9 Night Walking Strategies

How to Walk Safely After Dark

If your schedule leaves you walking at dawn, dusk, or after dark, you should learn to do so safely. Whether you find yourself walking in the dark due to the short days of winter, the need to beat the summer heat, or because of an overnight walking event, use these strategies to stay safe.

1
Wear Reflective Gear to be Seen

close up sneakers on pavement during nighttime walk
Westend61/Getty Images

Black may be slimming, but you need a reflective stripe so you can be seen in the dark. Cars may not recognize you as a human if you have only a couple of small reflective patches. Your walking clothes should have reflective stripes in the front, back, and down the sides. Many packs and shoes have reflective patches or stripes. Wearing a reflective safety vest is a very good choice to ensure you'll be seen when walking at night. There are many types of reflective gear to consider.

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2
Light Your Way

Runner with Headlamp
Cavan Images/Stone/Getty Images

Even if you are walking in an area with streetlights, you may encounter some dark patches. A lightweight flashlight can come in handy. Or, you can wear a headlamp to keep your hands free and not stress your wrists. An LED headlamp will give you light for many more hours before replacing the battery compared with standard bulbs. Look for a model that allows you to adjust the angle of the beam so it will focus where you need it.

A few companies make hats with LED lights built into the front or brim, or individual units that can clip onto the bill of a hat. These can work well, but the angle might be off depending how you wear the hat and carry your head.

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3
Night Walking Safety Rules

two men and two women walking at night
Phillip Suddick/Taxi/Getty Images

Walking after dark is not the same as walking in daylight. You need to observe several rules.

  • Use sidewalks and off-road paths, rather than the street.
  • Walk facing traffic so you can see and react to vehicles.
  • Use extra caution when crossing streets. Drivers do not expect pedestrians to be out walking at night.
  • Safety in numbers: Use the same routes used by other walkers and runners.
  • Beware of tripping hazards. It is harder to see uneven sidewalks, roots, rocks, potholes and trash when it's dark. Walk with your eyes, noting the ground 15 feet ahead to see upcoming hazards.
  • Don't be blinded by the light. Headlights can make it difficult for you to see for a while. Choose paths without frequent changes in lighting levels.

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4
Stranger Danger

Night Walking Woman
Night Walking. Lorette Kaddour / EyeEm / Getty Images

Fear of strangers in the night keeps many walkers off the trail from dusk to dawn. But there are steps you can take to reduce the risk, if not the dread. Strangers who may attack have nothing personal against you, they are just looking for an easy target. To be less of a target, buddy up with a walking friend or a dog. Carry a walking stick. Be aware of your surroundings and act confident and purposeful. Wearing earphones or gazing frequently at your phone may make you more of a target as you may appear to be distracted. If you see a suspicious person, cross the street or change your path to avoid them.

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5
Avoid Distracted Walking at Night

Using a Mobile Cell Phone at Night While Walking
James Whitaker/Digital Vision/Getty

Mobile phones are handy to use as flashlights and to track where you are, but they are also a big source of distraction. Are you really using it to light your path, or are you texting or playing Pokemon Go? Your night vision won't be as acute if you've been looking at the lighted screen instead of the path ahead. Since vehicles can't see you well at night, you need to pay more attention to them.

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6
Shift Your Walking Time

Taking a Brisk Walk in the Park
Taking a Brisk Walk in the Park. Kevin Dodge/Blend Images/Getty

When you just can't enjoy walking in the dark, try shifting your walking time or place. You may want to do a couple of shorter walks before or after your workday, or during breaks. See if you can lengthen your lunch time so you can walk in the daylight. Take full advantage of daylight on the weekends to enjoy longer continuous walks. Shorter walks of 15 minutes have many of the health advantages of longer walks, so long as the total time each day adds up to 30 minutes or more.
More: 30-Minute Lunchtime Walk
15-Minute Break Time Walk

7
Use a Treadmill or Elliptical

Walking Fast on the Treadmill
Franz Aberham/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Treadmills and elliptical trainers can give you an excellent walking workout. The drawback is that good treadmills and ellipticals are expensive and take up space at home. You should explore using one at a gym or fitness center, which can cost you less buying a machine of your own. Still, treadmills can be boring for those who enjoy outdoor walking. You may need to distract or entertain yourself with music, video, or chatting with a buddy. I've seen many people at the gym use their cell phones to chat away as they walk. Personally, though, I think this is a breach of gym etiquette.

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8
Walk Indoors

Walking an Indoor Track at the Gym
Hero Images/Getty Images

Many people beat the dark and bad weather by walking indoors. Malls and larger shopping centers often open early for fitness walkers to walk loops before the shoppers arrive. Some fitness centers have an indoor track that you can walk. You may also make use of long corridors and stairs at work or school. If you just can't find the space for a good indoor walk, and can't afford a treadmill, you may want to use indoor walking videos to march in place.

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9
Fun Night Walking Events

Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Starting Line
Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Starting Line. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Make your night walk a fun night out by entering a night walking event. Local volkssport walking clubs often host Christmas light walks throughout December, and other night walking events throughout the year. Check local run/walking event calendars to see if there is a moonlight event being staged. Or organize your own group night walk with family and friends.

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