January 20, 2013

Review: Knuckle Lights

  • Type : Safety / Lighting
  • Use : Night running
  • Price : $39.99

Running at night is often part of ultra events and requires some getting used to. One of the issues I have with low-light and night running is that my headlamp seems to render my vision bi-dimensional, making me loose the sense of depth.

Experienced ultra runners recommended two ways to diminish this effect; by placing the headlamp lower on my body (say at the waist) or by using handheld lights to complement the headlamp, thus creating ground shadows that bring back a perception of depth. Knuckle Lights are a solution of the second type, with the benefit of not hindering your hands. A great idea.

First impression
Out of the box, the Knuckle Lights look sturdy and sleek. You just pop in the included AA batteries, adjust the silicon strap and they're ready to go. You get to choose between 3 settings: "High Beam", "Low Beam" and "Blink". And at 45 lumens each, they promise plenty of power to light up your way.

Road test
I took the Knuckle Lights on a first run on a damp day that turned out pretty rainy as I went. After about 10-12km, one of the lights went out. Puzzled, I shook it. Nothing happened. I hit it a little harder, thinking maybe it would shake the batteries and re-create contact. It worked. But a couple minutes later, the light went out again. I can't say I was very happy.

Things didn't get better; the second light went out, too. I stopped somewhere dry to eat a little bit and I opened both lights, trying to figure out what had happened. I popped out the batteries, and put them back in again. After a little bit of fiddling, both lamps looked back to normal. Not 2km later, they were both out again. After I had been back home for a while, I decided to open them again to see if something looked wrong. Nothing. Both lamps were working just fine. I wasn't quite sure what to think. 

I wore the lights on another shorter run, an early-morning commute. The behavior repeated. The lights both went out after some minutes of running. No amount of shaking made them light up again.

I decided to give the Knuckle Lights one last try today. Winter 10km run, temperature below freezing. One of the lights didn't work even inside the house, so I left it behind. The second one looked fine, but about 3km in, it shut off again. As I write this, I've been back from the run for about 2 hours, and the light now works just fine.

Well, either I've been handed a pair of serious lemons (funny, they're actually yellow) or Knuckle Lights isn't a real running product. The lights seem good to work in and around the house, but no serious runner would want to rely on a piece of gear that dies off before they've even warmed up. My best explanation for what goes wrong; I suspect these weren't tested in very damp conditions, and certainly not in the cold.

I couldn't recommend Knuckle Lights to anyone because they don't perform well enough in real running situations to be taken seriously. Although the concept is a good idea, you cannot possibly think you'll replace your sturdy, reliable headlamp with a pair of fancy, flimsy flashlights.

High points
  • A really good idea
  • The lamps look sturdy and sleek

Low points
  • Unreliable
  • Completely stopped working every time I ran with them
  • Were likely never tested in the cold

The equipment for this personal review was supplied by Knuckle Lights free of charge, without any conditions.


  1. Might have been a bad pair - I'm actually a big fan, and I've NEVER had a problem with mine - and it does get cold AND wet in Seattle!

  2. Nope.. not a bad pair, but seems to be an issue. I tried to review two different pairs.. one late last summer, then again in the fall after "updates" had been made. Both sets conked out exactly as you described.. and more quickly when it got below freezing. At about 15F, both shut down within 15 minutes... but at least I had a backup. The first time I had to pick my way down a dark single-track without light :-(. I was so bummed, as when they worked, they really worked!!

    1. Jeff, you describe exactly the same issues I have had. Too bad, because it's a good concept.