Running is an amazing outdoor workout that can help you clear your mind, stay physically fit, and allow you to discover new places. Running outdoors is a completely different feeling than treadmill running. If you are training for a race, running outside is by far the best way to enjoy your runs and get the miles in.
However, all runners need to keep safety in mind, especially (and unfortunately) women. There have been multiple cases of people, mainly men, trying to take advantage, attack, or harass female runners. Unleashed aggressive dogs and cars are additional dangers all runners should be aware of.
Not all scary running stories have unfortunate endings. There is one inspiring story of a runner Kelly Herron who fought off an attacker in a public restroom in Seattle. In order to keep yourself safe while running outside, here are some key tips to keep in mind.
Please note this post contains affiliate links. There is no difference in price if you decide to purchase, but note that I will receive a commission.
1. Run Against Traffic
When running outdoors the biggest and most common danger is motorists. As a runner, it is important to be proactive about your safety. The safest choice, if available, is to run on a sidewalk. However, sidewalks can also be uneven or damaged. I’ve come close to tripping more than once on a sidewalk so make sure to be careful, and if you are tired, keep your pace slow no matter where you are running.
If you run with traffic, you cannot see if you are in danger. Instead, you can and should run against traffic. The Washington Post wrote in an in-depth article detailing that not only is it the law in many states, but a study in Finland showed pedestrians walking against traffic had a significantly lower risk of being struck and injured by a car.
2. When running, share your live location with someone
Having your phone or a smartwatch with calling capabilities is extremely important when you are out running. Having the ability to call an emergency contact or emergency services can be lifesaving. Equally important is being able to share your location with a spouse, parent, family member, or friend while you are out.
Garmin watches have a livetrack feature that lets you choose how much is shared and can help locate you if needed. Don’t have a Garmin? Apps like Strava have a similar feature called Strava Beacon and Apple has the Find People App which also has similar capabilities.
3. Stay aware: make sure you can hear your surroundings
This is an extremely important safety tip for all runners: you must be aware of your surroundings. Whether it be cars, aggressive dogs (or other animals), or aggressive individuals, it’s key to be able to hear what is going on around you so you can be prepared. In some road races, they won’t even allow headphones that block sound. Here are some great devices if you still want to listen to music while being aware of your surroundings.
Bone Conduction Headphones
These Aftershokz headphones are my favorite and have been life-changing. They are unique headphones that do not cover your ears. By using unique bone conduction technology you can listen to music (or sound of choice) while still hearing your surroundings. The headphones are extremely comfortable and don’t bounce. I feel much safer running with these and can still enjoy listening to music and podcasts while making sure there are no cars near me or any other dangers.
Running Audio Sunglasses
If you aren’t a fan of headphones, a unique way to listen to music and also hear your surroundings are audio sunglasses. Bose is a leader in audio equipment and they’ve integrated their technology into sport audio sunglasses. I personally haven’t tried these yet but they are on my list, and are very highly reviewed.
If you haven’t run in sunglasses before I suggest you try normal sunglasses first (Goodr are extremely popular for running although I prefer Rivbos glasses for higher quality). Running in sunglasses can depend on the person, but I personally love them. You might find yourself feeling more confident and secure, and might prefer them over hats when it’s sunny out.
4. Set your emergency contacts and know the shortcut for dialing on your phone or smartwatch
I have to admit, it took me a while to set up my emergency contacts and figure out how to use them, but it is so important. Being able to notify your contacts in seconds and not having to go through multiple screens can be vital in emergency situations. Depending on your phone type, there can be a few different ways to set these up. Here are a few quick guides to get started:
- Apple iphone: How to use Emergency SOS
- Samsung: Emergency Messaging Guide
- Google Pixel: Get Help in an Emergency
- Apple Watch: How to use Emergency SOS
5. Find comfortable running safety gear
The only running safety gear that will work for you are the ones that you are comfortable with and wear consistently. No matter what you buy, make sure to read the directions and know how to use them. Here are some starter ideas:
Running Safety Alarm
These personal alarms are usually small keychains that are extremely affordable and very loud. All it takes is pulling out a pin to activate the alarm, which will immediately draw attention to your situation. You can keep one in a running belt, vest, etc. The alarms aren’t useful for just running, either. They can be used any time making them a versatile and easy choice for basic security.
Pepper spray is legal in all states however some states have shipping restrictions, so make sure to check before you order online. It can not only be used on an attacker but also on aggressive dogs (if there is no safer option, depending on the intensity it might cause injury). Pepper spray for runners have a handle you can hold, or you can go handleless and easily slip it into a belt or vest pocket.
Self Defense Keychain
There are a variety of different keychains and wearables for self-defense for runners with a common theme: having a pointy edge. Look for rings, bracelets, or keychains that can work best depending on if you’re comfortable wearing or carrying them. Here is an example of a self defense keychain that could easily fit into a running belt.
6. Change up your running route every now and then
If you frequently run the same route it might be worth alternating different paths, running days, or changing up the time of day you run. Running the same path over and over again can draw attention and formalize it as your frequent routine. Most times this shouldn’t be an issue, however, if there is a bad actor out there they can know where to find you easily. It’s also fun to try new running routes, so give a new path a try!
7. Wear bright or reflective clothes for running
Whether you are running during the day or night, it’s extremely important to be visible to motorists. Wearing reflective clothing is one easy way to be more noticeable. Look for metallic reflective strips, particularly on jackets and shoes. Bright colors are also a great way for motorists to see you. Now there’s no excuse to treat yourself to that bright shirt or shorts.
Light Up Vests
If you run early in the morning or late at night light up vests or LED reflective vests are worth the investment. They will make you significantly more visible to motorists, which is so important even if it is slightly dark out. There are affordable options and if you run with a dog, there are even dog versions as well.
8. If you share your running routes online, keep them private
If you ran and didn’t record it anywhere, did you really run? Just kidding. Social media apps can make running even more fun and engaging, allowing you to share it with friends and family. No matter the app you choose, you should always consider making your runs private. Knowing your exact location and when you’re there is best shared with only those you know best.
9. Run in a group, with a buddy, or with a dog
If you are concerned about dangers on your running route, you might feel more comfortable running in a group (or with a friend) or with a dog. Running groups are a great way to be social and still feel safe. They also tend to meet early in the morning or late in the evening, which can be ideal if it fits in your schedule. This can make you more comfortable running during odd and quiet running hours.
Although not an option for everyone, you might also feel more secure running with a dog. Athletic dogs with medium to high energy can make great running partners. If you can, first try looking at a shelter for an older dog so you know its temperament and energy levels. Save a life while finding the perfect running buddy.
10. Take self defense classes
Self-defense classes are valuable for everyone and are not just useful for running situations. You never know when you’ll need to be able to defend yourself, and knowing some basic moves can be invaluable in situations. Being able to react quickly and confidently is key. Krav Maga is one of the most popular self-defense classes, but find which one appeals to you most.
Related Running Posts
Let me know if you found any of these running safety ideas helpful!