WHICH RUNNING LIGHT IS BEST FOR YOU?
A powerful and well-positioned running light provides immeasurably more safety over light from street lamps or handheld devices. The choice of the ideal light, however, depends on your goals and on the outdoor environment your activities take place in. The duration of your workout and the outdoor temperature may affect the efficiency of your light as well.
Why Do You Need a Running Light?
Whether you’re a casual runner, a dog owner setting out for a morning or evening walk, or training for a competition, you probably know that getting in your runs during daylight hours can be a challenge. Sometimes you simply need to head out into the dark, especially during the winter.
Running in the dark increases the danger of tripping and falling, being struck by a car, or even becoming disoriented and getting lost. Luckily, modern hands-free lighting technology minimizes these hazards by both increasing your visibility and your ability to see, thus greatly improving your nighttime running experience.
If you’re heading out for a run in the morning or late at night on a route without ambient lighting, a powerful running light is essential. Even if your route does follow lighted streets and paths, drivers can spot pedestrians much more easily if the runners and walkers are wearing lights. Skiers who hit the trails in the dark benefit as well, and we highly recommend running lights for dog walkers, children, and anyone who is active in the dark.
Which Running Light is Best for Joggers and Runners?
Because proper lighting is critical for both safety and confidence, you’ll want a running light that sufficiently illuminates your route and surroundings. Equally essential is visibility – especially to be seen by oncoming traffic. Thus, the best solution for both safety and visibility is a unit that lets you keep your hands free, such as a headlamp, chest light, or clip-on light.
A few key characteristics separate the various lights available on the market, including the amount of light they emit, battery life, and any additional features they offer. They vary in quality, design, and functionality. Choosing one of the many rechargeable and battery-operated running lights can be quite a task! With so many options, here’s what you need to know when selecting the best running light for your activities:
Important Features When Choosing a Running Light for Outdoor Activities
Running lights and lamps are often classified according to the quantity of visible light they emit, also known as lumens. The number of lumens a light produces indicates how bright it will be and how far ahead of you it will cast that light. Most lights have a button or switch that allows users to toggle between several brightness levels and modes, such as a high setting for optimal visibility and a low setting for conserving battery life. Experts recommend a brightness range of 200 to 500 lumens.
Battery Life or Burn Time
Another important feature of lights for runners is the battery life, also known as burn time. The newest models provide longer burn times or additional functions that help preserve battery life. Rechargeable lights, lights that require batteries, and lights that allow for both are all possibilities.
Your foremost consideration is the length of your workout or activity. For most people, at least 2.5 hours of burn time is necessary. Cold environments often sap more energy from the battery, so when making a decision, check to see if the manufacturer has tested the light in a range of temperatures and conditions.
The best running lights for 2022 have an integrated battery and are rechargeable via a USB port. Such lights are usually sold with the required USB cable. The rechargeable options reduce battery waste and are ideal for recharging at home, work, or in your car – basically, anywhere on the go. You can even use the same portable charger that you use for your phone or laptop. Note: lights powered by single-use AAA and AA batteries are typically more expensive, and you’ll need to bring extra batteries with you, increasing the weight you have to carry.
Not all lights are waterproof, so they should be tested by the manufacturer in a real environment to keep you safe, even if it’s raining. Because the weather might change while you are on your run, you should search for a water resistant unit when shopping. A good product should meet at least the IP44 standard so that it can withstand a bit of dirt and rain.
With multiple light modes, such as 50% power, strobe, and flashing, you both save battery power and can customize the level of lumens to help you stand out in urban settings by cutting through other light sources. A flashing mode in particular can increase your safety and extend the running light’s burn time. To maximize your visibility when running in traffic, opt for a unit that also has a rear-facing red light.
Fit, Comfort, and Ease of Use
It’s critical that the running light you choose is simple to use, comfortable, and fits securely. It should sit snugly against your head or body and not jostle excessively. The light should be small and portable, in case you head out on a hike during daylight but return in the dark, allowing you to carry the light in your pocket or pack. Heavy lights bounce around, changing the beam’s direction. The excessive movement caused by heavy lights can also cause chafing.
Opt for a running harness light or waist light with adjustable straps that allow it to sit perfectly on your chest or along your waist. Or consider a light with a loop or clip that allows you to simply yet securely attach it to your shirt, running shorts, or outer layer.
Additionally, for hassle-free running, large buttons are ideal.
To avoid rubbing on your body – chafing can ruin any run or hike – and to prevent the beam from bouncing around, make sure your device is lightweight: ideally less than 180 grams or 6 ounces. If you use a headlamp, however, weight is even more critical.
Affordability Vs. Reliability
It’s tempting to settle for the cheapest option on the market, but since your primary consideration is safety, it’s wise to invest a bit more and get a suitably powerful running light that meets your needs for years to come. You’ll appreciate the extra powers and key features come winter or if you head out on a long hike or run in the spring or summer.
As well, make sure that the manufacturer offers a money-back guarantee and excellent customer support. This is best determined by reading the seller feedback instead of just product reviews.
Your light might be a little more expensive, but you will save money in the long run!
Choosing the Best Model of Running Light for You in 2023
When choosing the ideal light for your running needs, consider how much ambient light will be present on your run, as well as how long you’ll be out in the dark.
Short Runs and Walks (Less Than 1 Hour) in Low-light Environments
Any lights with at least 200 lumens will suffice if your runs are within 45 minutes of sunrise or sunset or if you’ll be exercising in an environment with other light sources.
Long Runs or Nighttime Walks (Longer Than 1 Hour) in Complete Darkness
The darker the setting during your run, the more light you’ll require. If you’re going for a run early in the morning or late at night and your route doesn’t have any ambient lighting, an output of 400 to 500 lumens is ideal.
Battery life is crucial if you are out for more than two hours. Make your decision based on the amount of time you’ll be able to go between battery charges. For example, if you plan on jogging all night, opt for a chest light that can deliver at least eight hours of constant brightness. If you are heading out with your dog, an LED collar is ideal for your training partner too!
Clip-on Running Lights for Your Waist
This style of running light is not only a convenient and lightweight hands-free option for illuminating the path ahead but also makes you more visible to drivers and other road and trail users.
A clip-on running light can be attached to your clothes or other gear, though it is usually attached to a waist belt. The product offers numerous benefits and minimal drawbacks:
- Thanks to the magnetic clip system, it can be attached virtually anywhere: to thin fabric, or to your running backpack, running belt, or safety vest
- No need to aim the light – the wide beam illuminates the area ahead
- Lightweight to prevent bouncing
- Small size allows you to carry it anywhere
- Come with multiple light settings
- Might not stay in place when clipped to thicker fabric or material
Reflective Running Vests
A reflective vest can be worn over clothes. Some models feature led lights as well. They sit loosely on the body, and they do not cast any considerable light on the path ahead. Their prime function is to increase visibility.
- Improves safety
- Safety is minimally improved: drivers see you only when the light beam hits you, at which point it might be too late
- Does not light up your path
LED Reflective Vests
Provide significantly better visibility, thanks to the bright LED lights in front and in the back.
Running Lights for Your Chest
Chest-mounted lights, specially developed for runners and walkers, are the optimal solution.
Running lights mounted on your chest often have reflective straps and a rear light for maximum visibility and safety. Experts recommend a light of at least 400 lumens, but some models offer up to 500 lumens.
Try a chest light – it will likely become a crucial piece of equipment for your daily training and activities, especially during the winter, when you might find yourself hiking on pitch-black trails or running on poorly lit roads. They’re not only the best hands-free option for clearly illuminating the ground ahead, but they’ll also make you more visible to drivers and other road and trail users.
- Easy to wear
- Free up your hands for other activities, such as dog walking, skiing, and Nordic walking
- No need to aim the light – it points the direction you are going, even if you turn your head
- Illuminates the path in front of you at all times
- Lightweight – does not bounce
- Fits almost everyone, even when wearing heavy winter clothing
- 360-degree visibility increases safety with front and back lights and reflective straps
- The beam can be tilted downward to not blind or dazzle other people
- Comes with a tote for portability (some models)
- In the beginning, it might be a little hard to put on (check out our video for tips)
Head-mounted Running Lights
For decades, traditional headlamps were the standard. Headlamps typically offer both flood and beam settings. These offer some benefits but also have drawbacks, especially in busy or dense environments.
- Easy to put on
- Helps you see the path in front of you
- Some models are rechargeable
- Fits almost everyone
- Often doesn’t fit over a hat or hood
- You need to aim the light so that it points the direction you are looking, and you have to be mindful of where you point the light
- Squeezes your head, which often becomes uncomfortable over long distances
- Most models do not have a safety light in the back
- Can be extremely annoying to the user, since you wear it high on your head
- Can be extremely annoying to others: the light can temporarily blind others as you approach