Are Running Shoes Good for Hiking? (They Can Be!)

Every hiker will know that getting the right hiking shoes is important. Hiking is usually done over rough terrain, and you need the right shoes to offer the necessary support. One of the most popular questions we get at outdoors & activities is whether running shoes are good for hiking and if we can use them as an alternative to our hiking boots since they are lighter in weight. This blog some essential points you need to consider in running shoes before using them for hiking.

So, are running shoes good for hiking? The short answer is yes. But, it also depends on the running shoe and your feet comfort. It would be better to use trail running shoes instead of road running shoes for more protection. Running shoes can suffice for light walks in the woods in some instances. I’d say that you should look for three things when buying running shoes for hiking: comfort, waterproofing, and durability. The fit of the shoes can be an issue. You need to ensure that the shoes are comfortable. If the shoes are too small, they can cramp your feet, which can be uncomfortable when walking long distances. Finally, make sure the shoes are waterproof. You don’t want to start walking through streams and find your feet are getting wet as this can also make walking uncomfortable.

Can I Hike in Running Shoes?

Yes, you can hike in running shoes. But, for a good hiking experience, you need to wear the right shoes for hiking. Also, you need to ensure that your ankles are strong enough to prevent twisting, and your backpack doesn’t carry more than 45 pounds. If you have more stuff in backpack, it would result in your foot fatigue in running shoes.

What You Really Need in Hiking Footwear?

Shoes are specially designed to help people get through rough terrains more easily. Such shoes tend to have deeper lugs for traction, extra cushioning for shock absorption against rocky surfaces, and higher shafts to protect the ankles. They also often have Gore-Tex linings to keep the feet dry.

Other features of shoes needed for hiking include waterproofing, weatherproofing, breathability, and durability. These are important to protect your feet against moisture (sweat), cold (wind/snow), and bugs (sand). When you’re out on the trail, no one is around to help you with these features if they fail. You’ll be alone in some areas of the trail, so make sure your footwear will stand up to these elements.

The sole should be thick and made of a puncture-resistant rubber like vibram. During hiking, sometimes punctures will happen from branches that aren’t meant for human eyes to see. Having a durable pair of shoes means that they can withstand wear and tear while still being functional.

Also Read: Why Hiking Shoes are Heavy

Why Do People Often Choose Running Shoes for Hiking?

One of the reasons people put on running shoes when hitting the trails is that they’re made for comfort and can easily be worn. That’s one of the biggest reasons people love to use them for hiking.

The other reason for wearing running shoes for hiking is that they are much cheaper than hiking footwear. Hiking boots are packed with extra padded material and a thick sole for protection. People who are experienced to walk on rough terrains don’t bother to spend a hefty amount on buying a dedicated pair of hiking boots.

What Points Do You Need to Consider While Wearing Running Shoes for Hiking?

Nature of Terrain

A Lot of rockier trails cause running shoes to wear out faster. When you have running shoes on, you should be walking around on light or medium-weighted terrain, which is something that most running shoes are made for. If you’ve got the right pair of running shoes for this kind of terrain, then you can have a lot of fun on your hiking trip.

Slope of the Surface

The biggest challenge you could face while wearing running shoes for hiking is walking on downhills. Running shoes have a flexible and stretchy mesh lining that lessens the amount of pressure on the toes when walking steadily. However, when you are downhill, all of the pressure is being forced forward toward your toes. This will cause the mesh lining to rip, leaving your toes unprotected.

So, you need to be aware of this hazard if you wish to wear running shoes for hiking.

Traction

Traction is another important factor that should be taken care of in hiking. No doubt, running shoes are also supportive, but their outsole is not stiffer like hiking shoes. The outsole of running shoes has smooth treads and is fragile and malleable. It tends to chew up on a very rough terrain. It is not made to walk over thick mud, slick and roots. So, be careful if you’re hiking on such surfaces in running shoes.

Ankle Support

Running shoes do not provide ankle support like stiffer hiking footwear. Now, it depends on how strong your ankles are before you’re going to wear your runners for hiking.

The more you’ve hiked on rough terrains, the stronger your ankles are. It enables you to get used to walking on rough terrain and allows you to balance your weight distribution on your lower body.

Dry Quickly

Running shoes are not waterproof like hiking footwear. In hiking footwear, there is a Gore-Tex lining that traps the water and makes your feet sweat. The purpose of running shoes, whether they are trail running or road running, is to make your feet breathable during rigorous running activity. So, select only those running shoes for hiking that can drain water easily and dry quickly.

How Do Trail Running Shoes Differ from Road Running Shoes?

With respect to the above-mentioned important points for running, trail running shoes provide a fair-amount of those essential features for hiking. They are packed with a hiking concept of more rigidity, traction and durability.

  • Firstly, they are lightweight like running shoes. So, you won’t feel any burden on your legs.
  • Secondly, trail running shoes have strong leather overlays on the heel, tongue and sides for a supportive fit so that the upper doesn’t rip off when rubbing with rocks.
  • Thirdly, trail running shoes have deeper treads like hiking shoes so that you can run on the uneven and soft terrain of a trail. They also have high enough arches and stiff enough soles to still work well on rocky ground.
  • Although trail running shoes are not waterproof like hiking footwear, there are some models of trail running shoes that dry out quite rapidly. So, there’s another advantage to using trail runners for hiking.

My Recommendations for Trail Running Shoes for Hiking

One model of trail running shoe can’t be packed with all features required for hiking. However, there are several varieties of trail running shoes designed for specific situations you may face in hiking.

The choice of trail running shoes depends on where you hike and the terrain you hike. Generally, trail running shoes are suitable to hike in places with dedicated trails like Zion, Moab, the Unitas and Yellowstone. Those are mainly packed earth, sandstone or paved. There is nothing like the woods of Michigan/Ohio.

So, after asking from several hiking experts and searching forums, here are some of the most famous trail running shoes that expert hikers wear.

Salomon XA PRO

Salomon XA PRO trail running shoes are specifically made for aggressive hiking on heavily rugged terrain. They have a stiffer sole and feature a protective toe cap like hiking boots for extra protection. On top of that, they have a Gore-Tex lining which makes them waterproof. The shoes have a very stiff rock plate which allows you to pivot and step in sharp rocks.

One downside is that Salomon XA Pros feature a quite narrow toe box, due to which blisters may form on the top of your toes. Also, due to Gore-Tex lining, your feet may sweat due to the trapping of heat.

Salomon Speedcross

Salomon Speedcross have deeper lugs as compared to XA PROs. They are specifically designed for mud. Speedcross trail running shoes do not have waterproof lining, but they dry out faster. According to users, Speedcross shoes don’t perform well on slick rocks. Otherwise, they are fantastic.

One user says:

I used my Speedcross on all of my Grand Canyon hikes, and they work on well-used trails and off-trail bushwhacking.

Saucony Peregrine

Here’s what a real user says who experienced hiking in Saucony Peregrine trail running shoes.

I did Zion and Bryce this last October in my Saucony Peregrines and had zero issues. The trails are mainly packed earth or sandstone.

User on Reddit

Saucony trailing shoes are lightweight, have a wide toe box and keep your feet breathable. They are not waterproof like Salomon shoes. I’d suggest getting a decent pair of thick wool socks with them.

Inov-8 Trailtalon

These are suitable to do hiking in areas like Moky Mountains and Pisgah National Forest. If your hiking adventure centers around running, the pair of Inov-8 Trailtalon trail running shoes is suitable for you.  If you want to do a hiking-only adventure, you would need stiffer and sturdier trail running shoes I listed above.

They have almost zero heel drop, which keeps your foot low to the ground and stabilizes your posture. If you’re a midfoot or forefoot striker, Inov-8 trail running shoes are suitable for you.

La Sportiva Wildcat

La Sportiva Wildcat are some of the best shoes for long-distance hikers. The shoes are lightweight, breathable, have great arch support, and the sole has excellent grip. The shoes keep your feet dry unless you step in a heavy puddle.

The downside is that the toe cap is quite rigid. So, if you suffer from supination, your big toe might rub with the shoes while you’re on the downhill. However, this isn’t necessary that it would happen with anyone. Each person has a different foot shape. So, you should surely try these shoes as they are packed with great comfort.