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6 Best and Brightest Headlamps for Running

As a runner, it’s important that you’re prepared for every situation – early mornings, evenings, dark streets, and shaded trails. Having a dependable headlamp that can light your path when you need it is invaluable. It’s a huge safety issue. We’re diving into everything you need to know to pick the right headlamp for your running routine. How bright should it be? What does the red light setting even do? Which one stands up to rough and tumble trails? We’re about to find out!

SLONIK 1000 Lumen Rechargeable 2x CREE LED Headlamp

COAST FL75R Rechargeable 530 Lumen Dual Color Focusing LED Headlamp

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

hurkins Orbit, 180˚ Wide Angle 1000 Lumens Rechargeable Waterproof LED Headlamp

ThruNite TH30 Super Bright 3350 lumens Rechargeable LED Headlamp

There are very key reasons why all of these running headlamps made the list of the best and brightest headlamps for runners. Before we dive into each headlamp specifically, let’s talk about some headlamp basics you should know. Knowing these basics about lumens and brightness will then make it easier to understand the pros and cons of each headlamp on the list.

How many lumens do I need for a running headlamp?

Lumens are a universal measurement of light. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. You might be wondering why we’re talking about lumens and not watts. Well, there’s actually a really important difference between the two.

Lumens measures the amount of light output, while watts measures the amount of energy consumption.

Watts is what we’re most used to seeing on light bulb packages, which is why it’s a more common term than lumens (source).

Back in the day, watts and lumens were somewhat related. A light bulb’s wattage could give you a good idea of how much energy it was consuming and, therefore, how bright it would be. But, light bulbs have gotten MUCH more energy efficient over the years. With the invention of LED light bulbs and energy efficient light bulbs, less energy is required to produce big and bright lights. So, wattage is no longer a great indicator of how bright a light bulb will be. 

That’s why we want to turn our attention towards lumens. They’re a direct measurement of a light bulb’s output of light.

As we go through this list of running headlamps, we’re going to be talking about lumens. The higher, the brighter. This begs the question, is there a minimum amount of lumens we’re looking for in a running headlamp?

To answer this question, we need to understand how much light we actually need when we’re running. You may think you need a lot, but you actually don’t. When lighting a room, the suggestion is to have about 1,000 lumens for every 100 square feet (source). This is total illumination of the space. 

When we’re running, we only need to illuminate our direct paths, which are rarely as big as 100 square feet. So, in reality, we don’t need a ton of lumens in order to see clearly when we’re running. That said, many of the headlamps on this list clock in above that 1,000 lumen mark, which means they are VERY bright.

On the other hand, there are some great choices that are only at the 300 lumens mark. You don’t NEED a ton of lumens for running, but keep the lumens in mind if you’re hoping for a very bright headlamp.

How heavy are headlamps?

Having something attached to your head while you’re running is no small thing. There’s little benefit to a great light if it’s weighing your head down and distracting you as you run. You want to get the lightest headlamp for running that you possibly can. Luckily, a lot of headlamp brands know this very well. 

All of the headlamps on this list weigh less than half a pound.

At less than half a pound, weight is basically a non-issue. In addition, most headlamps are so similar as far as weight is concerned that choosing a headlamp based on this aspect alone is fruitless. Don’t stray into non-running headlamps that tend to be bulkier. If you pick a headlamp that’s designed for sports, it will be lightweight.

Are headlamps water resistant?

Yes. Well, any decent headlamp worth buying should be water resistant, if not waterproof. Headlamps are exposed to all of the elements and you don’t want to spend time studying a weather forecast before going out for a run in the off chance you’ll get caught in the rain. Buy a good quality headlamp that you won’t have to worry about ruining with a little rain. All of the headlamps on this list will withstand rain.

Electronics come with waterproof ratings, which range from 0 to 8. 0 is the least waterproof and 8 is the most waterproof. 

You’ll see them listed with an “IP” in front of it. This “IP” stands for ingress protection, which is basically the level of protection that an electronic has against outside elements. 

You’ll also see an “X.” Sometimes this is a number, but with headlamps, you’ll mostly see an “X.” This “X” means that the device has not been tested for dust resistance, which isn’t a big deal in this case. If the device HAS been tested for dust resistance, you would see a number there instead. There are two headlamps on this list that HAS been tested for dust, so you’ll see 2 numbers after the “IP” (source).

So, when you look at waterproof ratings, you’ll see “IPX” and then a number. It’s the number you want to pay attention to. These numbers are determined by the amount of water, depth of water, and duration of water that a device can withstand. It’s complicated and a bit TMI for this article. Here’s what you need to know:

The higher the IPX rating the better and anything over IPX4 will protect you well from rain.

All of the headlamps on this list will serve you well in the rain, but keep these ratings in mind as you work through the list.

How long will a headlamp battery last?

There’s no point in having a headlamp if it dies in the middle of your run and leaves you stranded in the dark. Of course, no electronic device can last forever, so it’s important to know how much juice your headlamp has left before going out on a run. That said, all of the headlamps on this list will last you a relatively long time.

Before we dive into the specific headlamps, let’s talk about one more common question that tends to come up around this topic.

What is the red light on a headlamp for?

Red light is easier for our eyes to adjust to than regular, white light. In fact, when exposed to red light, your pupils don’t shrink as they do with white light. This means that red light can help with night vision because your eyes are able to stay adjusted to the dark. 

Running with only red light can be a safety issue though. Depending on how dark it is, your red light might not be able to shine bright enough for you to see the path in front of you. Red light can be a great way to slowly transition to the white light though. When you go outside, do your stretches with the red light before you turn on your white light so that your eyes aren’t shocked by a sudden burst of white light. 

Aside from helping with night vision, keeping your red light on can be a good safety precaution. When you’re running in the dark, safety is a huge issue. With additional red light, you’ll be more visible to passing cars. That’s a great perk!

Alright, now that we’re up to date on the important factors we need to think about for running headlamps, let’s talk about my top suggestions.

SLONIK 1000 Lumen Rechargeable 2x CREE LED Headlamp

This is a powerhouse of a headlamp! As you’ll see running down this list, each headlamp has a strength, but they don’t knock it out of the park in every single category. Well, the Slonik does. 1,000 lumens with a 600 feet beam distance and a waterproof rating of IPX8. 

The only sacrifice you’ll be making here is the battery life and not having a red light setting. Depending on your needs, this might be too big of a sacrifice. If so, there are others on this list that can last over 160 hours. This Slonik is what you should choose if your first priority is POWER. If charging your devices more frequently isn’t a big deal for you, this is an awesome choice.

COAST FL75R Rechargeable 530 Lumen Dual Color Focusing LED Headlamp

I really like the Coast as a middle of the road champion that does a REALLY good job in most areas. It may not have the power of the Slonik, but it is pretty powerful in relation to the majority of its competitors. 530 lumens and 511 feet beam distance is nothing to sniff at. Another great perk is that you can adjust the beam between a bulls-eye focus and a wide flood setting.

This is a great choice for long distance runners who need the bright light, but also need a long charge time. 23 hour charge time isn’t as long as others on this list, but it is enough to get you through a few runs without needing to recharge.

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

160 hours of battery life?! Yep, Petzl is the choice for you if you don’t want to worry about battery life for a LONG time. But, this long battery life doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice brightness. 350 lumens may not be the 1,000 lumens that the Slonik can produce, but 350 lumens is more than enough to light up your path as you’re running. 

This is a great, set it and forget it choice that will be a great stress-free addition to your running toolkit. Between your watch and headphones, there are enough devices to keep charged. Don’t worry about your headlamp too. This Petzl will last you a LONG time on 1 charge.

Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

This Black Diamond Storm headlamp is fairly comparable to the Petzl, but with a bit more beam distance and water resistance. One key difference is that the Black Diamond Storm not only has a red light setting, but green, blue, and strobe settings as well. If you like the long battery life of the Petzl, but want more flexibility with your color choices and a bit more beam distance, this Black Diamond Storm is a GREAT choice.

hurkins Orbit, 180˚ Wide Angle 1000 Lumens Rechargeable Waterproof LED Headlamp

This one is unique, which makes it a unique addition to this list. It doesn’t have a huge beam distance, but that’s due to the design. As you can see, the light runs along the length of the headband, which means that its beam is about width, not depth. 

Even though it only illuminates up to 98 feet, it emits a powerful 1,000 lumens. That’s really bright. This is a great choice for runners if you want a wider range of light than a headlamp with a narrow beam would give you. This is great for increasing your peripheral vision and for increasing your safety on the roads. It’s also aesthetically appealing and will turn some heads. 

Another neat feature of this headlamp is that it comes with an extender in case you want to wear it around your waist instead of your head!

ThruNite TH30 Super Bright 3350 lumens Rechargeable LED Headlamp

3350 lumens? Why is this the last choice on the list?! Well, it can only maintain 3350 lumens for 1.5 minutes. That’s not going to help you on a run. More realistically, the ThruNite can maintain 352 lumens for 5 hours. Comparing to the Black Diamond and the Coast, that’s not a lot of battery life given the output of lumens. 

That said, the ThruNite has a lot of great qualities that make it worthy of this list of great headlamps. I LOVE all of the different brightness options. At the highest setting, this headlamp will run for 1.5 minutes at 3350 lumens. At the lowest setting, it will run for 32 days at .5 lumens. This means that you have a lot of control to reduce your lumens in order to preserve power. The ThruNite also has the highest waterproof setting, which makes it a great choice for more adventurous trail runs. This is a great, high quality headlamp that gives you a lot of options as you run with it.

It might seem like there are a lot of factors to consider when buying a headlamp, but you don’t have to worry about most of them. Any of the headlamps on this list will serve you VERY well in your running routine. If you were to pick blindly between the 6 of these, you wouldn’t go wrong. That said, if you know what your first priority is, like battery life or light power, you can more easily choose a headlamp that shows strength in that area. Overall, having a great headlamp is vital to your health and safety as a runner and any of the 6 headlamps on this list are up to the challenge.