Are Running Shoes Good for Hiking? Should You Use Them?

Last Updated: May 29, 2022

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Many people see their running shoes as ‘exercise shoes’ and generally use them for various activities. However, there is a difference and understanding it will help you take care of your feet on a hike. 

Professional Running Shoes 

If you regularly train for marathons or participate in other forms of competitive running, you should not hike in your specialized running shoes. Professional road running shoes are created to cushion your feet, reduce shock and prevent ankle, foot, leg or back pain. 

Although these qualities seem to make them ideal for hiking – they can be expensive and not suited to rough trails. It simply makes sense to use them for their purpose. 

Trail Running Shoes

Some trail running shoes would suit hiking, depending on the terrain. For instance, you could use trail shoes on a gentle, meandering hike with evenly laid out pathways. However, hiking shoes are recommended for trails that involve rock jumping, muddy trekking, and cumbersome backpacks. 

Benefits of Trail Running Shoes for Hiking

Many active people are excited about trail running shoes, also known as walking shoes, for a few reasons: 

  • Outdoor lovers appreciate the light weight of trail running shoes.
  • Trail running shoes allow for a faster pace, and you could cover many miles in them.
  • Breathable materials will keep your feet cooler throughout your hikes. 
  • Minimal to no break-in time is required.
  • Versatile, so you can use them for multiple activities.

What to Consider Before Wearing Trail Runners on Your Hikes

  • Hike duration. If your hike only lasts an hour or two, you’d be comfortable with trail runners. 
  • Type of hike. Hiking can take several forms. So, if you’re going on a short walk to enjoy nature and relax, trail runners would be ideal. Nonetheless, if you’re attempting rugged terrain over many miles, you’d best opt for hiking shoes. 
  • Inclines. When attempting a trail with steep inclines and declines of 500 feet or more, it’s best to upgrade to hiking shoes.
  • Moisture. Many trails cross waterways or streams, and when it’s unavoidable to step into water, even trail runners are not ideal.
  • Weather. Be sure to check the expected weather conditions on the day of your hike. Trail runners may not provide enough warmth. 
  • Traction: Hiking shoes offer a much better grip to avoid slips, falls, and injuries during wet weather.
  • Toe protection. Typical hiking shoes offer sufficient protection for your toes. This is an essential element on rocky and uneven terrain.
  • Ankle support. While trail runners do offer a level of ankle support, shoes designed for hiking offer superior support.

Essential Considerations for Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are suitable for diverse types of hiking and offer superb versatility. With a plethora of brands and styles available, the following attributes are essential. Be sure to consider: 

  • Ankle support. Hiking shoes usually have a mid-top design, meaning they go no higher than your ankle. If you need additional ankle support, select shoes that enclose your ankle. 
  • Durability. Find shoes that also provide a hardy upper and preferably waterproof fabric. You’ll want to choose reliable, strong hiking shoes that can handle rocky terrain, water or mud and won’t let you down for many miles. 
  • Traction. Another feature of excellent hiking shoes is their robust tread pattern. Traction is essential to ensure that your hike remains safe and enjoyable. Shoes with thick lugs on the underside will prevent slips and falls.
  • Cushioning. Comfort and protection are essential. Look for shoes that offer a supportive inner sole with cushioning. 
  • Weight. The shoe’s weight is crucial if you generally enjoy long treks through the wilderness. Heavy shoes sap energy. Fortunately, several synthetic materials are on the market to meet this demand.

Frequently Asked Questions On This Topic

There are several factors to consider, so let’s summarize with a few frequently asked questions:

What is the best upper material? 

Leather is a very reliable, stable and robust material, but it can be heavy. Choose synthetic uppers such as mesh and suede combinations. 

How do I choose the best fit? 

Ensure that the toe box (the area over the toes) is wide enough for your feet. Molded insoles will ensure the shoe fits snugly but not too tight or loose.

How much do good hiking shoes cost? 

With such an abundance of shoe brands out there, prices vary considerably. However, you shouldn’t base your decision purely on price. If you’re an avid hiker, it will be worthwhile to make your selection based on the considerations discussed in this article.

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