Are Trail Running Shoes Good for Hiking?

Are Trail Running Shoes Good for Hiking?

Many casual hikers consider your typical heavy hiking boot to be the only standard style of hiking footwear. However, this is hardly the case, as different styles of hiking require different types of shoes.

Of these options, trail running shoes are one of the least understood. Even veteran hikers don’t always know the qualities and benefits of trail runners.

There are all kinds of things you can recommend trail runners for, and even some things that you should be cautious about. But it’s hard to know exactly who these are for, and what makes this kind of trail shoe better than other hiking shoes.

Whether you’re skeptical or curious about trail running shoes, these common questions should give you the answers to whether this type of hiking shoe is right for you.


1. What Is Trail Running?

An important note about trail running shoes is that they aren’t technically hiking shoes, as they are instead intended for a different type of activity.

According to Salomon, a notable trail runner brand, trail running is essentially a high-speed jog along hiking trails. This provides a much more challenging and interesting terrain than simple road running, as the elevation and surface will likely be rougher and constantly changing over the course of any given trail.

Don’t miss: Salomon vs Salewa Hiking Boots: Which Brand is Better?

man trail running

As a result, trail running shoes have to be lighter than traditional hiking shoes, but they still need to provide enough stability and support to prevent you from slipping on the trail.

This makes trail runners an unusual middle ground between two incredibly different styles of shoe, and while you won’t typically be sprinting on trails due to the dangerous terrain, you still need a shoe that can handle difficult terrain while letting you lift your feet quickly and easily.

Read also: The 5 Types of Hiking Boots that You Should Know

2. What Is The Difference Between Trail Running Shoes and Regular Running Shoes?

The key difference between trail runners and running shoes is the soles at the bottom. The bottoms of trail runners are often quite similar to hiking shoes and hiking boots, with thicker ridges at the bottom.

You can see this clearly on products like the Salomon Men’s Speedcross Trail Running Shoe, which protects the bottom of your feet while on rough terrain and helps you maintain traction when moving quickly on hills.

Regular running shoes, meanwhile, are usually intended for flat surfaces like pavement and gym flooring. This means they often have flatter bases to allow better traction between your foot and the ground.

And since you won’t often be on major hills or rough terrain, your weight is all you need to remain solidly on the ground with each step.

SPEEDCROSS 5 | Salomon Running

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3. What Is the Difference Between Hiking Shoes and Trail Running Shoes?

There are certainly many types of hiking footwear, from hiking boots to hiking shoes, but most of them are fairly similar to each other.

Typical hiking shoes have thicker bases to maintain traction on rough terrain and hills, something that trail runners share quite evenly. However, the difference between trail runners and hiking shoes is much more in the sturdiness and weight of the rest of the shoe.

Hiking shoes are built for slower speeds and much rougher terrain, meaning they need to be made of thicker and sturdier material.

Trail runners can withstand rough terrain, but they have to remain light and airy to let your feet lift and breathe while moving at high speeds, making them less durable and significantly thinner.

hiker wearing meindl shoes
(Hiker wearing Meindl shoes)

Read next: What to Look For in Hiking Boots? 6 Important Things

4. What Are the Best Trail Runner Brands?

As mentioned earlier, Salomon is a great brand if you want trail runners built with hiking in mind.

Salomon is a strong outdoor gear company that creates all kinds of great hiking and running footwear, and while its prices can be relatively high compared to other brands, you’re absolutely going to get your money’s worth thanks to the quality of these shoes.

Alternatively, SCARPA and La Sportiva are two brands that have greater specialties in trail runners and high-speed sports.

La Sportiva features some great products at lower price points for those who are new to trail running, but SCARPA has a spectacularly wide range of products with a surprising amount of durability compared to most trail running shoes.

UNIKA: the first La Sportiva trail running shoe made in Europe

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5. Can You Wear Trail Running Shoes for Hiking?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can wear trail running shoes for certain forms of hiking. However, it’s important to mention that this isn’t necessarily recommended under certain conditions.

If you have an extremely difficult trail with exceptionally rough terrain and hills, trail runners aren’t going to give you as much support since they’re generally not as thick or sturdy as traditional hiking shoes.

The other key importance is comfort, which can vary much more in terms of trail running. It’s clear that a trail running shoe is much lighter and more breathable, so on long summer hikes with warm and humid weather, the lightness can potentially be a stronger quality for slow movement.

That said, this type of footwear is also more vulnerable to weather damage and doesn’t provide as much stability, meaning you should not use trail running shoes for backpacking or intense hikes.

Overall, trail runners are sufficient hiking shoes for those who want a lighter shoe for warm and gentle hikes. If you plan on more intensive hiking, though, you’ll likely want to stick to traditional hiking shoes for better comfort, stability, and sturdiness.

Where to go hiking? Try these Italian trails!

6. Does Trail Running Help Hiking?

athletes running in forest trail marathon

For the most part, trail running is a great way to improve your hiking skills if you aren’t an experienced hiker. An article from Trail Runner Magazine detailed this by mentioning how it’s a great way to start improving your endurance thanks to the higher-intensity activity on lower-intensity trails.

That being said, it’s unclear if trail running will usually help experienced hikers improve their hiking skills since the rough terrain is often the main challenge in traditional trail running.

However, it’s still a great way to stay in shape, and it can potentially be a more engaging way for experienced hikers to explore paths that might be easier than their usual preferences.

You might also like: 10 of the Best Hiking Boot Brands You Should Try

7. Conclusion

As always, a great trail runner is only going to be as good as what you want from it.

If you want to pick up trail running as a new way to hike, or you’re not going to be hiking on long or intensive trails, you’re absolutely going to love running and hiking with trail running shoes.

If you prefer more challenging trails or wish to go backpacking, though, be cautious choosing trail runners, as they won’t always give you the support you need.

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