Fitness Articles

Important Safety Tips for Outdoor Runners and Walkers

Put Your Safety First with These 6 Strategies


Carry Identification
Whether you carry your driver’s license in your pocket or wear a Road ID bracelet, make sure you carry some form of ID just in case you are injured or rendered unconscious. Your identification should include your name, emergency contacts, and other essential information, such as drug allergies or pre-existing medical conditions. You can also simply write your emergency contact information on a piece of paper in your pocket.

Run Against the Flow of Traffic
As I mentioned earlier, facing traffic helps you see when cars are coming. I would much rather see a car than risk an inattentive driver not seeing me. In an age where people do everything in their car except drive sometimes, you must be on the defensive if you are running or walking in the street. (On a related note, biking is a different story. Always go with the flow of traffic when cycling.)

Beware of Dogs
While I have yet to encounter any vicious dogs on my runs, the best thing to do if approached by one is to stop running or walking. A dog will be able to outrun a walker or runner any time, so it is best to slowly back up away from the dog. Try to put something between you and the dog. If you have access to a stick or rock, that may be a deterrent. (Throw the object away from you—not at the dog—so he or she will chase it instead of you.) And as a last resort, drop to the ground and curl up in a ball, making sure you cover your face and head.

Wear Reflective Gear
Wearing some form of reflective gear, whether a hat, jacket, shirt, or button, especially at night, dusk or dawn, allows others to see you more easily. Anytime you can become more visible allows for better safety. At the very least, avoid wearing dark colors like black, blue or brown during these dimly lit times. The brighter you are, the better off you'll be.

Remember, always put your safety first. This will allow you to continue running for a long time to come.
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About The Author

Nancy Howard Nancy Howard
Nancy is an avid runner and health enthusiast. A retired pediatric nurse, she received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Texas Woman's University and is also a certified running coach and ACE-certified personal trainer.

Member Comments

    Also good advice for walkers. - 12/15/2014 7:09:43 PM
  • Add-on to my comment: has great info on "Rules of the Road" - 5/23/2014 11:18:26 AM
  • I didn't know about Road IDs and I am so glad you mentioned them as I am always keeping my ID on me and never have a good place to keep it. These are brilliant. - 5/23/2014 11:16:33 AM
  • YES! A dear teacher from high school was killed by running with the flow of traffic. A tractor turned right and my teacher was in a blind spot. It happened within seconds and could have been avoided.

    And I'd also like to add to the "don't run with music" : don't run with music in both ears if you must run with music. Use one part of the headphone/earpod. There have been two reported rapes in the 11 years that I've lived in my area. Both were women runners who were on their own during the day with music in both ears. Don't do it. - 2/7/2014 2:14:18 AM
  • I agree with what others have said about blasting music, especially if it's dark out and your awareness is already impaired. I was saved by my phone when I fell and hurt myself a few months ago, and instantly whipped it out and made a call when approached by a guy who gave me a bad vibe one time. Better safe. - 11/13/2013 8:55:02 PM
  • all good advice - thanks - 8/19/2013 7:17:54 AM
  • and in alaska, wear a bear bell... - 8/17/2013 3:44:00 PM
    Great article. Love the comments about what to do about dogs.

    One thing I'd like to add. Get a class 3 reflective vest. They're inexpensive and available many places. They're mandated for road crews and workers with good reason.

    After working on roads for several years, seeing the things I've seen, I wouldn't be out there without one. - 8/17/2013 10:38:38 AM
  • Great article. - 8/17/2013 7:19:27 AM
    great tips! - 11/23/2012 3:44:12 PM
  • Iím surprised it wasnít mentioned to not have music up loud while walking/running. In some towns they are saying to not listen to music at all since it makes you more susceptible to attacks since so many people have their headphones/earbud
    s up so loud. I wear earbuds but I can still hear cars coming and dogs barking. As soon as one of us gets a new cell phone we put ICE in it. Iíve even done that with my grandparents phones too.

    As for the dog part, I canít disagree more. If the dog is going to actually attack, you will be worse off on the ground. Staying on your feet is the best bet
    1) Donít look the dog in the eye. Dogs can see that as a sign of aggression.
    2) Donít run. The dog may decide to chase and attack if you do.
    3) Slowly walk or back away.

    I have several dogs where I walk that run loose and Iíve found that most just want to bark. What I do with the ones where I am isnít recommended, but I have gotten to know these dogs. There are two dachshunds that run towards the road yapping, but if I talk to them and take a step or two towards them they run the other way. There are several larger dogs on my route too and they are all different. One will bark and come to the end of the drive where it lives, but I just talk to it a little and keep walking. When he sees I am not stopping heíll go lay back down. Another large dog will walk with me. He is friendly but barks when he sees me excited and ready to go. There is a brown dog that I donít trust though. He has tried to sneak up on me before. If I see him Iíll just raise my voice and tell him to ďGet outta hereĒ or something and he will. I have told the owner of that one that Iím going to start carrying a walking stick and the next time it comes at me I will defend myself. They told me if I do they will call the police, but Iíve already talked to the Chief, two officers, and the dog catcher. They have all told me I have the right to protect myself. This dog has chased several kids, but it is smart and hides when the dog catcher is in our area.
    - 9/16/2012 8:29:22 PM
  • Please dont curl on the floor if the dog attacks you, you will expose your head and neck area to possible injury. What kind of safety advice is THAT? It is very very wrong!

    Keep your hands in your pockets or folded on the chest because dogs will try to grab at the limbs, so dont wave at them. You need to protect your face and neck!! Do not curl on the floor!!!
    - 9/16/2012 5:19:12 PM
  • I was attacked and badly bitten by a neighbour's Alsatian when out jogging. I had heard that if you throw yourself down face down, the dog will not attack. That was when he really let rip. It was so painful when his teeth ripped through my flesh that I sat up. Then he just sat there and looked at me, till people came and he went away. AT first I just screamed. Then I started shouting HELP! Neighbours said they heard me screaming but thought it was children playing, till they heard me calling HELP! Now if in doubt I take a stick and pepper spray with me. I'm terrified of strange dogs now, and of course they will know it and therefore be more likely to bite. There's not much I can do about that, except ask passing dog owners to understand why I'm neurotic. In Albania normally if you bend down when a dog looks aggressive, he will run away with his tail between his legs, expecting to be hit by a stone you have picked up. It works 4 times out of 5. That's probably a local phenomenon though, as dogs here expect to have stones thrown at them, which doesn't make them friendlier! - 9/16/2012 5:16:56 PM
  • I'm surprised that being oblivious to surroundings while into your music wasn't included in the article. It took an earlier comment to bring it up. In my experience running with music in both ears is a lot more prevalent out there than runners yaking on cell phones. Be careful out there! - 9/16/2012 1:49:43 PM
  • I agree with all but the dog section. Being a dog trainer and working on behavior modification, I don't agree with much of what is said there. The worst being curling into a ball and telling an "aggressive" dog that you are weak - this is asking for further aggression.

    Dogs are predictable and respond to our behavior in predictable ways. I have met many "aggressive" (in all reality, DEFENSIVE) dogs in my walks and runs. Most people let their dogs run loose in my neighborhood. I would rather run into one of them any day than a malicious person. Dogs I can handle. People scare the hell out of me.

    But aside from that, the rest is good information.
    - 9/16/2012 9:16:02 AM

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