Trail Runners Vs Hiking Boots. Which One To Choose?

So, you may be getting into hiking and can’t decide what kind of shoe to wear. You may have seen that some recommend trail runners while others stand strongly behind their hiking boots. Well, just like with anything, they can be different options. In this article we will look at the question should you wear trail runners or hiking boots? We are going to go over the pros and cons of each to try to help you make an informed decision. After reading this article you should be able to pick which side you are on in the debate of trail runners versus hiking boots.

Trail Runners vs Hiking Boots

Trail Runners vs Hiking Boots

What is What

Before getting into the pros and cons of each type of shoe we will first give a description of each type of footwear. This way everyone reading this article will be on the same page of what is meant when we say trail runner or hiking boot. Because just like there are different opinions on what kind of footwear to wear, they can also be debates on what category each type of shoe can fall into.

When it comes to a trail runner shoe we are referring to a shoe that is a lot like a running shoe. A trail runner is a type of tennis shoe that is beefier and has good shock absorbing support. It is also typically breathable. The sole is a cushion and it has good grip for traction. They tend to be somewhat lightweight, but are heavier than a running shoe. Most trail runners are also more durable than running shoes for rigid environments and use. You can get some trail runners that are waterproof, but the thing with the waterproof ones is that they have less ventilation than other none waterproof ones. Most trail runners are cute below the ankle and fit firmly to the foot.

When it comes to hiking boots, they are a boot. This means that they come up over your ankle. Most go to about the middle of the shine area. They can be made of a variety of materials from all leather, to a leather and mesh combination. Most hiking boots have metal loops for the string, but they do still tie like trail runners. They can range in stiffness from being extra stiff to very flexible. Most hiking boots are waterproof, but not all. Some have a stiffer toe area to protect the toe but don’t get confused with steel toe because hiking boots are not steel toe. If you hiked in steel toe boots, it would hurt and is not recommended. Hiking boots have a thicker more rubber sole then trail runners and tend to not have as much padding in them on the sole. They are also heavier and typically are a few pounds for a pair.

What is Trail Runners and his cons

So, now we will get into the individual pros and cons of each type of footwear. First, we will again start with the trail runner.Pros of trail runners

The pros of the trail runners are that they are lightweight. This means that you won’t tire out as fast from picking up heavy feet. They are also more breathable. This means that your feet will not sweat as much which means you are less likely to get a blister. Also, being lighter wet and more breathable means you will be able to walk at a quicker pace. This is good if you need to cover a lot of ground in one day. Another pro to trail runners is if they get wet they dry out faster. Boots when they get wet take longer. The last pro to trail runners is there is no break in period, this means you can start hiking with them right away.

Cons to trail runners

The first con to trail runners though is they don’t last as long. Since the rubber is thinner which allows for immediate wearing, it also means they break down faster and have to be replaced. Also, trail runners don’t offer as much support. Since they don’t come up the ankle your ankles can get sore or weak over long walking. Also, trail runners don’t offer as much protection. Your legs and ankles can get scraped as well as sharp things can penetrate them easier. Lastly, they have less traction when compared to boots. This means rough terrain can be hard to climb.

Pros and Cons Of Hiking Boots

Pros to Boots

Pros and Cons Of Hiking Boots

Pros and Cons Of Hiking Boots

So, the pros of boots are basically the cons to trail runners. Boots offer a lot of protection and stability. The thick rubber keeps your feet safe from punctures and the higher tops keep your ankles and shins safe. Them also being mostly waterproof helps keep your feet dry from water. They can be used in snow and mud and it will just come right off. Also, boots offer more support meaning that you can carry a heavy load easier. They are also more durable and last longer. These are all the main advantages to boots, now we will look at the cons.

Cons to Boots

The negatives to boots are that they are heavy and can be overkill sometimes. The extra weight means you will most likely walk at a slower pace. Also, they have a break in period since the material is more durable. This can be a problem for some people. The pros to trail runners are the cons for hiking boots.

Which to choose

So, which one should you wear between trail runners and hiking boots? Well, what if we told you the answer is it depends? That might annoy you, but this is the honest answer. The type of shoe you choose to wear while hiking really should come down to you and the type of hiking you are doing. If you are thru-hiking and need to go fast and don’t have a large load, then trail runners are the way to go. They are light wet and the breathability will keep your feet from blistering so you can cover large distances fast.

On the other hand, if you are hiking slowly, carrying a large pack, and on rough terrain, then hiking boots are probably best. This is because they offer more ankle support for crying this, better grip for the rough terrain, and are more durable for the environment. When choosing your hiking footwear, it should really come down to the hiking you are doing and also you and your build. If you have small boney feet, then the support of the hiking boots might be important. If you have large durable feet however, they might not need as much protection.


So, the debate of trail runners versus hiking shoes was not able to be answered in this article. Both types of hiking footwear have their pros in cons. After reading this though, you now know the pros and cons of trail runners as well as pros and cons of hiking boots. You also know that choosing what to wear really comes down to you and the type of hiking you are doing. After reading this and knowing the differences between trail runners and hiking boots you should be able to make an informed decision, not the type you wear the next time you go hiking. Base on the type of hiking it is and your needs will help you determine if trail runners or hiking boots are the best for you.

Tom Chandler

"When your hands hit the floor, they get cut up. When mine hit the floor, they slide with ease"

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