With each breaking news story of a runner attacked, I watch the fear begin to rise within our community. After a few of you reached out asking if I had any specific tips for running safely alone since I do it in so many cities and countries around the world, I thought it was time to put together a full article.
I’ve talked about all the benefits of running alone, but I can tell there’s been a wavering of confidence in many runners.
First, I want to address the overall issue: should we be afraid to run alone?
No. But we should be smart.
General Running Safety Guidelines
I’m going to dive into some key running safety tips to keep in mind when you go out for a run, but before that, there are some ways we can boost our confidence.
Remember that the key is risk aversion, not risk elimination because that’s impossible and would mean we stay indoors our whole lives and never get to do what we want. A big part of what helps women runners stay confident while running is taking the necessary safety precautions.
Plus, confidence doesn’t mean ignoring the issue, it means running from a place of strength that allows you to react if needed and not to be scared away from doing something you love.
- The unknown can be scary, so the more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes.
- Talk with other local runners to see the good experiences they’ve had.
- Maintain perspective about how often these things truly happen. They’re high profile and splashed across the news, but thousands of runners go out everyday unharmed.
If you’re still concerned about running outdoors, then you can either consider running on a treadmill or running with a group such as a local running club.
The most obvious tip is to run with a friend or with a group, as you’re less likely to be approached and surrounded by people who could help defend if something happened. I’ve written before about getting over your fear of group runs or how to create a group if there isn’t one.
However, many of you like me cherish those solo runs.
So let’s dive in to things that can help us continue enjoying those miles.
11 Running Safety Tips to Keep You Safe (Even While Running Alone)
Let’s be honest, some of these are no brainers and things we’ve all heard before, but I had to include them in an effort to be thorough.
And because when the days are getting shorter or hotter more of us are spending our runs in the dark, these reminders are always good!
Here are the 11 running safety tips that’ll help improve your confidence and safety running alone.
1. Be Alert
One of the reasons we enjoy our solo runs is because it’s a chance to disconnect and get lost in our thoughts. On the whole, that’s just fine. But it doesn’t mean losing track of what’s happening around you.
- On the trails, I’ll use a turn in a corner to check behind me for anyone who might be coming (helps to avoid mountain bikers running me over too).
- On paved paths, I’m aware of who’s stopping, who’s heading towards me and anyone that honestly looks a little out of place.
I’ve run through many downtown areas with homeless people, it was simply a fact of Miami and Orlando living. I did NOT fear them, but I did remain aware of their presence and tried not to run through those areas when dark or where there were large groups.
2. Be Picky About Headphones
Safety experts will tell you to ditch them all together, but I know that means many people will just stop running.
Instead, we’re very lucky to live in a time where we have other options, particularly with running headphones.
Try bone conduction headphones: Shokz (previously called Aftershokz) makes great bone conduction headphones, which allow you to keep your ears totally free to hear surrounding sounds, while still enjoying your podcast or music.
Run with one earbud: A better option for hearing your surroundings is to only use one headphone. I’ve found this to work really well with the Jaybird Vista 2 which blocks out more sound.
Go for an Audiobook or Podcast instead: Save the music for daylight hours or heavily trafficked paths. I notice we often turn it up louder than say an audiobook or podcast.How to feel more confident (and safer) running alone! #runchat #werunsocial Click To Tweet
3. Be Choosy About Time and Place
Running safely requires applying the same common sense you would use to remain safe anywhere else, which means avoiding parked cars and dark areas and trusting your intuition.
Here are a few other things to consider when picking a time and place for running:
- Start by running alone when you know more people will be out in your neighborhood so you feel safer
- Choose locations that are well lit, again this will increase your comfort starting out
- When traveling ask local runners about the best options (you’ll see lots of the same places mentioned over and over on Facebook groups)
- On the trails, opt for staying a bit closer to the trail head and going when more runners are out
4. Run Against Traffic
When running outside, cars are by far the biggest and most common threat. As a runner, you need to always be proactive regarding your safety, and traffic is a big one.
Always make sure to run against the traffic. If you’re a road runner, you should be running towards the cars since it gives you more control and helps you know what’s headed your way. On the other hand, if you run with traffic, you won’t be able to tell if you’re in danger or not.
5. Change Routes
Running multiple times a week makes it simple to fall into a habit where you do the same routes at the same times on the same days. This is risky since it allows anyone who may be looking for a victim to find out where you will be alone on any given day.
But there are easy ways to ensure running safety. For example, if you usually go around your neighborhood in a counterclockwise route, try running in a clockwise direction once every few days.
Another idea is to alternate your start times from day to day by running an hour earlier or later than usual. You could also do some research online to find some fresh local running routes.
And remember to always trust your instinct and choose a different route if you come across someone who makes you uneasy or if you’re running through a sketchy neighborhood.
Don’t hesitate to cross the street or turn around. Your own safety should always come before the possibility of upsetting the feelings of another person.
6. Learn Basic Runner Self Defense
I think many of us shy away from self-defense classes because subconsciously if we don’t think about the threat of attack it’s not real. Instead, we need to feel strong and empowered, the same way running makes us feel.
Doing Krav Maga in Israel definitely made me realize how much more confident women are there because they’ve all be trained!
Finding a class near you is often easier than you think. I was surprised to find our local park rangers hosting them, as well as many other groups. Checkout the Sabre Self-Defense program to see if there’s one near you.
Here are a few of the key moves to feel confident performing:
We’re so used to being quiet that when we actually need to scream it may not happen so easily. This might have been one of the best things I learned in taking a recent self defense class…it was weird to yell and scream. That can’t be the case if you’re trying to save yourself.
AND don’t yell “help”.
Instead, stay things like “I don’t know you, get away from me.” This is more likely to get the attention of anyone nearby.
Heel of Palm to Nose
If they’ve grabbed your arm and you can break one free, then flatten your palm, straighten your arm and snap your help in to their nose. This swift strike hurts, without requiring you to know anything about punching, and the blood will usually distract them for you to get away.
Knee to Groin
If they’re close to you, then grab them by the shoulders and put your weight in to throwing that knee. Don’t worry about hurting yourself or them, just GO FOR IT.
Move in to them
If someone grabs you from behind, don’t try to run away, instead throw your weight backwards in to them. This throws them off balance because they expect you to be pulling away and are braced for that.
Just reviewing these again reminds me that I need to take a class. Practicing these things helps them become more automatic if ever needed.
7. Use Runner Safety Apps
With the ever-growing prevalence of technology, it’s no surprise that there are now a variety of runner safety apps available to help you stay safe while running. These apps allow you to share your location with friends and family, alert them if you’re in trouble, track your route, and more.
There are a few different options in terms of using either an app or tools you might already have.
iPhone or Android
A great tip I learned from a friend during Ragnar is that you can actually share your location with another iPhone user for a set period of time!
For Android phones, you can go with a tracking app called Life360 and share your location for a set period of time so that your loved ones know where you are.
So if you don’t want to be tracked all the time, share it when you leave for your run.
Many of the new Garmin GPS watches now have a safety feature that would notify an emergency contact by default if you stop moving for a long period of time. Or they have easy-to-hit buttons which would also signal your emergency contact.
The one drawback is those features only work if you have the Garmin Connect app open on your phone.
Another option is the app Red Panic Button, which allows you to send a distress message to a preset list of emergency contacts revealing GPS location.
Strava is a popular app for runners that lets them track and share their runs. You can let up to three people you trust know where you are using Strava Beacon.
Open the Strava app, select Settings, and then select Beacon to complete this. Slide the button to enable Beacon for mobile, and then select the contacts with whom you want to share your running location. This will send a text message to your contact whenever you start a run, allowing them to track your run in real time.
Strava does state that you must have location sharing enabled and that if you travel through areas with poor GPS, you may not always have a signal or an exact location.
A final more upscale and one I think I’m adding to my runner gift list is the Nimb ring which you can wear anytime because it’s beautiful, but a quick press gets you help.
8. Stay Private
While using Strava for its Beacon feature is a great idea, don’t use it or other social media to regularly share your running routes. For apps like Strave, go to your privacy settings to make sure only your followers can see your run.
It’s important to note though that Strava does not make runs private retroactively, so you must go to ‘edit past activities’ to change that. You can also hide maps and start and end points.
If you’re using any other app like Strava, make sure to go through your privacy settings and make the necessary changes.
Runners who are concerned for their safety should carry pepper spray, but only if they are also comfortable using it.
In a situation where an attack is likely, fumbling with the pepper spray or accidentally using it on yourself are the last things you want to do. Luckily, we now have some innovative pepper sprays that contain gel and sticks where you spray it (more on that later!).
Pepper spray, mace, a lipstick taser, a sharp object, or an alarm are all good ideas to have on hand for self-defense. I have my top recommendations for running safety gear below which covers most of these.
10. Wear Reflective Running Clothes
It’s always necessary to wear reflective clothing, but as fall approaches, it becomes even more important. When you run early in the morning or late at night, it will be darker. Reflective materials are passive, which means they respond to other types of light, such as car headlights.
For this reason, you should give some thought to the type and amount of reflective clothing you wear on your runs. This is why vests and other bigger reflective gear are great for keeping runners safe.
11. Call the Police
Call the police right away if you feel threatened or if someone has hurt you. Never feel shame for being assaulted or reporting a suspicious person. It is essential for both your safety and the safety of others.
Best Running Safety Gear
I’ve seen a lot of recommendations to carry mace, but I admit for me that doesn’t feel right. I’m nearly positive that having it out of the case and ready to use, would lead to my injury before anyone else’s.
Hence the reason below you’ll see I really like a new pepper gel spray when I’m running a new area.
Whether you’re looking for a running safety light or reflective gear, these pieces have you covered.
SABRE Personal Safety Alarm
✅ This is the running safety device I recommend the most.
The Sabre Personal Safety Alarm attaches easily to your hydration pack or your shorts. And can quickly be grabbed to signal to those around you that assistance is needed. It’s a cheap solution to add a lot of peace of mind.
Bonus points because that option has a blinking light on it too, so it serves as a general safety device too.
SABRE Runner Pepper Gel
✅Carry pepper gel spray
I LOVE this idea from Sabre because when you spray it sticks, so rather than coming back on you, there’s a confidence it’s going where you want.
- Also I like the lock on it, so I’m not worried about accidentally spraying.
- Extra bonus you can get a pack that has a practice can! That allows you to get comfortable with the action you need to take.
Truthfully, I know many of us ladies have placed a key between our fingers to feel like we have some kind of weapon walking through a dark parking garage and at least it’s something, but I think having these alarms or easy to grab sprays might provide even more mental relief.
A few other safety gear options:
- Wear a RoadID – make yourself easy to identify and easy to find your emergency contacts should something happen.
- Carry your phone and know how to use the autodial 911 feature
- Whistles (these come on many hydration packs for bears, but they’re great for safety in general)
- Defend Six is a new tool that can alert you through your headphones if someone is approaching you from behind.
- GoGuarded is a defense ring you can wear that has a sharp point on the end, making it like your keys, but better and easier to wear while running
I do have friends that choose to run with a gun where it’s legal, but again…I would feel less comfortable not more doing that. So you have to figure out what’s best for you.
I decided to do a video with more details about what I carry to help answer some of your questions!
Running Visibility Gear
Beyond ways to protect yourself, it’s also really important to ensure that you’re visible and easily noticed by drivers or anyone else out in the neighborhood. This is not a time to blend in.
I tested out a number of reflective running apparel items, so check that out and grab some of these things for visibility too.
- Heel lights: kind of like the light up shoes kids have!
- Rechargeable Headlamp : Ensuring that you can see everything around you and yup once again more people can see you.
I hope reading this gives you some tools to change the way you think about your solo runs and the confidence to let no one keep you from enjoying them.
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish
Get more running tips: Pinterest
I attended a self defense class in the winter and they taught us to yell FIRE because yelling help doesn’t get the same response.
That’s such an excellent tip!!!
Strava has a great safety feature called Beacon. For 2 bucks a month it allows you to text a contact through their app. Your contact receives a link that provides them with your real time location (depending on service it could be a few seconds behind), pace information AND your phones battery level. I use this everytime I head out for a run even if it is a quick 3 miles.
Oh this is great to know, thanks so much for sharing!
It’s a real shame we have to take these things into consideration but it is really important to prioritise safety. I think it’s important to do your research about the areas near you, and try not to run in places where you will be completely alone (as much as running in peace may be appealing). If you want to run when it’s darker, it might be an idea to use an indoor space like a gym for at least some of the time.