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Best practices for staying safe whilst running and walking outdoors

In recent weeks, staying safe whilst running or outdoors has become a hugely prevalent issue. Whether you’re walking, running, cycling, hiking, or doing any other outdoor activity, it’s imperative to know how you can be at your safest, regardless of your age, gender or physical ability.

Recent events have highlighted the importance of remaining aware of our surroundings when exercising and ensuring we take extra precautions to decrease any risks.

1) Try and stick to daylight hours

Where possible, try and plan your activity for daylight hours when it is well lit, and people will be around. We appreciate that this will not be an option for some due to conflicting schedules, so if you are unable to walk in the daytime, make sure you travel on a well lit path where possible, wear reflective clothing and make sure your phone is well charged. Always be sure to let a housemate, friend or family member know where you’re going, particularly on longer trips that will take you further away from your house.

2) Choose busier running and walking routes

We know that busy footpaths aren’t ideal for those running or walking, particularly when we’re all expected to maintain a safe distance from one another. However, by sticking to a busy route, or one alongside a road, you have the security of passers by if needed.

These paths are generally better lit, and unlike country trails or fields, they’re generally paved and smoothed over so they might be easier on your knees!

If you need ideas on where you could go, see if our Active Outdoors section has a trail or route near you.

3) Communicate with those around you

Let your friends or family know when you’re going out, and give a rough estimation of how long you plan to be. You can also install apps or make use of emergency contact software on most smartphones for extra safety which we’ll cover below. Wherever possible, you could try and arrange to run or walk with a nearby friend for extra safety, however if this isn’t possible, consider making a note of your general route – this will also be useful if you happen to injure yourself and need assistance, as your emergency contacts will have a better idea of where you are.

You could also consider contacting local walking or running groups – not only could you make some new friends, but it might provide some confidence if you see other friendly faces passing you whilst you’re out and about.

4) Make use of smartphones and apps for extra safety

Many smartphones nowadays come equipped with additional safety features which could prove useful for those venturing outside. This article provides information on how to set up the inbuilt safety features that come inbuilt into most iPhones, as well as Samsung, Huwawei and Google Pixel devices. One of these features is an ‘Emergency SOS’ feature which triggers if you press your power button a set number of times, and will ping your location, a photo, and an SOS message to your designated emergency contacts so help can be sent quickly.

There are also several apps you can make use of, designed to help keep you safe whilst out and about. Kitestring and bsafe are two examples of these, but more can be found here or by searching your app store.

If you don’t own a smartphone, consider investing in a personal alarm or other safety device such as the ones listed here.

5) Make your social accounts and apps private

Many of us have already done this, but if you use an app such as Strava, consider making your walks and runs private or viewable by your followers only. Whilst this may seem like it’s being too cautious, it’s a simple fix on most apps that can provide peace of mind.

6) Don’t listen to music too loudly – or consider new headphones

The best advice would be to ditch the headphones and not to listen to music at all, so you can remain fully aware of your surroundings. This also means you’re staying safe whilst running near cars and cyclists you may not otherwise spot. If you do need music to motivate you on your run, make sure the sound isn’t too loud. This way you’ll still be aware of what’s going on around you.

You might consider a single earbud to leave one ear free, or alternatively if you’re looking to invest in a new pair of headphones, vibrating headphones leave your ears free so you can still take note of your surroundings safely.

7) Staying safe whilst running: Trust your gut instinct

When it comes down to it, sometimes your instincts are the most valuable tool you have. If you see something that doesn’t feel right, turn around and head back. If you don’t recognise an area, consider pausing somewhere well lit to check you’re not lost. Finally, if you think it might be too dark to run safely, lean on the side of caution and postpone until it’s lighter. Always make sure you’re visible and you have a way of contacting someone in an emergency.

Whilst there’s no way to eliminate risk altogether, the aim here is to reduce the risk factors and to increase the sense of security for those who walk, run, hike and cycle.

We believe everyone should feel safe and comfortable when outside their own home, and are greatly saddened knowing that this is currently not the case for many people. If you’ve got any other tips to share to ensure others are staying safe whilst running, be sure to let us know, so we can all continue to remain active safely and with peace of mind.