Strategies for Walking at Night

If your schedule leaves you walking at dawn, dusk, or after dark, you should learn to do so safely. Whether you find yourself walking in the dark due to the short days of winter, the need to beat the summer heat, or because of an overnight walking event, use these strategies to stay safe.


Wear Reflective Gear

close up sneakers on pavement during nighttime walk

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Black may be slimming, but you need to be reflective so you can be seen in the dark. The more you reflect a human shape, the quicker motorists will recognize you and the safer you'll be. Cars may not recognize you as a human if you have only a couple of small reflective patches.

Your walking clothes should have reflective stripes in the front, back, and down the sides. Many packs and shoes have reflective patches or stripes. Wearing a reflective safety vest is a very good choice to ensure you'll be seen when walking at night.


Light Your Way

Female runner at night with city in the background
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Even if you are walking in an area with streetlights, you may encounter some dark patches. A lightweight flashlight can come in handy. Or, you can wear a headlamp to keep your hands free and not stress your wrists. An LED headlamp has a much longer battery life compared to one with a standard bulb. Look for a model that allows you to adjust the angle of the beam so it will focus where you need it.

A few companies make hats with LED lights built into the front or brim, or individual units that can clip onto the bill of a hat. These can work well, but the angle might be off depending on how you wear the hat and carry your head.


Choose Your Route Wisely

Two Friends Walking Together At Night
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Picking a location that you're familiar with can make you feel more comfortable walking at night when it's harder to see where you're going. Choose routes that are well lit, allow you to walk away from traffic, and don't have a lot of shrubbery or dark areas. Outdoor shopping centers can be a good option for nighttime walking because they usually have lots of lighting and there are other people around so you'll feel safer. Always let someone know where you're going when you head out for a walk.


Know Night Walking Safety Rules

two men and two women walking at night around a track

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Walking after dark is not the same as walking in daylight. You need to observe several rules.

  • Use sidewalks and off-road paths, rather than the street.
  • Walk facing traffic so you can see and react to vehicles.
  • Use extra caution when crossing streets. Drivers do not expect pedestrians to be out walking at night.
  • Avoid deserted routes. Use the same routes used by other walkers and runners.
  • Beware of tripping hazards. It is harder to see uneven sidewalks, roots, rocks, potholes, and trash when it's dark. Scan the ground 10–15 feet ahead to see upcoming hazards.
  • Don't be blinded by light. Headlights can make it difficult for you to see for a while after they've passed. Choose paths without frequent changes in lighting levels.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Woman walking on a sidewalk at night

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Fear of strangers in the night keeps many walkers off the street from dusk to dawn. But there are steps you can take to reduce the risk, if not the dread. Strangers who may attack have nothing personal against you, they are just looking for an easy target.

To be less of a target, buddy up with a walking friend or a dog. Carry a walking stick. Be aware of your surroundings and act confident and purposeful. Wearing earphones or gazing frequently at your phone may make you more of a target as you may appear to be distracted. If you see a suspicious person, cross the street or change your path to avoid them.


Avoid Distracted Walking at Night

Man looking at his cell phone in the middle of the street

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Never walk alone at night. But if you find yourself in a situation where you need to walk take a few precautions to stay safe. First, avoid distractions, like your mobile phone. Mobile phones are handy to use as flashlights and to track where you are, but they are also a big source of distraction. Are you really using it to light your path, or are you texting or playing Pokemon Go? Your night vision won't be as acute if you've been looking at the lighted screen instead of the path ahead. Since vehicles can't see you well at night, you need to pay more attention to them.


Shift Your Walking Time

Two women walking in a park during daytime

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When you just can't enjoy walking in the dark or find a nighttime walking partner, try shifting your walking time or place. You may want to do a couple of shorter walks before or after your workday, or during breaks.

See if you can lengthen your lunch time so you can walk in the daylight. Take full advantage of daylight on the weekends to enjoy longer continuous walks.

Shorter walks of 15 minutes have many of the health advantages of longer walks, so long as the total time each day adds up to 30 minutes or more.


Use a Treadmill or Elliptical

Man's legs walking on a treadmill

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Treadmills and elliptical trainers can give you an excellent walking workout. The drawback is that good treadmills and ellipticals are expensive and take up space at home. Consider using one at a gym or fitness center, which can cost you less than buying a machine of your own.

Treadmills can also be boring for those who enjoy outdoor walking. You may need to distract or entertain yourself with music, video, or chatting with a buddy.


Walk Indoors

Smiling women walking on gym track
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Many people beat the dark and bad weather by walking indoors. Malls and larger shopping centers often open early for fitness walkers to walk loops before the shoppers arrive. Some fitness centers have an indoor track that you can walk.

You may also make use of long corridors and stairs at work or school. If you just can't find the space for a good indoor walk, and can't afford a treadmill, you may want to use indoor walking videos to march in place.


Look For and Attend Evening Events

Silhouettes of runners running at sunset
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Make your night walk a fun night out by entering a night walking event. Local walking clubs often host Halloween walks or Christmas light walks throughout December, and other night walking events throughout the year.

Check local run/walking event calendars to see if there is a moonlight event being staged. Or organize your own group night walk with family and friends.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Roberts B. Fear of walking alone at night. In: Michalos AC, ed., Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. Dordrecht: Springer; 2014. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.