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Are Running Shoes Good for Hiking?

When it comes to shoes for running, you will find a huge variety on the market and online. If you are a serious runner, you will find a huge variety of them on the market, online, and in a pile by your door. In moments of weakness, you may look at that extremely expensive pile and wonder, “Could I whittle this down to just a handful?” Since each pair is so expensive, it would really help if we could use each for several outdoor activities. Case in point: hiking. But are running shoes good for hiking?

Investing in multiple shoes for every single kind of outdoor activity will drive you to bankruptcy. Premium brands’ high-performance shoes are very expensive, after all.

Hence, in this article, we aim to talk about the differences between running shoes and hiking shoes. We also try to figure out whether these differences are large enough to justify buying two pairs of shoes for such seemingly similar activities as hiking and trail running. By understanding these differences, you will be more knowledgeable in making wise shoe purchases. The pile by the door will thank you.

What Are Running Shoes?

Regular road running shoes perform best on pavement and for occasional forays onto tightly packed surfaces with very few irregularities. These shoes tend to be very light in weight and extremely flexible. In addition, these shoes stabilize and cushion the feet, especially during repetitive strides on hard and even surfaces.

A pair of running shoes will typically last you anywhere between 400 to 500 miles, or about three to four months of regular usage. Check whether your shoes’ outsoles and midsoles are compressed or worn smooth. If they are, then it is time to get a new pair.

What Are Hiking Shoes?

Footwear for hiking can be more like a shoe, or more like a boot. Hiking boots are typically bigger and bulkier in size. They have a very tough and rigid outsole, and they also usually feature an ankle collar.

These boots are typically used for intense climates, steep elevation, and long-distance hikes. They are also ideal if you are lugging around heavy packs.

Hiking shoes, on the other hand, are relatively smaller in size when compared to the boots. These shoes are much lighter in weight, have a mid-cut ankle, and have a far more flexible outsole.

Casual hikers who are looking to hike no more than a day, or are in need of camp shoes, prefer these. Breathability is an added bonus, and most models don’t have an ankle collar.

Are Running Shoes Good for Hiking?

Given the differences in the make and design of running shoes, hiking shoes, and hiking boots, let’s make a comparison between them all to see which can be used for hiking.

There are a couple of top factors that come into play. These include:

  • Durability

Durability is an essential feature of any high-quality shoe. A high-quality hiking shoe is specifically designed to face uneven and rough terrain. They usually last for hundreds of hikes and rarely show signs of wear and tear beyond basic weathering. Certain hiking shoes are capable of lasting up to 1,000 miles.

As mentioned earlier, running shoes last about 500 miles, max. Furthermore, these shoes aren’t exactly designed to withstand the rough and uneven terrain that a hiking shoe is designed for. So, the possibility of wear and tear is significantly higher.

  • Weight

Weight plays an important role in any shoe, since the heavier a shoe is, the more energy you end up using to lift your foot. Stride by stride this might not seem to amount for much, but over the course of double-digit miles, excess weight can be fatiguing. For this reason, it is essential to choose a shoe that will actively minimize your energy consumption.

It is a given that a hiking shoe will be significantly heavier in comparison to a running shoe. The additional weight on a hiking shoe comes from the durability and support features we mentioned above, which can sometimes be a necessary trade-off.

Running shoes, on the other hand, are designed to be light in weight and not take away any extra energy from you.

  • Breaking-In

Hiking shoes are designed to be very sturdy. So, breaking in these kinds of shoes is essential. Failing to do so will result in blisters, and ultimately, a painful hike.

To break into hiking shoes, you will need to do it days, if not weeks, in advance. You can do this by wearing them for an hour or two each day around the house, or in the neighborhood. Repeat for a couple of weeks, and your boots will be nicely broken in.

Running shoes are designed to be not as sturdy, which means that breaking them in is significantly easier. You can break into them even a day or two prior to your scheduled activity. High-end running shoes might not even require breaking in.

  • Protection

Without a doubt, a pair of hiking shoes ensures that your feet are well-protected. The soles on hiking shoes are made from thicker materials, which makes them quite durable and tough, especially when you walk on branches and rocks.

If you opt for hiking boots, they will offer you the added advantage of supporting your ankles and protecting them from any kind of ankle sprains.

On the other hand, since running shoes are light in weight, their soles are lighter and are far less durable in comparison. Also, as keeping weight low is crucial, there will be substantially less protection and support for your feet and ankles.

  • Waterproof Feature

Being waterproof is another essential feature of hiking shoes. Most, if not all, hiking shoes are made with material that keeps water from seeping in. This also allows the shoe to dry quickly.

Running shoes, however, may not have waterproof features. This entirely depends on the shoe. Typically, high-end running shoes have some basic waterproofing. Even if they do not come with this feature, though, they tend to dry quickly since they are made from a lighter material.


So, to answer whether running shoes are good for hiking: no. Well…define “hiking.” A light walk in the woods? Running shoes will suffice in most instances. Longer trips with heavier packs and tougher trails? Do your feet a favor and invest in proper hiking footwear. While no hard and fast rule says you cannot use running shoes for hiking, you do leave yourself susceptible to injuries since they are not built for the demands.

If you go on hikes often, invest in a decent pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots, whichever works best for you. Besides…we know that big pile of shoes by the door secretly brings you joy.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner