Best Headlamp for Running | 4 Styles Covered

There are many kinds of runners – and they have different running habits. The best headlamp for running is different depending on speed and time / distance. We’ll list the best headlamp for each running type below.

Table of Contents

[Page Updated on 1 June 2022]

Best Headlamp for Running – Based on Type of Run

Running Slow for Short Distances (Under 1 Hour)

There are probably a couple of dozen lights we could list here. The big issue is the beam strength and shape. Color of light too – you don’t want it too orange (warm) like many of the new headlamps have.

Petzl Nao 2 575 Lumens

Petzl Nao 2 headlamp with 575 lumens and Reactive Lighting Technology. This headlamp is for any activity.
Petzl Nao+ (older)

The price is dropping because the new NAO+ PLUS units came out to replace this NAO 2. The NAO 2 has 575 lumens of very bright beam, and it has Reactive Lighting Technology (RLT) – which is great for runners for 2 reasons:

  1. The NAO 2’s RLT saves batteries by adjusting the beam strength on the fly – depending on where you’re looking. So, if you’re looking far ahead – the light becomes very bright. If you’re looking closer to your feet, or just a couple of meters out in front of you, the light adjusts to the perfect output.
  2. RLT changes the beam for you instantly, so you don’t need to adjust it. This is very helpful when running.

Petzl ACTIK CORE 350 Lumens

Petzl Actik Core black and red headlamps.
New 2018 Headlamps from Petzl – a big surprise. This headlamp is probably the one for you – just based on price-point and all the different activities it is good for. Have a look at our comprehensive ACTIK CORE Review below.

This is a new headlamp for 2018. Featuring a 350 lumens combination beam, the beam shape and brightness is perfect for running, hiking, camping, fishing, and all other slow activities.

  1. Super-lightweight. 82-90 grams depending on which battery you use. The batteries and CREE lamps are in the front of the unit, and it isn’t unbalanced because it’s so lightweight. Perfect for runs under 2 hours at max power.
  2. The reflective band catches the light. Safety whistle inside the headlamp strap.

Our Full Review of the Actik Core Here >

Running Slow for Long Distances (1+ Hours)

Petzl Nao 2 – 575 Lumens

Assuming you can use the Petzl NAO 2 on RLT mode – and save batteries, you may be able to get by with just one battery. However, if not you’ll need to use the headlamp on manual mode and either high or low beam. The high beam will give you about 90 minutes at 430 lumens. The low beam will give you around 8 hours at 120 lumens.

We’re starting to encourage buyers to choose the Nao+ (below) because batteries for the Nao2 are becoming more difficult to find.

Petzl Nao+ Plus – 750 Lumens

Petzl Nao+ Plus headlamp with 750 max lumens and Reactive Lighting Technology - new for 2017.
One of our favorite headlamps for nearly anything. This Petzl Nao+ is programmable through a mobile app to deliver the highest possible lumens throughout a time range. This is a very useful technology.

This one is the upgrade to the NAO 2. It gives 530 lumens on high power manual mode for 90 minutes and 120 lumens on low mode for 8 hours. Or, program it to last as long as your activity. Very similar to the previous Nao headlamp, but there are some other bonuses with this newer light that might sway you.

  1. The reverse side of the battery pack has a flashing – strobing red light (very bright) which helps cars and other people see you from behind. This simple addition can save your life.
  2. The Petzl NAO+ PLUS has a mobile app so you can custom program your NAO+ to run for as long as you want at any lumen rating. SO, if you know you want to do a long run of 4 hours, you might customize a profile that gives you the max output possible over the course of 4 hours. That way you get the brightest light possible all the time.

You might want to check out THIS PAGE – to see what Ultra Runners wear on their heads as they often run straight through the night. Many of them are wearing the two headlamps mentioned above. These are the top ultra runners in the world – so, they get the best equipment. You should have the best too when it might save you from making a wrong turn, or save you from a fall.

Running Fast for Short Distances (Under 1 hour)

Petzl MYO 300 Lumens

Petzl MYO with 370 lumens is an ultra-light headlamp for running.
This is about the 3rd iteration of the Petzl MYO and it has a lot of fans. Ryan Sandes used this headlamp to run across Nepal, setting a fastest known time recently.

Super light and durable, the Myo headlamp can do the job for you if you’re running on the street. I think it’s still less light than I would prefer, but if you want light – this Petzl is as light as you want to go. We have one on order – will give it a full review momentarily.

Petzl NAO+ PLUS 750 Lumens

Though it is a bit heavy for running fast, when you are running quickly – you’ll want to have some amazing light on the trail or road ahead. The Nao+ gives a really strong light – a combination of flood and fill – that cannot be beaten.

Running Fast for Long Distances (Over 1 Hour)

The NAO + and the Olights we have reviewed on this site do well for fast running over one hour in duration. The Petzl ULTRA RUSH is one of the brightest headlamp units we have but is just too heavy for running fast unless you’re using the clip-on belt battery, then it’s fine.