Trail Running Shoes for Hiking?

Trail running shoes have become all the rage in the hiking and backpacking community, but there are times when hiking shoes are better than trail runners.

If you’re not sure whether or not to switch to trail running shoes, spend some time figuring out what’s best for you. You’ll need to think about the weather, among other things.

For my part, I sometimes wear trail running shoes and other times regular hiking shoes depending on what the terrain and weather demand. In this post, I’ll go through the differences and assist you in your decision.

Advantages of trail running shoes for hiking

Advantages of trail running shoes for hiking
  •  Relatively lightweight.
  • Ventilate sweat better than hiking shoes.
  • Quick-drying during short food and drink breaks.

What are trail running shoes?

Trail running shoes are specifically designed for hiking and running on rough, uneven terrain.

They typically have thicker soles than regular sneakers, making them more durable and able to handle outdoor conditions.

On average, trail running shoes are vented to allow sweaty moisture to dry more quickly and water to run off if they get wet. This shoe dries faster than a regular hiking boot on average.

Additionally, they often have a waterproof membrane or coating to protect your feet from the elements.

Some are produced with Gore-Tex or additional waterproof/breathable layers. However, some models offer no water protection.

Before the soles wear down, you may expect to travel 300 miles in trail running shoes. However, this depends on the manufacturer and style, and it cannot be applied universally.

Another advantage is that trail running shoes are lighter than hiking boots, allowing you to cover greater distances with less fatigue. 

Walking in them is also somewhat cooler. They’re typically more ventilated and allow your feet to sweat less, preventing blisters. 

In comparison, trail running shoes are softer. They don’t usually require a lengthy break-in period before

Trail running shoes are ideal for hiking on groomed routes when the weather isn’t too cold. However, the more removed you are from these parameters, the less beneficial they become.

Disadvantages of trail running shoes for hiking

  • Soles wear out faster than hiking shoes.
  • Usually cannot be repaired.
  • Offer little protection for the foot and ankle.
  • Below freezing, trail running shoes are too cold.

Many hikers believe that trail running shoes are the best option for hiking. 

However, there are several disadvantages to using these shoes for this purpose.

Trail running shoes cannot be worn comfortably in temperatures below freezing because they are not insulated.

Running shoes are much more comfortable when there is no snow and ice on the ground.

Trail running shoes offer less protection for ankles and feet when hiking over rough terrain or off-trail. While they are practical on well-maintained and scree-free trails, they don’t offer ankle and lower leg protection from rocks or vegetation you may encounter off-trail.

The soles of trail running shoes wear out faster than those of hiking shoes because they are made of soft rubber and other synthetic materials. Whereas the soles of hiking shoes usually last twice as long as those of trail running shoes.

A pair of trail running shoes usually last about 400 miles for me. In contrast, a good hiking shoe will last over 1000 miles – This can get expensive if you have to buy new hiking shoes when they wear out constantly.

This also has consequences for the environment and nature because hiking boots have to be thrown away when worn out and can be difficult to recycle because of the high rubber content.

There is often debate about trail running shoes providing less support than hiking shoes.

The theory is that people with lower fitness levels or heavier loads need more ankle protection.

In my view, this is an individual question that everyone has to answer for themselves.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if hiking shoes provide more support than trail running shoes.

Advantages of classic hiking shoes

Classic Hiking Boots Advantages
  • Better insulation in cold weather.
  • More protection for the entire foot and ankles.
  • Re-sole is possible with many models.

What exactly are hiking boots?

Hiking boots are shoes specifically designed for hiking. 

They are typically made from leather and synthetic materials. They’re designed to keep your feet dry during excursions by providing a waterproof or water-resistant treatment.

Hiking boots provide a greater level of support and stability than regular sneakers or walking shoes, which helps minimize the chance of injuries while hiking over uneven or slippery surfaces.

The term encompasses a broad category of footwear that protects your ankles.

Leather boots are popular today, including classic leather hiking boots, hiking boots with soft synthetic uppers, insulated winter hiking boots, and mid-depth hiking boots that protect your ankles at middle height but are typically softer than hiking boots.

Because they have thicker cushioned uppers and rigid shanks, classic trekking boots provide more foot and ankle protection than modern trail running shoes.

Climbing rocky slopes and running over scree fields may be dangerous, but you can avoid sprained ankles and feet with proper footwear. Or if you go off-trail and cross-country where thorns, rotting trees, and low-lying bushes might damage your ankles and feet.

Because the uppers of hiking boots cover the top of the foot and ankles, they offer better moisture protection in low temperatures.

The lack of ventilation also means your feet will stay warmer as long as you keep moving.

Hiking shoes endure considerably longer than trail running shoes are, one of their most significant benefits.

A few months is a long time to expect a hiking shoe to last, but it’s the norm with trail running shoes. I’ve been wearing my trekking shoes for three years now, although I’m sure that has something to do with it.

When the tread on hiking shoes wears out, they may be fixed; whereas trail running shoes frequently have to be replaced.

Tip: Check out my other blog article to compare all types of hiking shoes. Follow the link to read the article.

Disadvantages of hiking shoes

  • Hiking shoes are significantly heavier than trail running shoes.
  • Expensive to purchase.
  • Dry slower when they are soaked.
  • Hot and sweaty in the summer.

There are several disadvantages to hiking boots.

Hiking boots typically require more action to hike in because they are heavier than trail running shoes.

If you walk many miles every day or attempt to run at the best time, this can be an issue. However, this is less of an issue as a daily hiker or a weekend hiker.

Hiking shoes take longer to dry than trail running shoes, which might be a big problem if you trek through wet territory or cross many streams.

Hiking boots get much heavier when they get soaked, and it takes a long time for them to dry, especially if you have to keep wearing them while they are still wet.

Wet boots can also cause more blisters since the moisture makes the skin more susceptible to abrasion. The same may be said for sweaty feet, as hiking shoes become hot in the heat.

Hiking boots and their soles last longer than trail running shoes, but they are also more expensive. This is less of a problem with mid-depth hiking boots that cost about the same as trail runners.

Whether you go for the classic hiking shoe or trail running shoes is up to you.

For beginners, I would perhaps recommend more classic hiking shoes.

Will you buy hiking shoes or try trail running shoes?

Let me know on Twitter. You can also ask me more questions on Twitter.

Have fun with your new hiking shoes!

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Hi, I'm Dave. I'm an avid outdoors and sports enthusiast who loves to share my passion with others. I publish the experiences I've gained over the years on Outdoormeta to give beginners helpful tips and bring people closer to the outdoors.

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