Running on a Middle or High School Track if You Aren’t a Student (Social & Legal Concerns)

So, you want to go running but are tired of the monotonous pounding on the pavement and ready for a new workout. A track workout is perfect! Does running on a middle or high school track okay?

Yes, running on a middle or high school track is generally okay, assuming the school is not actively using it. Check the time restrictions to ensure you use the track at an appropriate time.

If you’re interested in whether or not you can run on a school track near you, read on to learn about when tracks are open, if there’s a difference between the high school, middle school, and elementary tracks, and the best alternatives!

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice, simply a general recommendation. Do your due diligence, contact the necessary officials, or read the rules concerning the specific track near you.

Are school running tracks usually open to the public?

woman running in school track

Many times I drive by my old high school, I see many people using the track to walk or run. Is this allowed? Are school tracks open for public use?

Yes, most school running tracks are open to the public. If the school is not actively practicing, it is generally okay to use their track.

Most school tracks allow public use. Unless runners are using the track irresponsibly and destroying it, they have no reason to revoke this privilege.

Keep in mind that using the track is just that: a privilege. Be responsible and courteous to others using the track. There is proper etiquette that should be followed when using a public track.

For example, when a school uses its track, it’s good practice to either wait to use the track or steer clear of their workouts. The track is, after all, theirs.

It’s also important to check the hours on the track. While nearly all school tracks are public, hours may vary.

Who should you ask about running on a track?

It’s better to be safe than sorry when using your local school’s track. If unsure about having permission to run on the track, who should you ask to get a definitive answer?

Ask school officials if the track is open for public use.

A variety of school officials could answer this question for you. But, before asking school officials, look for a placard around the track’s entrance. If there’s a placard, it should have the hours and the rules regarding public use of the track.

If there isn’t a placard, ask a school official. They could be the principal, any one of the assistant principals, or even a coach.

These knowledgeable officials can guide you in the right direction and ensure that you aren’t breaking any laws when using the school track.

When can you run on a school’s track?

Even though school tracks are usually open for public use, there is typically a restriction on the times you can use the track. What are these times?

You can run on a school track from dawn till dusk. As long as there is daylight, it is typically okay to run on the track. The only exception is when the school team uses the track to practice.

Typical practice is for running tracks to be open during the day. For example, the track is most likely available if the sun is up.

Of course, times will differ for every school, but in my personal experience, most tracks open at dawn and close at dusk. There may be a block of time during the day when the track is off-limits to public runners; this is to account for school usage of the track.

When in doubt, read the sign outside the track or ask a school official what the hours are.

Is it okay to run on a high school track?

girl running on high school track

If the closest track to you is located at a high school, you may wonder if running on a high school track is okay.

Yes, it is generally okay to run on a high school track. Most high school tracks are open from dawn to dusk, allowing public users to run or walk on the track.

High school tracks are the most commonly used tracks by runners. In general, high school tracks are also the highest quality tracks. They’re usually made of a durable rubber compound and are a bit easier on the joints than concrete.

As always, local laws and regulations may negate this general advice, so please check if public use is allowed by reading the sign outside the track or contacting a school official.

Is it okay to run on a middle school track?

If the closest track to you is located at a middle school, you may wonder if public use of their track is allowed.

Yes, it is usually acceptable to run on a middle school track. Check with school officials to affirm this, however.

Human nature guides us to do what is most convenient. The closest track to you may be a middle school track, and that’s great!

Most likely, it’s fair game to be used. But, as with all other tracks, it’s essential to check your local laws and regulations to abide by the rules in place.

Ask a school official or locate a placard outside the track to determine public usage rules.

Is it okay to run on an elementary school track?

Your house may not be close to a high school or a middle school, but maybe it’s located by an elementary school. Is it okay to use an elementary track?

Yes, it is generally okay to use an elementary track. However, be careful using the track during school hours as kids may be out at recess.

The same rules that apply to high school and middle school tracks apply to elementary school tracks.

During the day, use is usually okay! However, the difference in the case of elementary school tracks is one of when the school is using them.

The school typically uses the track for sports practice and conditioning for high school and middle school tracks. Elementary schools don’t have organized sports.

Elementary schools may allow kids to use the track during recess, though. Be mindful of that and steer clear of the track when it is being used for recreational purposes by the school.

Alternatives to running on a school track

Fear not if you’re still weary about using local tracks out of concern for legal or social issues. There are plenty of viable alternatives, so you can still go for a run!

Outdoor Trails

Outdoor trails serve as a great alternative to running at a school track. Many of these trails have mile markers to keep track of your distance.

Trail running also has added benefits that track running can’t offer. Plus, who doesn’t love a lovely day in nature?


While the treadmill may not be glamorous or exciting, it can still result in a great workout!

Treadmills track mileage and allow you to increase or decrease the speed, so if you want to use the track for intervals, here is your solution.


Running around the neighborhood is an excellent alternative to running on a school track.

Neighborhoods are relatively small and tend to loop around, so if you find the length of one loop, that can serve as your track. I recommend using the GMap Pedometer to find the distance of a circle around the neighborhood.

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