The dog days of summer might technically be winding down, but with July 2012 in the books as the hottest month on record, avid runners face a dilemma when they hit the trails in August or the "Indian summer" months of September and October.


What’s a runner to do in the stifling heat? 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
  • hats
  • breathable shoes
  • wicking fabrics
  • wool socks

Hydration packs
While it may seem obvious that a hot summer run should include copious amounts of water, some runners may not be aware that water alone may not be enough to rehydrate. If you profusely sweat during a summer run, you’ll want to refuel your body with a solution of electrolytes. Sweat rids the body of sodium, magnesium, potassium and possibly calcium.


Wool socks for summer running?
When most people think of wool, they think of warm, fuzzy, comfy socks meant to enjoy while reading by the fireplace in winter. But Jim O’Hara, a former Team USA triathlete and current manager of Movin Shoes, a San Diego specialty running store, says that the new generation of Merino wool socks suck up moisture as effectively as materials with Coolmax®fibers.


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


We (runners) wear short-shorts
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. [Here are some great options in eco-friendly gear for running.]


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 potentially harmful 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. [Check out these ideas on recycling old sports gear like your running shoes.]


Nike’s soon-to-hit-the market FlyKnit technology promises to be more lightweight and environmentally friendly, with its one-piece, minimalist upper part of the shoe.


Brooks also carries an eco-friendly running shoe. The "BioMogo" design is EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate)-free, a common compound in running shoes that takes more than 1,000 years to decompose.


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


Can you think of any other gear for summer running? Let us know in the comments below.


Judd Handler is a health writer and fitness coach in Encinitas, Calif. He can be reached at

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