The concept of high visibility running clothing may be blindingly obvious, but there is a lot of science and research that goes into producing products that will give maximum visibility in low light environments. Training shouldn’t have to stop just because the nights are drawing in and the temperature is getting lower.
The main focus of high visibility clothing is safety. By making yourself more visible to motorists and cyclists, the chances of accidents can be reduced. Regardless of the environment you are running in, high visibility is still of maximum importance. Running in rural areas often incorporates dark roads with tight bends and unlit tracks, but built up urban areas can be just as hazardous with low lit streets and shadowed pavements.
It is a combination of the fluorescent colour and reflectivity that increase visibility. Fluorescent garments work well in the day time as UV rays from the sun react with fluorescent colour, causing them to “glow”; this effect is stronger in poor light conditions such as fog or at dusk. While this makes fluorescent colours very effective in the day time, they do not glow in the dark, therefore additional materials such as reflective markers and LEDs are needed at night to identify you to drivers and other light sources.
The colour of the clothing you choose to wear whilst running can affect your visibility regardless of the time of day, weather or lighting conditions. Experiments with visually impaired participants show that contrast is the key; the colour you wear should stand out from the background, so you need a colour that is easily detectable in a crowded visual field and that is uncommon compared to other objects in the surroundings. The fluorescent colours of high-visibility yellow, orange and pink are fairly unnatural; therefore they are more likely to stand out in most environments. More light is reflected by bright colours which results in excessive stimulation of the eyes and raises awareness of your presence so that motorists and other people around can act appropriately. Greenish yellow and reddish orange sit in the middle of the colour spectrum and therefore actuate the most eye receptors making them distinct and easier to spot. Fluorescent pink however is very unnatural, particularly in rural settings, and is a favourable colour for women, making it equally as effective in heightening your presence when running.
Reflectivity on running garments allows cars and bikes to see you more easily by using the light they emit from their headlights; however certain reflective materials are better than others. Cheaper running garments will often feature “reflective tape” but it is often not as reflective as high quality materials such as Scotchlite™ tape; this retro-reflective material consists of millions of small glass spheres, or micro-prisms which reflect the incident light and focus it back towards the original light source. The obvious safety advantage is that the person in the light can be seen better and sooner thanks to this effect. Scotchlite™ uses 2 technologies: glass beads and micro prisms. The glass beads allow light to reflect effectively in all directions due to their spherical nature, while the micro prisms formed on a polymeric film create a bright reflective appearance on garments and accessories. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for with reflectivity on running gear, and you will find investing more in a running garment often means that more Scotchlite™ has been used in the design to give a higher degree of reflectivity. Ideally you should wear products with 360 degrees of reflectivity so that you can be seen from every angle. All the products in the high viz ranges that we stock from Adidas, Ronhill and Saucony use Scotchlite as standard as we believe it is the best for reflectivity.
A good way to test the reflectivity of a garment is to take a picture of it using a camera or phone with a flash.
As mentioned previously, fluorescent colours and retro-reflective markers respond to other light sources, they do not produce light themselves; therefore LEDs are a great way to become more obvious, particularly to other pedestrians. Some jackets such as the Ronhill Photon jacket and the Saucony Vizi Pro jacket have built in LEDs that you can choose to be flashing or static, and a number of the other Ronhill products offer a velcro patch that their compatible LED can be attached easily on to. There are also a range of accessories available such as head torches, clip on LEDs, snapbands and hats with built in LEDs.
We have a full range of high-viz clothing and accessories available in store and online including tops, midlayers, jackets, tights and shorts. Almost every study conducted has concluded that both fluorescent and retro-reflective garments drastically improve conspicuousness so be safe and be seen.