Fitness Al Fresco: Run

Lace up and hit the road (or path or trail). Whether you’re an enthusiastic newbie or an iron-calved veteran, there’s plenty to explore.

An exhilarating jog along the Freedom Trail. (Photo by James Michelfelder and Therese Sommerseth.)

Everyone knows the Esplanade is a runner’s highway — that’s why everyone runs there. Break out of your routine with these tracks chosen by local experts. — Hannah Lauterback

Brookline: Coolidge Corner to Chestnut Hill
Sara Donahue, Greater Boston Track Club President

On weekends, Coolidge Corner becomes a high-speed fashion show for the athletic set. Join the well-dressed crowd for the first leg of this 8-miler, which winds through some of the city’s best green spaces and features plenty of restrooms and water fountains along the way. Follow Longwood Ave. to the Emerald Necklace path, and, on sunny summer days, run in the speckled shade along the Muddy River. After Jamaica Pond, turn right onto Pond Street, and after a series of rolling hills, follow the roads all the way back to Beacon Street.

Blue Hills Reservation, Milton: Houghton’s Pond to Great Blue
Josh Nemzer, 29-time Boston Marathoner

Heartbreak Hill? Kids’ stuff. To make tracks up the tallest mound around, set a date with 635-foot Great Blue. Start lakeside at Houghton’s Pond and follow the yellow markings up Wolcott Path for 1.5 miles over rolling hills, through quiet stands of hemlock and pine, and across rocky trail to Summit Road. Finish the final mile at the weather observatory on Great Blue’s summit, where you’ll rub elbows with the throngs of sightseers who drive up for the skyline view of the Back Bay and downtown. Return via the same route.

Downtown: The Freedom Trail
Shane O’Hara, Back Bay Marathon Sports Manager

Run like the Redcoats are coming on this 3.25-mile guided trek around our Revolutionary highlights. You’ll contend with tourists, but there are hidden bonuses to running the thin red line on Saturdays or Sundays: You can catch a breather when the pack stops at 16 historical sites. The pace is brisk enough to boost your heart rate without wearing you out for the rest of the day (runners average 9-to-10-minute miles). The $35-per-person cost includes a T-shirt and a ferry ride back from Charlestown. Learn more at

Is Barefoot Running Really That Great?

(Photo by James Michelfelder and Therese Sommerseth.)

Back in 2009, Harvard’s Daniel Lieberman introduced runners to a startling concept: The shoes they’d purchased for heel cushioning and support were actually causing them to adopt an unnatural and potentially injury-­producing gait. Humans have evolved to land on their forefeet while running, the argument went, but the excess padding on modern footwear causes people to strike with their heels instead. Lieberman advocated for the forefoot strike (what many call barefoot-style running), and almost immediately, testimonials started rolling in from runners who’d ditched their kicks: Nagging injuries had vanished. Lieberman’s research helped set off a boom in minimalist, fashionably iffy footwear.

But not everyone was convinced that running without shoes was categorically better. Earlier this year, University of Colorado researcher Rodger Kram published a study suggesting that runners who give up their shoes take on a little extra work — up to 4 percent more — than those who run in lightweight trainers.

By this logic, it looks like lightly padded sneakers may provide the optimal balance: better efficiency than barefoot running, and anecdotally, better injury prevention than heavily padded shoes—once runners learn how to land on their forefeet. But more studies are needed about footwear’s link to injuries. — Lesley Hocking


  • Ken Skier

    I run barefoot. (By that I mean I run with nothing on my feet–not Vibram “Five Fingers” or any of other so-called “barefoot running shoes.”)

    Before I shed the shoes, I had a series of injuries, which required hours of knee surgery and surgical intervention in my lower back. With one injury after the other–and limping after each race–running seemed out of the question.

    But I sought out the lowest-impact method of running, and learned that the human foot is a beautifully-designed work of engineering, comprising dozens of bones, ligaments, and tendons. It acts as a giant spring–but it works best if you run without shoes. When you run barefoot that giant spring softens the impact of each stride. But running in shoes–even with a forefoot stride–reduces the efficacy of that natural spring.

    Now I run barefoot and feel fine after each run. I just completed a ten-mile mountain race, barefoot, this past weekend, and felt great during and after the race. For me, barefoot running has been the key to running injury-free.

    But if you are running now without injury, Don’t Change a Thing! Don’t run without shoes just because it works for someone else. You’ve found something that works, and any change might cause injury. Stick with what works for you.

    Whether you run with conventional shoes, minimalist footwear, or barefoot…may you run with joy!

  • Sean Curtis

    Growing Up in the 80’s my mother didn’t make a fuss about the fact I was running around barefoot must of the time, because in fact putting on shoes was just a waste of fun time. Never did I think anything else of it. Now that I’m older(31), forgetting those times as a kid running around barefoot, I like most adults just never ever gave it a thought to run barefoot, because as young adults we are told to put our shoes on.

    Running in High School we where always told to buy a good pair of running shoes. Running in something other then cushioned running shoes was for sprinters, not distance or training.

    Years later in the Marines we had to run in running shoes. Mile after Mile I thought it was crazy to run every day, this has to be bad for your legs I thought.

    After a couple months, of being out of the Marines I thought it was time to start running again just to stay in shape. But after a few months of running I was suffering from shin splints. Needless to say running was not for me I thought.

    After a year of not running a good friend told me about nike+. So again i was back to running, just to compete in challenges against each other. That got me into looking at the Nike 5.0 for a running shoe. It made sense the more natural the shoe moved with the nature of the foot, the less injury one would get. I loved these shoes but after 6 miles I was back to shin splints. This forced me to recover for weeks before running again.

    Along came my issue of Marine corps times, in this issue it talked about barefoot running and the Vibram five fingers. My thoughts running barefoot? Crazy! Vibrams perfect! I ordered my first pair of Vibram Kso’s. They where great I was running 6 miles with no problems. But after a week or two my feet started to hurt, I had run to far to fast in these new shoes. I believe I must have fractured my foot down by my toes.

    It took weeks for my foot to heal from the injury. I started up again, this time slower, building my miles up 1,2,3,4,5, and finally back up to 6 miles. After a while running was great again, but again shin splints where knocking on my door again. Once again I was back to resting just to heal.

    I had enough I was gonna try running without anything on my feet. Completely barefoot, My first mile was great, it felt so natural. Then I realized I had over did it again, Blisters. But needless to say this is a small draw back compared to shin splints.

    It’s Been over two years now, my feet are strong, the Skin is tough, the bones, the muscle, ligaments, and tendons. Running barefoot has giving me the pure joy of running. It is now a way of Life, the connection with mother earth is unmatched by any feeling a shoe can give you. Cool Running People.
    Sean Curtis

  • Jill

    Great running route ideas! There are also several smart phone apps that let you share your favorite runs with others – like MapMyRun.

  • Mimi Urquhart

    This is probably a perfect routine for me.