If you’ve got a really nice pair of hiking boots that support and cushion your feet, you may be tempted to run in them.
But can you go running in hiking boots? Perhaps the better question is, should you go running in hiking boots?
Hiking boots are made mainly for supporting and protecting the feet on rough or uneven ground. Running shoes, on the other hand, are made to meet three basic needs – support, protection, and performance.
There are more differences, though, that could affect their decision one way or another.
Let’s have a look at the important differences in more detail so you can make an informed decision about what shoes to run in.
Can You Go Running in Hiking Boots?
Technically, you can go running in hiking boots. But it may not be the best idea, especially if you’re a keen runner or if you have foot problems.
If you’ve been invited out for a trail run on some rough terrain and you don’t have trail running shoes, you can wear your hiking boots. But if these kinds of runs are likely to become regular occurrences, investing in a pair of proper trail running shoes is a must.
Wearing hiking boots is not recommended for regular running. If you’re running on a regular basis, you’ll be putting between 5 and 30 miles a week on your shoes. Running shoes are designed to handle that many running miles. Hiking boots are not.
Your foot hits the ground differently when you walk versus when you run. Shoes are designed to accommodate this difference. So if you’re running in a hiking boot, your foot isn’t going to be supported the way it should be.
Running regularly in hiking boots (even if you need extra ankle support) can actually increase your chances of injury.
Differences Between Running Shoes and Hiking Boots
We’ve already spoken about the basic differences between trail running shoes and hiking boots. But there are actually many more differences, some of which are drastic and others which are less serious.
Ultimately, the choice will be yours to make. But these factors will help to give you some insight into why hiking boots and running shoes perform so very differently on your feet.
A typical pair of trail running shoes will weigh between 10 ounces and 2 pounds. It depends on what they’re made of and what tech they include.
Hiking boots on the lighter side often weigh between 2 and 3 pounds. They’re generally made of heavier, sturdier, and thicker material, and also include more protective features that can add to the weight.
There’s a huge difference between having 1 ½ pounds on each foot and having 3 pounds on each foot. Even an increase of ½-pound over your usual running shoes can place unnecessary strain on your feet, increasing your chance of injuring yourself.
There’s a striking difference between hiking boots and running shoes when it comes to how breathable they are.
Running shoes are made for ventilation. Their uppers usually consist of a generous amount of mesh material, which allows air to flow around the feet as you’re moving.
Hiking boots, on the other hand, are usually made for less vigorous, less sweaty activity. The material is usually thicker, less flexible, and much less ventilated, although they sometimes contain mesh as well.
The light materials of a running shoe are also made to dry quickly if they get wet from sweating, being splashed, or stepping in a puddle.
Hiking boots are often waterproof, which means they take longer to dry if your feet do sweat inside of them.
Hiking boots are built for durability. They’re thick and tough, made for withstanding harsh terrain and rough conditions.
Trail running shoes are made of much less durable materials. While this means they won’t last long as a good pair of hiking boots, this is partly what makes them lighter and easier on the feet.
You can get a year or two out of hiking boots if you look after them properly. If you run the trails regularly, you can expect 4 to 6 months of use out of a pair of trail running shoes before needing to replace them.
Hiking boots tend to be extremely supportive from ankle to arch. They’re thicker, sturdier, and more rigid, and often contain a carbon or steel rock plate in the midsole. This means they typically offer great support for the feet.
The support offered by trail running shoes differs by brand, model, and type of shoe. Overpronators will usually find a stability shoe that offers excellent support as well as cushioning. Neutral runners may need to experiment a little to find a shoe with the right amount of support for them.
There’s also often a difference in support between trail running shoes and road running shoes. Road running shoes may not offer enough support for technical terrain, while trail running shoes include supportive technology that’s designed to handle rougher ground.
Because hiking boots are created out of tougher, more rigid material, they tend to be far more weather-proof. If you’re going to be outdoors in cold, wind, rain, or snow, then you want a protective and trustworthy hiking boot on your feet.
They can also usually accommodate snow and ice cleats very well, so you can be sure of a safe footing in any conditions.
But if you’re wearing a running shoe in the cold, it may not provide as much protection against the weather as you’d like. Mesh uppers tend to let the cold in, and wind can blow right through them to chill your feet.
Wearing thick socks can help, but may reduce flexibility and make your shoes feel tighter on your feet. They may also be able to accommodate cleats, but it depends on the lug size, shape, and depth.
Both trail running shoes and hiking boots feature thick soles and deep lugs. Hiking shoes usually have better traction, more robust soles, and more aggressive lugs.
Trail shoes are usually more varied. Depending on your need, you can find trail shoes with serious lugs, or models with lighter lugged soles.
Hiking boots are rigid and sturdy, but unfortunately, this makes them quite a bit less comfortable to wear. They all contain some form of cushioning, but the stiffness of the shoe generally makes it less comfortable on the feet.
Trail running shoes are typically more comfortable than hiking shoes. They’re more flexible and more cushioned, providing better shock absorption when the foot hits the ground during running.
Hiking boots are exceptionally supportive around the ankle, but their rigid design means they’re less flexible. Your foot may not be able to go through its natural range of motion, which could lead to pain and stiffness after a day on the trails.
Trail running shoes are designed for speedy movement, both forwards and laterally. While hiking shoes are made to traverse rough terrain slowly and safely, trail running shoes are designed to facilitate fast movement on uneven ground.
Although hiking boots are less flexible, they do provide more robust protection for your feet, especially on unstable surfaces.
Many come with a high ankle collar, which keeps the foot, ankle, and as a result, the knee and hip, properly aligned, minimizing the chance of injury. There’s less chance of turning an ankle in hiking boots, as long as you’re taking it easy on the trails.
Trail running shoes typically feature minimal ankle protection. Some do come in high-top, but they’re less robust and rigid than hiking shoes. It really depends on you as to whether this is a pro or a con. It offers more flexibility, which could be the better option for faster-paced trail runs.
Both usually feature good toe protection in the form of a toe cap and reinforcement on the upper. Rock plates are a common occurrence in both trail shoes and hiking boots, protecting the sole from hazards.
That being said, plates in trail running shoes are usually still more flexible and less rigid than those in hiking boots, offering more freedom of movement while protecting the foot at the same time.
When Are Hiking Shoes Recommended?
Now that you know the important differences, it’s really up to you to decide which one would suit you best for running. There are, however, some occasions when a hiking boot may work better than a running shoe.
Runners Who Need Extra Ankle Support
Ankle support is probably the biggest pro of hiking shoes when it comes to supporting the foot. If your ankles are your biggest issue when running, a hiking shoe could help.
But you should definitely do your homework before settling on any pair of hiking boots. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time running, it may help to choose a hiking shoe with a bit more flexibility in the sole so your foot can move a little more naturally.
Beginner Trail Runners/Hikers
If you’re very new to hiking or trail running, you may benefit from the extra support hiking boots offer.
Of course, if you only have hiking boots and you aren’t totally sure if you’re going to love trail running, then you may as well use your existing footwear before buying new shoes.
When we walk, our feet take a force of up to 4 times our body weight! Runners on the heavier side may prefer the support a hiking shoe offers until they reach their goal weight.
If you’re likely to be running in very wet, muddy, icy, or snowy conditions, your regular trail running shoes may not offer quite enough protection.
In this case, hiking shoes may be the most protective option.
Those Who Need Extra Traction
In the same vein, if your regular trails require shoes with a lot of traction, hiking boots may offer better grip than trail running shoes.
Because they usually have more aggressive lugs and a grippier rubber, they can keep you safer on slippery or loose ground.
If you’re just walking, there’s no need for extreme flexibility in your shoes. Hiking shoes could be a good option for supportive and comfortable footwear.
When is a Running Shoe Recommended?
Firstly, if you’re planning on running on roads or tracks, a hiking shoe is never going to be the best choice. In these cases, you should consider a shoe specific to the type of running you’ll be doing.
If you’re planning on running trails often, then you should consider a trail running shoe. They have advantages over hiking shoes in that they’re lighter and more flexible, so if speed is important to you then a trail shoe will be a better option.
If the weather tends to be dry and warm, a trail running shoe is also probably a better choice than a hiking shoe. They’re much more breathable and will prevent your feet from overheating as you’re running.