Tips for Running in the Heat

How to Stay Safe and Comfortable When Running in the Heat

Tips for Running in the Heat

a man running on a bridge

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Running in the summertime provides a sense of freedom and enjoyment of the outdoors. However, the dangers of hot and humid weather can quickly transform an otherwise pleasant run into a miserable experience or worse – lead to heat-related illness.

Learning how to stay safe when running in high temperatures is crucial. Use caution and smart preparation, and you can continue to reap the mental and physical benefits of running even when the mercury rises. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to run comfortably on hot days.

The Dangers of Running in the Heat

The Dangers of Running in the Heat

Why is exercising in heat potentially risky? When air temperature approaches skin temperature, the body has a harder time cooling itself through evaporation of sweat. Blood circulation increases to dissipate body heat, placing strain on the cardiovascular system. Dehydration from prolific sweating then creates an imbalance of water and electrolytes.

This combination of factors leads to an elevated core body temperature that can progress to dangerous heat-related conditions. Being aware of these risks is the first step toward preventing issues.

How to Dress for Running in the Heat


Choosing the right clothing is vital for running safely in warm conditions. Follow these tips:

Lightweight, Loose, Light-Colored Fabrics


Seek out lightweight, loose-fitting shirts, shorts, skorts and other garments made of thin, breathable technical fabrics. Light colors help reflect heat. Darker hues absorb the sun’s rays and get hotter.

Moisture-Wicking Technology


Fabrics like polyester and nylon wick sweat away from your skin, keeping you drier and cooler than cotton. Opt for apparel with moisture management technology.

Reflective and UV-Blocking Fabrics


Specialty fabrics can provide added protection from the sun. Some reflective materials claim to block up to 50% of UV radiation.

Vented Hats or Visors


Shield your face from the sun with sweat-wicking hats and visors. Look for mesh panels and dark underbrims.



Protect your eyes from glare with UV-blocking sunglasses. Seek ventilated frames to reduce fogging.


Chafe-Free Seams


Prevent irritation and discomfort from skin-on-skin rubbing with flat locked or bonded seams. Or apply anti-chafe balms to problem spots.


Sun Protective Accessories


Wear cooling accessories like sweat-wicking arm sleeves, neck gaiters or bandanas to protect exposed skin.

How to Hydrate When Running in the Heat


Proper hydration combats the excessive fluid loss from sweating in high temps. Follow these tips:


Drink Regularly


Sip every 20 minutes while running, and don’t just drink when thirsty. Schedule fluid breaks.


Carry Water


Bring water on runs over 30 minutes. Handheld bottles or hydration packs allow frequent drinking.


Weigh Yourself


Check pre and post-run weight to gauge fluid loss and personalized hydration needs.


Drink More All Day


Increase non-running hydration on hot days. Carry a bottle for frequent sips.


Sports Drinks


For runs over an hour, a sports drink provides electrolytes lost in sweat.


Limit Alcohol


Alcohol is dehydrating. Avoid heavy drinking when training in heat.


Eat Hydrating Foods


Fruits and veggies like watermelon, cucumbers and berries boost hydration.

How to Pace Yourself When Running in the Heat


Accept that your pace may be significantly slower in hot, humid conditions. Here are pacing strategies:

Slow Down


Reduce your pace by 20-30 seconds per mile. Don’t push the pace in heat.


Forget the Watch


Run by effort some days. Ditch pace expectations and just run comfortably.


Take Walk Breaks


Use run/walk intervals. Walk briefly every 20-30 minutes to cool down.


Run Early or Late


Train in the morning or evening when it’s cooler to allow for faster paces.


Find Shade


When possible, run on shaded surfaces out of direct sun to feel less heat.


Listen to Your Body


If overheating, immediately slow down more or stop completely to recover.


How to Avoid Heat-Related Illness


Heat illness encompasses various conditions like heat cramps, exhaustion, stroke, and rhabdomyolysis. Here is how to reduce risk:

Know the Signs


Learn symptoms like nausea, headache, weakness, confusion, and rapid heart rate.


Stop Immediately


Do not try to push through feelings of illness. Stop running and cool off.


Stay Hydrated


Dehydration greatly increases chances of overheating. Drink regularly and adequately.


Wear Proper Gear


Lightweight breathable clothing and sun protection helps prevent illness.


Exercise Caution


Ease into running in heat. Don’t overdo duration or intensity if not acclimated.


Run Smart


Choose shaded routes, run when cooler, pace conservatively, and take breaks.

Have an Emergency Plan


Know where to access water, shade, and help if needed. Run in populated areas.


Tips for Running in the Heat for Beginners


For newer runners, heat and humidity present additional challenges. Here are some tips:

Start Slowly


Begin with brief 20-30 minutes runs/walks 2-3 days a week in the coolest parts of day.


Listen to Your Body


Stop immediately if you feel overheated and gradually build up duration as tolerated.


Hydrate Thoroughly


Drink regularly in the days preceding long or intense runs to optimize fluid balance.


Embrace Walk Breaks


Walk for 1-2 minutes every 20 minutes to control heat buildup.


Dress Light


Wear the least amount of light colored, moisture-wicking clothing you are comfortable in.


Choose Shaded Routes


Seek shady parks and trails to avoid direct sun exposure for full runs.


Run with a Buddy


Recruit a partner so you can look out for each other in the heat.


Check the Forecast


On hotter or more humid days, opt for a treadmill run with cooler controlled conditions.

Tips for Running in the Heat for Advanced Runners


For experienced runners training for a race or chasing a goal, balancing performance and safety in the heat becomes key. Here are some pro tips:

Acclimatize Slowly


Gradually expose yourself to running in heat over a period of weeks to adapt.

Adjust Expectations


Accept that your pace and endurance may be compromised and adjust goals accordingly.

Know the Course


Study race courses for shade, aid stations, and areas to cool off if needed.


Mimic Conditions


Use the treadmill or wear extra layers during acclimatization runs to simulate race day heat.


Race Early or Late


When possible, choose cooler race start times in the morning or evening.


Fuel Properly


Consume easily digestible carbs and electrolytes the night before and morning of races.


Hydrate by Thirst


Drink to satisfy thirst in the final days leading up to races to avoid overhydrating.


Monitor Exertion


Pay close attention to body signals and ease up at the first sign of excessive heat strain.

The Best Time of Day to Run in the Heat


Plan summer runs during cooler times of day to avoid the worst of the heat:

Early Morning


The air is typically coolest in the hour just after sunrise. Get your run in before 8-9am if possible.


Late Evening


Temperatures start dropping again in the hour before sunset.


Avoid Afternoon


Heat peaks from around 10am to 4pm when the sun is highest. Avoid running then unless essential.


Observe Variability


Some days cool faster than others. Note daily temperature patterns in your area.


Run When Feels Best


Pay attention to when conditions feel least oppressive in the summer and plan accordingly.

Be Flexible


If it feels too hot in the morning, postpone to later. Listen to your body over absolutes.

Where to Run in the Heat


Carefully choose running routes and locations using these criteria:


Tree Cover


Seek shaded routes with plenty of tree canopy to block direct sun exposure.


Parks and Trails


Run in areas with an abundance of vegetation for shade like wooded parks and trails.


Shaded Sidewalks


When running in neighborhoods or on roads, use sidewalks with mature trees.


Light Surfaces


Lighter colored surfaces like dirt trails absorb less heat than black asphalt.


Near Water


Routes along creeks, lakes, or the ocean can provide cooler pockets of air.


Loops or Out and Backs


Run routes where you regularly pass by water sources in case needed for cooling.


Avoid Concrete


Direct sun reflecting off concrete sidewalks, plazas or buildings creates excessive radiant heat.

What to Bring When Running in the Heat


Be prepared with these supplies:




Hydration is essential. Carry water if out for over 30 minutes.




For longer runs, a sports drink provides sodium to replace sweat losses.


Sun Protection


Carry sunscreen and sunglasses and wear a hat, sleeves, etc. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.


Cooling Towel


Wetting a special cooling towel can provide a burst of relief by lowering your neck temperature.




Have your phone to call for help if needed, especially when running alone.


ID and Emergency Cash


Carry identification and small bills in case you need to stop for water or get assistance.


Backup Route


Know where you can cut a run short to find shade and hydration if you begin overheating.


How to Cool Down After Running in the Heat


Properly cooling your body temperature after hot weather running helps recovery. Try these tips:


Get Hydrated


Drink 16-24 oz of fluid for every pound lost during your run to rehydrate.


Take a Cool Shower


A lukewarm to cool (not cold) rinse removes salt and lowers body temperature.


Soak in a Bath


A relaxing tub with cooler water helps bring down your core temp after a hot run.


Chill Your Pulse Points


Apply ice packs or cool compresses to neck, groin and armpits to efficiently cool blood.


Eat Water-Rich Foods


Fruits and vegetables like watermelon and cucumbers aid rehydration.


Nap in Air Conditioning


Resting in a cool environment allows your body to recover faster.


Stretch Gently


Lightly stretch sore muscles using cooler down dog and child’s pose.


When to See a doctor


Seek medical treatment immediately if you experience:

  • Confusion, loss of consciousness or seizures
  • Vomiting and inability to keep fluids down.
  • Rapid heart rate, shallow breathing
  • Body temperature exceeding 103°F.
  • Dark urine or inability to urinate.

Call your doctor promptly if you have:

  • Muscle cramps lasting over an hour after stopping running.
  • Intense headache, dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea, diarrhea or continuing to feel ill after cooling down.


Should I run in the heat with a mask on?


Wearing a mask may trap heat and restrict breathing. Run very slowly or consider an alternative like the treadmill on extremely hot days when masks are needed.


What should I wear to protect my skin from the sun?


Opt for UV-protective clothing including shirts, arm sleeves, hats and neck gaiters made of tightly woven fabric labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF).


How can I avoid chafing in the heat?


Chafing thrives in hot, wet conditions. Use anti-chafe balms on problem spots, choose high-tech moisture wicking apparel, and shower immediately after runs.


Should I drink a sports drink instead of water when running in heat?


For runs longer than an hour when significant electrolyte loss occurs, a sports drink with sodium is helpful. Otherwise, water is fine.


What is the best way to treat heat cramps?


Stop running and sit in a cool place. Gently stretch and massage cramped muscles. Drink fluids with electrolytes. Seek medical attention if cramps persist.


With a few extra precautions, you can safely continue your running routine through hot and humid weather. Listen to your body, adjust your approach, and respect the additional physiological challenges of heat and humidity. Proper hydration, clothing choices, route selection, pacing adjustments and awareness of overheating warning signs are key. By implementing the strategies in this guide, your summer running can remain enjoyable and incident free. Just remember to listen to your body and use good judgment when conditions feel dangerously hot. Stay safe and keep running all season long!

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