No matter if you like to run in the early hours of morning, or immediately after work just before sunset, having a running light is one of the most valuable gadgets a runner can have. During a starless night or a rocky road trail, an extra light can help you steer clear of holes, rocks, or any other potential stumbling blocks in your way. It helps alert cars to your presence, and increases your own visibility to spot obstacles along your own path. But with so many options to choose from, which is the best to pick up for your routine?
Types of running lights
First, it’s important to note that there are different categories of running lights, including: head lamps, chest lamps, clip-on lights and handheld flashlights. Though you can run with any of these lights, depending on the time of day, your running location, and running course, one may be better than the another.
For example, waist lights can be better for trail runners since they can provide better depth perception and make hidden debris and obstacles more visible on a road. They cast a lower beam to the ground so you can see more clearly shadows on the ground and what’s in front of you meters away. “Waist lights are new, but [they’re] really interesting as they offer better visibility to upcoming obstacles in the trail,” says long-time runner, explorer, and podcast host of Chase the Summit, Dave Dillon.
However, if you want more freedom of movement, a chest light is lighter cargo and better for a panoramic view of your surroundings. It all depends on what you’re looking for. Which brings us to…
What to look for in a running light
Brightness is key. Ultimately, you want something that’s going to keep you visible and safely light your path. You should look for a light with at least 350 lumens in brightness, according to Dillon (though that can vary). Additionally, the best light is usually the one that’s the most comfortable in terms of weight and brightness level so it doesn’t interfere with your run. That means sticking to something compact and light enough that it won’t slip and slide when you pick up speed.
If you’re not sure what’s the best for you, take a look at these top-rated options below to light your path and beyond.
Best running lights
Apace Vision LED Safety Light (2-Pack) — $18.00
Originally $35, now $18
If you’re concerned about your running equipment weighing you down, try bringing these clip-on lights on your next nightly jog. At just 2.8 ounces, they’re incredibly lightweight and easy to adjust on-the-go. Just use the two velcro straps to attach the lights to your body or any running gear to illuminate your path. There are three lights per set, and an extra battery inside that lasts up to 100 hours.
-three lights per pack
-easy to wear
-attachable to any clothing/gear
-two lighting modes
Zenoplige USB Running Light — $17.00
While some chest lamps might feel restrictive, this one from Zenoplige allows you to run in comfort every step of the way. The belt is elastic and stretches to your body so you can totally concentrate on running. You can also switch up the brightness levels between high and low to help maximize your visibility. As a bonus, there’s even a tail light on the back that serves as another warning sign for cars and passersby.
-front and backlight
-light reflectors on strap
-beam distance slightly low
-elastic strap may feel snug for larger builds
BioLite HeadLamp 750 — $98.00
If you want to feel like you have the Milky Way on your head, then this BioLite HeadLamp 750 is the closet you’re going to get. Its max output is a whopping 750 lumens which helps to make you stand out in the sea of lights on your city roads. The front light has six brightness settings including strobe, burst mode, white spot, and white flood. The rear light has two. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the light bouncing or sliding down thanks to the 3D SlimFit headband.
-high lumen output at 750
-six brightness settings
-includes three-foot cord for charging
-tricky on/off button
UltrAspire Lumen 600 3.0 Waist Light — $160.00
Part of what makes waist lamps so handy to have during a trail run is how much more depth perception they can provide. Which is why the UltrAspire Lumen 600 3.0 Waist Light is so useful. Though the light is compact in size, it has 600 lumens of WideBeam™ flood-cone lighting to help reduce tunnel vision and allow your eyes to adjust between light and dark areas on your trail. As a bonus, it comes with a fully rechargeable battery that lasts up to seven hours and a cooling feature to keep the light from overheating on your waist.
-projects 600 lumens
-slim and small design
-storage to carry other valuables
– AutoCool feature to dissipate heat
Nathan Terra Fire Hand Torch 400 — $50.00
If you want to keep from stumbling on the sidewalk, this Nathan runner’s flashlight is a home-run in our book. It’s great for seeing what’s immediately in front of you and making obstacles easier to spot. The light cranks out 450 lumens and has three brightness settings. Not to mention, you can use it to run during your longer training sessions, thanks to a battery life of up to 12 hours.
-projects 450 lumens
-three brightness settings
-12-hour battery life
-adjustable hand strap
-not entirely hands-free
Black Diamond Revolt 350 Headlamp — $49.00
Originally $65, now $49
Another light that Dillon loves to travel with is the Black Diamond Revolt 350 Headlamp. It’s sort of like the smartphone of running lights because it’s so sleek, tech-friendly, and gives you a lot of options to adjust the brightness. It remembers all your settings even after the device is turned off, and allows you to dim the light with just the tap of your finger. And with 350 lumens, you’ll still have plenty of visibility to light your course.
-projects 350 lumens
-adjust brightness with finger tap
-multiple colors available
-four-hour runtime on highest setting
Petzl Swift RL Headlamp — $125.00
This Petzl Swift RL Headlamp can go from casting 10 lumens of light to 900 lumens of light when you need it. It has six brightness levels and can cast a beam of 150 meters (or 492 feet). The battery is also super durable and lasts up to 100 hours on the lowest standard, which is perfect for using on those quick nightly jogs around the neighborhood.
-emits up to 900 lumens
-six lightening modes
-beam distance of 150 meters
-Reactive Sensor technology automatically adjust brightness
Avanto RO Chest Running Light — $30.00
Though this lamp provides 500 lumens of light, that’s not the best part. It also comes with a reflective strap to really magnify your presence for oncoming traffic. The strap is also entirely adjustable and securely fastens to your chest, so that the light stays in one place during your run.
-emits 500 lumens
-two lighting modes
FlipBelt Night Running Light Waist Lamp — $79.00
Small but mighty. That’s the main advantage of having this light. It projects 500 lumens but weighs just about 6.5 ounces. It hooks right onto the FlipBelt band (sold separately) where you can store your phone, ID. and other valuables without feeling weighed down during your five mile run. The battery is also good for up to 12 hours.
-emits 500 lumens
-four light modes
-belt sold separately
Night Runner 270 Shoe Lights — $58.00
If tripping and falling is your main concern, consider wearing these Night Runner 270 shoe lights the next time you want to get your steps in. They cast a beam of 30 feet and shine 150 lumens. Each light has a forward-facing light and one in the rear to cover you from all angles. Oh, and did we mention the lights are 100 percent waterproof and have three light modes?
-projects 150 lumens
-front and backlight
-2.5-hour battery life on high setting
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