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Running At Night: 6 Safety Tips, Benefits, And Things To Consider

Stay safe and have an effective run in the dark with these tips.

As a certified running coach and personal trainer, I usually suggest running in the early morning before work or in the evening after work, depending on whether you are more of a “morning person“ or “night owl“ or have other time restrictions in your day.

Personally, I am an early morning runner because I always feel too tired for evening exercises as I wake up well before sunrise.

However, I work with plenty of runners who prefer evening runs, if not nighttime running, long after the sun sets.

There are many benefits of running at night, but also important safety tips and logistical tips for running at the end of the day, such as a fueling strategy and how to run before bed without negatively impacting your sleep quality.

Keep reading to learn about the benefits of running at night, important nighttime running safety tips, the best reflective running gear, and tips for fueling and how to unwind after an evening run without disrupting healthy sleep patterns.

Running At Night 5 Benefits Tips Safety Advice

Is It Good to Run At Night?

Aside from all the regular physical and mental health benefits of running, there are some specific benefits of running at night or doing evening runs.

Setting aside your specific running block can aid in consistency. Having a nighttime run schedule can give you something to look forward to at the end of the day and help you unwind.

It’s a great way to destress after work and enjoy the endorphins at the end of the day.

Many runners also need to run at night because of scheduling demands, so many running groups actually meet at night.

When you run at night, you don’t have to worry about getting in a pre-run snack early, as you would have eaten breakfast and lunch already, making the fueling easier on night runs.

Night running may even result in better performance potential.1Hill, D. W. (2014). Morning–evening differences in response to exhaustive severe-intensity exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism39(2), 248–254. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2013-0140

What Are the Important Safety Precautions for Running At Night?

#1: Wear Reflective Running Clothing

The most important consideration for nighttime running is ensuring that you are visible to vehicular traffic or other night runners and evening exercisers who share the same roads and sidewalks.

Early morning and night runners can’t go overboard on your reflective running apparel.

At a minimum, you need a reflective vest, but I recommend enhancing visibility with reflective accessories like running shoe lights, reflective arm bands, and reflective lights for runners.

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#2: Use a Running Headlamp

The headlamp helps drivers see you and ensures you see your footing so you don’t step in potholes or trip on curbs. Street lamps are often not spaced closely enough to see potholes or tree debris clearly.

The BioLite headlamps have always been my go-to suggestion for the best running headlamps because they are super lightweight, rechargeable, easy to adjust, bounce-free (a major plus!), and have many different modes based on how much light you need.

BioLite releases different running headlamps every couple of years, and I highly recommend the BioLite HeadLamp 800 Pro as the best headlamp for night runners or those who are running in the dark.

It has amazing battery life, eight modes, a rear red light for added visibility, and is very slim.

#3: Avoid Trails

Generally, trail running at night is inadvisable.

Even with a good headlamp, seeing footing on uneven terrain can be difficult. Moreover, wildlife tends to come out at night, which can pose a safety risk.

Night runners who are part of running groups may be able to do trail running at night more safely because you will have a “herd“ or “pack“ with you, if you are running on your own, you should stick with running in well lit areas that are known to be safe.

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#4: Don’t Use Earbuds

If you want to run with music or podcasts, rather than wearing earbuds with active noise cancellation or that do a good job blocking out ambient noise, wear open-ear running headphones so that you can stay aware of your surroundings.

My favorites are the OpenRock Pro Open Ear Headphones and SHOKZ OpenRun Pro.

#5: Use Tracking Apps

There are some great safety tracking apps for runners that can give your live GPS location to designated emergency contacts and can even call them at the push of a button.

For example, Strava Beacon is a premium safety feature for tracking, and some of the best Garmin running watches also have a runner safety tracking app feature.

As an extra safety percaustion, if you are running alone at night, it is advisable to have safety gear such as pepper spray if you know how to use it, a bear whistle, or at least your cell phone.

#6: Run Inside

Remember, the treadmill is always a safe option for running at night, and if you don’t yet have the right running gear for running in the dark, you can start on the treadmill until at least your reflective running vest and headlamp arrive.

Running At Night 5 Benefits Tips Safety Advice 4

How Do You Run At the End of the Day?

Aside from the important safety considerations with nighttime running, you also need to consider the logistics for fueling and partitioning your energy so that you feel ready to run at the end of the day.

If you work on your feet all day, you may find that your legs are already tired and sore after a long day. Adding miles may increase the risk of injuries and decrease your workout performance.

In these cases, I either recommend trying to run in the early morning if possible, or instead of running right after work, waiting until later in the evening so that you get a break after standing all day before you go running.

You can wear compression socks (my favorite are Comrad Recovery Socks!), take a light walk, or put your feet up while you have dinner.

On the other hand, if you sit at your desk all day, you might feel stiff if you try running after work without a long warm up.

It can help to take a brisk walk and do some dynamic stretches right after work, followed by a regular warm-up before your evening or night run.

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What Should I Eat Before Running At Night?

One of the benefits of running at night rather than in the early morning is that you have all day to fuel your body with your regular meals.

This generally means that you don’t need to have a pre-workout meal or snack specifically intended to provide carbs before an evening run or night run, and you aren’t running on an empty stomach.

Therefore, you should have more sustained energy and shouldn’t worry about fueling during night runs that are less than 90 minutes.

That said, if you have a sensitive digestive tract, you will need a light dinner rather than a large meal unless you have 3 to 4 hours to digest dinner before running.

As with running in the morning, stick with simple carbohydrates in your pre-run fueling if you only have one to two hours after eating before you lace up your running shoes and hit the roads.

After finishing a night running workout, you should still cool down, stretch, and have a post run snack just as you would running at any other time of the day.

The cooldown is especially important because it will help lower your heart rate to resting levels, decrease your elevated body temperature from the run and prepare your mind and body for sleep.

Getting in some high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates will help facilitate muscle recovery so you don’t wake up tight and sore the next morning.

Aim for 20 to 25 grams of protein and 70 to 80 grams of protein in your post workout snack after an evening exercise session or night run.

An elevated body temperature or growling stomach can make falling asleep more difficult and impact sleep quality.

However, some night runners find that a warm bath or warm shower helps de-stress and relax the muscles and mind before bed, so you may want to experiment with what post-run routine helps you unwind quickly and most effectively so that you don’t disrupt your sleep patterns by running before bed.

If you are still deciding which time of day is best for your runs, check out the pros and cons of each one in this next guide:

References

  • 1
    Hill, D. W. (2014). Morning–evening differences in response to exhaustive severe-intensity exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism39(2), 248–254. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2013-0140
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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