Running at Night Feels Unsafe for Many Women. Will New Strava Safety Features Help?

Photo: Getty/ Youngoldman
When I lived in New York City, I regularly ran at night. I didn’t run my same daytime routes through Central Park or along the East River (I watched too many Law & Order: SVU episodes for that), but I knew that I could safely run up and down the major avenues and their cross streets: Streetlights illuminated the sidewalks at even intervals, people consistently moseyed in and out of restaurants and bars, and while I always stayed alert to my surroundings, I never felt anxious.

When I moved to Denver, though, my late evening runs came to a full stop; there just aren’t as many people downtown, the bike paths are rife with shadowy underpasses, and running through darker neighborhoods in near total isolation made me feel jumpy and unsafe.

Experts In This Article

The reality is most women are stressed to some extent while they run. Ninety-two percent of women reported feeling concerned for their safety on the run, according to a recent Adidas survey of 9,000 runners across nine countries. And when walking alone at night, women were significantly more likely to focus on areas where danger could lurk—including unlit areas, potential hiding spots and places where they might be trapped, often off to the side of their path—than men, a March 2024 study published in the journal Violence and Gender determined.

Women’s fears are not unwarranted: In February, 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley was killed while on a run at the University of Georgia’s campus. In January 2023, another woman was nearly kidnapped while out for a jog with her dog in East Memphis—just a mile from where Eliza Fletcher was abducted and killed during a run in 2022. Unfortunately, these headlines are all too common.

New Strava safety features

To combat the fear many runners have of working out solo when the sun isn’t up, Strava recently announced two new safety features. The first, Night Heatmaps, only shows activities recorded between sundown and sunrise, so athletes can get an idea of which roads, trails, and paths are well-trafficked after hours.

It’s part of the platform’s Global Heatmap, a map overlay (accessed via the bottom bar on the home screen) that aggregates public activities to highlight the most commonly used routes. This helps runners find new places to run and avoid isolated areas that may be unsafe; now, you’ll be able to toggle between night and day to see and select different routes in an area depending on when you're planning to run.

“I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had runs where I’m out late at night and in my mind I’m like ‘this was a really big mistake,’” says Molly Seidel, who won the bronze medal in the 2021 Olympic marathon and has been outspoken about privacy concerns on Strava. “Knowing where other people are running at night makes me think I’m safer and gives me peace of mind—it’s always going to be a much more enjoyable run if you’re not stressing the entire time.”

A tool like this puts more power in female runners’ hands, helping them to choose safer versus sketchier routes. “This is a feature I think is super important,” says Jacqueline De Berry, an RRCA-certified run coach based in Miami. “I was running at night through Los Angeles once and ended up in some scarier parts of the city. I definitely feel more unsafe in situations like that, especially in areas I’m less familiar with, and it would have been great to know which areas were more high-trafficked should a situation have arisen and I needed help.”

Strava also unveiled a new Quick Edit feature, which allows athletes more control over what information they share with the Strava community. Quick Edit makes it easier to make the most common edits, like hiding your start time, map, or other personal workout stats. Once you complete a run and open Strava on mobile, a pop-up screen will appear so you can easily edit those fields. Both features will be free to subscribers (who pay $11.99/month or $79.99/year), and will be released before the end of the year.

Why it matters

“Not only has Strava given runners a resource to have safer runs in the first place, they’ve instituted all these privacy protections to help people choose what they’re willing to share,” says Seidel, who has endured online and in-person safety concerns related to her activity on the app.

And it’s not just pro runners who need protection from overzealous fans. “I live on a public trail that I used to run on around 5:30 a.m. five times a week, but after a month I noticed this man who would walk his dog every morning at or around the same time I was running,” says Alejandra D., a runner based in Orlando. “He would stand at the end of this short tunnel, kind of like he was waiting for me, which gave me the creeps.”

The man started turning up at different parts of her route, even in her neighborhood; he eventually figured out which house was hers, and would stand across the street, just watching.

“Law enforcement was notified, but unfortunately couldn’t do much except make a report,” she says. “I bought a treadmill and ran mostly in my hot garage, and would run outside with a pocket knife but still didn’t feel safe. Now that it’s brighter earlier, I might start venturing out again in the mornings, but if I could see peak times or a more populated route, that would definitely bring me some more comfort.”

Unfortunately, the onus of staying safe on the run still seems to fall mostly on female runners’ shoulders; although Adidas’ survey found that while 62 percent of men recognize the issue, only 18 percent believe the responsibility lies mostly with men to help women feel safer when running.

An app certainly isn’t responsible for fixing that gap, but “it’s been really cool to see a company like Strava that has such a big presence in the running world respond to the concerns of their users,” says Seidel. “They’ve had this really proactive approach to women who have come forward saying ‘I don’t feel safe, we need these features’ and they seem to be hearing that and acting on it.”

Because women do want to run when and where it works best for them (and there are legit benefits of running at night!). And they do want to take part in the community building that takes place on social media apps like Strava, whether that’s by sharing their routes or photos from their run. But they can’t do that safely without tools that can provide better information and better protection—and a running community that supports those measures.

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  1. Chaney, Robert A., et al. “Gender-based heat map images of campus walking settings: A reflection of lived experience.” Violence and Gender, vol. 11, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2024, pp. 35–42,

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