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Whether you’re a midnight trail runner or you explore empty city streets before dawn, you’ll need a good running headlamp. It will guide your step, let you scan your surroundings and keep you safe.
There’s an incredible number of running lights available on the market today, and it’s difficult to decide what features you need. Should you look for a lightweight option or an extra bright lamp? How about the power source or additional lights in the back?
Finding the right headlamp for your running practice begins with you knowing what attributes you should look for.
These are the best headlamps we reviewed for this article.
Here are some attributes you should keep in mind when you’re looking for in your headlamp.
Lumens are the LED equivalent of watts in traditional lighting. They’re the basic unit of the measurement of light, while watts are a measurement of energy. The higher the lumens, the brighter the beam.
For many runners, 100-200 lumens will be enough, but it’s good to have a light with adjustable brightness. Using a lower setting will save you some battery life and will often be adequate if you run on pavement. If you’re a trail runner, a bright lamp will allow you to see the rocks and roots on your way.
The length and width of the beam are also variable on many headlamps. For city running, you may only need to see your immediate surroundings to make sure you don’t step on a pothole.
Out in the wild, it’s good to be able to scan your environment effectively. If you’re running more treacherous terrain or camping at night, you may want a longer beam.
If you can adjust the angle of the light down, it’ll give you a variety of options for different terrains. On pavement, you’ll need to see about 20 feet ahead of you, where your sight naturally lands when running. In a wilder topography, you may need to adjust it to see closer to your feet.
Weight and Distribution
The weight is crucial in a headlamp for running. If it’s too heavy, it can slip down, and you must adjust it as you go. You may also start tensing your neck if you feel too much weight on your forehead.
The battery often adds bulk and weight to the lamp. This is why some models carry the battery pack in the back, so the weight is distributed more evenly.
If you’re running on dark country roads or in the city, you might also want to think about being seen. Apart from wearing additional luminous running gear, you can make sure your headlamp aids your visibility.
Some running headlamps have a reflective strap or even a red light in the back to let cars know you’re there. This will decrease your chances of getting into an accident.
Wearability is fundamental in a running headlamp. If it slips or chafes, you won’t enjoy your run to the fullest. Many headlamps include a band made of moisture-wicking materials to add to your comfort.
Most headlamp models are rechargeable or use basic AA or AAA batteries. The amount and type of batteries are important factors, as more, or bigger can give you added durability, but will add weight to the torch.
A rechargeable battery can work out a lot cheaper and more ecologically friendly if you use your lamp a lot. However, replaceable batteries are better for those situations when you don’t have access to electricity.
Some models are hybrid and give you the option to switch the battery pack for an AA or AAA battery. This is a nice option for those who make long trail-running trips out in the wild. When you run out of charge, it’s simple to pop in the replacement.
Headlamp vs. Chest Lamp
Some runners prefer lamps that strap around their waist or chest. They have the benefit of being easier to carry. However, to move the light, you must move your whole torso.
With a headlamp, it’s easy and fast to change the direction of the light by turning your head. However, if you’re not careful, you can temporarily blind your running buddy.
You’ll also have a higher angle with a headlamp, so you see your surroundings in more detail, especially on trails and uneven surfaces. It’ll help you spot any potential hazards on your way.
We went through dozens of models in all styles and budgets to give you our opinion. These are the best headlamps for running out on the market today.
Black Diamond's Spot 325 is a mid-price headlamp with a variety of settings for brightness and distance. You can adjust the maximum output from 325 down to 160 or 6 lumens. It also has a strobe mode and a red-light mode, so you don’t affect your night adjusted vision.
You can tilt the angle about 45 degrees down, and beam distance is adjustable between 26 and 260 feet. This model is IPX8-waterproof, which means it can take up to 30 minutes of submersion in water down to 3.5 feet.
The lamp uses three AAA batteries, available in most stores. Battery life is four hours on the brightest setting, to 200 hours on the lowest. A medium brightness of 160 lumens for eight hours should be enough for most people.
Brightness memory is a nice feature of the Spot 325, you can turn it off and back on, and it automatically returns to the same setting. You won’t waste time changing settings when you switch on or accidentally blind the people around you.
This model weighs 3.5 ounces and is streamlined enough so you can adjust it tight on your head and not experience any bouncing.
- Waterproofed for submersion.
- Brightness memory.
- Adjustable angle and beam distance.
- Versatile settings.
- The buttons are not comfortable to push.
- Not rechargeable.
This lamp has a maximum output of 200 lumens and five basic settings. You get low, medium and high, as well as a super high boost mode and a strobe for extra safety.
An unusual feature on this lamp is its strobe light at the sides of the main lamp, with red, green and blue options. You can use them to see around outside without sacrificing your night adjusted vision or bothering others.
This model is rechargeable with a mini-USB charger, and the strap is reflective, giving you some additional safety if you’re running on the side of the road. It’s also IPX4 weather-resistant, so you can wear your headlamp when out on your runs even on rainy days.
The weight of the Nathan 5098 is only 1.28 ounces, so it will stay in place when you’re running. Overall, it’s a solid mid-priced option for runners and hikers.
- Lightweight and stays on.
- Reflective strap.
- Red-black and green sidelights.
- May have problems charging the battery.
Petzl is a beloved brand that creates some of the most durable, quality headlamps. This one offers a maximum output of 350 lumens and two beam patterns for versatility.
You can adjust the beam from wide down to a narrow spotlight, and change between three brightness settings. It also has a red light mode that can be steady or blinking, which comes in useful for emergency signaling. You can also pivot the lamp to lower the angle.
A handy feature of this lamp is its hybrid power source. You can swap the rechargeable battery pack for three AAA batteries when your charge runs out. If you take this headlamp on longer runs or camping trips, a supply of extra batteries can be a lifesaver.
The headband is wide and reflective for added security. The wideness is necessary since this lamp weighs 3.36 ounces and has a sturdy build. The button is also big, though, so it’s easy to operate.
This model is on the expensive side, but if you’re looking for a durable, quality product, it could be an option worth considering.
- Reflective headband.
- Sturdy, durable build.
- Hybrid battery.
- 350-lumen maximum output.
- Bulkier and heavier than other options.
The Bindi model from Petzi is an interesting, non-traditional, ultra-compact and light option. It weighs only 1.2 ounces and has a design that fits in the palm of your hand.
The lamp has three different output settings of 200, 100 or 5 lumens. It also includes three different beam modes for proximity and distance and a red light mode.
The Bindi is rechargeable via a micro USB charger port. It’s also IPX-4 waterproof, so that you can take it out with you on rainy days.
The product’s small size is also because of the reflective, round cord strap that occupies little space. It reduces sweating but can be uncomfortable for those used to a wide band. Thanks to its incredible lightness, however, it doesn’t bounce around when you walk.
You can wear this lamp comfortably around your neck if you’re hiking or working in the dark. It tilts so you can see what’s going on above you as well as below and ahead.
- Ultra lightweight.
- Versatile and compact.
- Tilts both up and down.
- Great brightness and beam distance.
- The straps can be uncomfortable.
The Black Diamond Sprinter has 200-lumen max output, a dimmer mode and strobe mode. Its wide, oval beam guarantees you’ll see your surroundings well, even if you’re running in the pitch dark.
This model also has a red tail light so you can see and be seen. You can turn it off when you don’t need it, but it’ll help you stay safe when running on dark roads. It’s rechargeable and IPX4 water-resistant for your rainy day training.
This lamp weighs five ounces, which is heavier than the other models we’ve reviewed. However, the back-light gives it some balance so it won’t be exceptionally weighty on your forehead or bounce around.
- Wide beam.
- Red security light in the back.
- Both lamps are dazzling.
- Long battery life.
- Adjustable angle.
- High price point.
This headlamp has a slim and powerful LED panel in the front that is not only sleek but also prevents bouncing. At 2.4 ounces, it’s lightweight and won’t slip, even during harder workouts.
The slim battery pack is at the back of your head, which helps balance the weight and doesn’t discomfort you on your runs.
Biolite 330 has an impressive 330-lumen maximum output. You can dim it to your liking by just pressing and holding the button. The lamp has a red light and a strobe mode, and you can adjust the beam from a narrow spot to a wide floodlight. It also has a 12-hour memory that remembers your last setting.
Adjusting the angle is easy to do with one hand. The battery is rechargeable and will last you about 3.5 hours on the high setting, and 40 on the dimmest one.
- Dazzling brightness.
- Flat and ultra thin.
- Balanced weight distribution.
- Brightness memory.
- The strap is comfortable, but may not be durable.
- Switching between modes is challenging at first.
Black Diamond Spot 325 is the best headlamp for running, and it has the most variable settings. You’ll be able to see around you even in the darkest woods with the dazzling 325 lumens of its highest output. You can also adjust it to a more moderate 160-lumen city mode.
With an IP rating of X8, it’s also waterproof for submersion. You can keep it with you in the toughest terrain or pouring rain, and it’ll keep guiding your step.
If you’re looking for a lower budget headlamp, check out the other options on this list. You’ll surely find the right one for your specific needs.