Apr 17, 2021 4 min read

Hiking Boots vs. Trail Running Shoes

Hiking Boots vs. Trail Running Shoes

Whether you are a newbie or an experienced hiker, you know that investing in footwear is a necessity. After all, you are on your feet for hours. And, wearing the wrong shoes can cut your adventures early on.

Hikers have varying opinions about what type of footwear to choose. Some swear on the reliability of their trusted hiking boots. Others prefer trail running shoes, especially for long-hiking trips.

But, which one is for you?

Factors to Consider When Choosing Hiking Footwear

Different factors play important parts in deciding whether you need hiking boots or trail running shoes during a trip. Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Trail terrain – The type of trail is a key consideration in choosing the right footwear. After all, wearing thin and light running shoes on rocky terrain will most likely end in painful soles at the end of your first day. So, if you are taking on challenging trails, the beefier hiking boots will offer durability and stability. The stout and tough soles can protect your feet from rocks and other debris. A scenic and well-traveled forest trail will only need lean and light footwear. And, for paved trails, a pair of sneakers will work just fine.
  2. Weather conditions – Wet conditions will require the waterproof qualities of decent hiking boots. If you are not expecting any heavy downpour, waterproof trail running shoes will do as well.
  3. Hike speed – Many experienced hikers prefer trail running shoes as they are lighter. They make it easy to maintain a steady, brisk pace. It is especially crucial to consider this type of footwear if you are aiming to cover long distances. Note that you may need extra pairs depending on the trail type.
  4. Body type and condition – If you already know that you need good stabilization, especially if you plan to carry heavy packs, consider a pair of sturdy boots. However, if you do not have any issues with your joints or legs, then a trail runner is more than enough.

With the factors mentioned above in mind, let’s dig deeper into the pros and cons of both hiking boots and trail running shoes.

Pros and Cons of Hiking Boots

Hiking Boots vs. Trail Running Shoes

Hiking boots are known to provide better stability, especially in rough trails. Many hikers attest to its benefits, especially in ankle support. And, with their water protection quality, they are great for off-trail adventures.

A decent pair of hiking boots can also last around about 1,000 miles of trail before you need to replace them. As mentioned above, they offer greater stability, especially if you are tackling difficult trails.

Boots are great if you are expecting wet conditions, mud, and snow. They offer good traction for many types of surfaces. And, they will keep your feet dry and warm during rainy or cold weather hikes.

However, boots are also quite heavy, which means you are expending more energy on each step. Due to the stiff sole and upper, it also limits your natural ankle and foot movement. When dealing with longer trails and varying terrain, this may impact your overall gait.

Additionally, when they do get wet, it takes quite a while to dry them out. This means dealing with moist footwear during your trip as you cannot dry them overnight. While there are lightweight boots, these are usually found on the premium end of the price tag. As such, treat them as investments, especially if you are already a serious hiker.

Pros and Cons of Trail Running Shoes

trail shoes

The lightweight nature of trail running shoes makes them popular among thru-hikers and long-distance adventurers. A mid-level pair of trail running shoes are a little over a pound in total. Compared to the average weight of full-grain leather boots (around 3 lbs.), that’s more than half of the savings in weight.

While they may have relatively less waterproofing qualities, trail runners are more breathable. This makes it easy for your feet to stay dry throughout your trip and even prevents blisters. They are also suitable for hot-weather hikes.

Trail running shoes also provide better flexibility and ankle movement. Because you can barely feel the weight, it is much easier to maneuver in difficult trails. And, most modern pairs come in varying types of traction options.

However, trail runners are much less durable than hiking boots. While long-distance adventurers prefer these, they also replace them more often as they generally last for only about 500 miles. This means slightly higher expenses if you love to go trekking a lot.

While they are generally versatile, trail running shoes are not suitable for technical trails. Rugged environments require rugged footwear like hiking boots. And, you will be more likely to injure yourself if you are wearing running shoes in these treks as they do not provide much stability and support.


There’s no rule that says you cannot have both. You are the only one who knows what types of adventures you prefer and what footwear works for you. By taking into account the pros and cons of hiking boots and trail running shoes above, you will have a quick guide on what to bring on your next hiking trip.

I am a middle-aged runner with aspirations of qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2022.

Join the conversation

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to The GloRun.
Your link has expired.
Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.