Elite’s Physiotherapist Amanda Sussman shares some safety tips for female runners

Whether you’re just starting out, or have been running for years, some days it’s hard to find the motivation to get outdoors.

As much as we love the idea that we’ll just get up and go, it gets harder the further we get into Autumn and Winter. There are multiple factors that need to be taken into consideration:

Where should I run?

How long shall I go out for?

Will it be dark before I get back?

How cold is it and what should I wear?

Am I training to run or running to train?

Am I familiar with my immediate surroundings?

Women have additional personal safety considerations

It’s hard to balance safety with being a strong, independent woman. We want both… we need both. And it shouldn’t stop us from going on that outdoor run that we know will make us feel good. So, here are my tips to help ensure your personal safety…

Female runners wear headtorches and pair up for a night run

Location, Location, Location
According to the National Women’s Running Survey (2022), adjusting their running location was the most popular strategy amongst women, in order to feel safer.

So plan your route! Scout locations in advance by driving, biking, or walking your dog there first. You can also use a routing app on your phone.

Things to consider:

  • Safety: what do you know about the area? What are the traffic patterns and is it well-lit with street lights?
  • Terrain: finding solid paths and trails
  • Where to stop if you need to: are there public toilets, water fountains or somewhere to safely make a phone call if you needed to?

Remember to always stick to the rules of the road and be aware of cars and pedestrians. Run against the traffic (on the right hand side of the road, with cars travelling the opposite way to you) and never assume all drivers have seen you.

Plan your timings
Make sure you are keeping daylight in mind and get outside during daylight hours if you can. As it’s not an option for everyone to take a break in their working day to run, here’s my advice if you are running in the dark:

  • Ideally, do not wear headphones
  • Invest in a head lamp and flashing red light for your back
  • Wear bright colours such as neon yellow to increase your visibility
  • Stay aware of your surroundings and stick to roads and neighbourhoods you know
  • Avoid trails and paths that are not well lit
  • Always keep your mobile phone with you
  • If you’re running alone, tell or text someone to say you are leaving the house

App to track running location

Mix it up
Adjusting or alternating your routes and running times can increase personal safety. Avoid setting off and returning at the same time every day. Avoid going the exact same route each time.

Gizmos and Gadgets
There is lots of great tech out there to support your running from a training and motivation standpoint. This is just one reason you should take your phone out with you on those outdoor runs – the other reasons are safety and navigation. You can utilise the GPS tracking and maps if you are lost, a light if it starts to get dark, and can call someone if you are in trouble.

You can also utilise digital apps such as ‘Find My Friends’ that allow family and friends to keep an eye on you and your route.

 Stay alert
I know forgetting your headphones for a run, or even the gym, is one of the worst feelings. You need those tunes to pump you up and get you through! However, it is very important to be aware of your surroundings and your favourite playlist will make this more difficult.

female runner with headphones in at night

Your chances of staying safe are higher if you can clearly hear cars, cyclists, dogs and pedestrians. If you rely on headphones to get you through your run, play your tunes at a lower volume so you can be aware of what’s happening around you.

We’ve all heard the same safety advice when going out alone – have keys between your fingers or keep a loud whistle on you. These really come down to your personal preference and may be more pertinent in secluded or rural areas where there are fewer passers by.

Female runner in neon yellow top

Dress for Success
Don’t forget to consider the environmental elements when running outdoors. To help keep you happy and comfortable on your runs, prepare for the conditions by checking the weather ahead of time.

Hotter months: bring extra water, maybe a hat, shades and get the sun protection out.

Colder months: wear multiple layers (that you can take off and tie round your waist) plus hats and gloves. Reflective gear is a must for night running!

Two is Never a Crowd
There is always safety in numbers – running with a friend or family member is a great safety option. Equally, they are great for motivation and discovering new routes. Running clubs are also great, especially if you’re new to an area, want to consider running as a sport, or are looking for another way to be sociable.

You’re one of us
At the end of the day, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, turn around and relocate yourself to somewhere more populated.

Regardless of the distance or pace, if you go out for runs, then you are a runner. Take the time to find great routes, get the right gear, and be open to new experiences. Running can be one of life’s simplest pleasures, so let’s keep it safe too.

Amanda Sussman is a Chartered Physiotherapist, rugby player, avid runner and cyclist who is passionate about health and wellbeing. To request an appointment with Amanda, please visit contact the clinic or click here to book online.