For women who run, safety is as much a part of the package as a good pair of running shoes and a killer playlist.
And that sucks.
No, really. It sucks that women aren’t at liberty to throw on their kicks and run off into the moonlight without a second thought or care in the world. Instead, we’re stuck contemplating a slew of questions and weighing our options before we can feel comfortable heading out.
Is it too dark? Too late? Too early? Are there enough people around? Should I avoid that trail? Is that road too deserted?
On top of that, female runners are given a nifty list of safety tips that aren’t always applicable or practical.
Don’t run in the dark. Don’t run alone. Don’t wear headphones. Always run where there are people. Cover up. Switch up your route. Stay in a well-lit area.
Of course, if you can or want to take these precautions, go for it. But what about the women who can’t squeeze in their run until the evening? Or the women who can’t find a buddy to bring along? I actually prefer running alone and couldn’t possibly enjoy myself without my sneaker-emoji-titled running playlist blaring through my headphones.
Still, women are concerned about safety. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Runner’s World, 63% of women chose their running route based on where they were least likely to encounter harm compared to 23% of men, 60% of women only went running in daylight hours compared to 14% of men, and 71% of women determined their route based on how many people would be around compared to 35% of men. Time reported that more than half of the women responding to the survey had experienced harassment while running, with 94% of their harassers being men.
So, what additional precautions can female runners take to enhance their safety and peace of mind while out on a run?
Disguise yourself as a man.
Safety devices! Self-defense tools!
Here are 5 handy safety devices to enhance your means of self-defense and give you a greater sense of security while running. All can be easily purchased online and are designed to be practical and convenient for women (and all people) who run.
1. Pepper Spray with Adjustable Hand or Wrist Strap
Pepper spray is a girl’s go-to safety tool. Carrying it in your hand while walking alone from the station or to your car at night can provide that added sense of security and potentially necessary means of protection. But what about runners? Clutching a bottle of pepper spray in your hand for a whole run doesn’t sound like the most comfortable or convenient idea, but it would be the most effective place to have it in a circumstance requiring quick reaction speed. That’s what makes the wrist-strap style so useful for runners.
Unlike most pepper sprays that come with a clip or a key ring, designs like the SABRE pepper gel spray for runners come with an adjustable strap that secures the bottle to your hand in a ready-to-use position. That way, you don’t have to think about holding onto it while you run, nor do you risk wasting precious seconds scrambling around for it in your pocket or waist clip should you need to use it.
In an emergency situation, this could make all the difference.
2. Clip-on Personal Alarm
Personal alarms like the SABRE alarm clip (pictured above) give you the ability to press a button and release a loud, high-pitched siren, typically between 120-150 decibels. Imagine standing just 200 ft. from a Boeing 777 turbofan aircraft as it prepares for take-off. Well, that’s 118 decibals. The Taiker Personal Alarm is 140db.
Such a sudden and dramatic sound could scare off an attacker or momentarily stun them, giving you a chance to get away. It can also alert others nearby if you’re in danger or hurt.
Most alarms are no bigger than a car remote and they come in a variety of styles such as keychains, lanyards, or rip cords. For running, I find clip-on alarms to be the most convenient.
Clip-on alarms easily attach to armbands, sports bras, or running tops and remain securely in place as you run. Most alarms have a flashing light feature, which can be a useful for alerting vehicles of your presence when it’s dark or foggy.
3. Emergency Whistle
Don’t want to shell out for a personal alarm? You could try an emergency whistle like the NOOPEL 2-pack instead.
Like the personal alarm, this is a standard safety whistle with a lanyard that can be worn around the neck and tucked into a sports bra or running top. This prevents it from bouncing up and down while you run, but keeps it easily accessible should you need to use it.
4. Folding Key Knife
As you can see, this is a folding pocket knife disguised as a key. Pictured is the Sog Key Knife available here.
If carrying a weapon as a form of protection makes you more comfortable, this might be the tool for you. Sure, you could always get a regular pocket knife, but what’s great about the key knife is that it’s small and thin, and can literally be attached or stored anywhere your regular house key would go. The blade is easy to unlatch once you familiarize yourself with the mechanism; just don’t forget to run it through a sharpener occasionally, as you would any other knife.
5. Personal GPS Tracking Device
Personal tracking devices are a great way to let friends and family monitor your location via an app on their phones. Most devices are small enough to be concealed in a pocket or shoe, making them less detectable than other types of tracking options, such as phones or fitness bracelets.
There is a variety of different device options online and most offer numerous additional features. For example, you can find trackers that include 911 call buttons, built-in siren alarms, and/or two-way speaker communication. The Silent Beacon Tracking Device (pictured above) has all of these features, plus a 1-week battery life and a clip on case that makes it convenient for runners. While virtually all trackers are waterproof, battery life varies between devices, starting at around 48 hours and lasting up to a week. Pricing of quality tracking devices begins around $50.
Personal safety and peace of mind are important considerations for any female runner. Each of us is different, so we must assess for ourselves the best precautions and self-defense methods to take so we can keep our runs safe, happy, and healthy.