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Route Planning for Walks and Runs

Walking and running outside can be a lot more interesting than using a treadmill, but there's more to it than just stepping out the door and taking off. Here are some of the things you should consider when mapping out a route.

Distance. Figure out how far you want to go. There's probably not much to consider if you just want a quick stroll around the block, but a lot more thought will have to go into a 10K run or training for a marathon. To keep things interesting, I like to make out both short and long routes so that I can change depending on my abilities, mood or fitness program.

Scenery. Decide what you want to surround yourself with. Living in a city, you might want to pick a route through a park to get more greenery. In the country, you might choose areas where the path is more developed. When I'm traveling, I like to incorporate my walk into exploring the area. You can download several apps that can take you on a narrated tour of the place you're visiting.

Running Surfaces. Pick the most forgiving surface you can and wear shoes that will protect you. Running or walking on concrete can be challenging and lead to stress injuries, so you might need heavier shoe padding. Roads are slightly more forgiving, but they tend to be cambered (slightly arched) so that water runs off the center. If you jog on the edge of the road with the flow of traffic, the slant can cause your right foot to roll outwards. Plus, traffic can be dangerous. Beaches are also slanted, so to avoid injury, you should run back the same way you started. Running tracks are best, but dirt paths and green spaces can work as well. Pay close attention to obstacles and loose rocks, so you don't fall.

Terrain. Add some hills for a challenge, but start gently. I live in Key West, where things are relatively flat. When I went jogging in Anchorage, there were some significant hills to deal with. The first time I went out, I underestimated how difficult going up and down them would be and had to cut the run short. A hill with just a 15% slope can take a third more energy to climb. Downhill isn't necessarily easy either. Depending on how steep it is, you may use more energy than on a flat surface to maintain your balance.

Rest and Restrooms. Think about what type of relief you might need and look for routes that are accommodating. If you've got a small bladder, there should be public restrooms, a friend's home or businesses along the route where you can relieve yourself. If you plan on stopping or resting along the way, park benches or other places you can sit should also be identified.

Shade. Pay attention to where the sun will be. On morning runs, I like being on one side of the street that has shade from buildings. When I do the same run in the afternoon, I switch to the other side, so I stay out of the direct sun.

Water and Refreshments. Plan a course with stops on the way. On particularly hot days, I love running through sprinklers to cool down. I also carry lots of water, but it's nice to have water fountains or convenient places I can pick up something cool to drink along the way.

Safety. Avoid high crime and deserted areas. If you're visiting someplace unfamiliar, ask friends who live there or the concierge at your hotel what neighborhoods are safe. In the country, be aware of wildlife and consider carrying things like pepper spray for protection. Stay alert; even small dogs can leave nasty bites if they get to you.

Obstacles. Roads, rivers, fences and construction zones can all interrupt a good run. It's better if you can avoid them, but if they appear unexpectedly when you're out, think before you act. If there isn't a safe way around or through them, turn around and head back. You can always make that part of your run up somewhere else.

Map Your Route With These Companies

(The companies below are not affiliated with WeBeFit in any way. We simply provide the links as a courtesy.)


STRAVA - The world's largest route and trail resource.
If it's been run or ridden, it's on Strava. With millions of athletes all over the world, Strava's road and trail network is unmatched. If you're looking for an adventure or want to make a route of your own, we can find you a place to go - and you can upload that route to your phone or GPS device for easier navigation.


RunKeeper - Everyone. Every Run.
Save, discover, and build new running routes. Fitness tracker app or running buddy? The Runkeeper app is both!

Plot a Route

Plot a Route - Making Routes Made Easy
Free worldwide route planner for outdoor pursuits including walking, running and cycling.

USA Track & Field

USA Track and Field
Run It. Map It. Share It. - A Database of America's Running Routes & Tracks.

Map My Run

Map My Run - Own Every Mile
FIND YOUR PATH ANYWHERE - Create and discover new routes wherever you are. Save your favorites for the next time you're ready to run.

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Updated 5/6/2021