What's a Runner to Wear in the Stifling Heat?

Running in the summer means having the right equipment. dotshock/Shutterstock

Avid runners face a dilemma every year, no matter if they are hitting the trails in June or the "Indian summer" months of September and October.

So you want to run but it's seriously hot out there, and it's only getting hotter every year. What's a runner to do? Hit the trails ... but only with the best gear for running in summer.

Unlike winter running, when runners keep warm even in freezing weather by wearing the best gear for winter, summer running must be done using minimalist strategies.

Critical gear for summer running includes:

  • Water/hydration packs
  • Wool socks
  • Shorts
  • Hats
  • Wicking fabrics
  • Breathable shoes

Most importantly, says O'Hara, "If you want to keep your feet dry and wear a lightweight sock, stay away from cotton fibers."


A woman running through a park in running shorts
Short running shorts are trendy again, and they're great for staying cool. Justaman/Shutterstock

O'Hara says he's been seeing a trend back to short split shorts that were previously popular in the 1970s and early 1980s. The short split shorts have evidently supplanted the utility shorts that were more recently in vogue. If you're a serious runner, a larger opening in the thigh with shorter length of fabric will equal more comfort on a hot summer run.

For runners who are recovering from acute injuries, O'Hara recommends wearing compression sleeves. Because sleeves cover a large portion of the lower body, in the case of shin splints or calf tightness, it's essential that runners wear shorter shorts for optimum comfort.


Wearing a hat while running in the summer is a double-edged sword. Most of your body-heat escapes through your head, so if you're wearing a hat, you'll trap heat in. The flip side, of course, is sun exposure. To avoid exposure — while simultaneously feeling comfortable and not overheating — opt for a light-weight visor that contains a quick-drying sweat band.

Moisture-Wicking Shirts

O'Hara says that all moisture-wicking shirts, such as those containing Coolmax® fibers, come standard with a sun-protection factor (SPF) rating of 15-20. If you want even more protection from the sun's UV rays, you can buy a shirt with a closer weave, which amps up the SPF to 50.

Green Running Shoes

All running shoes these days are constructed with breathable technology. Today's best summer running gear now includes new generation eco-friendly designs.

Nike's FlyKnit technology, for instance, is lightweight and environmentally friendly with its one-piece, minimalist upper part of the shoe.

Now that's worth jumping — or running — for joy.