Hiking, for many, is more than just an activity—it’s an elixir for the soul. It is an escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life and a chance to reconnect with nature. While losing oneself amidst the beauty of the wild is an experience to cherish, ensuring you’re adequately equipped is non-negotiable. Footwear stands as a cornerstone of this preparedness. Jane Lewis, an avid hiker and author of Journeying Trails, states, “Your feet are the medium of your connection to the earth when hiking. Treat them right.” The debate on the suitability of running shoes for hiking isn’t new, so let’s take a holistic look.

The Popularity of Running Shoes


The running shoe, originally designed to provide maximum comfort for runners, has over the years transitioned into an all-purpose footwear. Their adaptive design, coupled with their evolving aesthetics, makes them an appealing choice for diverse activities. Go to any college campus, mall, or park, and you’ll spot them. The growth of fitness culture has seen individuals blend different activities, from morning jogs to evening walks and occasional hikes. It’s not uncommon to hear tales, like that of Mark Thompson—a college student who completed a 5-day hiking challenge using his trusted running shoes. He quipped, “I just went with what felt comfortable.”

Key Differences Between Running and Hiking Shoes

While both types of shoes cater to outdoor enthusiasts, their design philosophies differ vastly. Running shoes are optimized for forward motion, emphasizing stride and pace. Hiking shoes such as those you can find at online running shops UK, on the other hand, focus on stability and traction, preparing the wearer for unpredictable terrains. Running shoes often employ lightweight materials and breathable designs, given that runners value these features. In contrast, hiking shoes might use denser materials, with designs offering better ankle support and a robust build to resist wear and tear. Sarah Gill, a footwear designer, aptly puts it, “Each shoe tells a story of its intended journey.”

The Importance of Proper Footwear


Imagine hiking up a steep trail, and your foot slips due to inadequate grip, or you find your ankles hurting due to lack of proper support. Situations like these underline the importance of suitable footwear. The right shoe not only ensures safety—protecting against sharp rocks, slips, and other potential hazards—but also enhances comfort. Experienced hikers often share tales of trips ruined by blisters and sore feet, underscoring the need for proper shoes. Tom Alvarez, a hiking instructor, says, “I’ve seen many enthusiastic hikers cut their trips short due to footwear woes. It’s heartbreaking.”

Running Shoes: Pros for Hiking

Now, it’s not all gloom and doom for running shoes. For lighter trails and shorter durations, they can be a perfect companion. Their lightweight nature makes them less cumbersome, allowing for agile movement. Additionally, they are often more breathable, which can be a boon in hot conditions. Their versatility is undeniable—fit for a mix of activities. Emma Rodriguez, who hiked the Appalachian Trail, remarked, “On the less demanding stretches, my running shoes felt like a blessing, almost like walking on air.”

Running Shoes: Cons for Hiking


However, for every yin, there’s a yang. Running shoes, while comfortable, might not offer the robustness required for challenging trails. Their cushioning is designed for pavement, not rocky paths. The lack of ankle support can be a significant disadvantage, increasing the risk of injuries. They might also wear out faster, given that rugged terrains aren’t what they were designed for. Outdoor enthusiast Jake Mitchell once shared, “I tried using running shoes on a rough trail once. Never again. It felt like walking on pebbles after a few hours.”

Terrain Matters: Types of Trails

The appropriateness of running shoes greatly depends on where you’re heading. On well-maintained paths, like park trails or gentle inclines, running shoes might suffice. But as terrains become rough, with obstacles, uneven surfaces, and water crossings, dedicated hiking footwear gains importance. An interesting anecdote here is of Lisa Greene, who trekked the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. She recalls, “The start was smooth, and my running shoes felt right. But as the path became rocky, I wished I had my hiking boots.”


Impact on Foot Health

Our feet bear the brunt of our hiking adventures. And while running shoes provide cushioning, they might not offer holistic support during extended hikes. There’s the risk of plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation caused by strain. Moreover, improper foot alignment over extended periods can lead to long-term foot health issues. Dr. Rachel Norton, a podiatrist, warns, “Continuous usage of inappropriate footwear can lead to chronic foot issues. It’s essential to match the shoe with the activity.”

Expert Opinions

While opinions vary, the consensus among experts is clear: for dedicated hiking, specialized footwear trumps. Magazines like Backpacker and experts from REI Co-op Journal often emphasize the importance of the right footwear. Renowned hiker and trail expert, Alan Meyers, once mentioned, “There’s a reason specialized hiking footwear exists. While running shoes have their place, it’s essential to understand their limitations.”


Tips for Hiking in Running Shoes

If you’re still keen on using running shoes for your hiking endeavors, here are some tips:

Lace Properly: A snug fit can provide added stability, reducing the chances of slips.

Trail Selection: Stay informed. Know the nature of the trail and ensure your shoes are up to the task. As seasoned hiker, Maria Lopez advises, “Do your homework. Know the trail, and match it with your footwear.”

Alternative Footwear Options

Exploring alternatives can open up a world of comfort and safety. Hiking boots, with their superior grip and ankle support, are ideal for challenging terrains. Trail running shoes, a hybrid, blend the lightness of running shoes with the ruggedness of hiking boots. Gary Turner, founder of the footwear brand TerraTrail, says, “Innovation in footwear offers something for every kind of hiker. It’s a golden age for outdoor enthusiasts.”



The debate on running shoes versus hiking footwear isn’t black and white. It’s a spectrum, with choices influenced by personal preference, trail nature, and duration. While running shoes can suffice in specific scenarios, understanding their limitations is paramount. As we lace up for our next adventure, let’s remember: that the right step can make all the difference.