Average annual rainfall in the UK in 2020 reached 1,308mm, the third highest level since recording began. This means in autumn and winter (and let’s be honest spring and summer), you can never be sure what the sky has in store for you when you head out for a run.
With that in mind, we’ve chosen the best waterproof trousers out there for when you need that extra warmth and protection from incessant rain.
What to look for when buying waterproof trousers
When looking for waterproof running trousers, there are certain things you should bear in mind: firstly breathability. The more breathable the fabric, the less your legs will sweat.
Secondly, as with most technical clothing, lower weights mean higher prices, but if you’re looking to run long distances in your waterproof trousers, or carry them in your pack, you’ll appreciate those few gram savings.
Thirdly taped seams. Many trail runs require you to pack waterproof trousers as part of your mandatory kit, and they often specify they must have taped seams and comply with a waterproof standard of 10,000 HH (Hydrostatic Head). HH is a way of measuring how waterproof a fabric is and refers to how high in mm a column of water standing on the fabric would need to be before it penetrates the fibres – so 10,000 HH would be 10m high.
Fourth, how small it packs down. Some waterproof trousers pack down to the size of a tennis ball or smaller. These are great for stashing in a hip belt or bag if you’re planning a long run and black clouds are gathering.
It’s also worth noting the difference between waterproof and water-repellent or water-resistant. It may seem like a minor quibble, but when you’re 15 miles into a marathon-training run and have chosen a water-repellent pair of tights over waterproof trousers, you may be audibly swearing as your legs soak through and you’re struggling to lift a heavy pair of wet trousers stuck to your legs.
Some of these trousers make a ‘swishing’ noise on each stride, as the waterproof material rubs together – if you see that as a potential problem, look for slimmer-fitting models such as those from Salomon or On. Also, you’ll tend to find that most of these are aimed at trail runners or are made by brands in the trail-running arena – this doesn’t mean they’re not suitable for road running. If anything, they’ll be robust enough to stand up to wet weather road or track training.
How we test
The waterproof trousers that are stamped with our trusty Runner’s World Expert Tested logo below have been put to the test by the Runner’s World Lab team.
They asked a panel of testers to wear a range of waterproof trousers in different temperatures, noting any changes in comfort and breathability, as well as in light and heavy rain. They also scored each on how easy they were to wear, including putting them on while wearing shoes, and for outerwear, over any other layers.
Our runners also took them for a spin, to assess ease of movement and any restrictions. And finally, they looked at any adjustable straps and fixtures, pockets, and wash and care instructions, as well as how easy they were to pack away.
In the RW Lab, we used a hydrostatic head tester to check how waterproof the trousers were. The machine measures the water penetration resistance of fabrics and seams, allowing us to put each brand’s waterproofing claims to the test.
The remaining options on our list have been selected by the RW editors, based on their own experiences, testing and expertise.
Keela Lightning Trousers, Unisex
Our panel gave these a big thumbs up in the comfort stakes, with most testers won over by their fit and waterproof creds, as well as keeping them at a consistent temperature. If you’re on the shorter side and struggle to find gear that fits, these could also be for you; one 5ft 3in tester found them a perfect length (they’re available in short, medium or long).
Montane Men’s Minimus Waterproof Pants
On the higher end price-wise, these slim-fit trousers from Montane are designed with all you trail runners in mind, due to their lightweight, breathable fabric and ease of movement when going uphill or tackling uneven terrain. Our runners rated the sleek and sporty design, particularly the drawstring sack for packing them away. That said, some found them on the tighter side, so you might benefit from going up a size. Ideal to wear over leggings or shorts, but less so over bulkier trousers, unless you want to be doing a slightly awkward shuffle instead of a new PB.
Decathlon Evadict Trail Running Trousers
Who doesn’t love well considered design touches when it comes to training gear? These extremely reasonably priced trousers from Decathlon fold away into one of the pockets making them handy if you’re going camping or on a hike and need a quick change. Most of our avid running crew rated them highly for design, comfort and fit, although they did come up on the slightly larger side for some of our panel. A stretchy waistband and handy ankle-to-knee zips, as well as a decent-sized pocket for your keys, were handy design touches that added to the ratings. An excellent all-rounder at a reasonable price point with bonus points for added extras such as the reflective detail.
OMM Halo Pant
OMM is an adventure specialist – the company engineers technical clothing that’s designed to withstand the most despicable weather you ever imagined. This means they work equally well on the roads or trails, and because they weigh a mere 80g – by far the lightest on this list – you barely notice they’re enshrouding your legs in their two layers of waterproof fabric. If you really want to make a statement, go for the green and blue (one leg of each).
On Waterproof Pants
These are top of the range, and the eye-watering price reflects that. But for the money you’ll get the ultimate protection: the waterproof membrane is constructed from three layers, is PFC-free and provides 20,000 HH protection. Not only do they look stylish, in keeping with On’s knack for creating on-trend, understated running wear you can wear on and off the track, but they also feature a clever design made from different materials on the upper and lower leg to aid movement and provide extra rain protection on the upper leg.
Inov-8 TrailPant Waterproof Trousers
Trail running expert inov-8 knows all about rainfall – the company is based in the Lake District, after all, and it produces a range of waterproof running trousers. We’d recommend the top-end TrailPant for advanced levels of breathability and waterproofing. They’re constructed from 2.5 layers of waterproof fabric with taped seams and an impressive 20,000 HH rating.
Helly Hansen Loke Pants
These trousers are waterproof, windproof and breathable, but at 185g are not ideal for carrying in case of a downpour – instead, it’s best to wear them to avoid carrying extra grams. They feature taped seams in a 2.5-layer laminate, and pack up into their own pocket, so if it warms up you can quickly take them off and stash them away in your bag.
Salomon Bonatti Trousers
Unpack these when the conditions outside could be described as ‘hurricane-y’: they weigh in at the lighter end of the scale (110g), and are completely waterproof and weather-resistant. Whatever the heavens throw at these, they’ll shrug it off and yell, 'Is that all you’ve got?!' As a warning, they fit slimmer, so might be too tight if you’re planning to wear them over other joggers on cold runs.
OMM Kamleika Pant
Unlike many other waterproof trousers, these are built to stretch, so provide extra comfort in harsh weather. They began life more than 20 years ago, being tweaked over the years as the result of feedback from the hardiest of fell runners, and recently OMM added a nylon face fabric to add another layer of protection. They also feature a handy elastic lace hook that runs under the sole to stop any trail debris or extra water splashing in.
Water-repellent (rather than waterproof) trousers
UA OutRun The Storm Pants
Under Armour calls these trousers 'super-water-resistant' due to the Storm technology used on the OutRuns, so should last longer before getting sopping wet than other water-resistant trousers. They’re packable and are constructed from four-way stretch material to aid movement when running, plus feature a useful water-resistant pocket inside the waistband to tuck your phone in.
Patagonia Wind Shield Pants
Another pair with a DWR (durable water-repellent) finish, making them suitable for light-rain running but best left behind if the forecast is for anything heavier. At 264g, they’re not the lightest, but they provide extra warmth for runs on cold, drizzly days while also letting your legs breathe via panels. And as they’re Patagonia, the eco credentials are top-notch – 68% of its fabrics are made with recycled products.
Janji Transit Pant
These are water-repellent rather than resistant, so won’t keep you dry in prolonged, heavy rain – the kind you get in certain parts of the UK most days through winter. Janji’s Transits are not only protective from showers, but they’re also one of the few pairs of trousers that you’d feel happy about wearing when lounging about on your sofa post-run, too.