Hiking equipment

Choose the Best Trail Running Shoes for Hiking: Expert Tips

Excited about your next trail running adventure? Before you head for the hills, make sure you get the right footwear with a good grip as the pair of shoes you wear is going to largely determine whether you have a great hike or a miserable one. Choosing the best trail running shoes for hiking will give you the self-confidence. 

You need in your feet to avoiding second-guessing every step you make. Hiking shoes will make you run more efficiently and faster.

Why specifically trail running shoes and not road runners?

Remember, trail running shoes are different from that footwear that is designed for road running. The pair of best trail running shoes for hiking will grip better on rugged terrain as their outsoles will have deeper lugs and more aggressive tread patterns to provide improved stability.

Unlike, road running shoes, trail runners feature stiffer soles and have hidden plates that offer added foot protection. They also come with protective toe counters on the tips to avert toe injuries.

Trail runners will know that the feet end up getting wet from running over the snow-covered lands or technical terrain, crossing streams or simply by absorbing the morning dew off the grass. The best trail running shoes for hiking will feature uppers made of premium quality breathable materials to quickly shed water.   

Although you can run on your local trails in your road shoe, if you plan to make trails frequently, it is wiser to invest in a good pair of trail running shoes. It is in our opinion the most important part of the outdoor equipment. Even more important that a good backpack or a perfect sleeping bag.

Tips to pick the best trail running shoes for hiking

Try on many pairs

Not everyone has the same feet. The only way to ensure if the shoes have comfortable fit is to try them on. When buying online and when you can’t try on as many shoes as you want, read up as many reviews as possible from a variety of sources. Pay special attention the ankle support.

If you already own a pair of shoes you really love and that fit you perfectly, consider purchasing a few pairs up front. Brands can evolve and the pair of shoes you fell in love with this season may not be available in the next.

Set practical trail running goals

Before going for the best trail running shoes for hiking, consider what you will actually use these for. If you plan to run a 100-miler someday but practically will utilize the footwear for 5-mile training loops on your local park, purchase shoes for the latter usage first.

Stack height is important

The amount of material stacked under your feet is one of the essential differences between shoes. Some trail runners go for less material as it results in a more natural feel leading to good biomechanics. Some prefer thicker, more protective shoes as they incur fewer injuries and aids in the more comfortable running.

You can do your own homework and settle on how much cushioning you’d like. In case you go for minimal shoes, you can start gradually with short runs and gradually build up to help evade injury.

Waterproof or non-waterproof shoes?

For the majority of trail running, you won’t need waterproof shoes. Sure, they are great for hiking but while running your feet will sweat too much for them to keep up. Wear them only when you run muddy or snowy trails at high lengths, and perhaps cold, wet weather. If not, stick with highly breathable shoes.

Consider the lug length

When running trails, you will want soles with grip to navigate the slick, rocky, uneven, and muddy terrain. Assess the trail you plan to run. A short lug pattern will be better if the trail mostly covered with stones and hard dirt. A deeper lug pattern is more suitable for muddy or soft surfaces.

Foam or Rock Plate?

If you plan to run over rocky terrain, you will need shoes that aid to guard your foot against hard edges. You will find thick foam or rock plates. Both have their own pros and cons but normally, the foam will absorb more shock while plates will offer a more natural feel of the ground and accurate foot placement.

Shoe Width

If you have wide feet or in case you plan on running very long distances, make sure the best trail running shoes for hiking you choose has a wide forefoot. It will allow your toes to splay though they are less precise and can be a little clumsier. It won’t fit you if you have narrow feet.

Shoe weight

You will find both super light and heavy running shoes. Even lighter shoes can offer the protection you desire. Go for lighter shoes. Anything more than 12 ounces for a men’s size 9 is just too heavy.

Checklists before you buy the trail running shoes


Ensure that there is a thumb’s width of empty space at the toe. Also, a snug heel and mid-foot are vital. It can be good to have some space around the forefoot. Put on the shoes for as long as possible before purchasing. If you feel any annoyance, it will only be magnified significantly while you run the miles.

Pay special attention to the toe boxes, a wide toe box is preferred.


Consider the millimeters drop from heel to toe. Depending on the preference and running form, runners usually want anywhere from a flat 0mm drop to 12mm or even more.


The tongue should fit comfortably and keep rocks out of your shoe.


Go for big lugs if you are running on soft soil and mud, and small lugs if you plan to run hard soil and rock. Excellent traction, for example if you run or hike over a wet rock, is extremely important, 


The lighter, the better.


Pricier doesn’t mean better shoes. Judge your best trail running shoes for hiking by its quality, not its price.

Important final tip

The shoes just don't feel as comfortable unless you wear a pair of good socks. Ditch the cotton socks and get yourself a pair of wool or synthetic socks. They can wick moisture away even if you have sweaty foot and keep your feet happy. 

Grab the best trail running shoes for hiking that fit your feet to assist you to propel along mud, dirt, rock or any terrain with ease.

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