For those of you who have day jobs, night running might be an unavoidable reality of your existence. While my schedule is generally flexible enough to allow me to get my run in before the sun sets, on days when it’s just too hot (or I’m just too busy) to get out and hit the road, I join the shamblers of the night.
But night running, particularly if you live in a very residential area (maybe just off a major highway where drivers love to zip around regardless of speed limit) can be a dangerous sport. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy thinking about running safety, particularly when conditions aren’t optimal for me being spotted. Since I was out on the road last night in my night kit, I figure I should probably share some tips on what gear you’re going to want for night running in order to get home safe.
Visibility is key. This means that the axiom about staying away from dark colors is absolutely true. It took me a while to develop a big enough stash of neon running gear to consider myself safe, mostly because neon colors are not the most flattering or pleasant to the eye. Since I tend to lead an active lifestyle as a fight director/dance instructor, I try to buy gear that I can wear in multiple settings. I’m not exactly going to show up to teach students the Waltz wearing high viz yellow or hot pink. Because of this, I had to learn to mentally correct for what gear to buy. If you have ready access to a washer/drier and night running is only an occasional dalliance for you, you probably only need one set of neon clothes. But the next time you purchase the basics (tights, shorts, shirts, sweats, etc.), consider edging towards what I like to call “don’t hit me” colors. My favorite nighttime running jacket for when it’s too chilly for a tee shirt but not cold enough for my hardcore gear is the Kiava FIT jacket in neon. Cut generously so the sleeves will cover your hands and the bottom will cover your lower back without riding up, it’s also built with a cute design. I would definitely wear it in public when out for a post-run drink, and that’s more than I can say about most of my night gear.
While neon clothing is a good start, you’re also going to want a high visibility vest. Both honey and I use the Tuvizio Reflective Vest (mine is Pink in size S/M/L, honey’s is yellow in size L/XL). I love this product because A) it adjusts to a WIDE variety of sizes and B) it doesn’t add bulk or an extra layer. It’s basically just a series of straps with high viz tape configured with buckles. Once you get it adjusted right, you can’t even tell that you’re wearing it. It doesn’t add weight, and it doesn’t move around a lot if sized appropriately. While I wouldn’t call it “fashion forward” (unless you’re going for construction worker chic), it definitely makes me feel safer when out on the road, and I know it’s effective at what it does. It’s also a reasonably inexpensive piece as far as running gear goes; I would highly recommend picking one up.
The thing about high viz tape is that it reflects outside light. What this means is that your high viz vest or high viz features on your gear (my shoes have a reflective strip which is kind of neat) is almost useless if someone is driving around without their lights on. This problem is fairly easy to solve with a clip-on LED light like this one. I like to clip one onto the front of my vest, then one onto the back. The light I’ve linked here can be set to blink or hold steady, and it’s bright enough that anyone should see you coming (or going as the case may be). These little LEDs are lightweight, and have a pretty stellar battery life. If you really want, you can grab them in different colors (though I tend to prefer white since it seems to be the brightest).
Last, but certainly not least, I run with a headlight. Since I’d prefer not to look like a spelunker when out for a run, I opt instead for an awesome pink LED lit cap. With two LEDs on a click switch in the cap’s brim, this hat allows me to light my way conveniently and comfortably. The company makes a variety of colors (as you can see if you click through the amazon link), so don’t feel confined by my personal preferences. But seriously. Pink is where it’s at.
There are definitely other options to help you light up the night (including shoe lights, light-up bracelets, different vests, etc.), but this is my night kit and so far it’s worked out pretty well. What would you add, fellow runners?