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Whether you like running in the morning or later in the day, it’s nice to know where you’re running can be safe and ideal for running. If you’ve ever wondered where the best running routes and trails are in cities, either to see if you’re nearby or in a good running city—or you’re looking to move—you’re in luck. We’ve compiled a list of the best running cities in the United States, factoring in trail routes, running clubs, and overall safety.

If you want to find a good running club near you, or a great running trail to visit sometime, read on for the 10 best cities for running.

The Top 10 Safest Cities to Run 

CityStateState codeTotal Score
Colorado SpringsColoradoCO73.27
BostonMassachusettsMA70.54
DenverColoradoCO70.53
PortlandMaineME69.23
RaleighNorth CarolinaNC67.97
San DiegoCaliforniaCA65.72
MadisonWisconsinWI65.55
BoiseIdahoID64.42
CharlotteNorth CarolinaNC63.15
PittsburghPennsylvaniaPA62.16

Our list of the best cities for running is also a list of the safest cities to run in. For our list, we first took the two most populated U.S. cities for each state (with a few left out due to lack of data). We then looked at each of these cities, weighing a total of seven different factors when tabulating scores for the safest cities for running:

  • Number of running clubs in and out of the city: For these two metrics, we looked at how many running clubs were within each city, and then also measured the number of clubs within a 25-mile radius of the city as well, performing searches on runningintheusa.com
  • Number of parks and green spaces: In addition, we looked at the number of green spaces and parks within each city. More parks to run in led to a higher score here.
  • Population density: Here, we looked at the average number of people per square mile of the city, according to worldpopulation.com. Lower population density means more room for running.
  • Crime index: While running through a city, safety is key. Each city was given a crime index score out of 100; under 20 means very low crime, while over 80 is very high. Lower indices led to higher scores on our list.
  • Safety index: Like the crime index, this was a score out of 100. However, a city would want a high score for this, which would mean a high level of safety. These indices were taken from numbeo.com.
  • Percentage of the day the sun is out: We took this metric from currentresults.com. The sun isn’t always out exactly half of the day like we usually estimate. Factors like location, cloud coverage, and time of year can lower or increase the amount of sunlight you get each day. More sunlight means more time for safe running.

After giving each of our best cities for runners a score on each factor, we then added them up with equal weight to make a total score out of 100, leading to the list you see before you. 

Let’s take a look at each of the top cities for running and see what put them to the top of our list.

#1 Colorado Springs, Colorado  

While only having five run clubs in or near the city, Colorado Springs takes our #1 spot for top running city because it scores well in many other aspects. Boasting more than 250 parks and green spaces, the city also has a great variety of trails with nice air quality. The sun is out a staggering 71% of the time each day, and the safety index is also on the higher end.

Colorado information for safest cities for running
  • Parks and Green Spaces: 259
  • Number of Trails: 260
  • Overall Score: 73.27

The running trails available in Colorado Springs vary, making them great for beginners and experienced trail runners alike. Beginners can run along the picturesque 3.1-kilometer Berkeley Lake trail, or challenge themselves on the MatWinPark route, boasting a 194-meter gain in elevation during the run. Having been out to Colorado Springs quite a few times myself, the beautiful scenery is worth the run alone, but make sure to bring some trail running shoes.

#2 Boston, Massachusetts  

With iconic races like the Boston Marathon, it’s no wonder that Boston would rank highly on our list. Boston has 37 running clubs in the city and surrounding areas; 12 of the running groups are actually within the city, too, giving you plenty of club options to join. 

Boston scores pretty well on many other aspects, including safety index and a wild number of green spaces—more than 900. Its population density was one of the worst in our study, however, with an average of 12,774 people per square mile. Running is great in this city, but you’ll be sure to bump elbows with other runners while on your route.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 930
  • Number of Trails: 70
  • Overall Score: 70.54

Boston has 70 trail routes, but most of them are easier routes. These would be great trails for beginners, and will include nice views like the Charles River, but if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you may have to venture outside the city. Boston has a great community of runners, though, with clubs like the Boston Bulldogs Running Club and Colonial Road Runners, and even a couple of triathlon teams!

RELATED: Best Running Shoes For Beginners

#3 Denver, Colorado  

Denver ranks high on our list due to its good number of running clubs near the city, 21, as well as having a great amount of average daylight per day at 71%. It’s bumped down the list a little because of its slightly lower safety index compared to our top two spots, as well as a moderate population density.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 325
  • Number of Trails: 47
  • Overall Score: 70.53

Denver shares a couple of running routes with nearby Colorado Springs, but the vast majority of Denver’s 47 trails are easy, although they can vary in distance from 3 kilometers to nearly 25 kilometers—that’s 15.5 miles of trail. With more than 300 parks and green spaces, however, you’ll have plenty of places to run in nice scenery.

The running community has a diverse group of experience levels, from social groups like Castle Pines Running, all the way to competitive runners, including the Colorado Harriers. Whatever your running goals, you can find a group to help you.

#4 Portland, Maine  

With a low crime index and high safety index, Portland can be a runner-friendly city. It had one of the higher scores in safety from our study, with an index of 67.22. A couple things that lowered its score was its moderate population density, low number of running clubs, and a lower amount of sunlight per day. With that being said, there is still plenty of green spaces to run to and through, with 325 parks and green spaces in the city.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 325
  • Number of Trails: 3
  • Overall Score: 69.23

While only boasting three easy trail routes for running, the MCR 20.7 Miler is a great route for intermediate or advanced runners—a longer distance with more than 104,000 meters of elevation gain during the route. If you can’t connect with one of the four running clubs in the city, then you’ll have to find the best running app for you and go on some trails on your own.

#5 Raleigh, North Carolina

At number five, Raleigh scores well with the dozen run clubs in the area, as well as a higher safety index. With 200 green spaces, there is also plenty to see along your running routes. Still, due to a moderate population density and only 60% sunlight per day on average, it sits in the middle of our top 10.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 200
  • Number of Trails: 95
  • Overall Score: 67.97

Raleigh has nearly 100 trails for running, with a heavy blend of easy and intermediate trails. But for those who like a challenge, there is the 31-Miler From Home, with a grueling length, and a 374-meter elevation gain on this route. This one is not for the faint of heart.

There are a decent number of social running clubs in the Raleigh area, including the Aversboro Run Club. If you’re looking for more of a competitive club, there is the Cardinal Track Club, amongst others, too. 

#6 San Diego, California 

Despite not having a lot of running groups and also with a higher population density, San Diego still breaks into our top 10 with some other strengths. The safety index is moderately high, and the city touts 340 parks and green spaces. Most of all, the sun is out on average 68% of the time each day for this Southern California city, and that sunlight typically stays year-round.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 340
  • Number of Trails: 289
  • Overall Score: 65.72

There are quite a few trails available in San Diego, around 289 to be exact. They range from smaller boardwalk 5-kilometer runs, to the SanDiego Junket Plus—more than 36 kilometers long. If you want a challenge in your run, try Shelter Island to Hilton Bayfront, with an elevation gain of 172,086 meters. Yeesh, my calves are sore just thinking about it.

#7 Madison, Wisconsin

Madison only has six run clubs near or in the city; however, all of those run clubs are actually within the city, giving it high marks. Although the sun isn’t out as much as our other top 10 contenders, it lands at seventh due to its high safety index and good amount of parks and green spaces throughout the city.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 270
  • Number of Trails: 4
  • Overall Score: 65.55

While there aren’t a lot of trail routes in the city, Madison’s longest run route is the Lake Monona Loop, which is nearly 23 kilometers long—just over a half marathon. This will provide a nice challenge for most runners. The other trails are more friendly for beginners, and also much shorter.

#8 Boise, Idaho 

Although Boise doesn’t have the most green spaces in the city, the low crime index moves Boise into our eighth spot of the best running cities. Additionally, the city gets a good amount of sunlight each day, averaging 64%.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 90
  • Number of Trails: 98
  • Overall Score: 64.42

For those interested in a challenge, Boise has 98 running trails, with all but five being intermediate or difficult routes. Its longest route, Edinburgh Trek, also has the most elevation gain: 45.66 kilometers and 794 meters, respectively.

With only a few clubs listed, most seem like great social running clubs, or inclusive of all ages, abilities and goals—like the Boise Area Runners, or the Boise Betties.

#9 Charlotte, North Carolina 

Scoring pretty well in several categories, Charlotte takes ninth in our list. With a decent amount of run clubs in and around town, the city has plenty of places to run at, with 230 parks and green spaces, and even more trails. It only makes it to #9 due to its moderate safety index, dropping its total score a bit.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 230
  • Number of Trails: 232
  • Overall Score: 63.15 

There are more than 200 trails in Charlotte, varying from 3 kilometers all the way to the Matthews-Providence Plantation 10-Miler, at 16.33 kilometers. While there’s a good variety in distance, there isn’t a lot of elevation in the city of Charlotte, as the elevation gain on the 10-Miler is only 104 meters. There are quite a few passionate run clubs in the area, though, including ARC Running and Charlotte Running Club.

#10 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

While scoring poorly in population density, Pittsburgh makes it into the top 10 due to its higher safety index, as well as moderate scores in the rest of our metrics. All six running clubs are located in the city as well.

  • Parks and Green Spaces: 163
  • Number of Trails: 10
  • Overall Score: 62.16

Pittsburgh has a total of 10 trail running routes, that are mostly on the easy and shorter side. However, with 163 parks and green spaces, the city is home to a half dozen running clubs still, including the North Park Trail Runners and People Who Run Downtown.

Honorable Mentions

With so many cities across America, it’s hard to only keep it to 10. Here are a few other honorable mentions for cities that may or may not have been included in our study.

  • Phoenix, Arizona: Phoenix landed just outside of the top 10 in #11. Although it wasn’t in the top 10, it has the most trails out of any city we looked at: 496 total.
  • San Francisco, California: San Francisco is often scored high for being runner-friendly, with lots of trails. However, since we kept our data to the two biggest cities in each state, San Francisco didn’t make our list.
  • New York City, New York: Landing at #22 on our list, New York City has historic landmarks in running, such as Central Park. With a huge running community, the very high population density, as well as low safety index and limited sunlight pushed it down on our list.
  • Chesapeake, Virginia: Okay, I just had to shout out the city I grew up in, Chesapeake. It did well in our survey, ending up in the top 20 overall. Additionally, it had one of the lowest population densities in our study, with only 752 people per square mile.
  • Seattle, Washington: Seattle has quite a few run clubs, and lots of green space in the city, but scored low in safety index, which bumped it down on our list. Additionally, it was one of the few cities to have less than 50% sunlight each day.

Best Cities For Trail Running

From the 100 cities we looked at in our study, we also looked at the number of trail runs each city provided. Here is a quick breakdown of the ten cities with the most trail runs, with a quick look at the amount of easy, intermediate, and difficult routes each city provides.

Best Cities For Running: Final Thoughts

There are plenty more great locations to run, but these are the best cities for running that we found, using our metrics. Wherever you are, though, you can find a great trail to run, a nice park, or an awesome running community. The best thing to do is to get out there and run! And if that can’t work, build out your garage with the best treadmill for a home gym.

Fair Use Statement

If you’d like to share the best cities for running in the U.S., or would like to use this data study in an article, please link to this article and credit GarageGymReviews.com.

Data

The full data set for this study is available upon request.

Best Cities For Running FAQs

Where is the easiest place to run?

If you live in a neighborhood, then running in your neighborhood is often the most convenient place to run. If that isn’t an option, however, you can head to your local track to run, as well as any local trail routes.

Is it harder to run outside than inside?

Each has their positives and negatives, but running outside can be more challenging at times, due to rougher terrain and unforeseen inclement weather.

RELATED: Treadmill vs Outside Running: Which Is Better?

Where can I start as a runner?

If you want to get into running, it’d be good to start light, and build up to running more consistently and longer distances. Start off with shorter times twice a week, and one longer run or walk once a week, and build up from there. Feel free to take walk breaks as needed as first. If you want to improve on your running though, the important thing is to start.

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