Hiking in KEEN Tempo Flex hiker sneakers
Hiking in KEEN Tempo Flex hiker sneakers

FAQ: Can I Hike in My Running Shoes?

Is it ok to go hiking in running shoes? Short answer: Totally. Long answer: Totally, but there are some things you might want to keep in mind.

We’re firm believers in the philosophy of “you do you.” Whatever shoe keeps your feet happy and gets you out on the trail is the right shoe for you! But to have fun, be safe, and stay comfortable, it’s important to think about what kind of terrain you’ll be tackling and the features it might call for.

Running Shoes vs. Hiking Footwear

Hiking shoes and running sneakers may look similar, but understanding the key differences between them can help you make the right call for your feet and your hike. Here at KEEN, being the slightly footwear-obsessed crew that we are, we love a good chart. Check it out:

Shoe Feature Hiking Boots or Shoes Running Shoes
Outsole Tend to be more rugged and grippy with higher traction Tend to be smoother, made for pavement
Upper Built to be durable, weather-resistant, and protect against trail hazards Designed to be lightweight and breathable
Toe protection Made to protect toes from rocks, stumps, etc. Typically have little to no toe protection
Ankle support Mid and high cut boots offer additional ankle support Typically offer less ankle support than hiking styles
Weight Tend to be heavier Are often lighter overall


The Pros of Hiking-Specific Footwear

There are three main things to consider when picking out your footwear: waterproofness, level of traction, and level of support.

Most running shoes don’t come with waterproof protection, so if you know the going will be rainy, mucky, or puddle-y, you might want to seek out waterproof footwear.

Then there’s traction (you don’t want to go slipping down an incline). If you’re setting out on a steep or slick trail, opt for more traction rather than less, and get a pair of hiking boots specifically designed for the task.

Support is the most subjective of these three qualities. Everyone needs a different level of support to feel comfortable, and only you know what feels right for you. In general, you can expect hiking shoes and boots to offer a more supportive feel. (Running sneakers are usually made for flexibility over support, but higher-supportive running shoes are known as “stability running shoes.”)

And when you’re carrying a fully-loaded backpack, you may find that the added weight means you need a more stable and supportive pair of shoes than normal. That’s why “backpacking boots” are in a category of their own. 

Best of Both Worlds: Hiking Sneakers

Not every hike is a seven-day trek through shale-covered hills. Sometimes you just need a pair of supportive shoes designed with the trail in mind. Part hiking boot and part trail runner (great for faster hiking), our KEEN hiking sneakers are the best of both worlds. Lighter weight than our heavy-duty hiking boots but more durable and grippy than lots of running shoes, these hikers are a versatile option for all sorts of terrain.

Here are some of our faves:

NXIS Speed: Our lightest hiker sneaker yet. And when you're moving faster with all that lightness, the rubber toe bumper will help protect your toes from rocks and roots on the trail. Meanwhile, our proprietary horseshoe tread has deep lugs facing both directions, so it grips on the way up an incline as well as down it. Available men's and women's sizing, and in a waterproof version (NXIS EVO).

Wasatch Crest: We packed lots of trail-specific tech into this waterproof, sneaker-like hiking shoe — such as a bruise plate that guards your feet on rocky trails while providing extra stability and S3 heel technology that helps dissipate shock. Available in men's and women's sizing, and in a vented version for warm climates. 

Terradora: Our original women's performance hiker, featuring a contoured, women's-specific fit and cushioning that supports your feet and biomechanics. Available in vented, waterproof, and flex options.

Comfy Feet Are Happy Feet

Our feet are complex machines, maintaining balance and stability through three anchoring points (it's called the "foot tripod"). If all three spots are supported, feet fully contact the ground with every step, staying nice and comfy out on the trail. Whatever shoes you wear should support your heel, the base of your big toe, and the base of your pinky toe.

And if you think you could use a pair of hiking boots after all, but you aren’t sure where to start, check out our guide on how to find a perfect-fitting pair of hiking boots.

Happy trails!

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