Hitting the road and trail with the Night Runner 270 shoe lights
Night Runner 270° Shoe Lights are designed to give you the freedom to run whenever, wherever without having to worry about cumbersome straps, clips or full-on packs that might get in the way of your nighttime workout. We took a pair for a few late night jogs in varied environments to see how they work.
The Night Runners are water-resistant, lightweight, bright LEDs that clip onto the laces of your running shoes to illuminate your way with a 270-degree arc of light. They also have a wingtip-shaped attachment with a red light on the rear side that's designed to make you visible from behind as well.
As you can see for yourself in our video review below, these lights are also adjustable so you can snap them into the ideal angle for lighting up the terrain in front of you.
The Night Runners' creators, who successfully launched the product via Kickstarter, claim they work well for running on trails or in urban situations, so we tried both. First, we drove beyond city lights to try out a National Forest trail in the southern Rockies after dark. Did we mention it was also in the middle of a thunderstorm?
The Night Runners, which are charged via a dual USB charging cord included with the two light units, put out an impressive 150 lumens on their highest setting, which cut through the dark and the rain as we hit the trail, up to 30 meters ahead. However, because the lights are on shoe-level and moving around quite a bit with each stride, they often cast odd shadows or could be blocked by large obstacles like rocks or roots.
As our trail climbed into the forest and up a ridge line with a steep drop-off on one side, we became too uncomfortable with the uneven light the Night Runners cast on the trail and turned back, not to mention that we were also venturing almost blind into bear and mountain lion country.
On flatter, more consistent trails, the Night Runners perform better and provide more confidence, but don't think this is like bringing a large spotlight with you wherever you run. In general, we wouldn't recommend these for trail running at night on trails you aren't already intimately familiar with. Even then, they still might not be enough to make you feel comfortable on trails you know well if there's lots of obstacles involved.
Next, we took the lights for a run on a moonless night down the side of a major thoroughfare with limited streetlights. Here they provided the extra bit of confidence needed to ensure that we were both able to see where we were going and also be seen by drivers on the road. One interesting side effect though, was that a few drivers seemed to slow down and even veer toward us a little bit as they apparently tried to discern what the odd, bouncing lights on the side of the road were.
Where the Night Runner 270s really shone brightest, though, was on a run down a residential dirt road on the edge of town with no street lights, sidewalks or shoulders to run on. These were roads we would never consider running on at night for all sorts of safety and navigation reasons. Equipped with the lights on our feet, however, we made a good four mile run of it all around the neighborhood in complete comfort and safety.
One important caveat we found for using these lights is that it is essential to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark to get the full benefit. We recommend taking at least 10-20 minutes to stretch or warm-up in place or do something else after you've turned on the lights before taking off running. It makes a significant difference in how effective they are.
This also means avoiding looking directly into oncoming headlights, and no looking at your brightly-lit smartphone during your run, otherwise you'll have to wait for your eyes to re-adjust again.
Each charge should get you about 4 - 8 hours of use of the Night Runner 270s' Lithium-ion batteries and they're reasonably priced at US$59.95 online.
Product Page: Night Runner 270