Hiking is not running; so, the gear for two needs to be different; it is a common perception. It is an outdoor activity that requires the person to go on different kinds of trails, such as rocky, snowy, pebbly, or sometimes just smooth.
Depending upon the trail the hikers have planned to go on, they prepare for the same and buy hiking shoes. The primary features they pay attention to are grip, traction, and balance offered by the hiking shoe.
Makers design the hiking shoes to provide the users with ample protection against the challenges posed by trail. So, if you ask, “Can I Run in hiking shoes?” the answer will be – partly yes, or occasionally!
The requirements of grip and traction level for running purposes are different. The running is mostly done on level surfaces, so the traction may sometimes be hindered if overdone.
So, the better response will be – if you have employed the hiking shoes for snowy trails for running purposes, you are doing more harm than good to your feet. On the other hand, the hiking shoes for easy and smooth trails can serve the purpose of runners.
Further, it would help if you ascertained the running mileage you plan to extract from the hiking shoe. If like a professional running trainer, you want to clock in some 5-25 miles a day, then hiking shoes will not reach the shelf-life as claimed by the maker.
Let’s try to understand why running shoes are so important and why one cannot replace them with hiking shoes for regular running.
Hiking Vs. Running Shoes – Main Differences
Whether switching is the right thing to do or not can be found when you have understood the differences between hiking shoes and running shoes correctly.
Here are how these two types of shoes differ.
When you need to run, you do not want any added weight on feet. It would be best if you felt feathery light on feet. That is why makers come up with running shoes that are feathery light.
You can expect running shoes to weigh just 1-1.5lb against hiking shoes that weigh anywhere between 2-3lbs mostly.
Foot and Ankle Support
In very minimalistic designs in trail runner shoes, the foot support may be entirely missing. Ankle support also may be missing in both kinds of running shoes.
The foot support provided in hiking shoes adds to the weight and tires down the runner quickly. On those trails where you need foot support, hiking shoes can be useful for running; but this cannot be generalized again.
Hiking on rocky or snowy trails requires deeper traction. So, you can find lugs to be more prominent in hiking shoes. The traction-boosting elements in a running shoe are not just the same as those included in hiking shoes.
There is a different kind of specialized traction that is designed to put in the running shoes. The idea is to provide a better grip to runner while running.
While running shoes are made of materials that help keep the feet temperature lowered (running generates more heat, so the need for balancing body temperature to avoid heatstroke is quite prominent).
On the other hand, hiking shoes are designed to help the hiker withstand rough conditions like extreme cold or rainy weather.
Runner shoes mostly have high breathability promoting materials. These shoes are made of synthetic mesh that allows the feet to breathe better and stay cool. Running can cause a lot of sweating, external conditions like mud, etc. The runner trail also requires the shoes to dry up quickly and give feet a better feel.
On the breathability parameter, hiking shoes mostly have a waterproof lining. However, the material is such that it dries up slower than the running shoe.
So, if you have chosen to run in hiking shoes on a muddy trail, you are most likely to give it up sooner due to discomfort and that irritating wet feeling.
Hiking shoes are more durable as compared to running shoes. The sole, the upper mesh, foot support, and lacing pattern collectively create a reliable product that stays with you in the toughest of the trails. Running shoes tend to wear out earlier due to the extra lightweight materials used in making these.
Taking a clue from the above points, it is safer to say that hiking shoes can be used for running when you intend to run only for shorter distances and on muddy trails. Otherwise, buying runner shoes for running purpose makes more sense than choosing hiking shoes.
When Can Hiking Shoes Be Used for Running?
As mentioned above, the hiking shoes can be occasionally used for running. Let’s find out about those instances where running in hiking shoes does not sound weird.
Weight of Shoes Doesn’t Matter
The main expectation from a running shoe is that it should provide ample support to the runners’ feet while sprinting their trails. If you are a person with a heavy built and the shoe’s weight does not bother your feet much, you can do well on the runner trail even in the hiking shoe.
As long as the feet are getting the necessary support from the shoe while running, it does not create much difference if the runner uses a hiking shoe.
Coping with Some Foot Injury
Foot injuries like knee displacement, ankle sprain, ligament rupture, etc. require feet to have additional support when trying to make a comeback to running trail after recovery. Lightweight running shoes don’t help much in such conditions.
Hiking shoes that offer extra foot and ankle support can help you clock better performance after recovering from injury. The only thing to do is take it slow first and then improve the record with practice and perseverance.
Traction and Durability Needed
Because of their sturdier and more durable materials, hiking shoes tend to last longer than running shoes. So, if you do not intend to run for very long or too often, you can do well with hiking shoes without requiring to change them often.
Secondly, the conditions like muddy or snowy trails require better traction to stay balanced on unusual surfaces.
So, if you plan to run on a muddy trail or have to scale up a snowy surface running, you can choose hiking shoes for the purpose without sounding crazy.
If you are a one-shoe person, you can consider buying hiking shoes for running. The only condition, like always, will be running less or running mostly on challenging trails. Hiking shoes allow you to manage all kinds of trails with ease and not pose many issues to the feet while running.
Thus, you can have hiking shoes for running when you want a shoe to deliver multiple purposes.
Choosing Running Shoes for Hiking – Does It Work?
Enough has been discussed why or why not to choose hiking shoes for running. But what about choosing running shoes for hiking? Will it make any difference to the performance?
Let’s find out.
The good news is running shoes can be helpful for hiking purposes. When the trailing conditions are hot, wet, or humid, the running shoes fit the bill better. Many hikers have started using running shoes for hiking through hot and humid conditions.
The reason lies in the hiking shoes’ ability to dry up quickly, helping to keep the feet dry even while hiking through puddles, mud, or snow.
Some running shoes are designed with deeper traction. The only thing is to shop at leisure and with a critical eye for this feature. The running shoe with more defined traction offers excellent support to feet on hiking trails.
Top conditions when running shoes can do great for hiking events are:
If you intend to wind up your hike in about 2-3 hours, you can consider hiking in running shoes. Keep in mind that, hiking shoes are not very expensive. You can get excellent hiking shoes for $50.
Long Day Hikes in Rainy Weather
You will require more frequent breaks when going on such hikes. Thus, running shoes will not be too exploited in these conditions. Thus, these will stay with you till the completion of the hike and beyond.
Also, wearing running shoes all day long is easy as these do not hurt feet at all due to their lightweight design. Comfort comes easy to you when you choose running shoes for long day hikes or hikes during rainy weather.
Backpacking trips are a mix of running, walking, and traveling by train or other means of transport other than being on foot. So, running shoes offer the requisite comfort and look when you want to stay dressed up and feel more comfortable on the feet.
Backpacking requires you to stay on the road for almost the whole of the days; thus, running shoes prove to be more reliable support in such a situation. One more thing to mention, don’t forget to have a backpack with a shoe compartment if you want to carry more than one pair of shoes.
Trail Runner Shoes for Hiking
Hiking is also a physically demanding activity, just like running. So, trail runner can be your good hiking support if you have paid attention to these points while shopping for these:
There should be ample cushioning on the sole area, and arch support helps keep feet in place. So, slip into the shoes first and see how it feels on the sole and arch.
If you feel ample comfort, these are the shoes for hiking, even if these are labeled as running shoes.
Wide Toe Box
A wide toe box offers ample space for toes. Feet do tend to expand in the toe region when hiking due to constant walking. Some may feel swelling, too, if the toes do not find ample space.
Wide toe box helps to keep feet in good condition when you have decided to hit the trail for days altogether or have a very long distance to cover on feet.
Backpacking or hiking mostly requires the hiker to carry with them all items. Carrying a bit heavy loads takes a toll on ankles if the shoes are heavy too.
With a lightweight and good ankle support, running shoes provide adequate comfort to the feet while hiking on long trails or day-long hike. So, this is an excellent point to consider while choosing running shoes for hiking.
Of course, you will never want your shoe to break down in the middle of the hike. Also, the hikers develop comfort with their shoes, and they do not like to change it often. Breaking in period is another source of frustration because of which hikers refrain from having new shoes quite often.
Therefore, they look for durable shoes that stay with them through the harshest of conditions. Apart from durability, the ease of maintenance and ability to look new and feel dry are other factors that make running shoes the right choice for hiking.
Hiking Shoes vs. Trail Runners
The debate on hiking shoes vs. trail runners never seems to die down. These two types of shoes for athletic purposes have unique characteristics. Still, there are certain grey areas where these can be used interchangeably.
Some of the straightforward pointers that help make a clear choice between the two are:
Need to Carry Lots of Things
Go for hiking shoes with good ankle support. It can be a universal choice. However, suppose your running shoe designer has managed to keep the ankle support sturdier without adding too much to its weight.
In that case, you can choose this as an alternative when you are backpacking almost everything and are on-road and planning to live in makeshift arrangements.
Your Body Type
If you are someone with a stout and sturdy body frame, hiking shoes with all their weight and firmness will pretty well complement your physique.
Type of Trail
The snowy, muddy, and rocky trail can be managed well with hiking shoes having good traction, better ankle and foot support, and sizeable toe space.
Also, the weight of hiking shoes complements these kinds of trails pretty well. Running shoes do well when hiking trails are smooth, short, and with lots of breaks.
Pace of Hiking
Some hikers are on a mission to explore nature leisurely. Others have a target to meet, and they are doing pace hiking. The brisk walk becomes more comfortable when you have put on the running shoes.
However, if the pace and the length of the hike are to be maintained, the users need hiking shoes. Going altogether for weeks may take a few additional trail runners as these tend to wear out.
Benefits of Hiking Shoes
Hiking shoes for running is not a very bad idea. Some of the benefits you can experience while using hiking shoes for running are:
Easy Temperature Maintenance
In hot, demanding, and long-running trails, the hiking shoes make it easy for the runner to stay cool. The feet remain dry and well-secured, and there is no discomfort to handle.
A Versatility in Traction
Hiking shoes have a variety of traction levels. Thus, running with shoes having correct traction becomes easy to achieve when you have chosen hiking shoes.
Short Break-in Period
Hiking shoes do not require hikers to employ extensive methods to break into these. Thus, running need not wait much, and just a few rounds of the brisk walk can help adjust in these shoes quickly.
Due to better traction, the feet tend to remain stable while running. You will not feel stressed out quickly, and ankle protection further adds comfort, making running pretty easy.
Disadvantages of Using Hiking Shoes for Running
Hiking shoes can hurt ankles if you intend to run longer and clock several miles every day. The shoes also may prove to be less durable when put to such a level of stress regularly. If the toe space is not chosen wide enough, the runners may need blister care solutions too often.
Lastly, the hiking shoes may not support too fast running or walking and make you feel tired more often. So, understand the need and running you intend to do first and then decide if the hiking shoe can help you meet your running objectives or not.
While trail runner shoes are very light and have ample protection, they do better than hiking when you require running regularly and for miles.
Hiking shoes can help you run on muddy or snowy trails without getting exposed to slips and falls due to better traction. When you are shopping for hiking shoes to run, it is better to look for the features that can support your weight, running trail type, and running speed.
Though not always, but hiking shoes can support your running activities in some exceptional cases. The key to the successful employment of hiking shoes for running lies in shopping with better awareness.