What you Need from a Running Head Torch

What you Need from a Running Head Torch

What you Need from a Running Head Torch

Written By: SportsShoes

A reliable head torch is an essential piece of kit during the winter months, whether we’re running on night trails or urban backstreets. Its purpose is twofold: to help us both see and be seen. Here’s what to consider when choosing the right one.


Two key factors to consider here are light output (how bright your head torch is) and distance (the long distance range of the light beam).

The key feature of your head torch - how bright it is - is measured in lumens, which is the maximum amount of light the human eye can detect. For running, a head torch can have a count of around 100 to a super bright 500 lumens – the higher the count, the brighter the lamp.

Most headtorches now use LEDS which are light and durable and these can be single or multiple. Multiple LEDS tend to give a wider beam of light and more peripheral visibility, but a single LED can be brighter.


Consider where you’ll be running and how you’ll need your head torch to function. Are you running dark, unlit trails? If so, you’ll need a high lumen count of between 300 to 500 lumens and a long range beam that helps you to see both obstacles and hazards immediately in front and ahead.

If you’re running on partially lit roads, you can consider a lower lumen count and it’s not so important to have a long range beam – but bear in mind that for better visibility to other road users, a stronger beam can help cut through other light sources to help you be seen more easily. A red tail light is also useful for added safety on the road.


A good head torch will have a number of different settings to allow you to change the beam functionality and pattern according to the conditions, both to provide the most effective light source and to help conserve battery life.

These might range from maximum brightness, to a dim setting or a flashing light which is more visible to other road users. A red light setting is a mandatory requirement in some ultra races, delivering a less intrusive lighting source when running during the late night and early hours of the morning.

Some of the more technical head torches utilise intelligent or “reactive” light technology that allows the head torch to automatically adapt to the surrounding conditions, making them perfect for distraction-free training and racing without having to fiddle with the settings.


Most LEDS are battery powered, and many are now rechargeable. The longer the battery life the better, but this can also be a trade-off between weight and brightness. Consider how long you’re going to be running for and realistically how long you’ll need the battery to last.

Some head torches are now rechargeable by USB which is convenient for charging at home or at the office; but less so for multi-day ultras where there is no access to a power source. In this instance it makes more sense to carry a spare back of batteries – again consider how and where you’ll be using your head torch and the best way of keeping it powered up.

A key safety functionality here is a battery indicator, which will let you know how much battery life is left before you head out on your run – the last thing you’ll want is to be left on a dark trail with no light source. Some head torches also feature a reserve mode which automatically switches to a dimmer setting to conserve battery life when running low to help ensure you get home safely.


It goes without saying that your headtorch should be anti-slip and fit securely with minimal bounce. A wider headband works best here, and this should be adjustable so that you can customise and wear it both with and without a hat.

It should also be as lightweight as possible – balance this against the technical features you need for safety – around 150g is a reasonable weight for running.


Consider ease of use, and that you’ll need to be able to easily adjust the settings while on the run. Look for larger buttons that are easy to find with and without gloves.

Also check the waterproof rating. Most head torches are shower proof as a minimum but if you’re expecting to be caught in a downpour or you’re going to be particularly exposed to the elements, opt for a model that is fully waterproof. Some models are given an IP rating from 0-9 which denotes how waterproof and dust proof a particular model is – with 9 being fully sealed and water tight.

Check out our range of head torches here.

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