4 Easy Tips for Choosing a Running Route

Update: This post originally appeared in the summer of 2012, and has been updated for October 2018.

Whether you subconsciously do it or not, a lot of thought goes into planning a running route. People have preferences depending on training run, time of day, traffic, amount of people, and so on. I wanted to go into a little bit of detail about some of these options to help you (and myself!) plan the best running routes for your enjoyment and safety. Here are my tips for choosing a running route:

no matter where you are running, you can always take selfies while you workout!


1.) Type of run:


This will weigh heavily on some of the other things I mention so I thought I would bring it up first. A long run or an easy run may take you anywhere on any terrain at any time, but for a hill workout, for instance, you need well…a route with hills! So point being, take these suggestions with a grain of salt and adjust them according to the needs of your run for that day. Also, I get bored pretty quickly and would rather run a loop somewhere as opposed to up and down the same streets over and over. Example: My parents live in a big neighborhood with a clubhouse in the middle. When I visit, I park at the clubhouse and put water and fuel there, then run in one direction and back to my car, then the other direction and back to my car. This way I don’t get bored on the same streets!

2.) Safety:

This is way important, especially in light of things happening to people on running trails in the news over the past couple of years. Please don’t be one of those people who say “it will never happen to me”, because that thought alone makes you vulnerable. If you are running alone, you need to REALLY consider running:

-in an area with a lot of people.

-out in the open (not on a trail in the woods).

-carrying a taser, pepper spray,* your cell phone.

-when the sun is up and the area is well lit.

-with reflective gear on to make yourself visible.

-ALWAYS tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Bobby refuses to let me run out on the highway or on the trails by myself, and I totally understand why. Even if you live in a “safe area” bad things can happen. Being observant and not playing your music too loud so it drowns out approaching people or animals can be a hindrance. Wearing headphones that still allow ambient noise is something I would highly suggest if you must listen to music.


I run along the beach during the day when there is a lot of traffic and other people out on the path. I always carry my cell phone and wear my road ID.

3.) Weather:

The biggest weather concern where I live is the heat and humidity. A lot of thought goes into my weekend long runs due to the glaring sun and high temps. Running early in the morning or late in the evening is something I try to do (when Bobby is with me of course). We also try our best to find well-shaded areas, areas without a lot of traffic, and areas with water fountains, or a turn around point where we can pass by the car for extra fuel and water. Trails are a great option for the heat if they are shaded but you may need to bring along your own water bottle depending on the location.


these trees don’t provide much shade.

Running in the rain is ok (as long as it’s not lightning) but be careful running on roads, as they can be slippery and cars may not be able to brake as well. We don’t get a lot of cold weather, but when we do we bundle up and hit a sunny route to keep us warm and try to stay out of the wind as much as possible.

4.) Distance/scenery:

I will be the first to admit I get pretty bored on long runs. Having somewhere new to run can be a great change and make things more interesting. Depending on the distance you need to go, you can plan to run a loop (not as boring) or an out and back (way boring!). I prefer to run on a beach or Boardwalk, or where there are a lot of people so I have different things to look at. Also, to keep boredom away, try running your usual route backward. I have different places I run depending on how far I have to go. (3 mile loop, 6 mile loop, etc). Also, don’t count out the treadmill to mix things up! I have done 10 mile long runs, half outside and half on a treadmill when it gets too hot outside.


The lakefront in Louisiana is a beautiful place to run.

It may be a slight inconvenience to drive somewhere to run, but if it will help me run faster and be less bored, I am willing to drive a bit to get the job done.

2012-02-04 10.27.07

beach running is fun (but so tough!)

The same goes for picking races. I try to choose ones in fun cities, or somewhere scenic. I ran an out and back race that went through this boring road with no houses one time and it was 13.1 miles of torture!


races along the beach are a lot of fun


So are races in Disney World!

Bottom line, with a little bit of planning and effort on your part, you can make running more fun and not as “boring”. If you are stuck in a training rut, try to make sure you are having the best experience based on the weather, times of day, your safety, scenery, and the type of run.

QOTD: Do you have any other tips for choosing a running route?

Related: 5 Tips for running when you travel

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  1. Really great things to think about! Living in a new city, I often head out without knowing where I’m going. That is never a great plan! My dream race would be in Disney World…just sayin 🙂

  2. These are great tips! I try and do the same: not run in unsafe areas. I have the worst anxiety, especially when I read about runners getting robbed/killed/etc. No matter where I’m running, I ALWAYS have my cell phone & my ID. You never know when you’ll need your cell.

  3. ooh or walking? 🙂

  4. Heather (Where's the Beach) says

    Definitely think about safety and also where I might have water or bathroom stops depending on the length of the run.

  5. Great tips! Especially as I’m trying to take my run outdoors more often. Safety can’t be stressed enough. (And love your final Disney photo)

  6. Amy Lauren says

    I love your tips, especially now that I’m in a new city and having to find new places to run. Where I lived before, I usually ran the same routes (different times), but it’s fun exploring and finding new places to run. Definitely be safe though!

  7. Aww I love running along the beach! Where I live, I don’t have many running route options unless I want to drive 20+ min. I was so spoiled growing up in NJ. We had tons of parks with gorgeous paved and dirt trails within a few minutes of each other. Some of your routes look beautiful, too!

  8. Tara Burner says

    excellent tips
    and hmmm maybe that’s part of my prob
    I throw on my GoSportID, grab cell & water and just head out the door! lol
    no thought, no plan….
    gotta work on that

  9. Safety is my number one priority. I’m terrified of what could happen since I have to run alone and I don’t want to sacrifice my outdoor legs.

  10. All excellent tips. I factor in safety and enjoyment when I choose a run. My time constraints are a big point, too.

  11. A big factor for me is that #1 tip–the type of run. If I need easy/recovery, I seek out flat (which isn’t easy here!). If I need hills, I go for the hilliest route I can get.

  12. One other factor for me is when my friends are running! I try to plan it so that we can run together. 🙂

  13. The biggest factor for me is hills. I usually tend to avoid them unless I’m training for a race with a lot of hills or something. I also am all about side roads and pretty houses, I don’t like running near too much traffic!

  14. I always look for routes with sidewalks or paved walkways if I am running in the city. I typically use google maps satellite view to check the roads if I am running in an area of town I am less familiar with! 🙂

  15. Great tips, Heather! We have crazy heat and humidity here too, and I’ve been sticking to the same old shady paths… this was a good reminder to branch out and find some new scenery to get me through the summer!

  16. Lots of great advice and tips about where to run for the type of run you are planning on doing. It is more fun to find a local group to run with, as well as being safer.

  17. I always like out and backs. That is a guaranteed way to get your milage in… can’t stop or cut it short because you have to run home.

    I do enjoy “getting lost” just running and turning any direction I please, but knowing how to get back is key in that, and of course safety is always a concern. Great post and great tips!

  18. GREAT post!! The distance is always my starting factor. From there I chose the type of surface I want to run and the scenery. Most of the time I end up running up and down St. Charles Ave.

  19. Great post! This list is awesome!

  20. GREAT post! I have to drive anywhere I run pretty much. It’s a pain but it always gives me lots of options.

  21. Great tips!! Whether or not there are bathrooms along the route are an important factor for me.

  22. Cherie @ Cherie Runs This says

    Sadly my fave place to run is a round trip of 36 miles! But is totally worth the trip to me. I drive there about twice a week. Great post!

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