Night Running Gear: A List of Essentials For Running in the Dark

Prefer running at night? You’re not alone. Many experienced runners prefer to run in the evening when the sun isn’t beating down on them, and the air is a little cooler. Night runs are usually quieter, offering more peace as you log those miles.

If you’re an advanced runner, you may also run night miles during ultramarathons that last longer than 12 hours. If the race is long enough, darkness can’t be avoided!

Of course, running at night is a lot different from running during the day, and you’ll need a few things to keep yourself safe and protected in the dark. So if you’re looking for essential night-run equipment, you’ve come to the right place. Below we’ll go through our top picks for the must-have night running gear.

Let’s jump into it!

Important Night Running Gear & Equipment

Essential night running gear

Below are a few things that you should try to wear every time you go for a run at night. 

Reflective Clothing

If you’ve researched night running, you’ve probably already been told that you need to wear a reflective vest, and for a good reason. These vests will help you stay visible to cars and other vehicles on the road.

Invest in some reflective clothing that is easy to see in the dark. Not only does this mean wearing a reflective vest, but it can also include reflective material on your clothes and shoes, and even reflective hats and caps. 

There are several brands that specialise in reflective night running gear, including some we’ve featured — such as IllumiNite.

The more reflective clothing you wear, the easier you’ll be to spot. And, if you have the time and budget, consider adding more reflective items like belts and armbands to further reduce your risk of accidents during night runs.

Lights

As important as it is to be seen while you’re running, it’s just as important to be able to see where you’re going. Running blindly in the dark is the best way to get yourself injured and do it quickly. 

Wearable lights help combat this and make an excellent way to see your surroundings while running. And they make you more visible – an added bonus. These days, plenty of different models of wearable or clip-on LEDs help you see where you’re going. 

To give yourself a better view of your surroundings, wearing a headlamp will provide you with a beam of light in the direction you’re facing while also keeping your hands free to move. It’s also one of the best ways to improve your visibility. 

See more: headlamp or waist light — which is right for me?

Face and Head Protection

Bugs, low-hanging branches, large bushes, and other unseen surprises can cause significant damage while you’re on your night runs. Wear a cap with a peak so it’ll bump into any hidden obstacles before your head does. 

Clear goggles or glasses will keep your eyes safe from branches and bugs. Make sure you aren’t wearing anything tinted, or you’ll drastically reduce your visibility – not the goal when running at night!

Good Running Shoes

Nighttime running conditions differ greatly from daytime conditions and can often create greater chances for injuries. When running in the dark, it’s much more difficult to spot obstacles in your path or uneven terrain. 

Getting your hands on a good, supportive pair of running shoes will offer better stability. This means that you won’t lose your footing, even when running over a sudden change in terrain. 

Your Phone

These days, we’re all used to having our phones with us at all times, but it’s never been more important to have your phone on you than when going for a night run. Your phone fulfills multiple purposes:

  • It can be used as a flashlight if you’re struggling to see the path you’re running on
  • It can help with navigation if you lose your way or are running in an unfamiliar area
  • It can let you know the time

Using a tracking app, like ASICS Runkeeper, for instance, is an excellent way to track your running progress and let others know where you are. This means they’ll be able to tell if you’re off the designated path or have gotten lost. 

Your phone is one of your most important safety tools, allowing you to call someone when you don’t feel safe or need help dealing with an injury. What’s more, if you have someone waiting for you, you’ll be able to let them know if your run is taking longer than expected.

Before you embark on your night run, be sure you know how you will carry your phone with you. Arm-mounted phone straps are super affordable and a great way to carry your phone with your hands-free. They also often have holes to let you connect earphones so that you can listen to your favorite tracks while out for a run.

Reflective running gear
What you wear at night will make a huge difference to how visible you are. CC via Mænsard vokser

How to Stay Safe on Night Runs

Running in the dark usually means you’ll have to be more cautious about where and how you’re running. Practicing running safety is a given, but running at night can be slightly more dangerous. 

Here’s how to keep yourself safe when running at night:

Run a Route That You Know

The evening is not the time to explore a remote trail you’ve been eyeing for a while or plan a new route through your neighborhood. Save your wanderlust for the daytime and rather run on the paths you’ve traveled hundreds of times. The route you run at night should be memorized – every corner, tree, and building. 

That said, you should also avoid running the same route every night. This can create a pattern for creeps to track you. We recommend establishing a few routes you can run comfortably and alternating between those routes every night. 

Stay Wary of Your Surroundings

Running facilitates zoning out. It’s easy to start contemplating what’s for dinner or thinking about your plans for the next day when out for a long run, but you must still pay attention to your surroundings. 

Awareness can spell the difference between seconds or minutes of preventing an accident, especially when running at night when the darkness makes it far harder to distinguish objects from people. 

In addition to focussing on what’s going on around you, it’s a good idea to keep your line of vision lower than you would in the daytime. This will help to spot any obstacles or potential tripping hazards that may be concealed in the low-light.

Run against Traffic

Running on the side of the road facing traffic will give drivers a good view of what’s in front of them (you) and allow you to see oncoming vehicles in case you need to make a sudden maneuver. 

If you can, avoid running during rush hour. The fewer cars you have to deal with while running in the dark, the better. If you find the headlights blinding, wear a visor or cap. 

Bring Your Phone

As we mentioned earlier, your phone is one of the most important safety tools when running. It can provide you with special tracking apps and allow you to call someone when you find yourself stuck. 

An incredibly useful app we enjoy is the free Road ID app, which will display emergency contact information on your phone even when it’s locked. It also offers additional features like GPS tracking, which lets your family and friends follow your progress as you run. 

The good news is that most people prefer running with their phone, but if you prefer staying off-grid, consider the benefits of keeping your phone on you when running at night. 

Road ID App for night running
The Road iD app is particularly useful for night runners

Leave Your Earphones at Home

We know it isn’t easy, but it’s much safer to run without listening to music at night. If you absolutely can’t do it, leave one earbud out so that you can hear oncoming vehicles and people. 

A recent study by Baltimore’s University of Maryland Medical Center found that accidents involving pedestrians wearing headphones hit by trains and cars have tripled in the last six years. Sadly, 70% of those incidents involved a walker or runner losing their life. 

Consider Bringing a Friend

Not only is running with a partner an excellent way to share the fun, but it will also increase your margin of safety by a long shot. A running companion can help you if you have an accident and vice versa. Shady strangers are also far less likely to approach two people than they are one.

Morning vs. Night: When Is It Better to Run?

Many runners are divided on whether it’s better to run in the morning or the evening. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both. 

Night Runs

The Pros

Many runners find that they can run longer or faster at night, despite exerting the same effort as they would in the morning. There’s a reason for this. As the evening draws closer, you’ll already have a few meals in your body, meaning you’ll have more fuel to expend while running.

The evening is also when your body temperature is at its highest. Since you’ve been doing a lot of moving during the day, your muscles will already be warmed up and ready to exercise. This makes running feel easier while lowering your risk of getting injured.

The Cons

It’s just as difficult to find the motivation to run in the evening as in the morning, though the reason behind this is slightly different. 

Most people reach their mental peak in the morning, which then fades over the rest of the day. By the end of your workday, you will naturally feel more tired and sluggish. Combine these two factors, and you have a recipe that makes it easy to give in and skip your run.

There is also a higher chance of something coming up throughout the day that gives you no choice but to miss your nighttime run. This makes it pretty challenging to be consistent with your schedule. 

If you can find the motivation to put your shoes on and do some stretching, you might surprise yourself with just how energized you feel once you start your run.

Morning Runs

The Pros

There’s no denying that a good morning run offers a lot of health benefits. Other than the opportunity to watch the sunrise, early-morning runs help boost your mood, keeping you happy and energized throughout the day.

The stress hormone cortisol is at its peak when you first wake up. Running helps counteract these high levels, making you feel a little happier as you go about your day. 

What’s more, getting your run in earlier in the day also means a far slimmer chance of anything preventing you from doing so later. Regardless of whether you have to work late or have a dinner date, you’ll have already completed your run. 

The Cons

Of course, running in the early hours isn’t all sunshine and singing birds. There are a few downsides; most involve how your body operates early in the day.

Morning runs can put your body at a greater risk of injury since your muscles haven’t warmed up after being inactive in your sleep. So, if you’re going to run in the morning, start slow and remember to warm up well.

It’s also not the best time to do your hardest workouts. You probably won’t be properly fueled first thing in the morning, especially since you’d have gone around 8 hours without eating during your sleep. 

Without the right amount of calories, you won’t be able to run as long or fast. So, save your exertion for the times when you can have at least one good meal before you work out. 

Stay Safe On Your Night Run

Going for a run at night is a lot like many other outdoor exercises and activities. If you take the time to plan ahead and practice caution throughout your run, you’ll set yourself up for success and be able to head into the night feeling confident.

Author Profile

Thalia Oosthuizen

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Thalia started running during the the pandemic as a way of getting out of the house. The running bug bit, and now much of her life revolves around everything to do with running - videos, podcasts, studies, books, articles, and interviews. She's also done several courses on running nutrition and mechanics to aid in her training and advising others.
Thalia Oosthuizen

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