Hiking shoes are a top-of-mind choice for hikers, specifically those who neither want nor can afford full boots.
In a pinch, some might even use them as running footwear—which begs the question: can you run in hiking shoes?
Running in your hiking shoes may be a tempting prospect, and, at first glance, doesn’t seem to be that bad of an idea. For instance, it’s alright to run in hiking shoes on uneven trails as long as you’re not running far or frequently.
In this article, we’ll be looking into:
- Whether or not you should run in hiking shoes
- The differences between hiking shoes and dedicated trail running shoes
- When you should definitely wear hiking shoes
Let’s get into it!
Can You Actually Run In Hiking Shoes?
Let’s settle this question first. The answer is yes, you can run in hiking shoes, similar to any other kind of footwear.
Therefore, perhaps the better question to ask is, “Should you run in hiking shoes?”
There’s a world of difference between being able to run in hiking shoes and actually running in them.
If you’re seriously considering running in hiking shoes, your decision depends heavily on where and how you’re running.
Is It Okay to Run In Hiking Shoes?
As the name suggests, hiking shoes are primarily designed for hiking. When you’re out on a hike, you’re exposed to various types of terrain that may injure you if you’re not careful enough.
Hiking shoes provide valuable protection from abrasions and help you maintain your footing even if the trail conditions aren’t that favorable. With a pair of decent hiking shoes, you can walk at a moderate pace over relatively rough or uneven terrain.
While they’re designed for hiking, there’s nothing inherently wrong with running in them!
As long as you’re not exacerbating any existing injuries, the worst you’ll likely experience from running once or twice in hiking shoes is a few blisters.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can just go right ahead and become a serious trail runner in hiking shoes. After all, prolonged running in hiking shoes or boots can increase your chances of getting injured.
If you prefer to run on trails, it’s best if you also keep a pair of trail running shoes. We’ll look at these two types of footwear in greater detail and see how they compare to each other.
Hiking Shoes vs. Trail Running Shoes
Hiking shoes are great, but if you’re a keen runner, you’ve probably also heard about trail running shoes.
Designed for runners who frequently run off-road, trail running shoes provide a sweet middle ground between a standard road running shoe and a hiking shoe.
How are hiking shoes and trail running shoes different exactly? Let’s explore the comparisons point-by-point:
Hiking shoes tend to be heavier than trail running shoes. This is because they’re built more solidly to deal with rougher terrain than the kind typical running shoes are exposed to.
Naturally, heavier objects make their presence known the longer you carry them. The same applies to footwear.
As a result, running in hiking shoes will feel more difficult than performing the same in trail running shoes–especially over long distances.
Like most boots, it’s no secret that hiking boots take some time to break in and will give you a few blisters.
Hiking shoes are a bit different. With a softer, shorter build than your typical hiking boot, they won’t chafe as much on your feet. However, they are still principally walking shoes, and are most comfortable for this task.
Trail running shoes provide more cushioning to help absorb the heavier impacts of running footfalls as opposed to walking ones. They are also more lightweight to help you move more easily and quickly.
So, you’ll be more comfortable running in trail running shoes as compared to hiking ones (though this is probably not particularly surprising!)
Durability is something that heavily depends on which brand of shoe you get. Different makers and different models all have varying durability specs, so you should always check out a few reviews before making a decision.
As a general rule, however, hiking shoes are more durable than trail running shoes.
The heavier material and generally sturdier build of hiking shoes—both there to help cope with tougher terrain—mean that they can withstand much more punishment before they start falling apart.
Like durability, water resistance depends heavily on which brand of shoe or boot you decide to purchase.
However, water resistance isn’t the be-all and end-all!
As the comments in this Reddit thread point out, there are two sides to water and shoes: How water-resistant the shoes are, and how fast they dry out.
Trail running shoes are typically less waterproof than hiking shoes due to their lighter and more breathable build. However, the same properties also allow trail running shoes to dry out faster.
Because they’re both designed for use on unpaved trails, hiking shoes and trail running shoes are neck and neck when it comes to the overall grip that they provide.
Trail running shoes typically have deep grooves that help them adapt to multiple surfaces, providing a lot of grip in the process.
Similarly, hiking shoes also provide an ample grip. Trails that are steep, or those that become slippery when wet pose plenty of risks during hikes. Decent hiking shoes help you grip the terrain so you can continue your trek.
One of the major selling points of hiking shoes is that they provide better support, especially to the ankle.
However, trail running shoes are also suitable for many hiking needs because they’re much lighter than hiking shoes and offer more breathability.
On top of that, East Bay Regional Parks has a poster recommending shoe types for their hikes. The said poster features both trail running shoes and hiking shoes, so it’s totally okay to use either one.
In short, the extra ankle support provided by a hiking shoe during hikes isn’t as big of a deal as people make it out to be.
Trail running shoes tend to have more breathable designs than hiking shoes. That’s because trail running shoes employ mesh and other breathable materials to keep your feet cool when doing vigorous exercise.
However, the sturdiness of hiking shoes offers greater protection when it comes to wetter conditions. If you’re wearing trail running shoes during the rain, chances are that your feet will be soaking wet when you’re done.
Nevertheless, when it comes to running in hiking shoes, your feet will become uncomfortably hot much faster than in trail running shoes.
Hiking shoes tend to have thicker soles than trail running shoes. As a result, the feel of the ground may be more noticeable through trail running shoes, and some hikers believe it can lead to better stability.
However, that’s not always the case.
Generally, hiking shoes provide much more stability because of their sturdier build. More flexible footwear like trail running shoes twists easily, which can throw you off-balance on more challenging terrain.
Nevertheless, the kind of terrain that runners use doesn’t usually require the same degree of stability that hiking shoes provide. In other words, trail running shoes are far more suitable for running than hiking shoes.
Hiking shoes are typically bigger and bulkier than standard trail running shoes, making them more capable of protecting your feet.
This is especially useful for sharp, rocky ground—the kind that you’re more likely to find on a serious hike as opposed to a running trail.
Traction is a crucial consideration when buying shoes. While grip refers to how much your shoe sticks to a surface, traction is the ability of your footwear to resist slipping.
During steep or slippery hikes, it’s all the more important to have hiking shoes with better traction to avoid common hiking injuries.
Trail running shoes also offer some degree of traction. However, they’re unsuitable for more challenging hikes because they’re simply not designed for this purpose.
When To Wear Hiking Shoes
We’ve looked at all the different points between hiking shoes and trail running shoes. So, can you run in hiking shoes?
The answer essentially boils down to how serious the trail or the run is. If it’s a short run or a not-too-rugged trail, then hiking shoes and trail running shoes will both likely meet your needs.
However, if you’re going for something more specialized, it’s worth wearing the right kind of footwear for the activity.
You shouldn’t use hiking shoes on longer runs because their weight and lack of breathability can tire you quickly and make you more susceptible to injuries.
Wear hiking shoes for hiking needs. If it’s raining or the trail is steep, wear hiking shoes. If you’re doubting your hiking conditions, it’s also best that you stick with hiking boots!
If you’re going to run on a trail, use trail running shoes instead.
By using hiking shoes as they’re meant to be used, you’re giving them a much longer life to accompany you on your future adventures.