The Sunset x Salomon Guide to Running in the Bay Area: Our Five Favorite Runs
Lots of cities are walkable, but the San Francisco Bay area has some of the more runnable neighborhoods and trails in the West.
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At Sunset we run for more than just fitness: We run to experience the West. There’s nothing more visceral and satisfying than getting out onto the roads and immersing ourselves in the region’s natural beauty and connecting with the vibrant communities that make the West such an inspiring place to live. Of all the great running cities in the West, San Francisco tops the list because it offers the best of both worlds. From an energizing jog through the salt air of Ocean Beach capped off with the epic views from the old-school Camera Obscura to a chill recovery run around Golden Gate Park that ends with a fortifying sustainably-sourced fish taco, there’s a run for every type of runner—and a diversity of cultural and culinary rewards waiting at the end. San Francisco’s unique combination of fitness and fun means you’re going to need just the right gear to make the most of your urban sojourns: your shoes, apparel, and accessories need to perform to match the task, look darn good while doing it, and leave you wanting to hit the road again. We teamed up with Salomon to curate five runs that give you the perfect combination of run, gear, and reward.
The Run: Embarcadero out and Back
With its food stalls and farmers market, the culinary wonderland that is the Ferry Building is on the short list of San Francisco must-visits and a fine place to start an easy 3-mile run straight up the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. Yes it’s a touristy route, and yes it’s a classic for exactly that reason: Where else can you get those postcard views of the bay as you run past piers to the trolleys and crab shacks of the wharf?
Courtesy of Salomon
The gear: The Salomon Predict 2 ($152) is your city sidewalk savior thanks to its cushy foam sole that’s injected with nitrogen and adapts to your running style and whatever road surface you throw at it.
The reward: There’s no greater post-run delight than a dozen oysters with a bracing mignonette and a glass of sancerre, and Hog Island Oyster company delivers on both fronts. Plus, there’s a killer view of the Bay Bridge from most seats in the house.
The Run: Intervals with a View at Lake Merritt in Oakland
Lake Merritt is the East Bay’s crown jewel, marking where the feverish energy of the city meets the calming serenity of the water. Ringed with stately government buildings and lush parkland, its 3.2-mile bike and running path makes for a popular loop, both scenic and bustling. Refine your stride and your speed on its consistent, level surface as you pass picnicking families and try to keep pace with the boaters cutting across the lake’s shimmering surface.
The gear: Salomon’s Sonic 4 Balance ($130) is as plush and accommodating as it is reactive and invigorating, perfectly reflective of and congenial to a loop such as this one. Just as Lake Merritt captures the sweet balance between urban vibrancy and natural tranquility, Sonic 4 Balance is cushioned enough for comfort yet springy enough for speed. Work on your fartleks and intervals in the energizing comfort of your shoes and your surroundings.
The reward: Carry that inspiration with you from a dash around Lake Merritt to a browse through the stacks at Walden Pond Books. Just a 6-minute walk from the Lake Merritt Pergola, its vintage neon sign is hard to miss. If you’re lucky you might just find award-winning novelist Haruki Murakami’s legendary running memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
The Run: Golden Gate Park Recovery Run
Sometimes you want to run with no more concrete a goal in mind than bounding down the road outside in the fresh air, no stopwatch counting the seconds, no personal record to beat. Golden Gate Park’s 1,000 sprawling acres offers countless opportunities to get lost in the best possible way, but one of our favorite ways of taking advantage of the city’s iconic green space is to dip a toe in on the southwest corner and make a picnic of it. Park by the equitation field and trot past the Murphy Windmill and out into the Sunset district to one of our favorite secret insider shopping streets.
The gear: Since this run is as much about chilling out in the city, we’re opting for the stylish and sustainable Salomon Index.01 ($200) which is cool on so many levels. Made entirely of TPU, this shoe is fully recyclable. Once you’ve put your pair through its paces and are ready to retire it, send it back to Salomon and it will be ground down to be used to produce Salomon ski boots. Plus the white-on-white design and dramatic rocker sole give the shoes a futuristic high-fashion vibe that will get approving looks from runners and non-runners alike.
The reward: Stick with the sustainable and stylish theme and hit Irving Street. Browse the beautiful boards at Mollusk Surf Shop before posting up at Hook Fish Co., which specializes in sustainable and wild-caught seafood. Have a half-dozen oysters while you wait for a to-go order of grilled fish tacos spiked with spicy aioli and walk back to Golden Gate Park for a post-run picnic. But not before picking up a bottle of something fizzy and zippy at Palm City Wines to toast your achievements later at home.
The Run: Great Highway/Ocean Beach
There’s no more invigorating and elegantly simple a run than the 6-mile shoreline out and back along windswept Ocean Beach. A paved path and striking a straightaway as any in the Bay beckons runners who want to put in the hard work early in the day. Salt air, seaside views, and nothing to distract you. It’s a formula for an honest run. Bonus: The fog of the outer Sunset will keep things cool as you put in the miles.
The gear: You’re going to want a long-sleeve shirt for this one and the Agile Long Sleeve ($55) is the perfect fit: AdvancedSkin fabric dries fast to keep you warm. If you push the pace, breathable mesh armpits let you vent when you need it. Go for the high-vis red to be seen, or low-key black or blue if you’re playing post-run tourist.
The reward: Waves crashing on seal rocks. The sweeping views of the west side of the city and the coast to the south. The old school charm of the Camera Obscura and Holograph. These are the secret charms of the north end of Ocean Beach that prove the infinite diversity of urban running in the Bay. And the price of admission: nothing! A beautiful bargain hard earned at the end of a strong run.
The Run: Bay Bridge Trail
Not long ago, runners could only fantasize about jogging across the Bay Bridge. But when the Bay Bridge Trail opened in 2016, the thrill of running above the open water of the Bay became a reality. You need to start this long run in the charming East Bay town of Emeryville. It’s approximately 4.4 miles in one direction, takes you across water on a dramatic modernist bridge with a striking 500-foot tower and epic views of the city all along the way to Yerba Buena island.
The Gear: It’s an 8-mile run and you’re going to want to make a morning of it, so comfort is of the essence. The minimalist SENSE PRO 5 ($160) vest is soft, practically frictionless, and wicks away moisture. It’s got enough pockets to stash all your essentials, plus two integrated 17 oz. soft flasks to keep you hydrated. It’s just the thing to power you through a run like this with elevation gain and temperature fluctuations.
The Reward: Selfie and landscape photographers take note: The bridge has observation stops along the way so you’ll have multiple photo opportunities. The numerous jaw-dropping views of San Francisco and the bay you’ll see before you even hit the island will make it hard to complete this run without stopping. And isn’t that kind of the point when you’re running in a world-class city with infinite sites to behold?