United States

Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee is a city in the U.S. state of Wisconsin on Lake Michigan’s western shore. It’s the fifth largest city in the midewestern U.S. Known for its brewing traditions, major new additions to the city include the Milwaukee Riverwalk, the Wisconsin Center, Miller Park, an expansion to the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and Pier Wisconsin, and the planned Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center, scheduled to open in 2018. The heart of the city is the relatively compact area east of I-43 near  the Milwaukee River, heading east to Lake Michigan, and the University of Milwaukee to the North and the Historic Third Ward to the South. This is a guide to the best places to run in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Despite being known for less health-centric activities, Milwaukee has become a runner’s city. In the last decade, it has expanded and enhanced trails, opened a state park on Lake Michigan, and started a race that traverses the iconic Hoan Bridge. Milwaukee’s terrain is sculpted by the glacier path and includes steep bluffs along Lake Michigan that begin about a mile north of downtown. There is wonderful running along the water. Another highlight is the three-park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Olmsted: Lake, Riverside and Washington Parks, all of which are featured in our routes. For some great residential neighborhood running, we recommend Whitefish Bay and Fox Point, a few miles north of downtown.

Many of the city’s most popular attractions and a wide variety of restaurants are within easy walking distance, but there are plenty of public transportation options as well. Buses run throughout downtown Milwaukee, including shuttles to summertime lakefront events. With over 130 bike trails, the city also has a prominent bike share system, available at 11 major downtown locations.

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Some of our favorite runs in Milwaukee, WI

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Milwaukee’s location in the Great Lakes Region often has rapidly changing weather, producing a humid continental climate, with cold, windy, snowy winters, and warm, humid summers. Average high temps in July are just over 80°F (27C).  Average January highs are just below freezing with lows dipping to 10-15°F many nights. Runners should factor in wind, cold, and ice for their winter running.

Because of Milwaukee’s proximity to Lake Michigan, a convection current forms around mid-afternoon in light wind, resulting in the so-called “lake breeze,” most common between March and July. 

Most of Milwaukee’s major hotels are well located near good running routes. There are three ‘clusters’ of hotels: along the Milwaukee River, between McKinley Ave. to the north and W. Michigan Ave. to the south, especially near the Pabst Theater and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts; in the main downtown area, particularly East Town; and near the lake, particularly near Veterans Park.

A majority of the city’s running routes and trails have access points in the Downtown area. It’s highly walkable so it’s the perfect place to stay and explore. Some of the popular streets include: Water Street, Brady Street, and Wisconsin Avenue. If you’re coming in during one of Milwaukee’s many festivals, you’ll want to book in advance as accommodation fills up quickly. The East Side is also very convenient; a 10 minute walk to Festival grounds, 15 minutes to Brady Street, and close to running paths along lake. Consider checking out County Clare. For direct access to the RiverWalk, try the Residence Inn by Marriott, which is also just a 2 minute walk to the hip Third Ward district, a six-square-block revitalized warehouse district, and also a part of the Beerline Trail.

Running Stores

Performance Running Outfitters: Locally owned and experts in understanding footwear and apparel for running. Together, the owners have over 27 years of coaching and 38 years of running expertise. They also have a breadth of programs to take your running to the next level. Check them out here.

InStep Physical Therapy & Running Center: Going beyond the shoe. This one-stop shop was created as a place where one could come for physical therapy, injury treatment, rehabilitation, biomechanical evaluations, massage therapy, and custom orthotics; and also be properly outfitted with the correct shoes, fitness apparel, and accessories.

Groups Runs

Wisconsin Badgerland Striders: Wisconsin’s oldest and largest running club, started in 1959, this running group has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Along with hosting 19 running events they also hold free summer Fun Runs and a free marathon training program. Full List of their Events.

Milwaukee Running Tours: A great way for tourists, conference attendees or business travelers to see a different side of the city when they’re traveling. Milwaukee’s only locally owned and operated sight-running company.

The Original Milwaukee Running Group: The only Milwaukee area running group or club offering daily runs or workouts 365 days a year. On Monday / Wednesday / Friday they have two runs – one morning, one night.  They run in all weather and have only cancelled runs twice in the past three years! See their daily schedule here.

Looking for road or trail races in this area? Find them on RaceRaves, the best online race calendar and reviews community for runners!

Find races in Milwaukee, WI

The Briggs and Stratton Run: formerly Al’s Run, is one of the best-attended 8Ks in the country. It happens every September, and is a benefit for Children’s Hospital. Named for Marquette’s legendary basketball coach and begins at 12th street on Marquette’s campus.

Milwaukee Running Festival: a weekend packed full of fun and exciting events that celebrate the city of Milwaukee’s beautiful neighborhoods and distinguished landmarks. Includes a mile race, 5k, 10k, half and full marathon (which is also a Boston qualifier!)

Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon: this marathon is small enough that you won’t get lost in the crowds but big enough that you won’t feel like you’re just on another training run. The fans are great, the scenery even better, and the post-race party on the lakefront is definitely worth running into town for. The course is point-to-point, starting about 26 miles north of Milwaukee in a town called Grafton.