There’s a lot we’re all figuring out together.

With COVID-19 policies varying from week to week and place to place, it can be hard to keep track of all the little behavioral adjustments we’re expected to make.

For active city-dwellers and road-runners, the unwritten rules of running etiquette are changing too.

At HOKA, we can’t make exact recommendations for several reasons. We’re not virologists, for one. And guidelines are likely to change.

But we do know running, and we understand that etiquette isn’t an exact science.

So there are few common-sense boundaries to keep in mind as we navigate the “new normal” of running.
Be a Model Runner

Good running etiquette has always been important. But it’s especially important now.

That’s because each runner can represent every runner in the eyes of the general public.

Amid all of the lifestyle changes we’ve been through lately, it would not be utterly shocking to see changes in policy regarding the public spaces we use for running. Imagine if your favorite route became “walking only,” for example. While that might not be likely, but it is at least within the realm of possibility.

So on behalf of runners everywhere, please remember that your commitment to etiquette is appreciated. Not just by the general public, but by everybody else in the runner community who loves to hit the road as much as you do.

How to Run With a Mask

As we mentioned, we’re not virologists, but we do know a couple of basic facts about running and the novel coronavirus. For one, we know that running causes heavy breathing. And two, we know that COVID-19 is a respiratory disease.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why the average pedestrian might prefer for runners to wear masks.

But running with a mask can be uncomfortable, not to mention sweaty, and running with a mask can slow your pace, reduce your distance, and wear you out sooner – all of which make running both less fun and less effective.

Etiquette suggests that a compromise between always and never wearing a mask would make everybody comfortable.

We suggest the following techniques for running with a mask:

  1. Consult updated guidelines on proper mask use, the effectiveness of different mask types, and distancing.
  2. Always at least bring a mask on your run.
  3. Avoid crossing paths or overtaking other runners or pedestrians within 6-10 feet.
  4. Similar to how you’d turn off your high-beam headlights while driving on a country road, consider masking up (or – safely – crossing the street) before crossing paths with or overtaking anybody.

If the above seems like a long list of concessions, remember that the other people you encounter on your runs won’t know your health status, and you won’t know theirs.

Think of your mask as a symbol of empathy. It’ll make the face sweat easier to live with.

Social Distancing on the Road & Sidewalk

In the city, crowds can be difficult to avoid. Even in outdoor spaces and parks.

Plan accordingly.

You might need to adjust your schedule or your route. Try running during off-peak hours, and stay away from areas where it’s impossible to sidestep other people (a six-foot radius is standard for adequate sidestepping) during the course of your run.

You might need to think outside the box a little and make some sacrifices. For example, instead of your favorite high-traffic park path, consider a detour to run laps around a comparatively deserted athletic field.

If possible, take a wide berth (at least six feet) around anybody you come across. If that’s not possible, consider altering your route to prioritize wider sidewalks, easier rerouting and fewer blind turns around obstructed corners.

If you absolutely can’t avoid crossing paths with somebody, slow down, mask up, make eye contact, offer passage and turn your face away as both parties quickly traverse the shared space.

A quick “excuse me” or “after you” is a nice touch.
Stay Positive and Friendly

Running is a great way to relieve stress, and we’re all feeling plenty of that right now. But stressed-out people can be the least friendly versions of themselves.

So attend to your mindset before you set out on your next run.

Take a few deep breaths, relax, reset and try to let go of any resentments you might be feeling. That way, you’ll be in a better frame of mind for those “excuse me”s and “after you”s, and won’t feel so put out by the idea of wearing a mask or giving other people the extra distance that makes them comfortable.

And if none of that works, remember that since you’re wearing a mask, there’s no point in smiling. A nod, a wave or a thumbs up will do.

Good luck, stay safe and enjoy your next run.