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: hiker 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, our KEEN hiker 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.
For a lightweight, waterproof option that’s super comfortable and flexible, check out our women’s and men’s Tempo Flex hiker sneakers. They have our KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX technology for a super-bendy feel. Both styles come equipped with our trail-hugging KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN rubber outsole for amazing traction. Other fan-fave options include the men's Venture and women's Terradora hikers.
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.
Support of a hiker. Comfort of a sneaker.