Hiking Shoes vs Trail Runners, What’s the Difference?

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Hiking shoes vs trail runners. Even though the two terms seem to be used interchangeable a lot of the time there are subtle differences. Hiking shoes are more rugged with thicker tread on the bottom and more similar to hiking boots. Trail runners are more closely related to running shoes and much more lightweight than hiking shoes. Check out this post with some great options for trail runners if you are in the market to buy some. 

Should I get hiking shoes or trail runners?

Hiking shoes are probably not going to be comfortable for running and will certainly not do as well on pavement as they are meant for rougher terrain and off road scenarios. Hiking shoes are more or less a lighter weight, low top hiking boot.

Trail runners are very versatile and can be used for a number of applications. They can be great for hiking as well as jogging on pavement or the treadmill. They are also very lightweight and breathable. Ultralight hikers and backpackers may even go with trail runners for long distance hikes.

You should always keep in mind though how important it is to keep your feet protected and geared up for the right conditions. If you venture out on the trail unprepared with the wrong kind of footwear it can be a recipe for disaster. Just do your research and use your better judgment based on what you plan to use your shoes for.

In the end it’s a personal preference but if you are in extreme conditions then your feet need maximum protection that can only be provided by heavy duty hiking boots. Otherwise, if you are day hiking or even backpacking in decent conditions then trail runners or hiking shoes would probably work fine for you.

Can I wear trail running shoes for road running?

In most cases trail running shoes are perfectly fine for road running or any other type of running. They are pretty lightweight and have good support for your feet. They may be a bit heavier than typical running shoes, but would most likely be a negligible difference.

Keep in mind though, trail runners aren’t necessarily designed for road running and running on roads may wear the tread out quickly. So this may shorten the lifespan of your new trail runners. As long as you are ok with that though I see no reason to not use them for several different applications including jogging or running on pavement.

What about hiking shoes, can I use them outside of hiking?

You can use them for whatever they are comfortable using them for. That being said, they are not going to make the best running shoes because they are pretty heavy compared to running shoes or even trail runners.

You should really treat them more like boots in this regard. They are find to wear in the summer walking around in shorts, but they won’t be as light and comfy on your feet as a lightweight pair of Nikes.

Just choose what works best for you and don’t focus on the labels

I think you can see the difference between hiking shoes and trail runners now based on what you’ve read here so far but what is going to be right for you is another matter. Think about where you are going to be using them and what would work best for you.

If you are more of a runner and might do some light, occasional hiking, then go for some trail runners. If you are an avid hiker but may occasionally take them out on the road for a brisk walk, then check out some hiking shoes.

See the article I linked to above for some suggestions on great trail runners, but for a an awesome pair of hiking shoes you really can’t beat the Merrell Moab 2, they are wildly popular on Amazon and for good reason.

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