Hiking Boots vs. Trail Runners

Whether you are a short day-hiker, overnight backpacker or long distance thru-hiker, the appropriate hiking footwear will make a big difference in your comfort on the trail. Many hikers have abandoned the big heavy hiking boots in favor of lighter weight trail running shoes. When you decide which type of hiking shoe is right for you it's important to weigh the advantages of each.

Hiking Boots


Hiking boots come in a few different types. You'll find light hikers, midweight hiking boots and mountaineering boots. Hiking boots have the following advantages:

  • High ankle support

  • Harder more durable rubber tread

  • Stiffer sole protection


Hiking boots are a good choice for longer trips or for hiking on rocky and rough terrain. The added support is ideal for people with ankle and foot problems. Hiking boots are also recommended for backpackers carrying heavier loads.

Hiking Boots

Trail Runners


Trail runners are basically a slightly beefier version of a running shoe. They have rubber treads designed to perform on dirt and rock trails. Trail runners have more foot support than a traditional running shoe but not as much as a hiking boot. Some advantages include:

  • Lighter weight than hiking boots

  • Provide good tread

  • Enough foot support for shorter trips with light pack weight


It's commonly said that one pound on your feet is equal to 5 pounds in your pack. Saving the weight on your feet makes hiking easier and less of a strain on your legs and hips. If you have strong ankles, hike on smooth trails and carry a light pack weight, train running shoes may be a great option for you.

Hiking in Trail Runners

Hiking Boots Vs. Trail Runners



  • Trail runners are typically a little less expensive but hiking boots will last longer over time.

  • Trail running shoes are significantly lighter weight.

  • Hiking boots will provide better ankle and foot support on longer trip, through rough terrain, and with heavier loads.


You can hike and backpack in hiking boots or trail running shoes. Take all of the above considerations into account before you decide between the two hiking shoe options. Remember, your comfort on the trail is most important. Twisted ankles and bruised feet can be very painful and they will ruin a long hike or backpacking trip.

Looking for more information? Visit our Hiking Boot Guide or Backpacking Guide.

Save on Trail Runners


Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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