Sun Protection for Runners: Our Best Tips

Avid runners find themselves with a lot of sun exposure. Keeping yourself healthy involves a lot more than avoiding shin splints. You need to be sure you know all about sun protection for runners.

There are many things to consider if you plan to fully enjoy the sunshine while enjoying your favorite form of exercise.


Perhaps the most obvious thing to keep your skin protected is to use sunscreen. For runners, it is very important that sunscreen be sweat proof. The last thing you want is to sweat through your sun protection. A good sunscreen should not sweat off, or streak when you sweat through a hard workout or race.

You should also consider that sunscreen is typically only fully effective for about two hours after you apply it. This means that if you are participating in an endurance event, you may need to reapply sunscreen partway through the event.

How high of an SPF (sun protection factor) you should use is a widely debated topic. Dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30, according to the Academy of Dermatology.

Podium Runner

If the person has higher risk factors such as very light skin or a family history of skin cancer, they should probably use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.

Runners may find a sunscreen that is lighter to be more effective. This is because a heavy lotion type sunscreen can clog pores and prevent sweating. As any runner knows, sweating is a crucial part of running as the body works to cool itself.

The Academy of Dermatology will also advise you that depending only on sunscreen to protect your skin is a tactical error.

Lip Protection

When you slather on sunscreen it is important to also protect your lips. Your lips are a sensitive part of your body and can also sunburn. Find yourself a couple of lip balms with SPF and experiment. It may take some trial and error to find one that you like.

Lip balms come in variations of thickness, coverage, SPF and flavor. If your lips do get sun or wind damaged you may want one that offers healing qualities.

Wear a Hat

There are many reasons to wear a hat while running. One is to keep the sun off of your face. A nice baseball type cap will keep the sun out of your eyes also. When choosing a hat for running you should gravitate toward one made of performance or dri-fit material, as well as one in a light color.

An additional perk to wearing a ball cap while running is you can soak it at water stops. On a very hot day, a wet hat can help you feel cooler! Many athletes report putting a few ice cubes under their cap on high heat index days to help ease the heat.

You should be especially vigilant about wearing a hat if you braid or ponytail your hair, or if your hair is thinning. The part on your head is an area most people won’t sunscreen and may be the first place to sunburn on a hot day. If you are bald, definitely wear a hat or sunscreen on your head!

Author Pam Berg with Kids 4 running athlete Garrett School

Cover Up

Think twice before running shirtless. There are many places on our bodies that aren’t often exposed to the sun’s harsh rays. A lightweight, breathable, light-colored shirt is a great choice to keep yourself protected from the sun. Some companies even make apparel specifically designed to lower the risk of sun exposure.

Rockay arm sleeves
Rockay arm sleeves

If it’s too warm for a long sleeve shirt, or you like a little more movement through the shoulders, there is a great solution for that. Arm sleeves can be paired with your favorite tank top for extra protection from the suns harsh rays! The added bonus of arm sleeves is they can be removed easily if you just get too warm.

Don’t Forget Your Eyes!

Runners often gravitate to sunglasses for running. When choosing sunglasses, try them on. Sure, you may not be able to run in them before you purchase, but you can jump up and down. Shake your head vigorously from left to right. Be sure to laugh, talk, and turn quickly. Are they comfortable?

Runner Click

Running sunglasses should be non-slip and should not jostle or move around a lot. In addition, they should supply UV protection.

The added perk to sunglasses is they come in a variety of colors and styles now. You can find a pair to match every outfit you own!

Time of Day

Runners can plan their run to avoid too much sun exposure. If you are able to run either early in the morning or late afternoon, you can avoid being out during the times when the sun’s rays are the harshest.

Sub30 member Chad Hause

Avoiding the most direct rays and intense heat can prove helpful not just for the sun but can also protect you from overheating.

Location, Location, Location

To avoid sun exposure there are many amazing places to run. Some runners gravitate to trails for a shady run. In addition, trail runs can be gloriously beautiful and also add an interesting dynamic to your running.

Technical trails are not always meticulously groomed and you find yourself having to focus on every footfall to avoid roots, branches, and large rocks.

Become familiar with your favorite roads on which you run and you may find that some are shadier at certain times of the day. Start out your run on shady routes to delay your exposure to the sun. And don’t forget your favorite socks for trail running!

Be Safe

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 9,500 people are diagnosed with cancer every day. While there is no 100% foolproof way to avoid becoming one of these statistics, there are certain things you can do to decrease your chances.

If you are proactive every time you head out to run, you keep yourself safer. How do you do that? Wear a good, sport-specific, high SPF sunscreen. Use a lip balm with SPF. Wear sunglasses that block UV rays.

Avoid stripping down when it’s hot and keep yourself somewhat covered in lightweight clothing. Wear a cap with a brim.

Keep yourself safe so you can enjoy many, many future runs.


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