Top Hydration Options for Running

Runners think about a lot of factors when it comes to their daily miles. Time of day, weather, their running shoes and apparel can all make or break a workout.

But do you always think about how hydrated you are?

Your running performance will suffer when you’re dehydrated, but keeping your pace might be the least of your worries—especially when it’s hot and humid outside. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, dizziness and confusion, as well as more serious complications like heatstroke or urinary and kidney problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Being hydrated during your run will help you perform your best, but it really starts before you head out the door. Sipping water throughout the day will help top off your fluid levels, keeping your body in top shape for a workout.

Once you’re on the road, you’ll need more fluids to counter the water you lose in sweat. From handheld water bottles designed for shorter efforts to hydration vests engineered for longer days, there are plenty of solutions to wet your whistle on the run.

Amphipod Hydrafoam Ergo-Lite Ultra handheld water bottle

How Much Water Should I Carry on a Run?

Carrying water on your run is dependent on many factors, including how well-hydrated you were before, the outside temperature and humidity, and how much you sweat. Generally, the longer you run, the more water you will need. Each runner needs to tailor their water intake to their own bodies.

Here are our general rules for how much water to carry during your run:

  • Drink before your run: Make sure your pee is pale yellow before you head out the door. The pale color indicates that you are well-hydrated.
  • Drink during your run: Tailor your water intake to the conditions, duration of the run and your own body. If you're new to running and don't know where to start, try a 16-18 ounce handheld water bottle—and dial it in as you learn your needs. In general, if you're running for an hour or more, you will need to replenish your fluids as you go.
  • Drink after your run: It's important to drink more water when you're finished with your run to replenish what you lost in sweat. Check your urine again; if it's dark yellow, you need to drink more water.

Hydration Vests for Running

A pair of new hydration vests from Nathan topped our list of water-wearing options this year: the VaporHowe and VaporKrar.

Nathan redesigned the hydration packs for runners who are going long. The vests took their names from ultrarunners Stephanie Howe and Rob Krar, who regularly tackle 100-mile races. Their input in the design process helped Nathan craft packs that work for runners who need lots of water for big days on the trail.

Two Fleet Feet runners took the VaporHowe 4L 2.0 and the VaporKrar 4L 2.0 on a seven-hour trail outing. Loaded with two 20-ounce soft flasks (upgraded from the 12-ounce flasks in the original) in the front and a bladder in the back, both runners had plenty of water for the day-long adventure.

The updated vests also have an updated fit. All of our testers—male and female—say the 2.0 has a much roomier fit than the previous model.

“All the Nathan packs I tried this year are sized larger than last year,” one female tester says. “I have historically been a solid medium. But now, I would size down without question.”

Both packs also come in 12L versions for all your water-carrying needs.

Handheld Water Bottles for Running

When you don’t need liters of water for your run, you can choose a smaller option: a handheld water bottle made for running.

Many of the water bottles designed specifically for running are made from lightweight plastic or pliable silicone, and they come with a hand strap, so you don’t have to worry about dropping it when your palms get sweaty. There are plenty of sizes to choose from, but many popular bottles range from about 16 to 22 ounces.

Our favorite bottles come with caps that open and close easily, so you don’t have to slow down to do either, and they are made to go in the dishwasher for quick cleanup.

Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite running water bottles:

  • Amphipod Hydraform Soft-Tech Insulluxe 16 oz. The Soft-Tech Insulluxe is a soft-sided flask for running that’s comfortable to carry and collapses down as you drink from it. A bite valve makes it easy to drink from, and it doesn’t leak. Plus, a snug hand strap keeps the bottle in place when you’re moving. The bottle doesn’t have a storage pocket like other handheld bottles.
  • Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Handheld Water Bottle. We liked the squeeze cap on the Hydraform Ergo-Lite. The cap delivers a steady stream of water when you squeeze the bottle, making it easy to drink from while on the move. The adjustable hand strap is comfortable, soft and stretchy, and a storage pocket swallows a phone, keys, gels or whatever else you need to carry.
  • Nathan SpeedMax Plus. The Nathan SpeedMax Plus is a no-fuss handheld running water bottle. It holds 22 ounces of liquid, and the nozzle squirts water in a strong stream so you can spray it on the run. It also comes with a well-designed hand strap that wraps around the back of your hand and thumb so you don’t have to worry about dropping the bottle when you sweat. A zippered pocket on the opposite side is large enough for a set of keys, a couple of cards and an energy gel.

Hydration Waist Belts for Running

Another option for carrying your water is a waist belt. Belts designed for running will typically have pockets for your essential items—cards, keys, phone—and places to put water bottles.

A belt we like is the Amphipod Profile-Lite High Five-K Pack. The single-bottle belt uses a snap closure system to secure it around your waist, and it holds a 16-ounce water bottle. A Fleet Feet runner says the belt has storage for a large phone, energy gels and most other things you’d want to carry on your run, and it stretches to let you push the limit of what it can carry.

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