7 Safety Tips to Follow When Running at Night

Sports & Activity

When running at night, it's important to see and be seen. Put these top tips to work for you and stay safe during your evening runs.

Last updated: January 15, 2022
6 min read
7 Safety Tips to Follow When Running at Night

It’s dark outside, the air is cooler, and the hustle and bustle of the city has subsided. Maybe you run at night to avoid the hot sun. Maybe it’s that you like ending a busy day with a sweat-inducing run. Or, maybe that's when you have the time to run.

Whatever your reason, running at night has benefits, especially for those who live in hotter climates, don’t have time to run during the day, or simply enjoy the serene, cool night air.

Taking an evening run can also be a strategic way to change your eating or exercise behaviors for the better. Rather than ending your day with with a big dinner and lounging in your PJs, you can put on some running clothes and go for an envigorating half-hour run. Whatever your reason for exercising at night instead of in the morning, it’s important to keep safety top of mind since it’s dark and, in general, there are fewer people out at night.

Staying safe while running at night (or in the dark early morning) involves preparation, such as having the proper nighttime clothing and mapping out your run ahead of time. Whether you’re ready to upgrade your current running gear or running shoes, or want to switch up your running routine to the evenings, be sure to adhere to the following tips for running safely at night, no matter the hour.

  1. 1.Wear Workout Clothing with Reflective Strips

    Even if you’re an expert runner and know your neighborhood like the back of your hand, you still need to watch out for drivers who may not see you. The key to running at night is to wear highly visible safety gear so you can be seen by drivers on the road, as well as bikers and other pedestrians. Instead of all-black or darker color clothing that might be safe in the well-lit morning, opt for white or bright orange and yellow, which are easier to see in the dark on your evening run.

    Although it's not a guarantee of safety, reflective materials make it easier for cars with their headlights on to see the “glowing” strip when you’re moving and it's the end of the day and dark out. If your workout clothing does not have any reflective strips on them, consider buying a few outer items, such as a vest, windbreaker or bottoms with reflective fabrics or trims. You can also find clip-on reflectors or armbands, along with flashing safety lights that can be pinned to your outer layers of clothing. These are similar to what bike riders would have attached to their bikes or clothing.

  2. 2.Use a Headlamp

    Relying on street lights alone may not be enough as street lights are often broken or sparse. When you wear a headlamp, you can clearly see the road or sidewalk and be seen as you’re running.

    A runner’s light, similar to one you’d wear for camping or an evening hike, is compact enough for you to wear comfortably on your head. The light is powerful enough for you to clearly see the sidewalk or road ahead while indicating to other cars and pedestrians that you’re approaching.

  3. 3.Be Aware of Traffic

    If you live near a busy area with a lot of cars and bikers, be sure to always use the following traffic tips to make a habit of staying safe while you run at night. Always assume that drivers can’t see you, and make sure to:

    • Check both ways each time you cross the street.
    • Wait to make sure a car is fully stopped before crossing.
    • Try to avoid running on the street — find a route that is walking- or bicycle-friendly.
  4. 4.Don't Listen to Loud Music

    The sounds in your surroundings matter when you’re taking precautions to stay safe, such as a car honking at you or a person on the street yelling at you to watch out. Avoid drowning the outside noises from reaching your ears and ditch the loud music or podcast coming through your headphones.

    If you can’t run without some kind of music or podcast, consider running with only one earbud or headphone in your ear, and keep the sound on low.

    Stay on the sidewalk and in a visible, lighted route to ensure you make it home safely after each run.

  5. 5.Plan Your Route Ahead of Time

    The last thing you want on a run is to constantly check your phone to find out how to get back home. It’s a distraction that keeps your eyes and attention off the route, and it disrupts your evening run session.

    If you tend to stick to the same route each night, consider mapping out a few alternative routes, which give you options for how to get back to your home. This is beneficial because you never know what may happen in your regular route, whether its road closures or an unidentified person following you.

    Map out routes that are brightly lit and are along roads that tend to have heavier foot traffic, as opposed to being empty. Take advantage of running apps such as MapMyRun and Strava, which uses crowdsourced data from other runners who have logged in and marked various running routes near your location.

  6. 6.Run with a Partner or Join a Running Club

    Working out with a crowd has a number of benefits including companionship and motivation. Plus, there’s safety in numbers.

    Research shows that grabbing a workout partner, especially someone who happens to be in better shape can result in a positive outcome, inspiring exercisers to reach higher levels of conditioning. One study revealed that having a more fit buddy could increase your workout time and intensity by as much as 200 percent.

    While running with a friend or a group has proven benefits, another big upside is having peace of mind while you’re out at night. If safety from attackers is a major concern for you, having others around you may deter this from happening. That way you can focus on running and getting in a great evening workout with a running buddy.

  7. 7.Turn on Your Phone’s Safety Settings

    Did you know your smartphone has safety settings? If you use an iPhone, visit Apple’s emergency support page to understand how to turn on emergency features on your device. For example, for the iPhone 8 or newer, you can:

    • Squeeze the lock button and volume simultaneously for five seconds to let out a loud noise.
    • Contact emergency services.
    • Alert emergency contacts of where you are located in real-time.

    The features of turning on emergency features are different for Android users, depending on the make and model. For example, for Samsung phones, you need to navigate to settings, advanced features, and turn on “Send SOS messages.” In addition, you can:

    • Send coordinates to your current location.
    • Send pictures taken from your front and rear camera along with a five-second audio clip, which can quickly give context to emergency services or help coming your way.

    Search “SOS” or “Emergency” in your phone’s settings or in a quick Google search to find out what to do for your specific phone.

    In addition, there are accessories you can purchase to ward off attackers or even animals that may roam around your running route such as pepper spray, a whistle or siren devices — some of which can be heard up to a city block away.

Make Safety a Priority

These safety measures can also be applied to any activity you’re doing outdoors, but since it’s darker and quieter in the evenings, it’s important to have a plan in place if you’re keen on running at night.

Think ahead, wear proper clothing, set up your phone’s emergency settings, and set yourself up for safety and a great workout.

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