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Hiking Shoes vs Running Shoes: What is the Better Option?

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If you’re into running or hiking, you’ll know that there’s a huge selection of gear out there. This includes everything from shoes to clothes, accessories, and more!

But with so many options to choose from, and every advertiser out there assuring you that you definitely can’t reach your maximum potential without investing in theirs as well, many people find themselves asking that same question – do I really need all of it?

And especially since the more high-end technical gear rarely comes with a low-price tag, a few runs, hikes and whatever else can easily rinse your bank account. The worst culprit for this is shoes.

The days of getting away with an all-round sports shoe seem long gone.

But is buying a dozen pairs for different terrains, weathers, and climates really that necessary?

Some people claim that hiking shoes work great for running, due to their durability and weather-protection, whilst others claim that running shoes are better for hiking due to them being light-weight and breathable. And some say the two can’t be used interchangeably at all.

Who do you trust?!

In this article, we’ll be going over the differences between hiking and running shoes, as well as whether it’s worth you buying a pair of each, or just using one pair for both activities.

What Are Hiking Shoes?

There are a few different types and styles of hiking boots. Some resemble more of a shoe, whilst others are boot-shaped, and some even just look like ugly trainers. Unlike trainers though, they tend to have more flexible soles to prevent slipping when maneuvering on craggy ground.

They’re also very tough and hardwearing, so they can be used in different terrains, temperatures, and environments. When it comes to hiking shoes, they’re designed in a way to tackle long-distance routes, whilst still remaining comfortable and firm.

They have high collars to protect your ankles, and are usually waterproof up to the opening, meaning you can step into puddles and shallow streams without a problem.

Hiking shoes are a sort of hybrid between hiking boots and trainers, taking the best traits of each. They’re light and small, like trainers, but still have the tough, hardwearing construction of boots.

The general rule is that hiking boots are more ideal for those long-distance, multiple day trips, whereas hiking shoes are better for those lighter, more casual users. But the choice is ultimately yours.

What Are Running Shoes?

Regular running shoes are designed mainly for use on tarmac or pavement. They have firm soles and are made of a lightweight, breathable fabric, to stop your feet from getting uncomfortable.

Better quality running shoes have a firm cushion on the bottom, to help absorb the jolt of each pace when running on hard surfaces. This helps prevent knee injury. A standard pair of running shoes can last up to a year of occasional use, or up to six months for regular use. But this varies greatly from person to person.

Check your running shoes after every two or three uses, to ensure the soles and fabric are still in good condition. If they’re looking worn down, then it’s time to pick up a new pair.

Hiking Shoes vs Running Shoes Comparison

hiking shoes

It’s not always easy to pick out the ideal running or hiking shoes for you, but by understanding how each type of shoe differs, it can help you make the best choice for you.

Comfortability

Hiking shoes are designed to be tightly wrapped around the feet and ankles. Because of their thick material, they can often clunky or restrictive after long-term usage. Hence why hiking socks are so thick, to provide a layer of comfort between your foot and the boot itself.

Although they don’t offer much cushioning, their comfort lies in their ability to absorb external terrains without damaging your feet.

Running shoes have a more ‘floaty’ and lightweight feel. Apart from their firm soles, the fabric around them is flexible and soft. Although they don’t offer much protection from uneven terrain, they rarely feel clunky or restrictive. This allows you to feel quick and agile all day long. Running shoes rarely cause blisters, whilst hiking shoes often do.

Durability

Hiking shoes are designed solely for outdoor use, so durability is at their forefront. Their hardened, robust material makes them extremely durable against scrapes, scratches, and tears.

Not only this, but they’re known to last for a very long time, even with regular use. Some users have used theirs for thousands of miles, and have noticed hardly any deterioration.

Running shoes aren’t nearly as durable, as their material is more cushiony than robust. Because of their design favoring lightweight materials, they aren’t as resistant to tearing or scratching. If used excessively, they’ll need to be replaced a lot sooner than hiking shoes.

Protection from Damage

Hiking boots and shoes tend to be made from a tough, solid material with the primary purpose being to protect the foot from damage. Although it’s possible to run in these, their low incline and heavier construction make it harder, and that means your strides won’t carry as well.

But with greater ankle support, they’ll provide much more support on uneven terrains. Running shoes are made of a more cushioned, lightweight material. Although their soles are firmer, they’re lighter and less flexible, making them not quite as suitable for uneven terrain.

Although they offer some protection, they aren’t as robust as hiking shoes or boots, and most don’t offer much water protection.

Weather Versatility

Because of their thick material, hiking shoes (and boots especially!) can feel stuffy and clunky in hot weather, as their durable and rigid nature can prevent your feet from airing.

Because of this, they are better suited for use from late autumn through winter, and up to early spring, as they can help keep your feet warm and dry in these conditions.

Because of their mesh-like, flexible material, running shoes allow your feet to breathe, airing out the moisture, and preventing prevent your feet from getting too hot or stuffy. The only downside is that they don’t offer much in terms of warmth. In cold climates, your feet can feel ice-cold, even with thick socks.

Weight 

Many experienced hikers and trail runners know that the weight on your feet matters a lot more than the weight in your backpack, so having lightweight shoes makes more of a difference than you think.

Due to prioritizing comfort and agility, running shoes are nearly always lighter than hiking shoes – and even more-so with hiking boots. Having said that, some lightweight hiking shoes do exist, and offer fantastic durability and protection despite their weight.

It’s crucial to strike the right balance between weight and toughness, so your shoes don’t weigh you down, but are also suitable for the route and terrain you’ll be taking.

Waterproof

Because they’re designed solely for outdoor use, hiking shoes tend to offer great waterproof protection, ensuring that your feet stay dry and warm throughout the duration of your trip. This also makes them a great choice for rainy or snowy environments.

Though running shoes offer some water protection, it often isn’t much, and simply stepping into a puddle or stream can cause your feet to get wet. This makes them less suitable for rainy or snowy environments.

Breaking In

Because of their flexible, soft and lightweight design, running shoes rarely need ‘breaking in’, as the material will automatically flex around the shape and size of your foot. This means that new running shoes can often be put on straight away without causing any discomfort.

The same can’t be said about hiking shoes. Their more rigid material prevents them from adapting to the shape of your feet, meaning your feet will have to get used to the feel and tension they offer.

Because of this, many hikers get blisters and sores on their feet for the first handful of times wearing their hiking shoes, as their skin has to get used to the rubbing and shifting of the shoes. Getting high-quality boot socks can make this process less painful.

When Should You Avoid Running Shoes?

Running shoes can be used on a variety of casual hikes and trails, as their firm soles and somewhat-durable material will often provide you with enough protection.

Having said that, they’re not suitable for all environments, and using them in wet, rainy, muddy or snowy environments isn’t recommended. Also, if the terrain of your journey is particularly uneven, craggy, or slipper, it’s probably best to go with hiking shoes or boots.

They might be a bit clunkier, but they’ll offer more protection, and stop you from slipping.

Final Thoughts

When choosing between running shoes or hiking shoes, the decision is entirely up to you. Take into account the terrain, weather, and environment of your route – as well as how long you’ll be traveling for – and pick the best option for that.

Both have their own distinct advantages, and both offer some sort of crossover. But for regular use, it might be best to get a pair of each, just so you know you’ve gotten all possibilities covered.

David Miller

My name is David and I have been an outdoor guy for as long as I can remember. I have a strong passion for the great outdoors in general and specifically camping. I am the kind of person who spends more time outdoors than indoors. I am a staunch believer in the fact that outdoor life should be well lived because it's in the natural, serene, and untamed wild that we find out who we truly are. Let’s take the journey together.

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