The days are getting shorter and the rains getting heavier. As winter sets in, motivating yourself to go out and get fit becomes increasingly difficult. No one enjoys a soaking wet run through a muddy marsh, unless you are a dog, in which case, how are you reading this?
Thankfully, for us humans, technology has the answer. Load up on enough gadgets and your winter runs through the wet should become just as fun as those in the summer. Check below to see our tips for the best wet weather running gear.
Formula40 AllDry windbreaker
A snugly fitting waterproof idea for drizzly days, HPE Clothing's Formula40 AllDry windbreaker is primed for aquatic action. Weighing a mere 141g, it's not going to weigh you down, while the elasticated sleeves, high collar, hood and a relatively high waist keep it out of the way, too.
Since it's tight and pretty small, don't expect to be able to fit it over a fleece. Although it's sold as "showerproof", we managed to get through some pretty steady rain without get a soaking, thanks in no small part to the AllDry's hood, which is deeper than on most super-light rain macs. That hood clung expertly to our bonce. The mac is breathable as well, so things don't get too sweaty on the inside. Grab a Formula40 for £85 here.
Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX waterproof trail trainers
Designed primarily for trail running in the wet, Salomon's XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX trainers are all about stability and protection. They feature a Gore-Tex membrane inside, one of the most dependably waterproof materials around. You also get a clever tongue, attached further up than most, which provides the first defence against water. That tongue also sports a small pocket that packs-in the leftovers from the clever lacing; a scarily thin drawstring affair that nevertheless kept the Salomon's tightly fixed to our feet.
Available in blue, black, orange, green, red, yellow and grey, all come with reflective elements to the design to keep you visible at night. Pair-up with some SealSkinz waterproof socks and the job's a good 'un. You can get the Salomons for £104 here.
Breo TimeZone watch
For those who think GPS plotting or running with a smartphone is taking things a little too seriously, the Breo TimeZone watch keeps things simple.
A sports watch that's water resistant and has a 15-lap memory, the TimeZone also includes a chronograph, a light, a date display and an alarm. Its bright fluorescent yellow master control is easily found when jogging; in our test we found it comfortable to wear, well-made and totally reliable. The Breo can be bought here for £55.
Sealskinz Waterproof Beanie
An acrylic beanie that's completely waterproof, the SealSkinz beanie is great for keeping your head warm and dry on a particularly wet and cold day. Aside from it being a little tight (go for a size bigger than you think), it expertly repels rain and makes long runs bearable.
It also crackles a lot, sounding like it's full of wrapping paper. Best worn in the depths of a rainy winter, it protects headphones from the elements (which help cover that crackle). It's available in red, black and olive, with orange and fluorescent yellow hi–viz versions also available for dark and wet nights. The Sealskinz are £25 here.
Stuffitt Shoe Savers
Trainer-shaped pads stuffed with aromatic eastern red cedar tree bark may not be the most obvious addition to a runner's kit list, but these bulky pads will dry-out wet shoes much quicker than scrunched-up newspaper. Designed for low-rise shoes, and with toe-shaped foam fronts, the Stuffitts are said to remove more than 98 per cent of moisture in 24 hours.
In our test we stuffed a Stuffit inside one soaking wet (as in, completely dunked in a river) shoe, and in another we rammed some newspaper. The next morning, the Stuffit-stuffed shoe was virtually wearable (though still slightly damp), and noticeably lighter (about 80g) than the poor, soggy newspaper boot. Slated to work for between six and 12 months, these Stuffits might seem barking mad, but are pretty handy if you're into quick turnaround training. Available in XL, L, M and S. You can buy Stuffits for £20 here.
Beurer PM90 heart rate monitor watch & Speedbox II running sensor
It can become an obsession, but if you need proof of progress and performance it's now relatively easy to see both your heart rate and, with the Beurer PM90 and Speedbox II, your altitude and exact speed and distance, too. Best of all, both are completely waterproof and can even go 50 metres underwater. The former measures your electrocardiography (ECG), and presents both your average and maximum heart rate, calorie and fat consumption, and altitude as well as the usual sports watch functions (time, stopwatch, and lap times – even automatic lap times), while the Speedbox II adds some GPS-ness.
Attached to one of your trainers, the similarly waterproof Speedbox II records speed and distance and transmits to the PM 90. Said to last for 200 hours, you could even use this combo while swimming. The Beurer is £152 here and the Speedbox II for £44 here.
Lifeproof iPhone 4/S case & armband
Endurance requires entertainment, and whether that's a blast of Beastie Boys to get you revved-up or a podcast of Gardeners' Question Time, there is a more pressing problem: where are you going to put that phone?
Lifeproof's case for the iPhone (we tried-out the 4/S version, though a 5 is imminent) adds a totally waterproof covering and just 1.5mm to the overall depth. For a protective case it's as slim and sturdy as they come, though we do have two tiny gripes: an air-gap between the screen and the transparent plastic window means that tapping the touchscreen makes a nasty clicking sound, while headphones can only be attached using a special waterproof adaptor. Understandable, but highly losable … perhaps it's best used with Bluetooth headphones. The Lifeproof case is £50 here.
The Lifeproof case can be used in conjunction with a custom-made armband. Contraptions like these take some getting used to and won't suit all, but here some padding is provided, while the fully adjustable, reasonably soft Lycra arm-band is aerated all over. Best of all it's lockable yet quick to take on and off, and features a couple of reflective logos. The custom made armband is £32 here.
Denon AH-W150 Exercise Freak
Bluetooth in-ear headphones haven't caught on en masse, but they do have a place on the running track. The water-resistant Denon AH-W150 are just the ticket, having both simple waterproofing and a seven-hour battery.
In practice they take a while to get used to; it's worth experimenting with the choice of three anti-microbial ear tops provided as get it wrong and the act of running can cause slippage and loss of optimum sound. The heavy duty cable that sits on the back of the skull also takes some getting used to. Still, the sweat-proof and simple to use AH-W150 even has a microphone for one-touch hands-free calling, so you can strike business deals on the hoof. Or just call for help. The Denon headphones are £150 here.
WaterSkin for iPhone 4/4S, Galaxy S2 & iPad 3
If the Lifeproof or similar is too pricey or bulky for your run, the Waterskin from Mobile Fun provides the same level of protection for smaller spend. Arriving in a three-pack, the waterproof Waterskin is completely manual; stuff your smart-thing into a very snug wraparound plastic, err, bag, then seal the back using a bit of sticky-back plastic. The Waterskin is cheap at £9 and can be picked up here.
There's no way of recharging the device while it's in this rudimentary packaging, and it definitely lowers the clarity of the screen quite noticeably, but in our test the WaterSkin did its job and we were able to re-use one despite its stretch-marks. There's even a tiny and totally transparent gap for the iPhone's camera. It's all a bit Blue Peter, but it should do the job for a season – though you might have to add some Sellotape to the mix now and again. For something more permanent, yet affordable, go for something like Mobile Fun's BeachBuoy case or Aquapac's Mini Stormproof Phone case.
Garmin Fenix GPS navigator watch
Smartphone apps that track your progress and let you upload your achievements to utterly uninterested Facebook buddies are many, but who wants to carry a phone around?
Trail runners and trekkers, rather than those treading city streets, will benefit most from Garmin's latest smart watch, but GPS gadgets like this are all the rage with runners. The Garmin Fenix GPS does have an altimeter, barometer and compass, but for most runners it's this scratch-proof and waterproof (to 50m) device's GPS skills that will most appeal.
Anyone heading off-piste can record their position, and use Bluetooth to pair and share with Garmin's BaseCamp app installed on any smartphone. If you get lost there's a TracBac feature that retraces your footsteps, though the lap and auto-lap functions are just as useful, as are the distance/speed stats. Relatively simple to operate and comfortable to wear thanks to a soft, flexible strap, the 82g Fenix is one smart watch. The Garmin is £350 here.
Altura Men's Attack Waterproof Shorts
Water-tight they may be, but the Altura men's Attack waterproof shorts are far from tight. Best described as roomy – unless you're sporting thunder thighs – these serious shorts provide diagonal zip-shut hand pockets idea for cramming in keys or even a phone, and don't get too sweaty.
Long enough to be used by hikers who want something warmth and waterproof, these Alturas easily prove their road-worthiness; a shiny, plasticky though virtually invisible decoration on the front and back turns out to be highly reflective. Braces are also available. Grab some Altura shorts for £60 here.