Difference Between Hiking Shoes and Running Shoes – Step by Step Guide For 2021

Those who enjoy forest walks instead of running on the sidewalks need more than your usual pair of running shoes. They need something more sturdy, lightweight that allows them a full range of motion while protecting the foot from the elements of the mountain roads. Hikers need a shoe that provides additional foot support and helps absorb the weight of the extra package they carry around while hiking.

So, taking all these in the account, every hiker should learn the difference between hiking shoes and running shoes. This guide is only to make sure while hiking they have the right footwear to help their cause.

How to differentiate between hiking and running shoes

To be honest, it is quite impossible to separate hiking shoes from your regular running shoes by only taking a look. They look quite identical. Therefore some people confuse one with another and by the wrong shoes for the wrong task.

So, if you don’t want to be that guy then start looking more closely your footwear. But maybe you don’t know what to look for actually. In that case, don’t worry, as I’m here to guide you through the basics to help you distinguish the hiking boots from the normal ones.

Before, moving ahead and finding the difference between the two footwear, let’s get a basic idea what the two shoes are. Then we will get break into the factors to help you distinguish the boots. Let’s start then.

Shoe types:

Running shoes:

Running shoes

For running on unpaved tracks, running shoes are the thing you need. There are usually tiny rocks and uneven terrains where you run. Stil, you might require some stability and protection for the foot and flexible enough to allow running.

The running shoe will have the flexibility and ease of movement in the front of the shoe. The front part of the boot will quickly go up and down. It will flex easily; meantime it would be hard if twisted as to prevent any ankle injuries.

This happens because the shoe is designed to avoid the swaying of the foot from side to side as the runner takes steps along the path.

Hiking shoes:

hiking boots

Hiking shoes usually have a low cut style to them. The boot soles are quite heavier than a running shoe or sneaker. And as the material for soles, Vibram is used widely, but there are other materials as well.

Running shoes aren’t meant to be waterproof most of the times. But hiking shoes are generally waterproof as most of them use Gortex. Gortex is a common material for insulation and waterproofing. A hiking shoe is also quite strong.

That’s because they are meant to save your feet from rocks and other dangers along the way. It is a shoe that is designed to walk or climb; it is not running.

Now, you’re up to speed about both hiking and running boots. So, let’s get into more details and find the differences, shall we?


Running boots:

Running shoes use lighter materials and have a lighter sole. It makes sense, as the purpose of the boot is to help you move around quickly from place to place. So, being lightweight is its top priority. However, this is the reason why they don’t give you enough protection as much as hiking boots do.

Whether it’s from debris or hits from rocks, it won’t be of the same level. Even, they don’t have high ankles like the hiking boots. So, spraining ankles is a common thing while running around wearing such shoes.


However, there are benefits of this. Take the sole of the shoe. It is narrower than hiking boots, so you keep close to the ground which decreases the possibility of tripping.

Hiking Boots:

Hiking boots are meant to walk around. They are great even for regular walking use, but in those mountain tracks, they show their real value. Especially, when it comes to giving a protective cover to your feet, the boots standout.

Usually, the boots have a thick material and generally have a sole which is tough to make sure it’s providing enough protection for your whole foot. But what sets hiking boots apart from the running shoes is the high ankles that I’ve already talked about earlier.


This feature is one of those things the running shoes is missing. The high ankle not only provides excellent support but also helps to prevent spraining or rolling your ankles.

But there are some issues too. While the running shoes give a closer feel to the ground, the thick soles of such boots take you higher from the field. This results in some severe footing issues for many.


Running boots:

As mentioned earlier, the running shoes try to lose as much weight as possible to give the runners a free-flowing feel. They make it lighter than the hiking boots.

Now, they are great for running, but for long-term use, they aren’t the best of options. That’s because it won’t be able to provide the same amount of wear as your hiking boots. The sole will get wear out with time.

That’s why it is necessary for to change them after some 500 miles or so. Because, if you don’t replace them and keep them wearing, it can honestly have some severe damaging effects on the feet.


Hiking Boots:

Hiking boots have a tough exterior compared to the running boots. They are thick and uses material that makes them both waterproof and dustproof.

So, they can take the rocky mountain tracks with ease. And even if it rains heavily, you know they will get out of it without any problem. And the best part, if you treat the shoes with proper care, they will last a lifetime. So, for durability, you can’t beat hiking boots. They are just too robust and versatile for all weather.



Running boots:

Running shoes use flexible materials, so they give more room to wiggle around compared to hiking boots. Therefore, you will get a better range of movement and flexibility. But it has its downside too. As I’ve said earlier, running shoes have a narrower sole.

So, you feel the bumps and rocks more wearing them. Now, it can lead up to some severe foot sprain and pain after being a long day at work moving around wearing those runners.


Hiking Boots:

It has been stated a couple of time already, and that is hiking boots uses a thicker material for its construction. Therefore, it isn’t as flexible as the running shoes which means there is very little room to wiggle around. To get the best out of such footwear, you’ll need a snug fit.

It might not let you have enough space, and with the additional ankle support, the movement will be quite limited. You feel restrictive, but this is also the reason you get better protection from outside obstacles. So, it depends on you whether you want the freedom of movement or keeps your toes safe.



Running boots:

Running boots are designed in a way to give you maximum breathability. The shoes have multiple mesh patches with a low cut ankle to ensure in warm conditions your feet don’t sweat. Also, thinner material means dry faster when they get to soak in water or if you do work up a sweat.

If the moisture doesn’t dry thoroughly it can leave you with a sticky feeling. But kindly that won’t be happening with running boots. However, if you’re planning to use them for hiking, then these will let you down completely. That’s because they won’t have the layer to offer the warmth that you require to get through a long day of hiking.

Hiking Boots:

While running shoes make a lot of sense to be worn in warm weathers, the hiking boots make their presence felt with significant appreciation in the colder seasons. In the months of autumn and winter, you need something to wrap around your feet with warmth.

And that what hiking boot offers you. The big build with thick material imprisons the moisture vapor inside. The boot doesn’t let your feet sweat easily. It is the complete opposite of running shoes, but that’s because the weather demands this from hiking boots.

However, this has its downside too. As you know, sweating can lead to blisters. Mainly, in the hot, warm days, such boots can cause some severe pain.


By now the difference between hiking shoes and running shoes should be quite evident to you. I know it is a hard job to differ them if you don’t have any clue what you’re doing. But I’ve gathered some critical factors and laid them out there to help you out.

Hopefully, you will be able to use the tips and find the right running or hiking shoes according to your needs in the future.

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