Run With a Water Bottle: How to Carry Water While Running

Hydration is key for runners—for our health and our performance. This is why running with a bottle of water is a smart choice. But running with a water bottle can be a nuisance. I explore how to carry a water bottle while running (without it slowing you down)—and why you should.

Whitney Heins running a marathon and drinking from a handheld water bottle.
This photo of me carrying a bottle during my 2:54 marathon sparked a lot of questions on Instagram.

When we run, and especially if it is hot outside, we sweat, increasing our risk for dehydration. This can be accompanied by a headache, rapid heart rate, and fatigue—all factors that can slow us down. Not good.

But staying hydrated while running is tricky. I will admit that my hydration plan for long runs has often been an afterthought. And I’ve ended up really regretting this because my runs felt horrible because I felt horrible.

When I started planning my hydration for marathon training runs, I ran better and felt better during and after.

In this article, we will explore the best way to hydrate and all the options for hydration while running. So, let’s go!

Related: How I Fueled by 2:54 Marathon

Should You Drink Water While Running?

In most cases you should drink water while running—this is especially true if your run is longer than an hour and if it is hot outside (warmer than 60 degrees). (If it’s a cool day and your run is shorter than an hour, there’s no need for you to drink water unless you are an excessive sweater.)

When we run, our core body temperature rises and if we are running while dehydrated, we don’t have fluid to sweat to cool us. This decreases our blood plasma volume, essentially making our blood thicker, carrying less oxygen to our working muscles. This causes our heart rate to increase and our muscles to fatigue.

Related: The ULTIMATE Hydration Guide for Runners

Research shows a link between just a two percent loss in body weight from dehydration to a performance decline.

But water isn’t enough. You’ll also need electrolytes like sodium which can come in a sports drink, salt tablet, or energy gel.  

Electrolytes are minerals important for keeping your body hydrated, muscle contractions, and nerve signaling, pH level balance, etc. Without electrolytes, you also run the risk of a fluid imbalance called hyponatremia, which can be fatal!

Related: Best Electrolyte Drinks for Runners

The Pros of Running with a Water Bottle

Running with a water bottle is truly the best way to hydrate as it helps you stay on top of your hydration so you can run better (and feel better). Running with a water bottle helps you:

  • Stay cool on hot days (can also squirt on yourself!)
  • Keep hydrated
  • Take in energy gels that require water for consumption
  • Cut down on the need to stop for water or do out-and-backs
  • Lessen risk of your stashed bottle being taken (this happens!)
  • Improved recovery from proper hydration
  • Better performance
  • Don’t have to mess with water stops (that slow you down!) during races

Related: How to Carry Gels During a Marathon

carrying water while running pin
Running with a water bottle can be cumbersome. Pin the pros, cons of different hydration methods for runners and learn how to carry water while running.

The Cons of Running With a Bottle of Water

I used to HATE running with a water bottle because it seemed so cumbersome trying to run fast carrying a couple of pounds of fluid in my hands. Here are some reasons not to run with a water bottle:

  • Heavy and cumbersome especially if you are running fast (though, it does get lighter as you drink!)
  • May not be enough fluid—and then what?!
  • Splashes around
  • Lid can be hard to open to sip
  • Drinking water while running can lead to more pit stops

The 5 Best Runners Drinking Bottles

I now run with a water bottle on hot, long runs. Why? Because I found the right
water bottles to run with which can make it feel like I am not carrying much of anything! Below are the best runners drinking bottles—all dishwasher safe which is important for us busy moms!

Nathan Speed Draw Plus — $35

My husband carries this handheld running water bottle for his ultra-marathons. It’s light, grip-free, has a pouch to carry gels and essentials, insulated, and holds 18 ounces of fluid.

Nathan Running Handheld Quick Squeeze — $30

If you want just a basic handheld bottle, then this is the one for you. This Nathan handheld is the one that converted me to be a bottle carrier during long runs and marathons. It fits my hand, is light, and easy to open and close the spout with my mouth. Carrying only 12 ounces of fluid, it’s not as heavy as the Speed draw.

Nathan Speedview Running Handheld — $40

If you carry your phone with you, the Nathan Speedview has a pocket so you can carry AND see your phone while running. The screen is actually conductive, so you don’t have to pull your phone out to use it. This does make it heavy though—and not super comfortable to run with.  

Amphipod Ergo-lyte Handheld Water Bottle — $25

This water bottle only carries 10.5 ounces of water, making it ultra-light. It has storage for essentials, and I love that it has an insulating sleeve that minimizes sweat and keeps your fluids cooler.

HydraPak Skyflask IT Speed — $24

A soft flask is collapsible and therefore easy to carry when empty, and also lighter—only 2 ounces (lightest on the list). This bottle holds 10 ounces and is no frills aka zero storage. This is truly a minimalist design with a lifetime guarantee.

Related: Marathon Fueling 101: What Runners Should Eat

running with a bottle of water pin
Running with a water bottle can be cumbersome. Pin the pros, cons of different hydration methods for runners and learn how to carry water while running.

Other Ways to Carry Water When Running

If running with a bottle of water isn’t for you, here are other ways you can carry water when running:

Wear it.

You can wear a hydration vest which carries fluid in a bladder with a straw, a hydration belt which carries small bottles on a belt, and a running fanny pack with bottle holder that sits near the small of your back.

Use a strap.

A bottle strap like this can convert any bottle to a handheld so you don’t have to worry about holding onto or investing in one. 

Stash it.

You can stash bottles on your route or circle back to it to avoid having to drive to drop spots. Be sure to hide your bottles well if you do this so they don’t get stolen.

Have a crew.

Have a loved one bring hydration to you.

Plan out water stops.

You can plan your run so that you run by water fountains or even a gas station to rehydrate.

Rely on aid stations.

If racing, research to see if your race has aid stations. This way you don’t have to handle carrying anything but I do recommend practicing grabbing the cups.

Related: How to Get Used to Running in the Heat

how to carry a bottle while running post
The pros of carrying a water bottle while running far outweighs the cons.

5 Tips for Hydration for Runners

Be sure to check out my ultimate hydration for runners guide! But here are some quick hydration tips for runners.

  1. Know your numbers. Know how much fluid and electrolytes you will need before you head out the door. A general rule of thumb is to aim for about 400 mg of sodium and 10-16 oz of fluid during each hour of your run.
  2. Plan out your hydration. Now that you know your numbers, plan it out. Therefore, if your run will take you 3 hours, you need to plan for about 3 bottles of fluid with electrolytes. Will you carry a bottle and stash another? Refill somewhere with an electrolyte tablet? Or have someone bring you fluids? Remember that factors such as weather and speed impact how much you take in.
  3. Drink early and often. Pre-hydrate with a sports drink before you head out with 400- 1000 mg of sodium (depending on factors such as duration, weather, and sweat rate, etc). Then, aim to take about 2 big gulps of fluid every ten minutes of running.
  4. Stay hydrated. Hydration is a way of life. You should always be drinking water. Planning to gulp down a ton of fluids right before you head out will only lead to stomach sloshing. Before a big run, drink a sports drink the night before and then another about 90-120minutes prior to your run.
  5. Re-hydrate. Weigh yourself before your run (and before you hydrate) to know your pre-run weight. Then drink what you lost in body weight (about 16 ounces per pound) along with 400 mg of sodium.

Related: 8 Tips to Make Running in Humidity Easier

My husband handed my a Nathan handheld bottle with my electrolyte drink halfway through the CIM Marathon.

How to Hydrate Before a Run

Prehydration can make all the difference in how your long run goes. Two hours to 90 minutes before your run, aim to drink 16 to 18 ounces of fluid with about 400 mg of sodium. Four hours before your run (or the night before), also aim to drink 16 to 24 ounces of water with 400 mg of sodium or a sports drink with electrolytes.

Does Humidity Dehydrate You?

Humidity can raise your risk for dehydration during running. This is because your body is trying to cool itself by sweating but the sweating isn’t evaporating—so it is not cooling. But you are still losing fluids. Therefore, having a hydration plan is even more important if running in hot and humid weather.

Related: 8 Tips for Running in Humidity

hydration-plan-for-runners post
Hydration is a way of life. Do it before, during, and after runs!

Is a Handheld Water Bottle for Running a Good Idea?

A handheld water bottle for running is a good idea if you are running for longer than an hour, or if you are running in hot weather (particularly over 60 degrees).

For runners training for long distance events such as a marathon or half marathon, running with a handheld water bottle could be a game-changer and potentially even a lifesaver.

Find Water Bottles to Run With

If you’re like me, and you hate holding a water bottle while running because you feel like it slows you down—you need to find the right water bottle for you (like I did). I found the small 12-ounce Nathan didn’t require me to grip it, it was light, and it got lighter as I ran.

For my two marathons I ran with a bottle, I had my husband hand me a new handheld at the half. For the other marathon (which I ran a PR), I dropped my bottle and did aid stations on the back half (I hate water stops in marathons—so I avoid them if I can).

It can take trial and error, but you have options for hydration while you run!

Find More Gear Recommendations for Women Runners »

If you want guidance with your running goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:


Leave a Comment


Download my FREE FULL MONTH of strength workouts for runners!

Looking for a free running plan? Email me at [email protected].

You have Successfully Subscribed!