What You Need to Know About Reflective Running Gear

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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What You Need to Know About Reflective Running Gear

When choosing apparel or shoes, fit and comfort are always going to be a priority. However, there is something else you should consider: reflectivity. Thanks to evolving technology, apparel companies include accents that are both flattering and functional on their gear to help you be seen on your run.

While it is something you may not actively be thinking about, here is why reflective gear should be top of mind — and the most important places to wear it.

WHEN TO WEAR REFLECTIVE GEAR

It seems obvious that once the sun is down you should have gear that lets cars and other pedestrians know you are there. What you may not know is it is always better to have on some type of reflective gear, no matter the time of day. The good news is many apparel companies include reflective accents on their products, so you often don’t have to go too far out of your way to make reflectivity a priority.

“If you run near cars or bikes, reflective gear is always important,” confirms Anoush Arakelian, a Boston-based running coach. “Sometimes it’s hard for cars to see pedestrians no matter what time of day. Even when I wear all-black outfits, I try to make sure there is something reflective on me at all times.”

In addition to having reflective accents on your apparel or wearing a reflective vest that helps bounce light back to drivers — which Sandra Gallagher-Mohler, coach at I Run Tons, says is especially helpful during times when weather causes drivers to use their headlights — having your own light source is also key.

“Accents on the front and back of each item of clothing, including shoes and hats, are a great way to be more visible to drivers,” notes Gallagher-Mohler. “In terms of visibility, headlamps are great for nighttime runs to help with seeing more of the ground in front of you.”

In the case of headlamps and flashlights, not only will they help you see; they’ll also help you be seen. These items may not be necessary during daylight hours, but if you are running any time before or during sunrise or during or after sunset — even if the sun is partially up — having your own light source is a good idea.

WHERE REFLECTIVITY IS MOST IMPORTANT

Now that you know why you need reflective gear, you should know the most important places to wear it. Having even a small bit of reflectivity on each part of your body is a good idea. Focus on the largest parts of your body so cars and pedestrians can see a runner moving toward them.

“In the pitch dark, reflective gear around your upper body is the most important because it is the biggest/widest part of you and will be the most easily seen,” shares Arakelian. “I tend to buy shoes that have a patch of reflective gear so I never even have to think about it. Most tights also have reflective gear around the calf area, which I find valuable for late night/early morning runs as well. The last item I usually have is a headband or hat.”

If you are running during summer — or in unexpected warm weather — having a reflective vest to wear even if you don’t have a shirt or just run in a sports bra is ideal. Most vests are thin or have mesh fabric, meaning they are still breathable (and there is less of an excuse to not wear them).

OTHER SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS

Having reflective accents on your clothing isn’t the only way to make sure you are seen thanks to the popularity of bright-colored gear. If you don’t feel like dressing in neon from head to toe, choosing full accent pieces is a safe bet.

“Reflective gear is great for added visibility, but it’s also important to wear bright colors,” adds Gallagher-Mohler. “Especially on your torso — either as a shirt, jacket or vest — gives yourself the best chance of being seen by a motorist.”

You can’t count on reflective gear or bright colors alone to keep you safe, however. Making sure you abide by all of the rules of the road — don’t run with your back to traffic, for example — is equally important. You want to put yourself in the best position to be seen and following all marked traffic signs and signals is a key part of that; never assume a motorist sees you. Because of this, Arakelian carries her phone on long runs or if she is running in the dark, opting for apparel that has pockets.

“In addition to looking for ways to be seen, it’s equally as important to be aware of your surroundings,” concludes Gallagher-Mohler. “Putting in your earbuds and zoning out on your run and neglecting this responsibility puts you at an increased risk of an accident. Being prepared with reflective attire and armed with awareness is your best bet for safety when running on the roads.”

About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.

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