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Which are best: trail running shoes or hiking boots?


There are plenty of ways to stay active and improve your cardiovascular health. Some people prefer to hit the trails for either a leisurely walk in the woods, while others like to pick up the pace and run along the trail. Both of these activities can improve your health, and they get you out into nature, which has its own benefits. 

But if you’re looking to be more active on hiking trails, you need to find what type of shoe is right for your particular adventure. Trail running shoes have a tread level appropriate enough to grip more than just a paved road. Hiking boots, however, offer a thicker, more durable support and are often waterproof. 

Trail running shoes

Trail running shoes are low-top shoes used for running longer distances with sudden elevation level changes. They grip well on uneven and winding running trails in the wilderness. These shoes allow you to focus on the cardio aspect of trail running. Several shoe companies make models that fit both men and women comfortably. 

Trail running shoes pros

Trail running shoes have excellent traction and are very comfortable. They keep your feet firmly gripped to the trail, no matter the terrain. These shoes also offer some arch support and fit just below the ankle to provide full range of motion. You can run confidently on sidewalks, streets or gravel trails in this style of shoe. 

Trail running shoes cons

These shoes are meant for running on well-maintained hiking trails, so if you intend to go off-road, you will want something different. And while they are weather-resistant, very few are waterproof. Furthermore, if you run somewhere with tall grass or other high foliage, grass and leaves can get into your shoes easily due to the low-top style. 

Best trail running shoes


Salomon Speedcross 4 Gore-Tex

Salomon Speedcross 4 Gore-Tex 

These men’s trail running shoes are ideal for those who like running on all kinds of terrain. You can move comfortably across streets or trails in these lightweight, cushioned shoes. 

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Saucony Versafoam Excursion Tr13

Saucony Versafoam Excursion Tr13

These have a triangular-lugged outsole to provide traction that you need on various terrains. They have a cushioned sole that allows you to run comfortably for short and long distances.

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Hiking boots

Hiking boots are designed to be sturdy, durable and maintain plenty of traction on the hiking trail. They have additional support in the heel and ankle to keep you steady. There are several hiking boots models for men and women that allow you to move throughout various environments with ease. Hiking boots tend to have a bit more support and coverage, specifically due to the mid- to high-tops that cover your ankle bone and keep debris out of the boot. These features protect your feet and help prevent injury both on and off the trail.

Hiking boots pros

The benefit of using hiking boots is that they provide a lot of protection for your feet. With these boots, you can walk through puddles, snow, mud and even venture a bit off-trail. They come up high enough on the foot and ankle to keep out grass, dirt and small rocks. Hiking boots are also typically waterproof, so you won’t have to worry about wet socks and potential blisters if it starts to rain on your hike. 

Hiking boots cons

This style of boot is very heavy-duty. And they may weigh too much if you are just going on a level park trail or walking on paved roads. Furthermore, since they are not running shoes, they do not allow you the same kind of full-range mobility that low-top shoes provide. 

Best hiking boots

Keen Womens Voyageur Mid Hiking Boot

Keen Women’s Voyageur Mid Hiking Boot

These women’s hiking boots feature a sturdy design and use mesh and leather to keep your feet dry. They work well in all kinds of terrain, including mud, rocks and uneven surfaces. 

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Merrel Womens Moab 2 Vent

Merrel Women’s Moab 2 Vent

These women’s hiking shoes have synthetic soles and can be used both on and off the trails. Many users reported these had excellent arch support, too. 

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Columbia Mens Redmond Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

Columbia Men’s Redmond Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

These men’s hiking shoes use Omni-grip technology, which holds great traction on any surface. You can wear them in rocky, rough conditions or on a clear-cut path. 

Sold by Amazon

Should you get trail running shoes or hiking boots?

It depends on how active you plan to be. If you want to run for long distances on designated trails, you will get the most use out of trail running shoes. However, if you want to start hiking in the woods or in the mud, you will need hiking boots. They are both useful for their own particular adventure.

If you are trying to decide between hiking or trail running, consider your current fitness and wellness level as well as your goals. Both hiking and trail running are great for your health, but trail running requires a bit more agility and coordination. If you want to get into nature and hike, moving at a slower pace through the woods might be a better match. Either way, both shoe styles can provide you with the right amount of grip and support that you’ll need on the trail.

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Erica Redding writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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