One of the all-time great Monty Python sketches is called “How Not to Be Seen,” and it concerns all manner of people hiding behind bushes and the like, each in a (hilariously thwarted) quest to, well, not be seen.
Suffice it to say your goal, when running at night, would be exactly the opposite of that. You want to be seen — especially by anyone operating a motor vehicle. The bad news is drivers are as distracted as ever. The good news is reflective gear is widely available across an increasing range of categories, quite literally from head to toe. Even better, reflective gear circa 2019 is nowhere near as garish as what you wore in years past. In fact, it’s even runway-worthy — but more on that in a bit.
If you run at night or before sunrise — whether it’s because that’s the only time you have, or if it’s just because the days are shorter this time of year — here are a few useful items to help keep you safe out there, including a new reflective take on a sneaker you already know and love.
A RELIABLE HEADLAMP
There are plenty of good reasons to have a headlamp. Maybe you read in bed and don’t want to wake your spouse. Maybe you dabble in mining. But the best reason is so you can see where you’re running — and other people can see you.
You can get a good one for about $20 from your favorite outdoor retailer, though some fancier options will set you back $200 or more. These typically have Bluetooth capability, a range of lighting options and are favored by people who spend a decent amount of time exploring caves. Whatever you go with, make sure it’s water-resistant so you can take it out in the rain without fear.
Oh, and if for some reason you’re fussy about wearing something around your head while you’re running, you can also consider carrying an old-fashioned flashlight — the lighter, the better.
REFLECTIVE CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES
While an actual light is probably your first and best option, reflective gear is nice because: a) It augments the effect of whatever light is already out there; and b) It doesn’t require a battery or a lightbulb, so it will still work if your headlamp goes out.
As it happens, every piece of Under Armour running apparel includes at least some reflectivity — a logo, a piece of text, a panel on a shirt, that sort of thing. While this in and of itself isn’t always enough to keep you safe (and UA director of running apparel Gabriel Rodriguez reminds us that, legally speaking, UA cannot claim these are for safety purposes), it can be part of an overall visibility strategy on your part.
These days, you can find an ever-increasing range of reflective products, thanks to advances in science and manufacturing. “Stretch reflective was tough to do a few years ago,” Rodriguez notes, adding that producing color versions of reflective material remains a challenge. (He’s especially proud of a newish black reflective material.) Shirts, shorts, tights, even armbands and headbands all come in a wide array of materials and colors.
This time of year, you should also take note of a line of reflective Gore-Tex products, along with the best-selling Outrun the Storm reflective jacket and the compression tights that pair well with it. (As you might guess from the name, the jacket also repels water.)
Reflective gear makes a smart look in more ways than one, too. As Rodriguez points out, reflective gear has become a mainstay of fashion runways in recent years. So if you somehow wander off your trail and onto a catwalk, you won’t need to change outfits.
It might seem counterintuitive or unnecessary, given your feet’s location at the bottom of your body, but no. “Reflectivity in footwear helps the on-looker identify that the object moving in the distance is a human, as the human running and walking pattern is something that the brain easily recognizes when illuminated at night,” says Cori Burns, UA Run Footwear Category Manager.
As with apparel and accessories, a little bit of reflectivity can go a long way toward safety. (Though again, wearing reflective running shoes on their own is not enough to guarantee you won’t get hurt.) As with those other categories, actually creating the product is both an art and a science. “There are many challenges when working with reflectivity,” Burns says. “Since the reflective effect is created by a layer of microscopic glass beads, it can be a challenge to work with for many reasons — due to the specific arrangement of the beads needed for the material to illuminate properly, it can be difficult to use on soft, pliable materials. It can also be brittle if you do not choose the type of material that the reflective treatment is embedded in carefully.”
Under Armour’s HOVR running shoes also have a reflective version, and its reflective material is far from brittle. “The UA HOVR Phantom Reflective is a performance run model with 360 reflectivity,” Burns says. “We’ve chosen a color-shift reflective film for the side-panels of the shoe to really light up the night. In the future, all of our high-performance line will have a level of 360 degrees of reflectivity — meaning that at all angles, the shoes are visible at night, so all runners are protected. We also have some fun moments planned in the future, continuing to play with different reflective executions to speak to a more ‘flashy’ runner — pun intended.”
Form and function — the new year is already looking bright.