Slipping on your regular running shoes for a hiking adventure or running on the trail of rugged terrain may lead to a couple of blisters and skin abrasions on your feet. It may sound so finicky or fussy, but the regular running shoes are quite different from trail running shoes and hiking shoes. Unfortunately, no shoe fits them all. Sure, you can use them on all activities but expect the usual foot injuries and discomfort afterward.
Donning regular sneakers would undoubtedly feel comfortable in the first few minutes. Still, when you get to the unpaved or stony ground half an hour later, it would be another story, more so when you are carrying a heavy backpack on your shoulder. You’ll wonder at first if the pain in your feet or the discomfort you are feeling is caused by wearing the wrong type of socks before realizing that the problem is the inappropriate footwear.
What are Trail Running Shoes?
Even some expert road runners could make the mistake of using their favorite running shoes when they go beyond their usual paved routine and started trekking on rough terrain. They end up hurting their feet and damaging the shoes. Trail running shoes are specifically designed to handle more difficult terrain.
- Soles are lugged to increase traction, so stepping on the gravel, dirt, roots, and mud will be more comfortable and will keep you from stumbling or slipping.
- The material used on creating both the internal and external parts is more durable to be able to withstand the impact on your feet as you step on the rough pavement and help avoid skin abrasions.
- A much stiffer design than the regular running shoes to reduce foot rotation since with the uneven path, you have to make each stride a bit slower and shorter.
3 Types of Trails
Trail runners are given three choices, including light trail, rugged trail, and off-trail. This is to make sure you wear the appropriate gear to match the outdoor running activity that you prefer. It will give you the right foot protection and, at the same time, prevent you from replacing your pair of runners more often than you would like.
1) Light Trail
It is much closer to the regular running shoes, but it offers better protection from the stony unpaved route while still being able to maintain an easy brisk pace. The shallow lugs on the soles provide better traction, and it has appropriate cushioning to provide comfort on the slightly rugged dirt paths.
2) Rugged Trail
This pair of runners offers double the protection than that of the light trail shoes. It can be used for hiking paths as it is designed with protective plates under the foot to shield it from the rough road with rocks as well as extra strength materials to provide layers of protection against thorny bushes. It has lugged soles that can help the feet to navigate easier on muddy and rocky trails.
These runners have enhanced and aggressive design construction that can handle extremely rough terrain. Most people would choose to use a pair of this when going to areas with no path or trail at all. It gives more protection to the feet with the expectation that the shoes will undergo extreme conditions in remote locations.
Practical Tips When Buying Trail Running Shoes
- If you are thinking of buying trail running shoes for hiking or backpacking, think again. The great lure for choosing trail runners is that they weigh a lot less than hiking shoes, and that is okay, but take into consideration that you might end up replacing your runners often as they are not specifically made for it. Remember that each step you take on the rugged trail has the additional weight of the backpack. However, if you really want to, choose a pair of Off-Trail shoes as it offers maximum durability.
- There is a new trend in trail running shoes that offers the barefoot feel, which equates to minimalist shoes. This would mean that there isn’t much material under the runner’s feet and the ground. It gives the runner the option to make the precise steps when running. It can help the runner speed up, but not everyone can handle the transition, as it can also lead to discomfort. However, this new design offers a more stable landing, which is better for balance.
- Check the fit of the shoes. No matter how great the design or the durability of the shoes is, it does not mean anything if they are not appropriately sized for your feet. Never assume to know your shoe size as it changes as you age. It does not take much to have your feet measured. Remember that your feet swell in the latter part of the day. Make sure it perfectly fits you.
What are Hiking Shoes?
They are durable shoes that are specifically designed with thick, wide soles to offer stability to every step you make in rugged terrains. A pair of hiking shoes will last for quite some time as they can handle the abuse of wear and tear of the extreme conditions that one might unexpectedly find while trekking in the forest.
Hiking shoes also has different styles to choose from, and each of them is built appropriately for different types of terrain.
Types of Hiking Shoes
1) Low-cut Hiking Shoes
These shoes are more closely related to trail running shoes as they can handle uneven paths and rugged trails. The main difference is the material used as the low-cut hiking shoes would focus on the durability rather than aesthetics. They are recommended for shorter hikes on well-maintained hiking paths.
2) Day Hiking Shoes
Hiking enthusiasts would often choose these mid to hi cut versions of hiking shoes. They are suitable to use during day hiking or short backpacking adventure. They provide ample ankle protection while trekking into rugged paths carrying a light load enough for a 1-day trip.
3) Backpacking Hiking Boots
These are specially designed to provide support while carrying heavy loads for a 3-day hiking trip or more. The padded durable high cut material that wraps around the ankle will serve as a shield for possible twists and turns while going around the wilderness. The sole with its lug design will make navigating the mud, thorny ground with slab rocks easier, and offer a more stable landing.
Things to Consider When Choosing Hiking Shoes/Boots
- Some of these mid to hi cut hiking shoes or boots, whether for day hiking or weekend hiking, need to be break-in before using them for the trip. Do not attempt to use brand new shoes for the hike as you might have a hard time adjusting. Wear it along with socks around the house or walk a couple of blocks first to be able to sync it well with your feet. Remember that not all hiking shoes/boots are made equal. Some can feel perfect right off the box, but they often need to undergo a break-in process to soften the hard material, mainly leather.
- Wearing low cut hiking shoes are suitable for short, established forest trails as long as you are not expecting any wet conditions or a colder environment. However, it won’t give you the same protection that a mid to hi-cut hiking boots can.
- Expect the hiking shoes or boots to be heavier and bulkier than trail running shoes, but it will provide the best support for your feet.
- As in any type of shoes, if they do not perfectly fit your feet no matter how durable the shoes are, it will not be able to protect you. If you get something more significant, it will affect every stride you make. Instead of easily navigating the uneven paths, you might end up falling down because of the extra space in the shoes. Getting something smaller will undoubtedly hurt your feet and expect blisters or wounds after the hike. Have your feet measured in the afternoon as they are known to swell during that time.
Both trail running shoes and hiking shoes are suitable for outdoor activities as each of them has benefits and downsides that can contribute to the success or failure of your adventure. Choose trail runners if you want shoes that are lightweight, breathable, and can be used for brisk walking or fast-paced running in well-established trails during the hot season. Use the dependable hiking shoes or boots if you want good all-around traction navigating around the mud, water, snow, and uneven rock slabs during warmer to colder seasons. If there are three things that hiking boots can unquestionably offer, they are stability, durability, and foot & ankle protection.