Running Safety Shines Bright
Brands Get Sophisticated in Designing for Running Reflectivity.
November is National Running Safety Month. As days get darker, retailers, brands and the Running Industry Association remind consumers to keep safety in mind. This year’s tagline is “Run Smart. Run Bright.” Being visible means more than donning a bright neon yellow hat or sporting giant bars of reflective tape – brands are getting super-sophisticated and high-tech about safety, while still remaining fashion-forward, relevant and on-brand.
Apparel & Footwear
Adding on to the success of Lite Show, Asics launches Lite Show 2.0 for the season, which is an update to the reflective graphic print featured on pieces in the collection. Reflectivity is strategically placed on parts of the body that help the human eye recognize and identify the reflection sooner. When in action, it makes the appearance of a “stick figure” in motion – so oncoming drivers recognize you running. The reflective technology is derived from the Institute of Sports Science.
“Reflectivity — how brightly something shines — depends on the intensity of the light striking it and the materials it’s made from. Ours are made with 3M reflective technology and literally shines after dark,” says Siobhan Duffy, manager of product merchandising for apparel and accessories at Asics. Lite Show pieces offer both 300 candle power retroflectivity (when light hits a reflective surface, 300 candelas of light go back to its source) and 360-degree reflectivity. Lite Show shoes are designed in wild bright hues and have a special treatment of reflective material that give off a “flash” when light hits. “Reflective is no longer a special feature, it’s an expectation!” adds Asics footwear merchandising manager, Paul Lang.
With shorter days, “runners often find themselves beginning, ending, or spending their whole run in dusk or dark conditions. Some runners want to be seen no matter what, others want a more stealth look and rely solely on well-placed reflective to do the job,” explains Sarah Clark, senior merchandising manager for Saucony apparel. The Fall 2019 launch of Reversi-Run includes options where the runner chooses to stay subtle or stand out. Each jacket, vest and tight can be worn as solid black or reversed to a high visibility color (each side has reflective logos and trims rated at a minimum 300 candlepower). The jacket and vest feature a wind and water resistant polyester main body fabric with DWR and are insulated with Primaloft Eco Black. Clarks notes that consumers are no longer segmenting their closets between everyday wear and specific night/glow wear (thanks to smaller prints, hidden reflective hits and colored reflective trims), so “if a great jacket performs well and looks awesome during a run, they’re going to want to wear it all the time.”
Brooks has always put an emphasis on helping runners be seen in low light/no light environments and “our Nightlife category continues to grow in importance each year,” comments Mike Orton, apparel product line manager for apparel at Brooks Running. After a trip to the 3M headquarters Test Track to work with their vision scientists, the design team put a focus on 360-degree retroreflectivity and a neon Nightlife fluorescent color this season. The women’s Nightlife jacket, tight and short feature an eye-catching reflective print, while men’s has a high color contrast print. Nightlife socks are crafted with all-around reflective yarn. There are also weather resistant reflective gloves and a reflective hat.
Accessories & Gear
At Amphipod, “the run-visibility accessory category has become a significant and continuously growing segment of our line,” says CEO June Angus. The brand’s visibility-enhancing accessories are designed and engineered to be highly size-adjustable (or sized in order to fit well), be lightweight, comfortable, unencumbering and incorporate key retro-reflective and/or LED features. Amphipod re-chargeable lights, vests and flashing waist packs which have become extremely popular within the specialty run store channel, the exec adds. New for the season, the Xinglet Optic Beam Vest is USB rechargeable with front and rear reflective zones, quick zip-on design and bright green 360° illumination. A minimalist reflective Xinglet Vest has expandable storage pockets to fit plus-sized phones and Flashing Strobe Clip-on LED’s, while the Versa-Light series of high powered USB re-chargeable lights and headlamps range in power levels and light options: flashing and solid beams.
Mike McQueeney, President of Headsweats, has “noticed an increase in demand for reflective products as people become more concerned with safety, as well as a change in the colors that resonate as safety-specific.” Moving over the years from white to yellow; now it’s neon green, pink, orange and coral that resonate as high visibility hues. The brand’s Thermal Headband features a reflective Headsweats logo. A Thermal Headband comes in Hi Viz Neon Orange and Hi Viz Yellow.
Buff has incorporated reflectivity into designs so “during daylight hours, it’s just part of the product, while at night, the runner is much more visible,” according to Casey Rolig, Buff’s media marketing manager. Original and CoolNet UV+ Multifunctional Headwear each have collections of 360-degree reflectivity, as well as the DryFlx collection of hats, neckwear and headbands for urban winter running.
Nathan’s Hypernight collection of running accessories — gloves, hats, beanies and headbands — features reflective details to keep runners both warm and visible on those winter runs. As the days get shorter and temps get colder, Nathan is emphasizing the message of “See and Be Seen.”
Safe & Sound
Music can help get the adrenaline pumping during a run, but it can also be a distraction, and in some cases, even a danger. “Whether it is traffic or someone approaching you from behind, or even wildlife on a trail, having earbuds in and being totally unaware of your surroundings is not ideal,” says Jayme Schwartz, VP of marketing and communications at AfterShokz.
Since launching in 2012, AfterShokz has made strong inroads in the running community with its unique bone conduction technology headphones. The technology allows the user to hear what is happening around them. AfterShokz aims to deliver safety without compromise with its headphones. “We want to offer an awesome listening experience, but with safety in mind,” says Schwartz.
The bone conduction technology transmits the audio by sending vibrations and bypasses the eardrums. Bone conduction technology delivers music through the cheekbones, ensuring ears remain completely open to hear ambient sounds. Instead of being in your ear, they go behind the ear.
The price ranges from $79.95 for the brand’s Titanium wireless, first released in 2015, to $119.95 for the Air, released in 2017, to $159.95 for the new Aeropex, just released in July.
Independent running stores, of which the brand is in about 600 doors, are a key partner for AfterShokz. The brand is also a partner with the Running Industry Association of National Running Safety Month.
While the brand’s technology has been around for several years now, consumers still need to test it out and learn about it before taking the leap. “That’s the reason why we do so many events and have a point of purchase display at every retailer that carries the product,” says Schwartz. “People do need to test it out to understand it.”
While runners are the primary demographic, AfterShokz also sees office workers and factory workers buying the product, allowing them to listen to music or take calls while also being able to hear what’s going on around them.
Specialty retailers have gravitated toward carrying the product in part because of a program that helps them get the product in store with no risk, according to Schwartz. “We will give retailers four pairs of headphones and a POP display and they do not have to pay us anything until they sell the product,” she explains. “If they don’t sell the product within 60 days, they can send it back at no cost. That’s how we really got our foot in the door with so many independents. It starts selling well for them and they start reordering.”— Cara Griffin