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Running in the dark – top tips for staying safe

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Julie Bassett
Julie Bassett
Julie is the editor of Run Deep and a keen runner. Taking part in everything from parkrun to ultramarathons, Julie lives, breathes and writes about running. Usually found getting lost on a trail or footpath somewhere in Dorset.

Whether you run in the morning or evening, at some point you may have to start running in the dark. Even if you are not running particularly late (or early), running in the dark can be a completely different experience, and one that you should be prepared for.

Our natural instincts warn us about the dark and staying safe – and for good reason. It’s not just about human dangers, but you’re also more likely to get hurt by a car or bike if you can’t be seen. It’s always better to be over prepared and overcautious.

Here are our top tips for staying safe when running in the dark.

1. Plan your routes

There is more to think about when planning running routes in the dark rather than in the light. Try and stick to well-lit, populated areas, ideally areas you know well. Minimise the number of roads you need to cross. Those with proper crossings are usually fine, but it smaller side roads can be more difficult to navigate and cars might not spot you as easily. If you need to run on a road with no pavement, run into the traffic flow, as you can more easily see what’s coming and they can spot you, but be careful on blind corners and use all your senses.

2. Light up the night

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It’s time to start thinking about headtorches and other running lights to help you see better as well as be seen. You can get shoe lights that clip onto the back of your shoe and make you visible from behind, as well as chest lights or belt lights. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but it’s worth getting ones with a long battery life or are rechargeable, and always check they are working before you start running.

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3. Wear high-vis kit for running in the dark

Try and avoid heading out in all black! You need to think about wearing very bright colours so that you can be seen, but you also need to wear reflective kit that can be picked up by car headlights. Bright colours doesn’t automatically equal high-visibility, so make sure you have a combination of both. Winter kit usually has some form of reflective piping or detailing to help you stand out. Or you can invest in a cheap high-vis mesh vest to pop over the top of whatever you are wearing.

4. Put your music away

When you’re running in the dark, there is more to think about and be aware of. Take your headphones out and concentrate on your running instead. Listening to music might be great for motivation, but it’s not so good for awareness. You need to be able to hear other people, cars, bikes and animals that might be in your path.

5. Run with others

If you don’t feel safe running on your own, take someone with you. Arrange to meet a running friend so that you have company, and make sure you both get home safely. This might also be a good time to consider joining a running group or club if you’re not already a member of one.

6. Inform others of your whereabouts

Someone should know where you are running and when. Give a partner or friend an expected return time and a brief outline of your planned route. You could also use something like Strava Beacon or Garmin LiveTrack, which can send your location to a chosen contact.

7. Carry a phone

You might prefer to switch off and leave your phone at home when you run, but if you’re out in the dark, you should consider taking it with you. The unknown can happen at any time, in the dark or the light, but if you get in trouble, have an accident or otherwise need help, a phone can be invaluable. We also recommend that you download the What 3 Words app so that you can give a precise location if you need to.

8. Trust your gut

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Instinct counts for a lot. If a situation doesn’t feel right – for example if you feel like someone is following you – stay alert and act immediately. If you can get to a well-lit and populated area, do so. Go into a shop if there is one nearby or another busy area, and call someone you trust. Make sure that you always have a little cash or a card on you in case you need to hop on a bus or in a taxi to get home. It might seem a little paranoid, but it’s always a case of better safe than sorry.

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