10 Safety Tips for Running in the Dark

With busy schedules and limited daylight hours, some runners find their only time to run is in the darkness of early morning or evening. Running in daylight is always a safer choice; far more pedestrian traffic fatalities happen at night, for example. But if running in the dark is your only option, you can take extra safety precautions. Follow these guidelines to stay safe when you're running in the dark.


Run Against Traffic

Runner at night with city in background
Tooga / Getty Images

It's easier to avoid cars if you can see them coming. You want to be able to see the headlights of oncoming cars. Avoid busy roads and those with no shoulders or sidewalks.


Choose a Well-Lit Route

It might not be your favorite route to run, but the most well-lit route is your safest choice in the dark. Oncoming cars see you better, and you'll be able to see the road to avoid potential hazards.


Be Visible

If you're running in the early morning, at dusk, or at night, wear white, yellow, or orange clothes. Also, make sure you are wearing reflective gear. Although some items (such as running shoes and jackets) already have reflective pieces on them, it doesn't hurt to add more. A headlamp also helps you see and be seen in the dark.


Have an ID with You

Put your driver's license in your pocket or wear an ID tag on your shoe. Consider running with a Road iD tag bearing your emergency contact information.


Vary Your Routes and Time

Potential attackers can study runners' routines and hide in a particularly dark or isolated area. Don't make yourself an easy target by always running the same route at the same time. Be unpredictable.


Run With a Buddy

There is strength and safety in numbers. If possible, try not to run alone, especially when it's dark outside. Look for running groups that run at night or early in the morning, if that's what works for your schedule. If you must run alone (day or night), let someone know the route you'll be running and approximately how long you will be gone.


Carry a Cell Phone

You'll be able to contact police immediately if something happens to you or you notice anything out of the ordinary. Special cell phone holders designed for runners make it easier to carry your phone with you without disrupting your running form.


Watch Out for Bikes and Other Runners

Even if you're running on a path or in a park with no cars, always be aware of other runners and cyclists. Before you stop or turn around, make sure your path is clear. This advice applies to running in both daylight and darkness.


Ditch Your Music

Avoid wearing headphones when running outdoors at night. Cutting off your sense of hearing leaves you at a disadvantage. You can't hear oncoming cars, cyclists approaching to pass you, dogs, or any other potential threat.

If you absolutely have to run with music or some other distraction, keep the volume very low or run with one earbud out so you can still hear what's happening around you.


Follow Your Instincts

If you feel that you're entering an unsafe situation, trust your gut and run to a safe location. Call the police if you notice anything suspicious.

Frequently Asked Questions

What gear should you use for running in the dark?

When running in the dark, wear clothing suitable for the weather, whether it's hot, cold, or rainy. Make sure your exterior layers are light-colored and feature reflective elements. If it's completely dark, include lights as well: a headlamp and a light-up vest, for example.

Is running late at night bad for your health? 

Running at any time of day can be great for your health, so long as you don't overdo it and follow all the safety precautions. While there is not enough evidence to confirm that running late at night is bad for you or that it could disrupt your sleep, some research shows that vigorous late-night exercise may cause an elevated heart rate during the first few hours of sleep.

Is running at night better for weight loss?

If weight loss is your goal, then it's important to stick to your running schedule, whether you run in the morning, afternoon, or evening. While you can reap the weight-loss benefits of running regardless of what time of day you get your workout in, some studies have shown that engaging in cardiovascular activity in the evening can improve heart rate and blood lactate levels. Other research showed improvements in subjects' output and overall performance at night compared to exercising in the morning.

3 Sources
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. U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration National Center for Statistics and Analysis. Traffic safety facts: 2018 data (Report No. DOT HS 812 850).

  2. Myllymäki T, Kyröläinen H, Savolainen K, et al. Effects of vigorous late-night exercise on sleep quality and cardiac autonomic activity: Late-night exercise and sleepJ Sleep Res. 2011;20(1pt2):146-153. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2010.00874.x

  3. Seo DY, Lee S, Kim N, et al. Morning and evening exerciseIntegr Med Res. 2013;2(4):139-144. doi:10.1016/j.imr.2013.10.003

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.