Pause the Garmin and Check Out these Low-Tech Runner Safety Ideas

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Unfortunately, this is a topic that we’re reminded of when tragedy happens. But runner safety should always be on our minds with every run we take. Before you step out the door, take a few precautions like these low-tech runner safety ideas and reminders with you. 



Affiliate links are included in this post.


Low-Tech Runner Safety Ideas

While pondering this issue I realized I don’t take too many precautions when I run. I’ve always felt pretty safe in my neighborhood and local parks.

But feeling safe and actually being safe are two different things.

What would help me stay safe on a run?

Pepper spray? Taser? How would I actually be able to protect myself in the case of an attack?


girl holding pepper spray


Over 20 years ago I took a self-defense course as part of my High School Senior Project. It was taught by a Navy Seal who really dumbed things down to the basics.

BTW- his teachings have STUCK. I am ready to kick ass on a moments notice, in case you were wondering.

“Hit fast, hit hard, make a lot of noise, and RUN.”


Be safe out there! Tips for runner safety. #runners #runchat #running #safety #safetytips #womenshealth


Be Prepared to Make a Scene if Attacked While Running

All that makes perfect sense. But let’s break this down a bit.

When we are placed in a situation where we fear for our lives, is fast and hard going to happen?

I fear I might freeze up.


hand with a runners watch with a turtle statue in the background


And as a slower runner already, maybe someone would catch up to me? Ok- they probably would.

But hey- that whole “make a lot of noise” part… that I know I can do.

I ran across this low-tech runner safety tip in one of my running groups.


Carry a Whistle While You Run

Shared by permission from Lindsay Filz in Racing The Dream:

Let’s face it girls (and guys, but mostly girls): we’re vulnerable as runners. We run long distances at odd hours with headphones in our ears.

There’s a reason that I had to stop watching “Criminal Minds” when I was training for MCM. It scared the ever-loving crap out of me when one week I saw an episode when runners were snatched off the street after stopping to give directions, and the very next a car flagged me down mid-run to ask for directions.


girl running in headphones

It would be best NOT to un in these types of headphones. Being aware of your surroundings is key!


But when the subject comes up, we always see “Run with a taser or pepper spray, whichever is legal” offered up as suggestions.

Now, I’m not knocking that as a suggestion. It’s a very good one if that’s what you’re comfortable with and you’re not an uber-klutz like me.

However, something that was said to me the very first week of college during a dorm meeting has stuck with me (and not entirely for the fact that it was said by the ROTC/Campus Cadet/totally hot RA that served my floor). He was talking about walking around campus at night, but I think it applies here.

“Pepper sprays might seem like a good idea [btw this was ’96, no one had personal tasers back then], but if your attacker gets hold of it, he can and will use it against you. You need something that he won’t be tempted to get away from you and use himself.”

Then he held up a whistle.


runner with a whistle in her mouth as a Low-tech runner safety idea


A whistle is not bulky nor cumbersome to carry in a pouch.

It’s legal in every state, it’s super-cheap to acquire, and its reach is loud and annoying as hell.

If you hear a whistle piercing the night, most people would investigate, thus attracting aid. Plus, the chances that the attacker would try to get it off you and use it against you are small.

There’s no attraction with a whistle…what are they going to do? Blow it and…attract witnesses?


BINGO. I thought Lindsay’s advice was not only brilliant but accessible and doable for just about every runner we know.

I bought this one a little while back at my local Ace Hardware. It’s a key keychain style- perfect for personal protection when you are out and about.

I found these on Amazon and you can pick one up with this affiliate link.



The perfect for a low-tech runner safety option!

Put one around my wrist and it will be easy access for me should I need it. And it’s super light and easy to palm so it’s not bouncing all over the place when I run.

Look, it’s cheap and comes in a pack- which means I can have my Oprah moment with my runner friends.



You get a whistle! You get a whistle! You get a whistle!

Think about it: this would be a perfect gift for your Best Runner Friends or local Moms Run This Town group.


Other Runner Safety Options: Panic Alarms

If you don’t think a whistle is enough, another option is a personal panic alarm. It’s not quite a low-tech runner safety idea, but it’s also not going to be used against you!

Just pull the pin and you have over an hour of non-stop ear-piercing sound. Because again, the key here is to make a lot of noise.

This would surely startle an attacker long enough for you to start running in the opposite direction!



This idea appeals to me because it seems even simpler than the whistle.

It wouldn’t be easy for an attacker to turn this off and it should wake the neighborhood!

Plus the Vigilante personal alarm comes with an LED light which is always a good idea at night or on the early morning runs.


runner tying shoes


How loud is it? 130 dD loud. 

Cool, but what does that mean, exactly? 

Here are some examples of more common noises and their decibel levels to give you an idea of where the Vigilante falls.

95 – 110 dB motorcycle
110 dB symphony concert
110 dB car horn
110 dB baby crying (yup; a baby is as loud as a car horn!)


Shhhh… don’t wake the baby! That’s 110 dB of crying right there!

110 -120 dB rock concert
112 dB CD player on high
117 dB football game (stadium)
130 dB jackhammer, power drill
130 dB Vigilant PPS8 Alarm
140 dB hearing damage occurs at sustained exposure
140 dB airplane taking off
150 dB firecracker
157 dB balloon pop


Tracking Apps for Runner Safety

I run with my phone for a variety of reasons.

Music – check!

Sunrise pics- check!




Check in with the family- check!

Why not download an app to help them keep track of you on the run? While this isn’t exactly low-tech runner safety, it’s pretty much a no-brainer on the runner safety scale if you run with a phone anyway.

A few runner safety apps to consider:

Companion, RoadID, Runkeeper, and Map My Run.


If Possible, Don’t Run Alone

The lowest of low-tech runner safety: run with a partner.

Or in a group.

Or with your dog.


run with a dog for runner safety


When it comes to making some noise, a dog can be a runner’s best friend!

Running with someone will drastically reduce the chance of being harassed or attacked because most bad guys don’t want witnesses.


Or dog bites. Ahem.

Stay safe out there!

Do you feel safe when you run? What are your best tips for low-tech runner safety?


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  • Fantastic post! I love the idea of using a whistle or the personal panic button! You can bet I’ll be getting at least one or both of these items. Thanks for sharing this Patty!

  • Laura says:

    Thanks for the information. This gives several easy to carry options. We all need to “run safe”!

  • patty says:

    Absolutely! Glad it helps Laura.

  • Kirsten says:

    When I run in the evenings I bring pepper spray with me.
    About 2 weeks ago a 75 year old man was found murdered on my running trail. Not a secluded trial mind you, but one along side a well traveled street. The man had left his home at 7am for his daily walk. This has freaked me out to say the very least. I think I might look into one of those personal alarms.

  • Amy Albers says:

    I always run on sidewalks or trails that are right next to a busy road when I run solo. I hate that we have to worry about this kind of stuff, but we need to accept it and prepare for it! Great idea with the whistle!

  • That whistle option is genius. So simple yet can be so effective. My husband bought me a mace but I admit that i’ve never taken it out of the case. Yes it has its own metal case. It’s about as large and bulky as a small hand gun. Doesn’t he know I have GU’s and other runner things to In any case the whistle seems like a much more manageable option!

  • Jen says:

    I feel reasonably safe when I run, although sometimes I do go into some areas where I’m kind of isolated. I may take your whistle idea. I like that.

  • Great safety idea! I never thought of running with a whistle before, but that is definitely something I will consider in the future. For me, either running with a group or even running with a dog makes me feel safer!

  • I do run with mace, but a whistle would be a nice addition for a first step before breaking out the mace. And I love the self defense tips too.

  • Connie says:

    I have that exact personal alarm to carry when running and it is crazy loud.

    • patty says:

      Is it easy to pull the pin out- like accidentally? Or does it stay in there pretty tight? Just curious- I’d hate to be setting it off on accident!

      • Connie says:

        The pin stays in securely on the alarm. No accidentally setting it off. I keep it in the side pocket of my running skirt. I got it after this crazy jackass purposely drove his truck super close to me and two girlfriends and screamed “get off the road” and called us “dickheads.” Then stopped the truck and got out like he was going to attack. I spazzed out and started screaming back and I think he didn’t expect it and he left. But it was really terrifying. Broad daylight. Group run with dozens of others (but no one immediately near by). The alarm would have been helpful.

  • I need to get my old whistle out….it was my dad’s coaching whistle I had it on my keychain for years. I lived in a condo where a lady was assualted in the parking garage only 30 minutes after I had parked my car to go in. I couldn’t park in that garage for MONTHS after that. I don’t want to be scared off the trails and appreciate the topic this week.

  • Betsy says:

    Great advice! Thanks for this article. I moly carry pepper spray on early morning runs which is rare and never when still dark. About two years ago on one of these runs, a truck driving towards me (I always run against traffic), started slowing down in a 25 zone, no one else on the street. I kept moving my pepper spray between my hands (bright pink) and stared him down. He sped up and drove by. Maybe I was being paranoid, but it freaked me out. Think I’ll be getting both of these.

  • Love the idea of the whistle. I always run in populated areas if I have to run alone, but that would make it even better – lots of people who’d pay attention.

  • Really great tips, especially the whistle – that’s something I think I would be comfortable actually using if needed. I bought pepper spray a while ago but it’s still in the original packaging!

  • Laurie says:

    This is a much-needed post. Great information. I have a friend who runs with a knife! I keep telling her that it is not safe and could be used against her by an attacker. I am going to show her this article and give her a whistle!

  • The best safety tip I have is to run with a group-safety in numbers

  • I feel very safe and secure where I run…but I live 20 miles from where Mollie lived. The reality is that we are never 100% safe, not even in small-town Iowa. That whistle is pure genius! I am always in town when I”m alone, but often times, my friend and I venture on the “edge of town” when there’s the two of us. None the less, the whistle would wake up anyone 😉

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Patty Holliday

If she isn’t chasing her four kids around Northern Virginia, Patty is chasing four bars on her phone to share her authentic and fun stories on social media and her blog, My No-Guilt Life. She’s also one half of the Marvel Moms, an online community for discussing the Marvel fandom. You can catch up on her runDisney fun at No-Guilt Disney.

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