Best headlamps for running, trail running and cross running

Best headlamps for running, trail running and cross running

Se Jesper Petersen's profil
 By Jesper Petersen


Soon it will be dark when you are heading out for work or school, and get dark again when you return home. Therefore, a good headlamp is a must if you want to maintain the same training load during the winter months.


A good headlamp allows you to spot the challenges of the surface but also heightens the degree of visibility to other road users, so you can safely be on the road once it gets dark.

In this article, I will help you to find the best headlamp to fulfil your needs and demands.


Which headlamp should I go for?

And how do you pick the best headlamp? Well, first and foremost, it is all about ascertaining your needs and then picking the one headlamp that matches that … 

The amount of light the headlamp emits is the first criteria to look out for. If it does not emit enough light to meet your needs, then the weight and the battery life become redundant.

The amount of light to be emitted is measured in the unit ”Lumen”. The greater the Lumen, the more powerful the light is. In the table below, you can see our recommendations for how powerful the light needs to be in various circumstances.


Recommended brightness for various types of run

Running in the city - Up to 100 Lumen

Running in the countryside - 100 - 300 Lumen

Running on forest paths - 200 - 600 Lumen

Trail running, cross running, orienteering and running off-road - Over 500 Lumen


The more powerful your light is, the more power it requires. As a result, the most powerful headlamps have a heavier battery, which make them more troublesome to run with and are, naturally, more expensive. Therefore, there is no need to automatically go for the most powerful headlamp if you do not need all that power.

It is all about finding the headlamp with the best balance between brightness, weight, and price that, at the same time, also meet your needs.


This article comprises the following sections. You can click on each of the headlines to read the particular section.

- Headlamps for running in the city

- Headlamps for running in the countryside

- Headlamps for running on forest paths

- Headlamps for trail running, cross running, orienteering



Headlamps for running in the city

When you are running in the city, the streetlights help you to see where you put your feet. A headlamp can, however, help you to become more visible to other road users and help you when the streetlights are not providing enough light. To meet these demands, you can usually do with the smallest headlamps of up to 100 Lumen. They are typically lighter, have a long battery life, and they are cheaper.

Below are our favourite headlamps for running in the city:


Led Lenser NEO

led lenser neo pandelampe

Max. brightness: 90 Lumen
Range: 10 metres
Battery life: 40 hours (at 20 Lumen), 10 hours (at 90 Lumen)
Battery type: 3 x AAA 1.5V
Weight incl. battery: 89 grams

Buy Led Lenser NEO here

The Led Lenser NEO is a super lightweight and compact headlamp perfect for running. It is very comfortable to run with, as it is the lightest on the market, and it has a great fit, as it does not bounce up and down. The headlamp has an oval shape, which means it emits an extra-wide beam of 190-degrees. This provides you with an incredible field of view and allows you to be seen from all sides and angles. As an extra security measure, it has a red light at the back. The Led Lenser Neo is an affordable headlamp in great quality if you are mainly running in the city. See more details about the Led Lenser Neo here:



Petzl Tikka+

petzl tikka+ pandelampe

Max. brightness: 110 Lumen (constant lighting), 160 Lumen (Boost mode)
Range: 50 metres
Battery life:  2 hours (at 110 Lumen), 8 hours (at 40 Lumen), 100 hours (at 5 Lumen)
Battery type: 3 x AAA 1.5V
Weight incl. battery: 85 grams

Buy Petzl Tikka here

The Petzl Tikka+ is a solid and safe pick if you need a high-performing headlamp that is lightweight and affordable. It emits plenty of light for your runs in the dark hours. The headlamp has a so-called Constant Lighting technology that ensures the brightness is kept at a constantly high level and does not lose power even though the battery power becomes less. The headlamp is incredibly easy to use (even with gloves on), as there is simply one big button at the top of the lamp, which is used for both turning on, turning off, and changing between the different power modes. In addition to the powerful white light, the Tikka+ also emits a red light to heighten the visibility. The Petzl Tikka+ is indeed great value for money.




Headlamps for running in the countryside

If you are often running in areas of few or no streetlights, you need a more powerful headlamp. At the same time, it would be a good idea to pick a model that also has a red light at the back to make you visible to other road users. If you are running in areas of no streetlights and the surface is firm and predictable (like pathways, cycle paths, or the country road) we recommend headlamps with a brightness of 100-300 Lumen.

Below, you will find our favourite headlamp for running in the countryside:


Led Lenser Neo 4

led lenser neo 4

Max. brightness: 240 Lumen
Range: 30 metres
Battery life: 40 hours (at 20 Lumen), 6 hours (at 240 Lumen)
Battery type: 3 x AAA 1.5V
Weight incl. battery: 100 grams

Buy Led Lenser NEO 4 here

With the Led Lenser Neo 4 you get the right balance between weight, brightness, and battery life. The Led Lenser Neo 4 will meet the needs of the majority of runners that need lighting in the dark months. Whether you are running in the city or outside the reach of the streetlights, the Neo 4 will give you a sufficient field of view and safety. The headlamp has a red, flashing backlight, and the headlamp has reflectors to give you 360-degree visibility. The headlamp is also adjustable, so you can easily change the direction of the light to meet your needs. See more details about the Led Lenser Neo 4 here:


If you are looking for a headlamp with rechargeable batteries, the Led Lenser Neo 6R would be a good pick. It has the same specifications as the Neo 4, but it is rechargeable. Further, a chest strap is included so the lamp can be attached to the chest instead of the head.


See more headlamps here



Headlamps for running on forest paths

If you are running on already-treaded (or familiar) pathways in the forest in the darkest months of the year, you will need even more lighting, compared to running in the cities or the countryside. This is mainly because the terrain and surface are more uneven and unpredictable. There may be holes in the road or branches across the pathway, which you will need to steer clear off. Therefore, you need lighting to allow you to orient yourself further ahead, which requires a more powerful headlamp. For running on forest paths, we recommend a headlamp with, at least, 200 Lumen, but more if you are running fast.

Below, you will see our favourite headlamp for running on forest paths:


Led Lenser MH5

led lenser mh5

Max. brightness: 400 Lumen
Range: 180 metres
Battery life: 35 hours (at 20 Lumen), 4 hours (at 400 Lumen)
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion / Conventional AA.
Weight incl. battery: 92 grams

Buy Led Lenser MH5 here

The Led Lenser MH5 is a very powerful headlamp with an impressive 400 Lumen to take on almost any challenge. The MH5 will deliver enough lighting to light up even the darkest forest. With the advanced focus system, the MH5 can illuminate the pathway up to 180 metres ahead of you, delivering a wide and focused beam of light. The MH5 is a very versatile light that can be used as both a headlamp or attached to a shirt, a belt, or a bag with the smart metal clip on the head of the lamp.


See more headlamps here



Headlamps for trail running, cross running, orienteering, and off-road running

When you are running through challenging terrain, you often need to make decisions as to the direction and the strike of your foot in just a split second. Therefore, good light is crucial when you are doing trail running, cross running, or orienteering in the darkest months of the year. Generally, the faster you run, the more powerful a headlamp you need. We do recommend, however, that you pick a headlamp with a MINIMUM of 500 Lumen if you are going out on an adventure and find yourself off-road.

Below, you will find our favourite headlamp for trail running and running in challenging terrain:


Led Lenser NEO 10R

led lenser neo 10R pandelampe

Max. brightness: 600 Lumen
Range: 150 metres
Battery life: 120 hours (at 10 Lumen), 15 hours (at 250 Lumen), 10 hours (at 600 Lumen)
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Weight incl. battery: 180 grams

Buy Led Lenser NEO 10R here

The Led Lenser NEO 10R has everything you will need as a trail runner! With its powerful 600 Lumen and great focus system, the headlamp lights up the pathways, the roads, or the forest 150 metres ahead of you, so you have plenty of time to orient yourself. The headlamp can keep power for an impressive 10 hours at 600 Lumen! The Neo 10R has an ergonomic and sporty fit, which ensures it stays in place. The battery box can also be detached and put in e.g. a backpack or running belt if you want even more comfort on your run. See more details about the Led Lenser Neo 10R here:




Show consideration to the other road users

Please be aware that a lot of the headlamps are so powerful that you may risk blinding the other road users. Some headlamps are even as powerful as the headlights of the cars, but contrary to the cars, the light from a headlamp is emitted from such an angle that it blinds more than the cars. Therefore, make sure to either point your light down or turn down the brightness when you meet other road users.


Do you simply wish to heighten your safety in traffic?

If you are mainly running in areas that are already illuminated, it is still a good idea to heighten your own visibility to other road users. For this, reflectors and flashing safety lights would be the best option.

You will find our selection of reflectors and safety lights right here:

Reflectors and lights for running - buy here


See all the headlamps here


More inspiration?

Find more articles in our inspiration universe right here:

Inspiration and articles – click here

Products related to this post

  • The 5 best winter running - tights and pants for men and women

    When the temperature drops and you want to keep running, then these warm winter runnings pants will be your best protection against the cold. Check out our 5 favorites for both men and women here. 

  • Review: Nike Zoom Structure 23 - versatile stability running shoe

    Check out my review of Nikes most popular stability running shoe, Nike Zoom Structure 23. Watch the video here. 

  • REVIEW: Saucony Triumph 18 - A superb high-mileage running shoe

    Check out the review for the Sacony top model for the neutral runner.

  • Review of the Boom Miini By Miiego - Award-winning sound and comfort in a lighweight version

    I have tested Boom Miini By Miiego. Award-winning sound, exceptional comfort, and long-lasting battery life.