adidas / March 2023

Trail Running Shoes Vs. Hiking Shoes

These shoes were made for trekkin’. Check out our hiking shoe guide and decide whether trail runners or hiking shoes are going with you on your next adventure.

There's a guide for every adventure. When you're traveling abroad, you have a tour guide. When you're on a spiritual journey, you have a spiritual guide. And when you're about to hit the trails and are looking for the right shoe to brave the outdoors with, naturally, you turn to a hiking shoe guide.
Every trail isn't the same, nor is every trail shoe. Professional runner Jeshurun Small knows this and chooses his shoes accordingly, especially when he's trekkin' across sandstone for the annual Sedona Run.
"I pick up my hiking shoes when I'm participating in lower-speed sports—like hiking— or in places where style and comfort are the main priorities," said Small. "When I need to be more nimble and fast on my feet, I pick up my trail runners."
Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast or new to trail activities, wearing the right shoe is critical. What's the right shoe? It depends on the adventure calling out to you, but ideally, you should consider hiking or trail running shoes.

Trail Runners Vs. Hiking Shoes

Whether you’re running in the desert or trekking up a mountaintop, the shoes you wear are your greatest companion and supporter. Trail runners and hiking shoes are both great outdoor shoe options. To find which one is right for you, keep reading. 

Trail Runners

Trail running shoes are a cross between a hiking boot and a road-running trainer. This is the shoe runners wear on a trail and hikers wear when they want to travel fast and light. Trail runners were designed to excel on rockier and more aggressive terrains.

"Trail running shoes can be used from the local city trails to the most technical peaks,” said Small. “From short easy runs to long endurance adventures, these shoes are extremely versatile."

While you can hike in trail runners, they don’t offer the same durability, support, or protection as hiking shoes or boots. Trail running shoes are built with a lugged outsole and a more dense and rigid midsole than a normal running shoe. This helps to support runners on the trail and protect them from slipping on mud or loose debris, while maintaining as light of a construction as possible. Hikers looking to move quickly or dabble between walking and jogging might prefer an option like this that’s lighter, more flexible, and more breathable than hiking shoes.

"These runners are essential when speed and grip are the main priorities,” said Small. “You can wear them on a training run, a long day in the mountains, or on a technical single track."


Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes are built to be tough and durable. These shoes are made to support hikers and outdoor lovers who need extra protection. The stiffness of the hiking shoe is designed to guide stress to the shoe rather than the body as you trek over rocks. The shoe's upper is often made from leather or durable nylon mesh and can have weather-proof features like water and cold resistance. While it's possible to run in hiking shoes, it isn't advisable. The rigidity of the hiking shoe will make it hard for you to move fast and agile.

"Hiking shoes are heavier, more generally comfortable, and aimed better for lower speed sports," said Small.

Hiking shoes come in two different styles, low-top, and mid-top. The low-top hiking shoe will offer flexibility, quickness, and agility on the trail. A mid-top hiking shoe will provide more ankle protection and support on uneven terrain. Both are great options for any hike. It all comes down to personal preference and how you like your feet to feel when hiking.

"Hiking shoes offer comfort and versatility,” said Small. “You can wear them on a hike with friends, on an afternoon outing in the mountains, or around town in bad weather."


The Right Shoe For Your Journey

Hiking shoes aren’t better than trail running shoes, they just serve different needs. The shoe you navigate toward is highly dependent on the journey you’re going to endure. The best shoe for your hike or run depends on the terrain you’re traveling on, the distance of your trip, and whether you have a backpack.
Trail runners are the shoe for you if you want to be one with the wind and hit the ground running. If you are about to trek an exceptionally rugged trail for a long distance or are ready to journey into the mountains with a heavy backpack, hiking shoes are the shoes you need. 

Lace Up and Trek Forward

Now that you know the difference between hiking shoes and trail runners, lace up and get to it! No matter what shoes you decide on remember that being prepared and appropriately dressed is key to having an enjoyable outdoor experience.
adidas / March 2023