Trail Runners Vs Hiking Shoes

Trail Runners Vs Hiking Shoes: Which Is Better And Why?

Lightweight gear is becoming more popular in recent years. Hikers no longer want over-the-ankle boots. Hikers now prefer lightweight trail runners and hiking shoes to be their companions on even the most difficult terrain.

Comfort is also improved by lightweight hiking shoes. There are many styles to choose from Trail Runners Vs Hiking Shoes. How do you choose the right footwear for trail runners? Bshoe‘ll help you make the right choice by sharing your knowledge.

Hiking shoes

These boots are more flexible and lighter than traditional hiking boots to be worn in a variety of conditions.

Hiking shoes can be a modified version of a brand’s boots, with a lower cuff. They are more durable and robust than trail-running shoes and therefore weigh more. They can be waterproof and feature a Gore-Tex membrane or own-brand membrane.

The sole is typically much heavier, so you don’t need an inner rock plate to protect your feet from sharp stones and sticks.

They are more casual and sporty and can be found in muted colors, such as brown, black, and navy. You could also wear them to the town to keep your feet comfortable.

These shoes are great for hiking and running, although they can be a bit stiff and heavy. They will feel lighter than hiking boots and are great for long walks under good conditions.

Then there is ‘approach footwear’. You may be asking, “What are approach shoes?” They are a sub-species of hiking shoes used by rock climbers to get to their favorite crag if they can be accessed via trails.

Hiking shoes

They have a more rigid midsole and a rubber under sole stickier to give them grip and support when climbing and ‘to edge’ around the rock. However, they can also be used for hiking.


  • Comfy
  • Lightweight
  • There is no break-in period
  • Drying quickly


  • Protection on technical terrain is not ideal
  • Support for the average ankle

Trail shoes

These shoes are a hybrid of a running shoe and a walking shoe. They are lighter, flexible, highly breathable, less protective, and therefore less durable.

They are often not waterproof as they can become too hot and sweaty for running. Running through puddles can cause water to pool over the shoe’s top. Water will drain slower through waterproof membranes, making it heavy and your feet more susceptible to swelling from the salty, gritty seawater.

Many trail shoes are brightly colored, almost like shouting “I’m running!” at passersby. They can also be worn casually at the pub or other places, but they are not as useful as multi-purpose shoes.

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There are many options for trail running shoes, both sole-wise and in terms of design. These shoes can be as light as a road-running shoe and have a lot more grip than a running shoe. Some even have deep lugs that are great for multi-terrain running, while others look almost like football boots.

Trail shoes


  • Flexible
  • Support, protection, and traction
  • Amazing cushioning
  • Midsoles that are stiff


  • Drying slowly
  • Period of break-in

Trail Runners vs Hiking Shoes: Performance Considerations

1. Weight Advantage: Trail Runners

Hikers make weight cuts by switching from high-top hiking boots and low-rise hiking footwear. Many hikers also opt for lighter trail runners to reduce their weight. This is illustrated by the fact that an average pair of hiking boots weigh in at well over 2 pounds.

However, most hiking shoes are around 1.5 pounds. The La Sportiva Bushido 2, a popular hiking shoe, weighs in at just 1 pound and 5 ounces. A lightweight hiking shoe, or a trail runner, will save your feet and legs from doing a lot of lifting during a day on the trail.

We would choose a lighter shoe if all other factors were equal. We’ll explain below how slashing weight can lead to significant sacrifices in support and protection.

For those who travel 20+ miles per day or with very light loads, the weight savings offered by a trail runner might be worth it. However, hiking shoes provide a nice boost in performance and durability for a few extra ounces.

2. Support and Protection Advantage: Hiking Shoes

Hikers who hike every day prefer hiking shoes to trail runners because of the protection and support they offer.

Hiking shoes have a more robust midsole, a burlier outer sole and upper, and features such as a rubber and toe cap that provide the same support as a hiking boot but without the added protection for the ankle.

The extra security is great for carrying heavy loads, especially when traveling on uneven trails or scrambling off the trail. On the other hand, trail-running shoes are made with speed and agility in mind and offer less protection. However, they can still be flexible, sensitive, and lightweight.

However, support can vary greatly between categories. The Salomon X Raise is one of our favorite hiking shoes, but it’s not the best option for longer hikes or backpacking trips. (See our detailed review here). The Arc’teryx Norvan VT 2 Trail Runner is comparable.

It performs well on varied terrain and offers sufficient cushioning and stiffness to make a lightweight backpack that can be used for multi-day trips. We recommend that you do your research before purchasing shoes. This will ensure that you are getting the right support.

Our hiking and trail-running shoe roundups provide detailed descriptions of each pair’s fit, support, and best use.

3. Durability Advantage: Hiking Shoes

Durability is an important factor when choosing between a hiking shoe or a trail runner. Hiking shoes are more durable, and they’re usually made of leather or durable nylon fabrics.

They also have protective toe caps as well as medium-strength midsoles. Hiking shoes are more durable than trail runners and can withstand harsh, abrasive terrain.

Trail runners are lightweight, which makes them more durable, but it also reduces their life expectancy. Trail runners are a lightweight option that provides comfort for backpackers. They can often be used multiple times per year by hardcore backpackers.

4. Traction Advantage: Hiking Shoes

The soles of trail runners and hiking shoes differ in terms of rubber compounds and tread patterns. A hiking shoe’s sole is typically stiff, similar to a burlier boot.

This gives extra support when moving on uneven or potentially treacherous terrain. The Merrell Moab 2 is an excellent example. Trail runners’ soles are more flexible to increase comfort and ease of movement. Many experienced backpackers and hikers prefer Trail-running shoes.

However, it takes time to develop strength, balance, and confidence when running long distances on uneven terrain. We recommend a stiffer sole for a hiking shoe before moving to a trail runner if you are beginning.

The tread pattern and depth of rubber are very different between trail runners and hiking shoes. The tread of a hiking boot is very similar to a boot’s. It has an excellent grip on all surfaces, including snow, mud, and slippery tree roots.

Traction Advantage: Hiking Shoes

Trail runners will often see many exclusive designs, each one excelling on a particular type of terrain. Shoes with deep tread (also known as lugs) such as the Salomon Speedcross 5 offer security on muddy or loose ground.

Conversely, shoes with a shallower tread (and sometimes even an easy climbing patch on the heel) will grip rock better. It can be difficult and confusing to choose the right trail-running shoes. We recommend that you choose a versatile hiking shoe if you don’t want to stick to one type of terrain.

5. Comfort Advantage: Tie

First, a shoe that isn’t comfortable should be avoided. It doesn’t matter if you are hiking 20 miles in a hiking boot or running 20 miles in a trail running shoe. It should feel good on your feet. After that disclaimer, we believe the best hiking shoes are the ones that feel the most comfortable.

A trail running shoe is best for those who are light-weighted and move quickly, especially on well-maintained trails.

A hiking shoe is the best choice for those who carry heavier loads (over 25 pounds) or cover more technical terrain. It all boils down to your goals, such as how fast you want the terrain to be covered and what kind of terrain.

6. Breathability Advantage: Trail Runners

Trail runners are made with thinner materials than hiking boots, so it is no surprise that they are more breathable. There are plenty of hiking shoes that can compete with trail runners, especially those with large mesh panels such as the Salomon X Raise and Merrell MQM Flex 2.

Hiking shoes with leather or sturdy nylon uppers, on the other hand, will compromise breathability for durability and protection. Mesh shoes are great for hiking in hot areas or where crossing rivers are common (like on our recent trek to Parque Patagonia).

They also dry quickly and have good ventilation. A waterproof or leather model will take longer to dry. You may prefer a thicker, more air-permeable upper or a shoe with a waterproof membrane for winter hiking or shoulder season.

7. Waterproofing Advantage: Tie

There are many hiking shoes and trail runners that come in waterproof or non-waterproof versions. The Merrell Moab 2, for example, comes in both waterproof (suede) and standard mesh (suede) models.

We have found that waterproof trail runners offer protection comparable to waterproof hiking shoes. Variations are more due to the technology (our favorite being Gore-Tex) and less due to the type of footwear.

Hiking shoes offer more waterproof options, which can increase your chances of finding the right model for you. Keep in mind that leather is naturally water-resistant, so some hiking shoes made of leather will withstand raindrops, puddle splashes, and little snow.

However, waterproofing can lead to compromised breathability in hiking shoes and trail runners, which can cause uncomfortably soggy feet.

This is especially true when there are hot and dry conditions and when exertion is high. For summer hiking, or when it is inevitable to have wet feet, we prefer breathable shoes (read thin build and mesh uppers).

We prefer waterproof shoes for snow and shoulder seasons when dry feet matter both of safety and comfort. A hiking boot is the best choice if you want waterproof protection. The mid-height construction will trap more water than a lower-top shoe.

What is the best?

For snowy trails or winter mountain walking, everyone needs to have proper hiking boots. However, for most of the year, a more flexible walking shoe or trail shoe is sufficient.

It all depends on how fast you like to run, how much you spend on shoes for different occasions and how big your shoe rack is. The annoying verdict is that you should have both types of the shoe as an option.

The trail shoes are the best choice if you’re primarily a runner. Multi-terrain shoes can be used for hiking and running in most seasons. However, they are not as durable or long-lasting as hiking boots.

Hiking shoes are also a good option if you prefer to walk. They will last for many years with some post-hiking care and can still be used to speed up. These heavier, stiffer options are not recommended for long-distance running as they can overcook your feet.


Can you wear runners hiking?

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.

Read also:

How difficult is hiking the Narrows?

Not very difficult, unless you want to hike the entire trail length for an all-day adventure. How many miles is the Narrows hike? 16 miles total if you hike top-down, but most people just hike in 1-3 miles bottom-up and turn around and come back, considering you have to hike out whatever you hike in.

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