Ideally, you would never have to run in the dark.
Daylight provides better lit paths, clearer surroundings, and greater visibility for you and those you encounter along your route.
But as the long nights of fall and winter creep in, it can often be impossible for dedicated runners to avoid dark runs.
Just because the sun is more sparing in cooler months of the year doesn’t mean you have to give up your outdoor running routine.
With a little common sense and a decent amount of precaution, you can ensure your sunrise, sunset, or nighttime runs are safe and relaxing instead of sources of stress.
This page contains some affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.
Nighttime Running Safety
When it comes to safety on a nighttime run, a lot of it is focused on you.
There’s only so much you can do about other people, so you need to be as visible and as smart as possible.
Three key things will help key you safe:
- Wearing the right clothes.
- Carrying the right tools.
- Choosing the safest route.
What to Wear When Running in the Dark
Safety on a nighttime run starts with what you put on.
By wearing the right clothes, you help other people see you, whether they are drivers on the road or cyclists and other pedestrians on shared paths.
What to wear:
- Reflective clothing
- Light colors
- Reflective shoes
When it comes to being visible, nothing is more effective than reflective running wear.
Reflective running shirts and pants not only provide illumination, but make movement visible, which can help distinguish you from road signs and other reflective items along the road.
That’s why they’re our #1 recommendation for what to wear to run in the dark.
Some reflective running shirts we like:
- Brooks Carbonite Long-Sleeve Shirt (Women’s)
- Brooks Carbonite Long-Sleeve Shirt (Men’s)
- Brooks Carbonite Shirt (Women’s)
- Brooks Carbonite Shirt (Men’s)
Some reflective running pants we like:
What we like most about Brooks running wear is just how reflective it is.
Other reflective running clothes tend to have far fewer reflectors and simply aren’t as visible in the darkness.
If you are going to choose reflective clothing with fewer reflectors, like this reflective shirt from adidas – Own the Run Tee Men’s, Own the Run Tee Women’s – or this one from Under Armour – Streaker Running Shirt Men’s, Streaker Running Shirt Women’s – pair it with a reflective vest, harness, or accessories to ensure better visibility.
Some reflective vests and harnesses we like:
- Brooks Carbonite Vest (Women’s)
- Brooks Carbonite Vest (Men’s)
- Amphipod Full-Visibility Reflective Vest (Unisex)
- Amphipod Xinglet (Unisex)
While vests can give you great visibility when running in the dark, they don’t provide as much visible movement as reflective shirts and pants.
This can make it harder to tell you’re a moving person and not just some random object on the side of the road.
So, another option for creating more visible movement is a reflective accessory set, like this one – GoxRunx Reflective Bands.
With reflective bands, you can add reflectors to numerous areas of your body no matter what you’re wearing and increase overall visibility.
Light Colors and Reflective Shoes
While on-body reflectors will do the majority of the work in enhancing your visibility on the road, that’s no excuse to wear dark-colored clothing.
White reflects more light than any other color all by itself, and light colors overall reflect light better than dark colors.
So, even with reflectors on, your nighttime running clothes should be light in color (preferably white).
And while you don’t necessarily need reflectors on your running shoes (if you’re wearing reflective socks like these, for instance, or reflective calf or ankle bands like in the kit above), if you aren’t wearing anything reflective below the knee, make sure your shoes are.
Your feet and lower legs move a lot when you run, so it’s important they’re highly visible.
Night Running Gear
When it comes to safely running at night, your clothes are the biggest part of the picture, but there is one other piece of equipment you should always carry on a nighttime run – a light.
While your personal visibility matters a lot when it comes to everyone else on the road or path, you also need to be able to see what’s in the road or path ahead of you to prevent stepping in holes and tripping over objects.
A light is also a good safety item, which can be used to signal for help in case of accident or injury.
The best running lights are those which attach to the body and remain pointed directly ahead as you run.
Some of our favorite lights for runners:
- AltrAspire Waist Light
- Amphipod Versa-Light Safety Light
- Nathan Luna Fire Run Light
- Amphipod Swift-Clip Cap Light
Night Running Tips
Once you’re properly dressed and geared up, your safety relies on making the right choices for your nighttime run.
These simple tips will help you stay safe without much effort.
Night Running Tip #1 – Stick to places with people and good lighting.
The places you’re used to running in daylight may be less-trafficked and poorly-lit at night, making them less safe in the dark than they are during the day.
Instead of hitting far-off trails, stick to city parks or streets where people are still out.
You’ll be less vulnerable, and there will be help around if you need it.
Night Running Tip #2 – Choose streets with the best visibility.
The only problem with those more populated areas is they are often city streets.
That means more traffic.
Avoid streets with too much street parking or extensive traffic if you can, and stay off of roads with narrow shoulders or blind corners.
Long straight stretches on lightly-trafficked streets are ideal when you’re road-running.
If you have a pedestrian-only section in your city, even better. Just keep in mind, you’ll still have to navigate foot-traffic and you’re responsible for letting people know you’re coming.
Night Running Tip #3 – Make eye contact.
If you’re running where you should be in the dark, there will be other people around, whether they’re in vehicles or on foot.
One of the best ways to make sure they see you, especially if they are driving cars, is to try to make eye contact as others approach. (This is true for running during the day, as well.)
By attempting to make eye contact, you will also know if drivers or other pedestrians don’t see you, which can ready you to get out of the way in the case of potential collision.
Night Running Tip #4 – Utilize the sidewalk.
We get it. When you have the choice to run on a road or sidewalk, the sidewalk may be safer, but the road is simply softer and makes your run a lot less exhausting.
So, let’s meet halfway.
If you’re on a street with both roadway and sidewalk, use the road to run on, but switch to the sidewalk when you need to.
On good lightly-trafficked roads where you can see traffic coming, simply run up onto the sidewalk when cars approach and then step back down into the street once they pass.
Not only does it get you out of the path of cars, it adds a dimension to your workout. Just be careful not to trip yourself up as you do it.
Bright Path at Night, Runner’s Delight
Running at night is always going to be inherently more dangerous than running during the day.
That’s true of any activity where your ability to see and be seen matters. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done safely.
By taking all necessary precautions and being smart about when and how you run, you can greatly lower your risk of an accident, so you’ll be safe and running far into the future.
Just getting started with running? Check out our guide Getting Started With Road Running.