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How To Run Safely In The Heat

cash based physical therapy clinical gait analysis physical therapy running in the heat running shoes Jul 26, 2023
How To Run Safely In The Heat

Summer sees many runners logging miles. Whether it’s training for a race, enjoying the warm weather or achieving fitness goals, summer is a wonderful time to be outside running. However, it’s important to urge patients to be cautious while running in warm weather. Here are some guidelines to safely run in the heat.

Physiological Effects Of Running In The Heat

Running increases the biological demand for energy (ATP) when the body breaks down ATP it produces heat triggering internal temperature regulators. The temperature regulators in the hypothalamus then signal for sweat to be produced. Additionally, blood is circulated away from the major internal organs and muscles towards the skin where blood vessels are dilated. The increased surface area of the skin allows for an evaporative cooling effect through sweat production, preventing the internal temperature from increasing. If runners are not replenishing with fluids, electrolytes and nutrient rich foods they risk heat stress and even heat stroke. 


Running In The Heat Guidelines

Time of day:

Run early in the morning or at sunset 
Avoid running between 12:00 – 5:00 pm (highest temperatures)


High humidity decreases the body’s evaporative rate
Early mornings have low ambient temperature but high humidity

Running route:

Opt for light colored tracks, dirt trails or grass 
Avoid asphalt or artificial turf
Consider shaded routes
Avoid highly reflective areas such as bodies of water or glass buildings 

Physical intensity:

Reduce your training intensity in hot temperatures 

Hydration guidelines:

1 liter of water loss per hour when exercising in high temperatures

4 hours prior to running: Consume 16-20 ounces of water
10-15 minutes prior to running: Consume 8-12 ounces of water
While running: Consume 3-8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes 

Sports drinks containing sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes are also important to consume when running in high temperatures. Maintaining electrolyte balance is beneficial to avoid cramping and maintain appropriate hydration levels.


Eat every 45-60 minutes when running in the heat

Select carbohydrates and glucose-rich foods:
Energy bars (i.e Cliff Bars, Rx Bars or gels)


Choose breathable moisture wicking fabrics to keep cool:

Wear a hat to cover the face

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Signs And Symptoms Of Overheating

Advise runners to be mindful of the signs and symptoms of overheating

Sweating profusely 

If runners begin to feel faint or notice signs of nausea, recommend they begin to walk, drink water, or consume a sports drink in order to restore electrolyte balance and rehydrate. Runners experiencing exhaustion with nausea, vomiting, disorientation, confusion, or impaired balance, may be experiencing heat stroke. This is due to the internal body temperature being greater than 104 degrees. This is a medical emergency, potentially requiring an ice bath or intravenous fluid to regulate body temperature and avoid long-term injury. 

Heat fainting can occur secondary to an abrupt stop when running in high temperatures due to a sharp drop in heart rate. Advise runners to cool down with a few minutes of easy jogging or walking while rehydrating in order to safely reduce heart rate before coming to a complete stop. 

Not only can it be more challenging to run in the heat, but this can also affect runners' form and biomechanics. Significant fatigue can result in a breakdown in form and increase risk to injury.

How To Become More Confident In Your Running Gait Analysis

Performing a running gait analysis can be intimidating for many clinicians. If you are interested in learning more about providing a running gait analysis and starting your own running gait analysis clinic check out our continuing education course “The Essentials of Running Gait Analysis”. Lastly, if you have questions about this content or the course feel free to reach out to us to discuss and we will personally respond to your questions. 

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If you haven’t done so already grab the “Running Shoe Reference Guide” and prescribe your runners the right shoes.