Tips for Running Safely in the Dark

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If you work long hours, live in a hot place, or enjoy getting up for a pre-dawn run, you might find yourself running before dawn or after sunset when it’s dark.

There are definite pros to running in the dark—fewer heat-related issues, getting your run in before the rest of the word is awake, and your metabolism peaks at night, so after sunset is a bonus.

Of course, there are also some safety concerns. You may be at a higher risk of being mugged or hit by a vehicle. But if you take precautions, you should be able to run without issue.

Here are our best tips for running safely in the dark, so you can get your training runs in without being nervous or putting yourself in danger.

1. Gear Up

The right gear can make your run quite safe! Choose what you wear carefully and ensure it works for you and not against you while running in the dark.

Wear Bright Colored Clothing

Avoid wearing black, navy, or dark gray clothing in the dark. While you might prefer to go unseen, this will make you blend into the background, which means cars might not see you.

We recommend wearing bright colors like yellow, orange, white, or neon green. You’ll be just a little easier to see in the dark. And when a vehicle’s lights fall on you, there’ll be no mistaking you as a person and not a tree or something similar.

Wear Reflective Items

As well as opting for bright colors, ensure you wear something reflective. Reflective logos on your shirt and tights aren’t enough—you want to make SURE that drivers see you.

The good news is that there’s a ton of reflective gear to choose from. From fully reflective shirts and vests to reflective hats, socks, and shoelaces, there’s no excuse for not wearing something to help people see you.

If you don’t want to invest in new running clothes, you can buy reflective armbands or reflective vest. Alternatively, a clip-on reflector can be stuck on your belt to reflect light to drivers.

Wear a Headlamp or Carry a Flashlight

Bright colors, reflective gear… Yep, there’s more! Reflective patches light up when a car is close enough for its lights to fall on you, but to be as safe as possible, you also want to carry some kind of bright, running light that moves with you.

Not only will carrying a flashlight or wearing a headlamp make you even more visible to motorists and indicate that you’re a living, moving thing, but it also helps to illuminate your path and protect you from tripping.

You can get creative here and choose a handheld light, a headlamp, a waistband light, or anything else that works for you.

Attach a Safety Light

You also want to be seen from the back. Add a blinking safety light on your back collar, hat, or shoes. This helps you be seen from all angles, increasing your safety.

2. Choose the Right Route for Your Run

Where you run is as important as what you wear. Follow these route-related tips to stay as safe as possible in low-light conditions!

Opt for a Route With Streetlights or Well-Lit Paths

You know your area well. Deliberately choose a well-lit route so you can see what’s ahead of you… And others can see you too.

You may have to sacrifice some of your favorite routes or choose routes you aren’t fond of. But trust us, light is more important!

Be Familiar With the Route

It’s not the time to go running routes you aren’t very familiar with. Stick to the boring old route you could run in your sleep and resist the temptation to turn off at that corner. If something does happen, your familiarity could be your saving grace.

Vary Your Running Route

That being said, running the same route every time is not always a good idea, especially if your schedule is predictable. People out there with ill intentions take the time to study the habits of potential victims, so keep it unpredictable.

In addition to varying your running route often, we recommend switching up your times. Go earlier for a few days, later for a few days. Try running before work some days, when you find some free time in the mornings.

Don’t Run a New Route

The first, second, and third time you run a route should be in full daylight. Running an unfamiliar route in the darkness unnecessarily puts yourself at risk, even if it is well-lit.

If you are traveling, visiting friends or family, or spending time in an unfamiliar area, do your best to run during daylight hours instead. Or, if you have to run after hours, get a buddy familiar with the area to go with you.

Use Apps to Research Running Routes

Apps like Strava and MapMyRun have large databases of running routes that other runners have logged. If you’re looking for a new route (which you should run first and get used to in the daytime), try browsing through these databases.

3. Time Your Run Wisely

If possible, time your run so you aren’t running completely alone and in complete darkness. Having a few other people around can be helpful.

Run Against Traffic

It might make you nervous to run against traffic, but it means you can see what’s happening and take evasive action if necessary. It’s a good idea to avoid roads that don’t have sidewalks or shoulders.

That being said, take extra care when running in traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street, don’t assume drivers can see you, and make extra sure to wait so nobody runs a red light as you’re crossing.

Be extra cautious when approaching parked cars, as they can pull off or open a door anytime.

Try to Run Where There Are Other People

It’s always safer when other people are around. You don’t need to be running through a crowd, but being in a slightly busy place can make you feel safer. You know that if something happens, you won’t be alone, and you can catch attention and get help quickly.

4. Get a Running Buddy

If you have a running buddy keen to join you on early morning or late evening runs, doubling up can make your runs more fun, but there’s safety in numbers, even if the number is small.

If one of you gets injured or suffers a medical emergency, the other one can take control and call for help. And if anyone is looking for opportunities to take advantage of the dark and rob runners, it’s less likely to happen when there are two of you.

5. Share Your Live Location

This is an excellent idea if you’re going running alone. Certain running apps, like Strava Beacon, and other apps like Whatsapp or Google Maps, allow you to share your live location with someone else, who can follow you along your route.

For example, Strava Beacon alerts your chosen contact when you start a run and sends them a link to your live location. They can follow along with you; if you aren’t back in good time, they can see exactly where you are and find you.

6. Adjust Your Pace

While you might be deeply focused on hitting your target pace, this kind of training involves getting your head in the game. That means you’ll be less aware of what’s happening around you, which might not be a good idea in the dark.

If you plan on doing speedwork, intervals, or hill repeats, it’s best to try doing those during the daytime. Save your easy runs and long runs for the dark hours, where you can ease up on your pace and keep an eye and ear on your surroundings.

7. Prepare for the Unexpected

Things happen differently at night! Being prepared for anything is key to avoid being caught by surprise and getting into a dangerous situation.

Make Sure Your Phone Battery Is Charged

You never want to be caught in a tricky situation without any means to contact someone for help. Make sure your phone is charged before you leave, and consider the battery usage if you’re using a phone app for your running.

It’s a good idea to set up some emergency contacts on your phone beforehand and ensure you know how to access your phone’s emergency functions to use it if necessary.

Carry Your ID

Carry some form of identification. If you get hurt and can’t communicate, responders will find your ID and know who you are.

If you don’t want to carry your driver’s license or ID, you can attach an ID tag to your shoelaces. Include information about what kinds of medication you may be taking, any allergies you have, and emergency contacts.

Consider Bringing Mace or Pepper Spray

You don’t want to find yourself in a dangerous situation and be unable to defend yourself. Pepper spray or Mace can be a self-defense tool (make sure it’s legal in your state first).

You can keep it in your pocket, but it might be easier to use a clip-on holster. That way, it’s out of the way and can’t accidentally be triggered, but it’s within easy reach if you do need it.

8. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

While “getting in the zone” may happen when you run, if you’re running in the dark, you can’t afford to be distracted. Awareness could be the difference between safety and danger.

Avoid Distractions

Sorry music lovers, but we highly recommend skipping the music when running in the dark. Headphones cut off one of your most important senses, which means you can’t hear traffic, other runners, or anything else around you.

If you absolutely can’t run without music, opt for bone-conduction headphones or keep one earphone in and leave one out. But keep your awareness on your surroundings and make sure you can hear the ambient sounds.

Pay Attention to the Weather

Getting caught in bad weather is more dangerous in the dark. It’s easier to get chilled or to get lost in this case, as well as making it easier to injure yourself if the hazards on your route are obscured.

If you’re running at night, check out the weather forecast during the day so you know what to expect. Prepare for the weather based on that, but remember to layer so that you can remove a jacket if it’s warmer than you expect.

9. Trust Your Instincts

Stay aware of what’s happening around you, and be alert. If your instinct tells you that something’s not right, trust it. Trust your gut feelings—if you’re uneasy, move to a safer space where you can feel more at ease.

Don’t ignore your instincts… They could be the one thing that saves you from danger while you’re out in the darkness. And if you feel uneasy before leaving the house, maybe opt for a treadmill run, a quick running-in-place workout, or some intervals in the backyard instead.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.