loses through sweat increases dramatically when running on hot days and if you don’t replace that fluid, it can have a negative effect on the quality of your session and your overall health.
As well as planning ahead to ensure that you’re hydrated before a run, make sure you’re carrying sufficient fluid with you on longer sessions to replace the amount lost through sweat. Hydration vests are a good option that allows you to carry water whilst keeping your hands free. For lighter sessions, a running hydration belt or an ergonomic bottle are good options.
In the UK, where sunny days are less frequent than in hotter countries, we tend to forget about applying suntan lotion until the last minute. But it’s important to be cautious when it comes to UV rays so make sure you cover exposed skin for any run in the sun.
A good idea is to pick up a travel-sized suntan lotion that’s specifically designed for sport. These are made to offer protection even after you’ve started sweating, so you don’t need to keep applying as you’re clocking up the miles.
Be prepared for the worst
Running in the summer may seem like the perfect time to enjoy the trails, but you should never underestimate the effect that the heat and sun can have on your run.
That’s especially important if you’re heading into the countryside away from towns and cities. If you lack water or suntan lotion and you’re miles away from any shops, you’re putting yourself at risk.
Always plan ahead for the worst and ensure you’re carrying everything you need to get home safely.
Adjust your training
Running in the heat is harder than training in cooler conditions. Not only does it make you lose more fluids but it puts additional strain on the body.
Adjust your runs accordingly to account for this by lowering your effort level and the distance you run.
It may also be worth changing the time of the day that you train to early mornings or later in the evenings when it’s cooler and the sun’s rays aren't as intense.