Personal Safety

Running Personal Safety: My Personal Tips & Gear Recommendations

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Woman jogging at night on a road.
When it comes to running safety, better safe than sorry (especially at night).
Image credit: TORWAISTUDIO, Shutterstock

A surprising number of safety risks come with running—I can’t tell you the number of times a driver has breezed through a stop sign and almost hit me. Protecting yourself from distracted drivers is just one safety concern. Then, there’s proper hydration and fuel during long runs and stretching to prevent injuries. And, while it makes me want to smash something that I have to write this, there’s an added list of safety precautions that women should follow to protect themselves while running.

If you’re running for the first time or even picking it up again after a while, it pays to familiarize yourself with running personal safety tips. Here are the steps I take to protect myself and the tools I use, especially when running alone.

Top 10 Running Personal Safety Tips

As the weather warms up, I’m itching to say goodbye to the treadmill in favor of rolling hills. Running is my exercise, my therapy, my meditation time. It’s my time to catch up on the latest true crime podcast or listen to throwback tunes. 

If you’re new to running, it might be hard to believe that running can do all that. Hey, I get it. For something so natural to us humans, recreational running can be downright hard if you’ve never done it before. I remember my partner training for his first marathon with me and telling me he tasted blood in his mouth. “Yeah, that happens sometimes,” I told him. 

While some parts of running are self-explanatory, you learn a lot of stuff along the way. Staying safe while you’re running should be a top priority. 

Here are my top safety tips for runners:

  1. When running on the road, always face traffic. I’ve seen a lot of people running as though they were another car—in the same lane, going in the same direction. This is a no-no. You want to be running towards oncoming traffic so that you can see approaching vehicles. The only exception is when it’s safer to run with traffic, such as with blind curves or hill crests.
  2. Yield to vehicles at intersections. While it’s tempting to fly through marked crosswalks at stop signs or traffic lights, I’ve learned that it’s just as tempting for impatient drivers. Who do you think is going to win that race? 
  3. Don’t assume a driver sees you. I make eye contact with the driver before crossing the road or wait until the driver passes or gives me the go-ahead. (And remember to wave thanks in return!) The same goes for cars back out. Only run behind a vehicle if you know the vehicle is fully stopped and the driver has seen you.
  4. Announce your approach when overtaking or passing others. A quick “On your left!” ensures you won’t get bumped into or scare a fellow runner.
  5. Wear bright, reflective visibility gear. This tip is essential if you run at night. 
  6. If you run with headphones, make sure to keep the volume on low or in hear-through mode. Never use noise-canceling headphones while running.
  7. Consider running with a group for safety. I’ll sometimes have my partner ride his bike beside me while I’m running. It motivates me to run faster, and I can use him as a pack mule for carrying snacks, water, or whatever else I need. 
  8. Bring your phone. While leaving the phone at home is tempting, it can be a powerful tool to protect yourself in an emergency. Call a friend if you’re feeling unsafe, send out an SOS if you’re injured, or take a video documenting your harasser.
  9. Share your location. Use your phone or a wearable to track and share your location. This is especially helpful when running solo. I have a Garmin Forerunner watch and use the LiveTrack feature to share my real-time location while running with friends and family. I also have my watch set to incident detection and assistance, which sends an automated message to three pre-selected emergency contacts when the watch detects sudden changes in movement, such as with a fall. 
  10. Change routes regularly. It’s easy to fall into the habit of running the same route day after day; however, this can be risky since it allows a would-be attacker to learn your routine and get you alone. Not only is changing routes important for self-defense, but it also makes you a better runner. Changing your terrain or direction ensures you work all your muscles and prevents injury from repetition.

Best Running Personal Safety Gear

There’s tons of personal safety gear for runners but here are my top picks.

Best Headphones: Shokz OpenRun Pro Review

Shokz OpenRun Pro.

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When my last pair of headphones finally called it quits, I bought the Shokz OpenRun headphones. These bone-conduction headphones are designed to promote situational awareness during outdoor activities.

How does it work? The headphones fit over the ear rather than in the ear. The bone conduction tech converts sound into vibrations that transmit through the skin and temporal bone to the cochlea. In short, you can hear high-quality audio while also being able to hear the world around you.

The headphones are wireless and extremely lightweight—you can barely feel them when they’re on. I typically have problems keeping headphones in my ears while I run. With the OpenRun Pro minis, I had no trouble at all. I could even wear sunglasses with them. They have good battery life and excellent sound quality.

Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones on sidewalk outside in sun.
Shokz come with a hard case to protect your headphones between runs.
Photo by Tara Maurer for Safe Smart Living, © Cover Story Media, Inc. 2024. 
Pros Cons
IP55 sweat & weather resistantAmbient sounds can drown out music in loud areas (like construction sites or highways)
Lightweight
Up to 10 hours battery life
Available in standard and mini size
4 colors (black, blue, pink, and beige)

Best Lighted Vest: Ni-SHEN Reflective Running Vest With Front Light Review

Ni-SHEN Reflective Running Vest With Front Light.

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I used to run wearing a standard reflective vest—the neon green type with reflective strips—until my partner gifted me the Ni-SHEN reflective vest.

There are a few reasons why I love this product. First, it’s super lightweight and doesn’t cause chafing. Second, it’s super bright. The vest has three multi-color flashing modes to improve your visibility. Finally, it has a bright front light that can be adjusted up or down to help you see where you’re running and avoid tripping on cracks in the pavement. The light has two brightness settings and can be turned on and off.

I’ve had this belt for a few years, and it still works like new.

Pros Cons
Long battery lifeOnly one size available (belt is adjustable)
Front light adjusts up or down by 85°
360° illumination
Vibrant flashing colors
Lightweight and breathable

Best Pepper Spray: SABRE Runner Pepper Gel Review

SABRE Runner Pepper Gel.

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When I started running alone more, I decided to purchase a pepper spray. Nobody wants to run with pepper spray but I knew it would make me feel more comfortable when I was running alone in the dark. I chose the SABRE’s pepper gel for runners because it’s easy to carry and shoots out in strong stream.

If you’re using pepper spray for self defense, you’ll need it at the ready. It won’t do any good tucked into your running belt. That’s why I like SABRE. The product features an adjustable strap that secures it to your hand. The strap also has a reflective logo to increase your visibility.

I also like this product because it is a gel instead of a traditional spray. This eliminates the potential for wind blowback.

SABRE Runner Pepper Gel on hand up close outside.
The included strap is adjustable to fit various hand sizes. To use the spray, flip the switch, press down, and aim.
Photo by Tara Maurer for Safe Smart Living, © Cover Story Media, Inc. 2024. 
ProsCons
35 burstsCertain states have pepper spray restrictions
Gel stream to prevent wind blowback
12-foot range
Contains UV marking dye
Adjustable hand strap

Best Emergency Alarm: Birdie Review

Birdie alarm.

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If you’re hesitant to purchase pepper spray, consider a personal safety alarm instead. I like this one by Birdie. This product has an alarm volume of 130 decibels and an LED flashing light to draw attention to dangerous situations.

The battery-powered alarm can easily attach to your running belt with the included brass carabiner, and it’s small enough to fit into the pocket of your shorts or leggings.

Birdie also donates 5% of its profits to organizations dedicated to women’s safety. 

ProsCons
Loud 130 dB alarmNot rechargeable
Flashing LED alarm lightsMore expensive than similar products
Easily attachable
Lots of color options

24/7 Personal Safety

Here at Safe Smart Living, we pride ourselves on providing our readers with the best safety and security information. If you’re ready to explore more personal safety tips, check out our articles on the best personal alarms and best stun guns and tasers.

Do you have any additional questions about running personal safety? Let us know in the comments.

Why Trust Safe Smart Living

Tara has been a runner for 20+ years. As a female runner, Tara is extremely passionate about her safety and the safety of her fellow women runners. She has tested various safety products, including alarms, pepper sprays, tracking devices, and reflective gear. Tara spent years creating her own running personal safety routine and hopes these tips help future runners.

Tara Maurer

Since joining the Safe Smart Living team, Tara has covered topics ranging from home security and identity protection to smart travel and educated living. After graduating with a BA in Multimedia Journalism from Simpson College, Tara began work in the wellness industry. In the past seven years, she has personally tested countless supplements and holds a holistic nutrition certification. Tara is passionate about personal safety, especially for women. It’s a sad truth that most women experience harassment while in public spaces during their lifetime, and we must learn tactics to protect ourselves. As a female runner, Tara has tested various safety products, including alarms, pepper sprays, reflective gear, and tracking devices. When not working, you’ll most likely find Tara running, reading the latest fantasy novel, or trying out a new healthy recipe.

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