Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes For Hiking?

When you are out on the trail, it can sometimes be a lot having to sport a heavy pair of hiking boots, and this has led many hikers to ditch their boots in favor of a lighter trail running shoe. But is this a wise idea?

At first thought, you might think that swapping the type of shoe you wear won’t make much of a difference, and it’s true that if you are going on a light hike, it probably won’t. In contrast, if you are planning some serious mountaineering or other demanding activity, it might be best to stick with a more robust pair of boots. 

In this article, we are going to be exploring the pros and cons of trail running shoes and hiking boots and seeing whether the former would be suitable for taking a hike.

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What’s The Difference Between Trail Running Shoes And Hiking Boots?

There are many differences between trail running shoes and the boots that you would typically wear for hiking, so it is important that we break this down into more manageable chunks. However, in the main, trail running shoes are much more lightweight and tend to be less durable than hiking boots. But let’s take a closer look at the differences.


Most modern pairs of hiking boots will feature some sort of lining that makes them utterly waterproof. This is because they are designed to be used in all conditions, with manufacturers being more than aware that you might be trekking through rain, ice, and snow. For this reason, it is essential that these boots offer waterproofing. 

In most cases, a trail running shoe will not have this feature. But that is not to say that they won’t have some sort of water-resistant barrier. It simply means that they may allow water in much more easily than a walking boot. 

With that in mind, if you happened to be unfortunate enough to submerge the shoe in the water, they would dry a lot faster than a hiking boot, which could take days.

Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes For Hiking?


One of the main reasons that a lot of people want to switch to trail running shoes is because hiking boots are mainly made for use in colder weather. They offer excellent warmth and dryness, and there are some that are so well insulated, your feet would never be able to tell that it was below freezing outside. 

This makes them perfect for a lot of uses, but when it comes to the heat of the summer, you may find yourself very uncomfortable. 

This is where a pair of trail running shoes can be extremely effective. Their overall design makes them much more suitable for wearing in hot weather, and your feet will be able to breathe. 

This is vital because your feet will sweat in hot weather, and if this moisture cannot escape, this can result in blisters and sores.


If you spend a lot of time hiking, you will need to make sure that your footwear can keep up with you; the last thing you want is to have to replace your shoes too frequently. 

Hiking boots are exceptionally durable footwear, and a good quality pair should last you for a thousand miles, on average. In contrast, a pair of trail running shoes might only see you through half of this.

That being said, it very much depends on what you put the shoes through and the quality. A good pair of trail running shoes might last much longer than a pair of hiking boots that are made from substandard materials and are badly put together. 

But whichever type of shoe you go for, it is vital that you replace them when they begin to wear. Failing to do so can result in the feet becoming damaged.

Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes For Hiking?


Hiking boots are designed in such a way that they offer a generous amount of protection. This is essential when walking on uneven terrain and is an important feature to look for when choosing a hiking boot. 

They will typically have higher ankles, which is an excellent way to prevent you from rolling your ankle and causing injuries. They will also have a thicker sole, which can act as a shock absorber and give you good traction. However, the downside is that this higher sole can sometimes cause you to be a little unsteady on your feet and may throw you off balance. 

Conversely, a trail running shoe is much closer to the ground and so will give you a better degree of stability. However, they are not designed with the type of protection that a hiking boot has and may not support your feet as well.


One of the most important things for your feet when you are walking a trail, is that they are comfortable. If they aren’t, you will not have a very pleasant experience at all. Not to mention, you may end up with damage to the foot.

A lot of this comes from your personal preference. Some people prefer the comforting protection of a hiking boot. These shoes are made from solid materials that wrap around the foot. This can feel great for some, but others may find this restricting. 

On the other hand, a trail running shoe is a lot more flexible, and this will allow you to move the foot more freely. Of course, as we have mentioned, it vastly depends on what you prefer, and this lightweight support may not be enough for some people.

Wearing In

You are probably familiar with the fact that most hiking boots need to be broken in. 

This means that you need to wear them for shorter periods of time to allow the materials to stretch and work with your feet. 

The first few wears should be done at home, leaving the shoes on for a couple of hours while you go about your day to day chores. 

You might then wear them for shorter walks before finally using them for their purpose; a day on the trails. 

In contrast, trail running shoes don’t require breaking in, and this can be appealing to people who want a shoe that they can wear out of the box.

Can I Wear Trail Running Shoes For Hiking?

It is entirely viable to choose trail running shoes for hiking, but there are some things to think about. A lot of the aspects that we have discussed will likely seal the deal, whichever way you are leaning. 

But just because you can wear trail running shoes for hiking, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Even after you have considered the differences between the two, you should still ask yourself how you intend to use the shoes.

Which Should I Choose?

First of all, it is vital to think about where you will be hiking and for how long. If you plan on doing a week-long trek across rocky terrain in the snow, then no, we would not recommend wearing trail running shoes. The reason for this is simple; they are not built for this kind of intense use. 

However, if you are going to be taking part in a lighter hike, perhaps half a day across flat fields and through woodlands in the middle of summer, then a trail running shoe might be perfect.

Your level of experience will also play a part in determining whether you should choose a trail runner over a hiking boot. Those who are new to hiking might want to stick with a more traditional shoe. This is because you will need to learn how to stay stable up hills and across difficult terrain, and a hiking boot will give you greater support. On the other hand, if you have been hiking for some time, you might want to try a trail runner for its lightweight design.

Pro’s for Hiking Boots & Trail Running Shoes

If you are still undecided, let’s take a look at a side by side comparison of the two types of shoes.

Hiking BootsTrail Running Shoes
Waterproof & WarmLightweight
More protection for your feetNo need to wear in
Better tractionPerfect for hotter weather


In recent years, a lot of hikers have thrown out their boots and gone for a more lightweight and comfortable trail running shoe. In truth, there is no right or wrong, and your comfort and personal preference should play the most important part in deciding what to wear. 

Ultimately, you can wear trail running shoes for hiking, but you may wish to consider the pros and cons before splashing out on a new pair of shoes.

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