Hiking and running shoes are quite premium quality, so they need a generous amount of investment. You can’t simply pick up anything poor quality and expect a comfortable experience with it. Hence, it’s important you know pretty well about each type of these shoes and decide if they are needed.

One very common dilemma is about the major difference between hiking shoes and running shoes. What exactly these shoes are, how they make a difference in activities and finally, are they interchangeable? We’ll be talking about all of that for the later sections. Let’s Find Out! 

Difference Between Hiking Shoes and Running Shoes

Making a wise shoe purchase might seem simple and stress-free. You just add anything that seems overwhelming into your shopping cart. Right? No way! It’s the best way to waste money and that’s a major motivation behind today’s writing. Please, read till the end and decide for yourself, if this discussion was necessary or not.

Let’s start with a glimpse at major differences in the table below.

FeaturesRunning ShoesHiking Shoes
Break-In Period.ShortLong

Activities Involved

Now, what are the activities that need these specific two types of shoes? Well, from their name you might have already guessed that one is for running and the other involves hiking. There’s a little more to this.

The running shoes are meant to help you with activities such as workout on typical pavement road. Sometimes it is off-road as well. Here different types of terrain are included. It could be rocky roads, muddy paths, dirt surfaces, and even wet slopes.

Running shoes are meant for trails that come with organized obstacles. So that it could create some sort of competition between runners.

On the other hand, hiking shoes are meant for regular walking exercise. It’s basically a bunch of people in a group climbing mountains for as long and far as wished. These people carry a conventional backpack while climbing a mountain.

In hiking, one needs to deal with constant weather condition changes and trail alteration too. So, they need to focus on gears and wears more than other things.

It’s clear that both shoes are compatible with different types of activities that have a fine line in between. Even with off-road involvement, these are completely different based on pace, intention, and conditions.

So definitely, there are some very obvious differences between the shoes that are necessary for these activities.

Running Shoes – Flexible for Pavement, Versatile for Tight Spots

Running shoes are the regular designed footwear that is often light in weight. These are compatible with tight surfaces as well. The extreme flexibility point makes it a go-to buddy for pavement terrains.

Most of the models come with stabilizing and cushioning comforts. It makes continuous striding on tough and even surface piece of cake.

You can easily use a running shoe for three to four months with regular usages. These need a replacement once you spot a compressed or worn out outsole/midsole.

These are:

  • Usually super light with breathable material built-in.
  • Soles are very grippy and suitable for rugged usage.
  • Heel to toe drop is pretty low, sometimes zero.
  • Heels have a tight fit with a wide toe box.

Hiking Shoes – Bigger & Bulker in a Good Way

Hiking footwear is usually shoes or boots in design. The bigger and bulkier size of boots makes it very suitable for tough conditions. Some people like to use work/hiking boots for hunting. The outsole part is pretty rigid and it’s usually known as an ankle collar.

For intense weather application and steep elevation, one needs to consider a hiking shoe or boot. Boots are better than the shoe version for long-distance hikes. But then again, those who wish lightweight footwear, hiking shoes are better options.

The mid-cut sole design gives better flexibility for the activity. These are pretty nice to use for one-day hiking trips.

These are:

  • Waterproof and suitable for rainy or stormy weather.
  • Great for snowy and slippery paths.
  • Thick cushion supported soles shoe.
  • Amazing for ankle coverage and protection.

Who is Better at Durability?

A shoe without durability is probably a big joke when it comes to hiking or running. Both need some amount of guarantee that the shoe you are wearing can handle conditions and surroundings well.

However, when we think about who lasts more between hiking and running shoes, the answer is quite obvious. Because the hiking shoes have a design that can handle an amazing amount of rough usage, it’s better at durability.

Some high-quality running shoes are also brilliant to serve for long time of usage. You can easily keep them going well with regular maintenance.

However, the hiking shoes can last you up to 1000 miles of hikes. On the other side, a running shoe is a halfway behind with 500 miles of longevity.

Which One Has More Weight?

Do you know about this? The weight you carry on your back is manageable. But weight on foot will surely bring you down.

So probably, you’ll want to keep in mind that the more weight is available in feet, less will be your speed and comfort. That’s why when it comes to choosing shoes, people opt for lightweight options.

Running shoes have the reputation of lightweight design giving user a complete freedom of speeding in these. It’s more manageable than the hiking shoes which have pretty hardwearing materials.

With that in mind, of course, handling hiking shoes is harder than running versions. But also get ready to compromise the overall quality with weight. Because this extra weight in hiking shoes comes from the added value of durable materials and sturdy sole.

Who Takes Less Time for Breaking In?

Breaking in the shoes is quite necessary if you don’t want to deal with painful and blister-filled experience. With hiking shoes, the period of breaking in is quite long. You need to give them time for breaking in.

Most of the time, users wear them inside house and walk around neighborhood. Later going to short hikes will lead to complete break-in for hiking shoes.

However, running shoes don’t need that extra effort. These are pretty easy to break in and so you can simply put them on for running anytime without the extra effort.

Which One is Better at Protection?

The protection criteria of a shoe are decided with three points. It’s materials, sole, and weight. When it comes to hiking shoes, you can rest assured that there will be full protection going around your feet.

Why? Because hiking boots are shoes that have the privilege of thicker materials. And so, they are comfortable to use in rock and branches. Also, the high ankles in hiking shoes make it extra supportive and protective of sprains. This is going to keep your feet safe from any external harm.

But then again, the chances of injury are also quite high with a thick sole. This problem is not noticeable in running shoes. These are completed with lighter materials and compromised weight. So, you may feel extremely comfortable wearing these but don’t expect complete protection.

The most suffering part of a running shoe is that there’s no ankle support available. So, you’ll deal with ankle sprains quite often than necessary.

Which One Survives Better in Water?

When it comes to minimal trail running, one does not need the waterproof feature in their shoes. However, this is not a case with hiking. So, for that reason, the manufacturer sometimes misses waterproofing in running shoes. But a quality hiking shoe can’t leave the waterproof aspect in it.

This is another reason why hiking shoes are heavy since the materials are thicker to prevent water from entering it. But also, once the water is inside hiking shoe, it takes a huge amount of time to dry it off completely.

The running shoes are not really meant to provide waterproof guarantees. But if water enters the shoe, it quickly dries off. So, maintenance wise they are great but lacks when it comes to protection against water.

Hiking in Running Shoes?

Probably this will bring many people into confusion and some will even want to bash me out for thinking about it. How is a simply designed, lightweight and easy running shoe ever compatible for hiking needs? That’s probably risky and not fine at all.

However, there is a certain type of running shoe that actually works wonderfully for hiking. I’m talking about trail running shoes. Believe it or not, some expert hikers highly prefer trail running shoes for hiking.

These are more than regular running shoes but less than hiking footwear. And so, the minimalist society can enjoy the taste of both worlds using a quality trail running shoe for their hiking trip.

But sometimes, that’s a bad idea.

This is the case when you are hiking on a pretty rough and risky surface. These are areas where you must follow the grip rule to survive safely.

One good example of such terrain is the white mountains. This area is usually very slippery due to steep rock. So, wearing a running shoe will definitely make you fall into great risk. Also, you’ll have a hard time cleaning the mud out of running shoes.


Both of these shoe types are meant to tackle different situations for separate activities. Yes, you may enjoy the privilege of using a trail running shoe in place of hiking version. But that’s limited to some specific situations. In most cases, it’s wiser to use the shoes for what it’s intended to do.

Overall, we can come to the conclusion that a running shoe will do brilliantly for lightweight using, greater speed and comfortable wearing. And with the hiking shoe, you’ll be able to enjoy better durability, tougher materials and weather protectiveness.

There’s no such thing as the best shoe type here since both of these categories are meant to serve for specific requirements.

Hopefully, now you have a better idea about the differences that these two extremely popular shoe types come with. You can check this simple video guide to understand the diversities even better.

What’s your final view after knowing the difference between hiking shoes and running shoes and which one do you prefer more? Let us know in the comment section below.

About the Author Brian

Hello, I'm Cindy. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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