Last Updated on February 12, 2021 by JP
Modern life keeps us busy and sometimes the best (or only) time to get some exercise outdoors is in the dark. Whether you’re running, cycling, or walking, the major problem is drivers need to see you from a good distance to be able to avoid you. That’s where reflective running gear comes in. The best types of reflective gear are retro-reflective, meaning the light reflects back to the driver no matter what direction it’s coming from.
There are a ton of choices for reflective running gear including many different brands in all sorts of styles. Do you go reflective or high visibility? Puma or Nike? Vest or Jacket? Bands or Shoes? Or all the above? To help you stay safe and seen on the road. we’ve compiled the top types and brands of reflective running gear along with the pros and cons.
One of the quickest and cheapest ways to supercharge your visibility is with a lightweight reflective vest. This type of vest can be worn over any clothing and usually features velcro panels that allow for adjusting to a comfortable fit. You’ll want to go with a reflective vest that features retro-reflective panels materials (usually 3M Scotchlite). Retro-reflectivity means the light from oncoming cars hits the vest’s reflective panels and bounces back to the car no matter what angle it hits. This allows the driver to see your ultra-bright reflection from any-which-way whether you’re turned, moving, from front, side, diagonal, or back.
We recommend the Reflective Vest from Atopio (note, we’re affiliated). This cost-effective, reflective running vest is easy to strap on and head out for a bike or run. It features a lightweight, washable, neon green mesh with 12 retro-reflective panels that cover every angle. You’ll be seen from over 700 feet away by oncoming cars and traffic. Also, this reflective vest has a zippered-pocked for cards, keys, etc. Highly recommended this type of vest for increasing the visibility of you and your family.
Reflective Running Jackets
For running at night in cool or cold conditions you may want a reflective jacket to keep the chill off. And as for all reflective apparel, you’ll need something durable, comfortable and weatherproof. You can’t be going out in high winds with the wind blasting through you but equally, you don’t want to be drowning in your own sweat.
The main two things to look for in any running jacket, therefore, are wind resistance and breathability. This will help make the jacket useful in just about any season.
Our favorite reflective jackets:
The Nike Shieldrunner Flash Jacket is one of the brightest reflective jackets on the market with the reflective material making up around 50% of the entire jacket including the logo. The jacket is made of extremely breathable, water and wind resistant ‘Storm-Fit 10’ fabric to make sure you maintain a good temperature without getting wet. It also features a specially designed removable, ear-covering hood to make the jacket lighter or heavier depending on the conditions as well as hand warmers that pull down from the sleeves for those who don’t like gloves. Check out the Nike Shieldrunner Flash Reflective Running Jacket for Men here: https://www.topfitnessmag.com/Nike-Shieldrunner Or to see the Women’s Nike Flash Shieldrunner, click here: https://www.topfitnessmag.com/Nike-Shieldrunner-w.
Pearl Izumi Fly Jacket – A lightweight jacket (6 oz) that’s perfect for high winds and keeping the sweat off. Reflective strips can be found on the elbows to alert motorists behind you and there are thumb holes at the end of the sleeves to keep your forearms warm. For those of you who like to take out other items of gear with you, there’s a pocket on the back big enough for a mobile and some gels. Find it at http://shop.pearlizumi.com/my/index.php
Puma Nightcat Illuminate Jacket – This jacket reflects and projects light so that you can be seen at all times. There are USB-charged LSD lights running along both the sleeves and across the back of the shoulders with housing for the unit in the back of the collar. There’s mesh under the arms and vents in the back to keep you nice and cool. The only downside is that it weighs slightly more than other jackets at 17oz for men and 14oz for women. It comes in a classic style so to fit with the rest of your clothing and retails for around $100. Find it at http://puma.com
Reflective shoes are one of the most underutilized pieces of reflective running gear. The frequent move of your feet means that they’ll really catch the beam of any motorist’s headlights and flash into their eyes, therefore warning them well in advance of your presence.
The best reflective shoes include:
Skechers GoRun 2 Nite Owl – A well-cushioned and lightweight (7.9 oz) shoe that come at an affordable price. The shoes use a photo-luminescent technology that creates a real glow in low light and dark environments. Once exposed to light, the shoe charges up to create the glow effect. The more powerful the light, the more glow is given off by the shoes. Find them at https://www.skechers.com/en-us/style/53900/skechers-gorun-ride-2-nite-owl/bkaq
Nike LunarGlide 7 Flash – Nike offers a wide range of running shoes as well a specific range for poor/awkward weather. The Nike LunarGlide 5 Shield is one that provides a lightweight fabric with supportive cushioning to maintain good form. The reflective, water-repellent upper will not only keep you visible but dry also when you may not be in the most comfortable of areas.
You can find out more about the Nike Flash collection below.
The Nike Flash Collection
The Nike flash collection is an excellent range of reflective clothing that will help you get seen in the dark. The clothes receive consistently positive reviews from all types of exercise enthusiasts.
The collection includes jackets, gilets, socks, shoes, gloves, arm sleeves, tights, and bands with special technology to help you get seen.
Starting with the shoes, they contain a unique reflective style print that can’t be seen during the day but becomes bright in the nighttime. They’re comfortable, supportive, breathable and repel water which can be perfect for those wet nights thanks to the three-layer mesh. Around the top, there’s a micro fleece collar and tongue to keep your feet warm.
Alongside this, there are built-in reflective pieces of material to make you really stand out in low light situations. The shoes are all based on their normal running shoes so if you’re a fan of their normal footwear these will suit you fantastically. The range includes six styles: Nike LunarGlide 5 Shield, Nike Air Pegasus 30 Shield, Nike Free 5.0 Shield, Nike Lunar Eclipse 3 Shield, Nike Zoom Structure Triax 17 Shield and Nike Zoom Vomero 8 Shield.
The collection also includes a vest called the ‘Nike Aeroloft’ which features an ultra-light insulating layer made of perforated down and was tested by elite runners in various conditions. Movement in the vest activates ventilation to allow heat to escape through holes between the down chambers. This keeps you cool alongside the wicking Dri-Fit side and shoulder panels. To aid wind protection there’s a rip-stop nylon exterior.
Dri-Fit is Nike designed technology for keeping the wearer dry, comfortable and at a regular temperature.
Yet, for Nike’s Flash collection they’ve chosen a multicolor reflective print for 360 degrees of visibility. This material is also very durable.
Though expensive, the Nike Flash Pack is one of the best collections of reflective safety gear for runners on the market and highly worth the investment if you’re a fan of night jogging, cycling, or walking.
You can find more about the Nike Flash collection here: http://www.nike.com/gb/en_gb/c/running/flash
Other Reflective Running Gear
Jackets, vests, shirts, and shoes aren’t the only gear that will help you with running in the dark. There are also backpacks, bands, and belts.
If you don’t want to fork out a lot of money for a brand new pair of trainers, you can find light spurs for a much cheaper price. These spurs clip on to the heel of your shoe and add little to no extra weight while also being waterproof. They’re a cost-effective to purchasing special reflective shoes for the less serious runner. The Nathan LightSpurs come highly recommended with over 100 hours of illumination for under $20. Find them at http://www.nathansports.com/visibility/led-lights/lightspur.
Another cheaper alternative to reflective running gear is LED lights that attach to your shoelaces. They easily lock into place and you barely notice them once they’re on. The LED’s come in a variety of colors such as pink, green red and blue and provide a light source when no headlights are present. Most LED lights retail between $4 – $6.
Belts can provide an extra layer of visibility for your midline and come at a very cheap price. All you need to do is wrap it around you and snap it into place and you’re good to go. Most belts are adjustable and need no belt loops to fit into place as jogging bottoms rarely come with them. Check out the R-Gear Glow ’N Go Reflective Belt if this sounds like something you’d be interested in.
Hats can be a good choice if your jacket doesn’t have a reflective hood. Pearl Izumi offer a great hat called the Shine Run Hat for $30 that uses reflective material to make sure you can be seen at all times. You can also wear it alongside a head lamp to help you see where you’re going.
In terms of other head gear, both scrunchies and headbands are available, too.
Reflective bands are a good option as ankles, wrists and arms, like your feet, are in constant motion when you’re running. Reflective slap bands can be found at a low price that securely fit onto your wrists. There’s also armbands such as the Nathan LightBender that come with an LED to aid visibility. You can change the setting of the light to a steady glow or blink. This arm band is also waterproof and sweat-proof and will set you back just under $20.
Reflective Pants and Tights
A lot of runners wear running tights in the cold weather, so choosing a brand that offers reflective running tights can easily give you that extra visibility. Under Armour are one of the best company’s for producing warm, breathable and comfortable tights and the Stealth Run Storm Tights feature reflective panels to help you get noticed. Find them at https://www.underarmour.com/en-us/mens-ua-stealth-run-storm-tights/pid1238954
If you’re running late at night in cold weather then you’ll probably be wearing gloves anyway so your fingers don’t seize up. There are reflective gloves on the market, but what about staying warm with a pair of reflective mittens? Brooks offer a pair of warming mittens called Adapt Glove II for when it’s a little more than cold and more on the side of freezing. They come with a detachable LED light and reflective material. Retailing at $50 they can be found at http://www.brooksrunning.com/en_us/adapt-glove-ii/280230.html
For those who prefer normal running gloves, there are the Nathan Speed Shift gloves which contain a row of red battery-powered LED lights which can be turned on or off with a button in the cuff. You can find them for $21 here http://www.amazon.com/Nathan-Speed-Shift-Glove-Light/dp/B0099LPKWO
One of the most interesting and unusual pieces of gear are knuckle lights. These are lights that you hold as you run that cover your fingers almost like a knuckle duster. You can set them to any of the three settings: low, high and flashing to help you see the way ahead and let motorists around you know where you are. They retail for $40 and can be found at http://www.shop.knucklelights.com/Knuckle-Lights_c2.htm
Get Reflective – Drivers Need to See You
To reiterate the need for reflective running gear and being seen at night, you probably know that it takes a long time for a car to stop. Assuming that a car is traveling 60 miles per hour, for it to come to a complete stop in normal conditions it would take anywhere between 4.5 to 6.5 seconds (including driver reaction). Most current production vehicles performance tests suggest that the distance the car would travel between 120-140 feet if it were traveling 60mph though these are normally seen optimistic. Quite a few equations put the distance between 270-330 feet. It takes the driver roughly 0.75 seconds to perceive the obstacle (you), 1.5 seconds to break and then about 5 seconds to stop. In wet conditions, this can take a total of over 6 seconds in which the car travels over 330 feet. Yet, snowy conditions are the worst with a stopping point of 533 feet after 10.6 seconds. As you can see, the point at which the driver notices you can make a dramatic difference to the outcome of the situation.
Final Word on Reflective Running Gear
The wide world of reflective running gear and reflective clothing includes just about any piece of clothing from jackets to shirts and tops. There are tights and shorts available with hi vis strips or patches but clothing for the upper body tends to be fully covered in visible aids. Products such as reflective vests, backpacks, shoes, and bands for the head, legs or arms can help increase visibility. We’ve taken you through what we think is the best reflective gear, now it’s your turn to get some and get out there on the road.
If you’re a fan of activities other than running, such as cycling, hiking, and walking, then these reflective clothing choices are perfect for those occasions as well. There’s no need to limit them to one form of exercise and you’ll find that many of the features of these clothing items will help keep you safe in just about any type of outdoor activity. The important thing is to stay safe and seen. You don’t want your healthy activity to put you in danger’s way. Investing in some high quality reflective running gear is a great start.