Are Running Shoes Good for Hiking?

When you’re getting ready for a nice hike, it might be tempting to just grab the first pair of outdoorsy shoes you see. However, the shoes that you wear on the trail really make a difference, and they can make or break your experience. A lot of people (myself included) have tried to wear running shoes on a hike before. But is this really a good idea?

Road running shoes are not generally suitable for hiking. Their foot cushioning focuses on the wrong areas, they’re not very durable, and they don’t have very good traction. Running shoes can be used in an emergency, but hiking boots and trail running shoes are the best options. 

I know it seems easier to just use one pair of athletic shoes for everything, but you really should use the right shoes for the right purpose! It’s never too late to make a change though. So let’s break down the elements of a good hiking shoe, some of the potential dangers of using running shoes, and some great footwear to consider. 

The Dangers of Hiking in Running Shoes

Sometimes people hike in running shoes when they don’t have another option. I myself have done this a few times, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The running shoes that I’ve hiked in have become so discolored and worn down that they’re no longer usable.  Proper footwear really makes all the difference when you’re on the trail. 

At the end of the day, road running shoes  just weren’t designed for this king of terrain. The wrong shoes can cause you to trip and slip more easily, which is especially dangerous on hiking trails. You could also end up with blisters, twisted ankles, and sore feet. This will affect your whole hike and the effects can last for days or weeks afterward!

Hiking also isn’t good for your running shoes. These were designed for more urban conditions and haven’t been prepared for the harsh weather conditions and debris that are found in nature. You could permanently damage your running shoes by exposing them to water, mud, and rough trails. 

Road running shoes don’t come cheap either, so this is money down the drain! It’s truly best to have separate shoes for running and hiking. You’ll feel better, and you can protect your investment. 

What Makes a Good Hiking Shoe?

Most hiking trails are fairly well maintained, but all of them have some inherent risks. They could include slippery areas, loose rocks, and steep slopes. You need the right shoes to tackle all of these terrain types. 

There are lots of different hiking shoes and boots on the market, but you’ll need to keep an eye out for the right combination of features. The most expensive shoe isn’t always the best! Make sure your hiking shoe has the following qualities:

Light Weight

Hiking is already hard work, so you don’t want to add any unnecessary weight. Heavy shoes can cause more strain and make it more difficult to keep up a good pace. Make sure your hiking shoes are sturdy, but not heavy.


Wind, rain, sleet, and snow are common occurrences out in nature. You also might run across puddles, streams, and wet patches on the trail itself. Wet shoes and soggy socks are a recipe for disaster, so make sure your shoes are waterproof (or at least water resistant). 

Good Traction

Hiking shoes should also have good grip. Depending on the trail difficulty, you might encounter a casual nature trail or some steep, rugged mountain paths. Hiking shoes should be able to deal with a variety of terrain. Make sure you have good traction and some firm treads. Even good hiking shoes can become worn down over time, so always make sure they can still hold steady on rough surfaces. 

Comfortable/Broken In

You should never take brand new hiking shoes on a long trip. It usually takes a while to break them in and get them properly fitted to your feet. New shoes can cause blisters, rubbing, and sore muscles in your feet and legs. You can wear your new shoes around the house, or take short nature walks to break them in. 

If you can find a shoe that has these qualities, you’re well on your way to selecting a great hiking shoe. 

Recommended Hiking Boots

Now that we know that road running shoes aren’t good for hikes, let’s talk about some good alternatives!

Salomon Men’s Speedcross 4 Trail Running Shoes

If you still want to tackle trails at a good pace, there are a variety of trail running shoes that you can try. One of the most highly rated shoes is from the Salomon Speedcross lineup. These are light, comfortable, and durable shoes. 

They’re made from synthetic materials that repel water. They are also outfitted with strong rubber treads on the bottom, which provide an aggressive grip that’s perfect for mountainous terrain. You can learn more about the Salomon trail running shoes by visiting their product page here

Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Amped Hiking Shoe

Hiking boots are a more traditional route, but they are popular for a reason! Boots are sturdy, reliable, and provide a foot amount of foot support. You won’t win any races in these shoes, but they will outlast the rest of the competition. 

The Columbia lineup offers some great boots for hikers. The Newton Ridge brand is particularly popular and they offer boots for both men and women. They are made from sturdy faux-leather and have omni-grip treads on the bottom. 

These hiking boots are available online in a variety of sizes and colors and they are very highly reviewed. You can view the Columbia men’s shoes here and the Columbia women’s shoes here

Final Thoughts

One of the most important, but most overlooked, pieces of equipment is a good pair of hiking shoes. They protect your feet from harsh trails, give you the traction you need to move forward, and provide support and comfort during long hikes. 

Although running shoes are good for their own purposes, you really should invest in a good set of hiking boots or trail running shoes. They can make all the difference in the world and help you have a much better hiking experience. 

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Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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