Hydration is one of the key things to optimize performance and recovery in running, which means water should be essential in all weather, however, it’s especially important when the temperature starts rising and the sun becomes a regular occurrence.
If you’re lucky you may come across water foundations or some generous spectators in races who’ll hand you a bottle of water, but for other occasions when you’re training on your own or in the middle of nowhere, you won’t have access to water.
Carrying a water bottle in your hand can be impractical and uncomfortable, especially if you have hands that are too sweaty to keep in place.
Some runs may be short enough for you to hydrate beforehand and then not again until after you’ve finished your run, whereas others require you to rehydrate throughout so you’ll need to carry water on you.
We’ll be taking you through the different ways to carry a water bottle while running and also what scenarios they’re best suited for.
What to consider when choosing water carrier options
There is no definite ‘best way’ to carry water on you whilst you’re running, some ways will suit different situations. There are some factors that you’ll need to consider when choosing a water carrier for your runs.
Distance: You’ll need to factor in the distance of your run. Typically, the longer the distance the more water you’ll require to stay hydrated so make sure you bring enough with you.
On the other hand, you don’t want to bring too much water with you ‘just in case’ otherwise it’ll just add unnecessary weight to your body and you’ll end up bringing some of it home.
Comfort: Ensuring your water carrier feels comfortable on your body whilst moving is crucial. If it’s going to impact your form or run against your legs causing a rash then it’s not practical.
Best Suited For: Short To Medium Runs
Handheld water bottles are convenient for short to medium-distance runs as you’ll be able to easily take a swig from your bottle during your run without it impacting your form or pace too much.
As they’re always in your hands, they’re more convenient to fill up at water stations or foundations along your route so you’ll waste less time.
They’re also quite comfortable as you won’t have to have anything strapped to your waist or shoulders. Most handheld water bottles come with a strap so they’ll automatically stay on your hand so you won’t have to worry about continually gripping it.
However, some running coaches argue that handheld bottles can throw off your form as it can affect your arm swing and therefore your form.
One of the major drawbacks is that these larger capacity water bottles can tire your arms out easily meaning that they’re best suited for short to medium runs.
Best Suited For: Long Distance Running
If you’re ever watched a marathon on TV then you’ve probably seen the runners wearing a hydration belt. They’re convenient as they’ll normally have holsters for more than one water bottle and zippers where you can keep energy gels, bars, or even your keys.
They’re popular as you can carry water around with you completely hands-free so your upper body form will not be impacted.
Finding the sweet spot on your body for a hydration belt can be difficult. They’re prone to bouncing up and down when they’re not worn snug enough, however, if they’re worn too tight they can be restrictive for your body movement and feel uncomfortable.
These hydration belts can sometimes make it more difficult to retrieve and put back your water bottles during your run, however, the more you wear one the easier you’ll find it to use.
Hydration Vests & Backpacks
Best Suited For: Long Distance Running
Other options for long-distance runs are hydration vests and backpacks. These are best suited for runs that are spanning more than 2 hours or so as they have a larger water capacity and can still be streamlined on the body.
A hydration vest will distribute the weight all across your torso so you’ll be able to carry more water on you without weighing you down. This means you won’t have to take as many water breaks to fill it up on your runs so it won’t slow you down.
They’re normally designed with multiple pockets built-in so you’ll be able to stash other running essentials like gels or bars.
Some water vests or backpacks are designed with a tube attached to a water bladder so you’ll only need to suck on the straw to get some hydration during your run and won’t need to reach for a bottle on your body.
Whereas others have pockets to hold your water bottles in which you can reach for as and when you need to.
You’ll need to find a hydration vest or backpack that fits you perfectly otherwise you could be at risk of chafing. Having a hydration vest that’s too big will also mean it will bounce with every step you take, so you’ll need to try it on in the store and practice running with it.
They can be more difficult to fill up at a water station, however, due to their larger capacity, there’ll be minimal need for you to refresh your water.
They also do cover more of your body, meaning you’ll get more sweaty and make it more difficult for the heat to evaporate from you so you’ll feel hotter.
Best Suited For: Short runs
If you’re only going out to do short runs (less than 1 hour) or maybe going to do some sprints, then you could consider using a thigh holster to hold your water bottle. You’ll only be able to carry one small water bottle on one leg as the thigh component is attached to a belt on the hips.
It’s ideal for those who want to keep their arms completely free during short sessions but not recommended for longer runs as they can get quite uncomfortable between your thighs and can affect your form.