A lot of people who love being out on the trail eventually give trail running a try. You need a balance between stability and agility when you run on trails. So do hiking boots provide that?
Can you run in hiking boots?
Hiking boots are great for short runs, but they don’t always provide the flexibility you’ll need for longer runs.
Typically, running in hiking boots isn’t recommended because they don’t have the flexibility and lightweight materials that running shoes have. Also, hiking boots need to be sturdy to keep your feet in good condition when climbing over rocks and loose rocks.
That’s why companies sell trail running shoes made for runners who want to sprint or jog on trails and up mountains. You won’t find any racers wearing hiking boots out on the trail.
While running for a long time in hiking boots is not ideal, most people find that they can run in any footwear if they absolutely must. Hopefully, you can find a great pair of hiking boots that, if you have to, feel OK running short distances.
It’s best to buy a pair of boots you feel comfortable running short distances in. Hikers need to run from time to time, whether it’s catching up to friends ahead of them on the trail or running for their life from a swarm of bees.
Let’s explore how much comfort and flexibility you want in a pair of hiking boots and how much you should be running in them, if necessary.
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What to Expect Running in Hiking Boots
Running shoes are built to mold around the runner’s feet and allow for maximum range of motion. Your feet and ankles extend much further when you run, so your feet must have room to move in your shoes.
Hiking boots, though, have a different purpose. They are built to restrict mobility and prevent ankle injuries, and stop you from falling.
Once you have a pair of nice hiking boots, you’ll quickly see how much more stable you feel when hiking. It’s much harder to fall, and you can recover quickly from missteps on branches, rocks, and slippery surfaces.
However, hiking boots aren’t steel traps. They have cushion and support to keep hikers going for miles at a time and days on the trail.
Hiking boots are even a decent running shoe when called upon, as long as you’re not going too far.
You can run in anything if you push through the pain and discomfort. The pain, blisters, and speed, though, will vary.
When in hiking boots, you aren’t going to run as fast as you can or go for as long.
When You Need to Run
“Why would I ever need to run in my hiking boots?” you may be thinking.
Well, believe it or not, there will likely be times when you’ll need to break out in a run when you’re out in nature.
There are extreme examples, like running into a bear, a mountain lion, or some other unwanted animal encounter. In many cases, you should avoid running if you come across a threatening animal, but there is a point where you may have to turn on the afterburners and get out of there.
Then, there are more mundane situations in which you’ll need to jog or sprint.
For example, hikers regularly have to run to find shelter when it starts raining, snowing, or when high winds come along. Weather is something that will send people running.
In addition, hikers tend to run on the trail when they need to catch up to friends, make it to camp on time, cross a highway, or any other usual scenarios.
The bottom line is that hikers run all of the time. It’s typically not a big deal to run short distances with your hiking boots on.
Find Better Success in Mid Boots
Outdoor apparel and gear companies are smart. They listen to what consumers want and do their best to create products that match demand.
For example, hiking and trail running are both growing sports, and they know that most people don’t want to buy a new pair of shoes for every occasion.
People don’t want to pack two pairs of shoes or more when they go on a hike, so now there are decent options for people who want a hiking boot they can run in.
Mid boots are a perfect example.
With mid boots, you’re sacrificing some of the ankle stability of a normal hiking boot, but you’re still getting much more than you would from a normal running shoe.
Mid boots usually resemble a hybrid between running shoes and hiking boots.
People love how they look and that they can run longer on trails more comfortably. It’s a shoe that gives you confidence on steep inclines and offers decent mobility for when you need to move.
Hiking Boots Aren’t the Most Comfortable Running Shoes
Many people go into the store to try new hiking boots and can’t believe how great they feel.
Modern hiking boots are light years ahead of the shoes of past generations. They’re lighter, softer, and more supportive. The materials are also better to make them last longer.
If you do a short jog around the store, odds are, you’ll feel great running in them. However, running for a good distance while trekking is very different than a short jaunt around the shoe store.
Here are some of the main differences between hiking boots and your typical running shoe.
Hiking boots weigh more than pretty much any running shoe. Running shoes are made with mesh or some other knitted material to make them as light as possible.
The weight you carry on your feet when you run greatly impacts how long and far you can sustain high running speeds. Hiking boots will start to feel very heavy once you run for anything more than, say, a quarter mile.
Hiking boots are water-resistant, fast-drying, and can take a beating.
Running shoes are much more fragile. If you step in a puddle or hike in the rain in a pair of running shoes, you’ll probably be wet for the rest of the day or until you throw them in the dryer.
The layers in hiking boots keep your feet warm and dry, both critical to keeping any hike free from blisters, sore feet, or any type of fungal infection.
Manufacturers must strike a careful balance between flexibility and protection with hiking boots. The shoes need to be rugged enough to stop you from getting hurt walking on sharp rocks and giving you enough grip to climb up waterfalls, if necessary.
Running shoes, though, are usually minimalist, so manufacturers don’t focus too much on sole thickness or ankle stability. These shoes rarely, if ever, cover any part of the ankle.
When Trail Running Shoes Are the Answer
Trail running shoes are your best friend for when you want to hike but want to up the ante a bit and start running.
Avoid the extra weight and discomfort involved with running in hiking boots and buy a good pair of trail running shoes. You can find them at most athletic stores or online.
Trail running shoes are going to be heavier than road runners. They’ll also have thicker material and better tread for when you’re running on tougher terrain.
These shoes have better traction to help runners grip rocks, sand, gravel, wet surfaces, and other types of terrain on trail runs. They also usually give runners a lot more room in the toes to help them bend and grab ahold of surfaces.
In addition, trail running shoes have firm heels, which cushion the blow to prevent bruising and blisters.
Things to Consider When Wearing Trail Running Shoes
Keep in mind that, much like any sport, you need to condition your body to avoid injuries and increase your chances of success with trail running. A pair of good trail running shoes isn’t all you need to run fast and for long distances in nature.
You need to condition your ankles, feet, toes, and knees to get them strong enough to handle trail running. It’s a much different sport than running in straight lines on the streets around your neighborhood.
The good news is that trail running is a ton of fun!
Trail running shoes can open up an entirely new sport if you’re already someone who enjoys spending time outdoors. There are passionate communities of trail runners who love to get outside and take on trails of varying difficulty as fast as they can.
Conclusion—Run in Hiking Boots Only When You Must
If running in hiking boots is something you enjoy, then you owe it to yourself to try on a pair of trail running shoes for your next hike.
Short distances are no big deal in a pair of sturdy boots, but you won’t want to run any longer than you must. Instead, choose something more well-suited to running in nature to make it comfortable and fun!