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Best running head torches: Bright lights to boost visibility

Need a head torch for low-light, early morning runs? Here are some of the best, as tested by our expert reviewers

Images by Getty images and The Secret Studio

Despite being a relatively small piece of kit, the humble head torch can make a huge difference to your after-dark training sessions, especially in the winter.

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Not only do they help you see where you’re going and avoid tripping over obstacles but, along with reflective running gear, they also keep you safe on the road.

We’ve rounded up the best running head torches on the market to help you find the right one for you.

But first, here’s a quick list of the factors you might want to consider when choosing your favourite product.

How bright should a running head torch be?

In our humble opinion, 200-400 lumens of power will offer a good amount of light for running.

However, if you spend a lot of your time on trails, you may want slightly more to offer a greater range of visibility.

What else makes a good running head torch?

  • Distance: Some head torches can illuminate a distance of up to 100m in front of you; it’s worth considering whether ‘flood lighting’ is important to you.
  • Light settings: Many torches have a range of modes, including flashing and energy-saving programmes.
  • Weatherproofing: If you want a head torch you can wear in all weathers, it’s a good idea to go for a waterproof one. Some even function when submerged in water, so you can take them on brief swim sessions too. 
  • Weight: Most running head torches are under 150g in weight, and some are under 50g, so consider how light you’d like yours to be.
  • Rear light: Having a rear light as well as a front torch will keep you safe when running on roads. Some products have an actual light, while others use a reflective strip to keep you safe. 
  • Light colours: Many runners like having the option to use a red light, which helps you maintain night vision. 
  • Battery life: It’s always worth checking how long you’ll be able to use your head torch on its highest energy setting – you don’t want to be caught out during a long run.
  • Recharge system: You may prefer to invest in a head torch you can recharge with a USB cable, as opposed to one with batteries you have to change.

The best running head torches to buy

Biolite Headlamp 425

Biolite Headlamp 425 running head torch
  • £59.99

This is up there with the most comfortable head torches we’ve ever tested.

That’s thanks to BioLite’s 3D SlimFit Construction, which uses soft moisture-wicking fabrics and a wide stretch of material at the front to cover the whole torch unit.

It’s impressively light, too, at just 82g. Vitally, it also lights up terrain well. Don’t be deceived by that small torch – its 425 lumens pack a punch.

There are five modes to choose from up front, including a red light, a focused white light, a white flood light and a combination of the latter two. The result is clear visibility right ahead, plus a view of what else is around.

The rechargeable battery, housed in the rear unit and accompanied with a red light on the rear, will give you up to four hours in the highest setting and 60 hours in its lowest.

Tilting the torch and cycling through settings with one hand is also easy while on the go.

Verdict: Light, super comfortable and impressive lighting.

Score: 92%

Petzl Swift RL

Petzl Swift RL head torch
  • £103

Petzl has pedigree in the head torch market and that shows in the Swift RL. Sporting a maximum 900 lumens, the Swift RL certainly packs a punch.

It can be used in a ‘standard’ mode or a ‘reactive lighting’ mode, with the latter adjusting brightness based on current conditions.

The aim is to prolong the burn time, with Petzl saying you’ll get a minimum of five hours in reactive mode in the 300 lumens setting. You get 2.5 hours at 900 lumens and between 10 and 50 hours for 100 lumens (both in reactive mode).

In the brightest setting performance is excellent, delivering in both distance and width. You also get great performance from the standard setting, with more than enough light to run safely and confidently.

It’s comfortable to wear, though the unit does feel slightly bulky. It weighs 102g, but like others here it doesn’t feel too heavy when worn.

Verdict: Comfortable and fantastic performance, but a big outlay.

Score: 88%

Ledlenser NEO5R

Ledlenser NEO5R headtorch
  • £54.95

Despite sporting a small torch unit, the NEO5R carries a bit of weight due to the hefty rear battery. It comes in at 104g in total, but it’s less noticeable when actually worn.

One thing that we were quick to notice, however, is that the thin strap isn’t as comfortable as some others on test here, and it has quite harsh edges.

The rechargeable battery delivers decent performance, with up to four hours of burn time available while on the 600 lumens setting or more when using less lumens. And that light illuminates the surroundings well, including nearby ground and the way ahead.

You can tilt the torch easily with one hand, while a temperature control system keeps the light from overheating. Visibility is also boosted thanks to a rear flashing red light and reflective detailing on the strap, helping other road users spot you more easily and boosting safety.

Verdict: Not the most comfortable, but torch performs well.

Score: 80%

Evadict Ontrail 900

Evadict Ontrail 900 running head torch
  • £49.99

We were surprised to see the price of this head torch as we’ve got so used to seeing Decathlon kit undercutting the competition, but that isn’t the case here, being similarly priced to many others on test.

It comes with the joint highest number of lumens (900), though there are two other settings so you can use with less.

At its highest setting you get a burn time of up to 3.5 hours, while with 300 lumens you get up to 4.5 hours. That’s not the best in class, but it’s not bad.

Lighting performance is decent, too, delivering good distance, but it doesn’t illuminate your immediate surroundings as well as others.

Also unlike the others, which use buttons, the Ontrail uses a switch that you flick up and down. It’s super easy, even in gloves, and tilting the torch is also painless.

A weight of 142g is the heaviest on test, but the extra grams aren’t that noticeable when in use. The strap itself is also very comfortable to wear.

Verdict: A decent option, but you can get better performance for the same price from others tested here.

Score: 82%

Alpkit Qark

Alpkit Qark head torch
  • £39.99

Having entered into some of the Maverick Race Dark events last autumn, the Qark was actually a purchase by this mag’s editor earlier in the year – and with some pretty strict criteria on her list, it was a considered one.

The Qark sits in the middle of Alpkit’s range, but with 580 lumens available on maximum beam you wouldn’t know it.

The unit is light and very comfortable and the light available was enough for even the darkest of trails, with an easy twist beam concentrator mechanism making it easy to widen or narrow and focus the light available from 30 to the max 580 lumens.

A big benefit of this torch is the fact it’s USB rechargeable (up to 18 hours, dependant on setting) but can also run off 3 x AAA batteries if need be – a key consideration for this tester, who’s had a torch run out on her before mid-race!

The operation is single button and there’s also a red light option.

Verdict: A light but mighty torch with some standout features.

Score: 90%

Lifesystems Intensity 280

Lifesystems Intensity 220 head torch
  • £24.99

At a penny shy of £25, the Intensity 220 is the cheapest head torch here by quite some margin. But then it does also have the lowest number of lumens (220).

Like all the others in this test, the Intensity 220 is rechargeable via USB and once fully charged you get up to 4.5 hours of burn time. That’s not terrible, but it is beaten by every other torch here.

Performance is reasonable, too. You obviously don’t get the same sort of illumination as some others offer with higher lumens, but you do get a beam length of between 15-45m from the six different settings.

In practice, it proved enough on roads and gravel paths, but if hitting proper trails in darkness you may want to consider an alternative.

It’s easy to operate via the two buttons, but tilting requires two hands and, while the strap is comfy, the torch itself tends to dig into your forehead uncomfortably.

Verdict: Reasonable performance for the price, but not the most comfortable.

Score: 73%

Other running head torches to consider…

Petzl Actik

Petzl Actik headlamp on a white background.

A versatile piece of kit, the Petzl Actik comes with 350 lumens and offers several different light functions, as you can tailor the distance and width of the beam to suit your needs. Choose between a ‘wide’ or ‘focussed’ pool of light, and select your depth, from 10m up to 90m. 

The head torch also has a red light reaching up to 5m ahead to stop you blinding your run buddies! And there’s even a strobe option which, alongside the reflective headband, will make sure you’re seen on dark roads.

The Petzl Actik takes three AAA batteries and should work for up to 60 hours on the go. It’ll also take reusable batteries.

Lifesystems Intensity 230

Lifesystems head torch on a white background.

If you’re looking for a head torch for added visibility on low-light runs but aren’t planning to go full-on Bear Grylls, this is a great choice. With 280 lumens, USB charging and seven different modes, this neat and lightweight little light is superb value.

Exposure lights HT1000

A black head torch on a white background.

With a dazzling 1,000 lumens housed in an aluminium casing, this bad boy is designed for trail running where you absolutely have to see where you’re putting your feet. Visibility is up to 125m on full and the rechargeable battery is rear-mounted for comfort.

Petzl Bindi

Headlamp with elasticated string on a white background.

The Petzl Bindi is the lightest head torch on our list, weighing just 35g, yet it kicks out 200 lumens of power and has a micro USB port for easy charging. As an added benefit, it’s completely weatherproof, so you don’t need to worry about wearing it in the rain.


A grey and purple head torch on a white background.

The LEDLENSER Neo6R comes with a 240 Lumen torch with a wide angle, so it’s perfect for dark runs. Its maximum depth is 30m, but you can adjust the beam to cover just 10m in front of you. 

Ideal for group runs, this head torch from LEDLENSER also has a chest strap, so you can wear it lower down on the body. Meanwhile, another handy feature is its red rear light, which offers vital visibility. 

The head torch has a lithium ion battery charged via a micro USB connection, and you’ll get up to 40 hours of continuous use. When power is running low, there’s a helpful early warning signal.

BioLite HeadLamp 330

A red head torch on a white background.

Integrated into a thin, moisture-wicking headband, this torch has a streamlined design and sits comfortably on your forehead. Turn it on and you’ll get 330 lumens of power, which you can recharge from a micro-USB cable. The beam reaches up to 100m ahead of you, but there’s also a ‘spot’ setting if you want a smaller patch of light.


A black and orange head torch on a grey background.

This head torch should stay in position, as it comes with a secondary strap to keep it secure while you’re running. It’s also waterproof and it has a standard and an eco mode, as well as a flash setting.

In the dimmer eco-friendly programme, the torch has up to 22 hours of battery life, and it’s simple to charge, thanks to the included micro-USB cable.

Black Diamond Spot 350

A black head torch on a white background.

This option from Black Diamond is a great all-purpose head torch. It has a range of different modes, including strobe lighting and red for night-vision. Plus, it gives out 350 lumens, so it’s a bright little light. 

What’s more, it’ll work well up to 1.1m underwater for half an hour, and it’ll remember your previous light setting when you turn it on, saving you precious time. 

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