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