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The Difference Between Shoes and Sneakers (Complete Guide You Need to Know)

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The term “shoes” has become so generic these days. But when used against sneakers, shoes consist of canvas shoes or tennis shoes. However, you never use the term “shoes” for sneakers. That rarely happens. Either way, what is the real difference between shoes and sneakers?

If you think there’s no difference at all, then let me tell you you’re wrong. In fact, there is a HUGE difference between shoes and sneakers. The former being canvas or tennis. Now I know that both shoes and sneakers protect your feet. And allow you to move comfortably and with tons of support. Even so, they’re not designed in the same manner. Nor do they serve the same purpose. So let’s find out more!

Difference Between Shoes and Sneakers – The Complete Guide

1. Material


There are many different types of shoes, correct? But what do all of them have in common? That they provide warmth and comfort. However, this is only possible due to the use of synthetic materials like nylon and polyurethane. These are the fabrics mainly used for the construction of the bottom and top of the shoe. And are very easy to maintain and clean.

But sneakers are equipped with special rubber soles. That are long-lasting and super-comfortable. Although the top of sneakers is also made of synthetic materials or canvas. Both of which are lightweight. Sneakers, no doubt, feature incredibly soft soles. The kind that doesn’t make any noise when you’re “sneaking” into the room without making a sound.

2. Comfort

This particular factor plays a major role when it comes to differentiating between the two.

Shoes, generally speaking, deliver abundant comfort for activities like running. However, this is only possible if you choose the best pair of shoes. Otherwise, you end up with heavy footwear that feels nothing but uncomfortable and painful during movements.

As for sneakers, they also provide lots of comfort. But you don’t have to worry about sneakers feeling heavy. You can wear them on a daily basis, even for walking.

3. Purpose


Some men and women wear shoes for stability and comfort. While some wear them for style and comfort. This explains why there are so many different kinds and designs of shoes. As a matter of fact, shoes are constructed strong enough. To serve a wide range of purposes. Such as running, walking, training, etc.

Every category consists of shoes that offer the right amount of stability, traction, and comfort. For instance, training shoes are built with additional rubber padding. This brings into the picture extra cushioning. To support your movements at the gym.

What about sneakers? These are more on the comfortable and casual side. They’re outfitted with exceptional rubber soles. And even sneakers are available in a broad variety of designs. But none of them are suitable for training, running, and other sports-related activities. So can sneakers be used for running? The answer is NO.

Sneakers are plain athletic shoes. With a canvas or synthetic material top and rubber soles. They don’t feature the technicality of sports shoes. The technicality being lateral support, shock absorption, etc. Even so, sneakers are plenty comfortable and even flexible. So you can wear them for walking purposes.

4. Cushioning


When you don’t give importance to cushioning, you’re only welcoming discomfort. Along with foot injuries, pain, and conditions like plantar fasciitis.

Be it shoes or sneakers, cushioning is crucial. However, sneakers don’t offer much in this department. And that’s because they have hard soles. But that doesn’t mean some brands don’t manufacture sneakers with proper cushioning.

But with shoes, cushioning is something you need not worry about. The soles, in this case, are constructed using comfortable, thick materials. Meaning no pain, injuries, or discomfort of any kind.

5. Motion Control


Another major difference between shoes and sneakers is motion control. What is motion control? It’s the amount of control the shoes provide to your feet at the time of wear. This means for activities like running, motion control should be ace. But for general use, this particular factor is not so important.

As for sneakers vs shoes, there’s no superior choice in this area. Meaning it all depends on the manufacturer. But, generally speaking, sneakers hand out better motion control. In comparison to canvas or tennis shoes. That’s because sneakers come with outsoles made of high-quality rubber. The underside here consists of special ridges for control.

In canvas and tennis shoes, the rubber outsoles are present. But the ridges of the shoe aren’t as sturdy as sneakers. So when running in these types of shoes, it becomes hard to stop. Unlike sneakers that make the task easier without any concerns.

6. Stability

Along with motion control, the gripping capacity of the shoe is also important. This includes the way the uppers provide a secure fit and feel.

With sneakers, you get excellent stability. They have laces installed in the upper region, no matter the design. As in the case of shoes; some have laces, some don’t, and some feature Velcro strap.

Stability comes in the form of laces and laces only. Other alternatives may be strong. However, they don’t bring into the picture factors like a secure fit. Plus, their chances of loosening over time are also pretty high.

7. Durability


Hands down, shoes win the battle of durability. Sneakers’ rubber soles are very light. The sole itself isn’t strong enough. This means sneakers cannot tolerate a lot of pressure. On top of that, sharp objects can pierce these soles quite easily. So you can’t even think of walking on a bushy or rocky terrain with sneakers.

On the other hand, shoes are built with polyurethane. And this is a very flexible, sturdy, and durable material. The kind that has the ability to withstand high-pressure impact. And even hard or sharp objects. So feel free to run on rough terrain with shoes. As long as they have tough, durable outsoles!

The Bottom Line

Now you get the idea that sneakers and shoes serve almost the same purposes. In the sense that they provide comfort, stability, motion control, and cushioning. At least the basic level is a part of every pair of shoes and sneakers. But if you want something that can withstand heavy pressure, go for shoes.

But choose sneakers for a more casual vibe. And in both cases, make sure you’re picking the right size.

Difference Between Hiking Shoes And Sneakers

If you are a fast mover, a hiking shoe or trail runner with more flexibility and give may be better for you.

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Do you like to run on trails too? Or do you like to take your time and look around?

If you like to move slow and steady with very sure footing prepared for anything, hiking footwear that laces up around the ankle may be best for you.

Can Trekking Bootsbe Used For Hiking

Trekking boots can and should be used in hiking if you are planning to trek in the near future. Wearing trekking boots for hiking will enable you to get accustomed to trekking boots and will also break the boots inner walls so that you do not feel discomfort before going on trekking. Trekking boots can be worn in any weather, so it wont really matter if it rained the previous day.

Tip: If you only want to hike and the weather is clear and dry, hiking bootswill come in handy as they are lighter and will allow better movement with faster speed.

Hiking Shoes Vs Hiking Boots

Whether youre a weekend hiker or a die-hard hiking fan, you know how crucial it is to wear proper footwear while youre hiking. A lot of casual hikers quickly learn that they just cant use their regular sneakers for a serious outdoor adventure. When the terrain thats not flat, manicured or groomed, you need a pair of quality hiking boots or hiking shoes.

Fortunately, todays market offers a number of different types of hiking footwear. These include mountaineering boots, approach shoes, low hiking shoes, barefoot shoes, trail runners, thru-hikers, and lightweight hiking shoes for day hikers. While all of these different types can make anyones head spin, all of them fall into one of two main categories hiking shoes and hiking boots though I have also written a comparison between Trail Runners and Hiking Shoes.

However, for newbie hikers, it can be fairly difficult to make a choice between boots and shoes. Remember the wrong footwear is guaranteed to lead to an uncomfortable day trekking or even debilitating black toenails and painful blisters. While the right boots or shoes make it easy to walk hundreds of miles without any of these problems. So, should you get yourself a pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes?

Note: its all to do with your feet, the terrain, and the weather.

How And When To Try On Trekking Footwear

Take your time when trying on new hiking shoes. The afternoon is best, as your feet normally swell a bit during the course of the day. Bring the socks you plan to wear in them. Using your own socks will also help you to assess the sizing, fit and feel of new footwear quicker. If you have orthotic footbeds, bring them along too. Spend as much time in them as you can in the shop: walk around, try them up and downstairs. Test them on a slope if there is one. Try to simulate how you will use them in the mountains. Obviously, its best to buy new shoes in a specialist store.

Hoka One One Trail Runners

Hiking Boot vs. Hiking Shoe

These trail running shoes offer reliable trail performance and a cushioned ride, comfy from day one. I finally caved and bought some just to see what the Hoka Hype was all about.

After 75 miles, Im a believer. Id wear these HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4 Trail Running Shoe hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim next time, thats for sure.

The Hoka Speedgoat 4 Trail Running Shoes feature:

Vibram Megagrip outsole rubber won’t slip in wet conditions

Outsole lugs provide tackles tricky trails on the way up and braking on the way down

Lightweight foam midsole gives you a soft, responsive trek

Wider forefoot adds stability and greater comfort for long miles

Lightweight at only 18 oz. for the pair

Great for easy to moderate day hiking and trail running

May run a smidge big

Looking for more ankle support and HOKA hiking boots with Gore-tex? Check out HOKAs Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX Hiking Boots

How Do You Choose What To Buy

As usual, what you choose to buy probably comes down to what you intend to do. If youre a rock climber and you love to spend your time in precarious rocky places, then the extra confidence and surefootedness of wearing approach shoes makes a lot of sense. If youre a hiker who likes to do a bit of scrambling, then the extra security and performance of approach shoes on more technical ground could be a big advantage. If, however, you spend most of your time on typical hiking terrain, then hiking shoes will almost certainly last longer and provide more grip and support on wet and muddy terrain.

Trekking Shoes For Women

Trekking shoe manufacturing companies are coming up with special trekking shoes that are designed for womens feet.

Where are they used:

The heel-to-ball length, as well as the width of in-step and heel is larger for men. So, shoe companies began designing a slimmer shoe that cater specifically to womens feet.

Features To Watch Out For:
  • Special material at the in-sole and mid-sole for Q-angle

Recommended Brands: Some great shoes under this category are Trek 100 and MH100 for women by Decathlon. Apart from that, you may opt for Merrell Womens Moab 2 Mid Ventilator and Salomon X ULTRA 3 GTX W

| Heres a video that talks about the difference between Trekking Shoes and Sports Shoes, and which one is right for your trek:

Hiking Shoes Vs Trail Running Shoes: Appearance

Hiking shoes tend to look less sporty, and are often available in more muted colours , so beyond the mountainside you could wear them around town to keep your feet comfy.

Trail running shoes are often brightly coloured, as if to proclaim ‘Im a runner!’ loudly at passers-by. As a result, they can be less useful as a multi-use shoe for people to wear casually elsewhere .

What Kind Of Weather Will You Be Hiking In

Will you be hiking in rain or snow a lot? Then you will definitely want hiking footwear made with Gore-Tex, so your feet stay dry.

If youre hiking in snow, youll want to be able to easily attach gaiters and crampons. You can do this with most any hiking boot, hiking shoe, or trail runners.

Hiking near the Palmer Lake Reservoirs in snow. Crampons and gaiters are super helpful.

Gaiters serve to keep pine needles and small rocks out of your shoes while you’re on the trail. Some ultralight hikers and thru-hikers who wear trail-running shoes will use these gaiters.

Crampons are a necessity to walk and hike on snow and ice. With them, you can cross glaciers and ascend snow slopes. Crampons are becoming more specialized depending on your activity.

Super-lightweight traction devices are made for everyday winter walking. More traditional crampons handle snow and glacier travel, technical hiking and mountaineering.

Is It Ok To Wear Hiking Shoes Everyday

As with anything, theres a tradeoff between using your hiking shoes for walking around work or town vs. using your hiking shoes only for hiking on trails.

Its perfectly OK to wear hiking shoes every day. However, keep in mind that these shoes are not meant to be everyday shoes and they may not be the most comfortable to wear as more lightweight shoes. On the other hand, you might find your hiking shoes to be more comfortable than your casual shoes for certain circumstances

Lets break down some reasons for and against using your hiking shoes or boots for walking:

Why Use Hiking Boots

Hiking boots offer excellent durability and can wick away all problems the elements will throw at you. They offer better ankle protection than trail running shoes and generally have a much longer lifespan. In addition, they will keep your feet warmer and offer greater water protection due to the materials that are used to make this type of shoe.

These qualities make these boots better for rough and ready trips and are the perfect hiking footwear for those that need protection from the trails they walk.

Who Would Benefit From Walking In Hiking Shoes

  • People who want just one pair of shoes for all of their walking, whether on the street or on the trail.
  • Those who mix pavement and trails on the same walk. Wear the shoes that will handle the roughest terrain you expect to encounter.
  • Walkers in need of more support. The increased underfoot protection and foot stability will help people with ankle, knee and lower back issues.
  • Older walkers. As we age we lose strength and stability. By improving the support at your feet it will help keep us walking longer. If you are finding balance an issue while walking consider adding trekking poles in addition to hiking shoes.
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What You Really Need In Hiking Footwear

Salomon Mens Outbound Prism GTX Hiking Shoes OutdoorGB

When youre picking hiking footwear, these are the factors that are important:

  • They should protect your feet. That means no cuts or damage to your feet from the elements.
  • They should be comfortable. You should be able to use them without getting blisters.
  • They should be lightweight. You will step thousands of times when you hike. Every ounce saved on lifting your feet is more energy to hike farther.

Go For Ankle Support In The Trekking Shoe

A lot of running shoes and sports shoes come with a lot of flexibility and good grip. But what they lack is ankle support. In the Himalayas you will be walking on rough terrain. You will be climbing up and down and your ankle is prone to twisting in unusual angles. And thats when your trek can end. And you dont really want that to happen. To prevent this, you need good ankle support and make sure your trekking shoes provide good ankle support.

Disadvantages Of Walking In Hiking Shoes

Hiking shoes tend to weigh more than walking shoes, especially the more supportive options. This will tend to be more fatiguing.

The hip flexor muscles at the top of your thigh can feel it if you are walking longer than usual. Over stressed hip flexors can lead to lower back pain so if you are susceptible then this will be a consideration for you.

Hiking shoes tend to be warmer. This is an advantage when it is cold but in the heat of summer, especially when humid can be both uncomfortable and lead to blisters.

In the summer I wear mesh topped trail running shoes for walking and hiking. I give up a little bit of support and durability but they are much cooler and my feet dont get as wet from sweat.

Quality hiking shoes tend to be fairly expensive so it budget is a concern then walking shoe can save you a bit of money upfront. Since hiking shoes will tend to last longer it is hard to say which is the better value over the long term.

Is It Ok To Wear A Trail Running Shoe On Pavement

While a trail running shoe is suitable for walking and running on trails, that doesnt mean they cant work well as street shoes. They can work incredibly well on the pavement! I wouldnt pick a running shoe for hiking myself unless I had no other choice, though. Since a trail runner shoe is often heavier than street style shoes, they could tire me out faster.

Key Weaknesses Of Trail Running Shoes

They offer less protection against the elements than hiking shoes

They offer less ankle protection, even compared to short low top hiking boots

Runners can be worn out and need to be replaced more often

Although they have a versatile grip, they will never be as strong as the lugs on a good pair of boots

The materials do not offer protection against the elements and shouldn’t be used for winter excursions

How Does It Benefit Me To Wear Hiking Boots Instead Of Tennis Shoes On The Trail

Headed for a walk in the woods but still debating with yourself about hiking boots vs. tennis shoes? The choice in footwear, whether it’s as stark as boots vs. sneakers, or the more subtle difference between hiking shoes and running shoes, can make or break your hike.

Video of the Day

Unless the trail you walk is unusually smooth and dry, tennis shoes are not made to handle hiking terrain. On the other hand, heavy hiking boots may be overkill for some trail conditions.

Hiking Shoes Good Bet For Most People

Hiking shoes take the best elements of hiking boots and trail runners and combine them into one. They are lighter and more comfortable than hiking boots, but generally offer the same level of protection . Hiking shoes are designed to last longer than a trail runner but are usually a little heavier because of the extra protection. Theyre also a bit stiffer than a trail runner. Overall the durability, lighter weight, and and protection offer the best balance for hikers.

I took my first pair of hiking shoes on a 14 mile hike in Yosemite right after buying them. Absolutely no issues at all. Very comfortable for the entire hike, my feet felt like they could have kept going, while the rest of me, not so much. Hiking Shoe Review

Recommended Reading: Where To Buy Cariuma Sneakers

Quechua Mh100 Trekking Shoes

This is another shoe that is branded as a hiking shoe. It falls within a good budget and ticks all the right boxes the sole has good grip, it has ankle support, a flexible sole and water resistance.

For most of our easy, moderate and even moderate-difficult Himalayan treks like Rupin Pass, these shoes will work. They are slightly on the higher end of budget trekking shoes though, costing around Rs 3,500.

Trekking Shoes Review: I have used the shoes on several Sahyadri treks in winters and rainy as well and also used them at Buran Ghati in snow as well. Its been almost a year since I bought it, and these shoes are in great condition. They are helpful in all kind of terrain, also they are zero maintenance, and easily washable. Raj Shah

What Is The Difference Between A Hiking Shoe And A Running Shoe

Salomon Womens Outline Prism GTX Hiking Shoes OutdoorGB

Boots, trail runners, and street-style shoes are all very different. There are some obvious differences in design and construction between hiking shoes and running shoes at first glance, and the difference between the two becomes even clearer when I put them on my feet.

Firstly, my hiking shoes are far more durable than any runners Ive ever owned. A trail running shoe is built to stand up to hazards like sticks, stones, roots, puddles, and anything else you might encounter on a trail.

Street-style shoes should be used on flat, even pavement. Even if I step on the occasional rock or pebble or pass the occasional pothole, my street shoes can handle it. Theyre lightweight, comfortable, and flexible.

A hiking shoe, on the other hand, has more support in its construction. They weather uneven terrain while trail running, and they add a bit more support for my foot arches in case I lose my grip. Some trail runners end higher on my ankle, too, to help protect me if I land wrong and twist it.

Boots, on the other hand, are a different beast altogether. While I could feasibly run in a well-worn pair of boots, that doesnt mean I want to! Boots are heavy and very supportive, and theyre for walking more so than running.

Approach Shoes Vs Hiking Shoes: What Are Approach Shoes

Rock climbers are often on trails that have more technical approaches: steep, rocky, precarious and downright dangerous. The Five Ten 5.10 Guide Tennie was designed for this terrain. In fact, some approach shoes are so good that many climbers will use them instead of climbing shoes on easy crags, as theyre so much more comfortable.

In the same way that racing cars use softer rubber compounds on their tyres to stick to the race track, climbing shoes use softer rubber compounds, allowing significantly more friction between the shoe and the rock, enabling a better cling-on factor. Most approach shoes use similar sticky rubber to climbing shoes, providing more security and confidence on the rock, where the harder rubber compounds of hiking shoes, designed more for durability, will often slip or skid.

The other big difference between the Guide Tennie and most hiking shoes is the aggressiveness of the lugs on the sole. The Guide Tennie has a dot pattern on the base, closer to the smooth sole of a climbing shoe, rather than the deep lugs of a hiking shoe, which are designed for grip on muddy trails. Many approach shoes also have a protective rubber rand, which provides friction and prevents wear when jamming the shoes into cracks in the rock.

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Hiking Shoes Vs Hiking Boots The Verdict

It goes without saying, that hiking boots are a better choice when it comes to technical terrain. A shoe will never protect your foot as well as a regular boot these are much more rugged and protective. They protect ones feet with a mixture of metal, rubber, and leather components. This also makes them more durable with proper care, a pair of hiking boots can last for years.

In addition, this type of footwear features tougher uppers and higher tops. This, in turn, makes them more stable than trail runners. Hiking boots are a particularly good choice for folks who need additional ankle support, as well as for first-time hikers, many of whom are still in the process of developing their foot skills.

Hiking shoes, on the other hand, are more flexible and stretchier due to their mesh components and lower tops. Not only does this make them more breathable, but also lighter on ones feet. However, remember that waterproof shoes take longer to dry you dont need a pair if youre not into winter hiking.

While a shoe cant really give your foot the same stability and protection as a regular trekking boot, it is far more versatile the stylish look of modern hiking shoes allows outdoor enthusiasts to use them both inside and outside the city.

Difference Between Hiking Shoes and Running Shoes [Explained]

There are many key differences between a pair of hiking boots (or newer hiking shoes with a low top) and a pair of trail running shoes. They both offer different things to hikers who need to protect their feet against the elements when out for a hike.

But choosing the right boots depends on what you need – do you like rough terrain or lightweight trail hikes? Do you need something for sprawling and potentially dangerous adventure or just something comfy for day hikes? Do you plan to travel great distances that could take all day or do you just want to climb a rough mountain and then go home?

Table of Contents

Hiking Shoes vs Running Shoes

The biggest differences between hiking shoes and a pair of trail runners are the size, weight, and durability. Think about where you want to go and how you want to travel – the shoe that you will need for a long excursion across mountainous terrain will be very different for gentle strolls which are miles long and need a lighter bit of footwear to support your soles.

Why use hiking boots?

Hiking boots offer excellent durability and can wick away all problems the elements will throw at you. They offer better ankle protection than trail running shoes and generally have a much longer lifespan. In addition, they will keep your feet warmer and offer greater water protection due to the materials that are used to make this type of shoe.

These qualities make these boots better for rough and ready trips and are the perfect hiking footwear for those that need protection from the trails they walk.

Why use trail runners?

On the other hand, a trail runner is perfect for shorter hikes and in warmer weather. They are breathable and lightweight, meaning that they are better for both hikes on gentle trails and also for very long-distance hiking. You’ll be thankful for the weight savings at the end of a long trip! Trail runners also have a short break-in period vs hiking boots and will keep your feet cooler in the summer months.

These are the perfect shoes for people that need a lightweight option – if you don’t plan to scale the side of perilous mountains but instead want to stroll through forests, these will be the best option for you.

Features of Hiking Shoes

Durable boots that only need replacing every 1,000 miles, saving you money in the long term

They offer excellent protection against the elements

There is added stability and ankle support from a high top, but the low top variants also help when managing hazardous terrain better than a runner would

Offer a better defense against injury to ankles with support to the ankle, even with a low top

The shoes are designed for rough hikes as the harder materials can stand up to the punishment

The materials used to make hiking boots are warmer, making them perfect for trips during fall and winter

All good boots are waterproof and offer excellent protection against damp or sodden ground

Heavy lugs offer an excellent grip that will support the hiker on uneven ground and over difficult obstacles

Perfect for hikers who need to protect their ankles over a distance as they are comfy on the inside and rigid on the outside

Do Hiking Boots have any Weaknesses?

Although hiking shoes offer great support and better warmth, they do have drawbacks.

Key weaknesses of hiking boots

They are heavier than trail runners and the weight can be difficult to use over a long hike

They are generally less breathable than running shoes

The break in period can be long and painful if not done properly

Hiking shoes can be more expensive than trail running shoes

Features of Trail Running Shoes

Lightweight design makes them before for shorter trails as they aren’t as heavy to keep lifting

Breathable materials make runners cooler and better for spring and summer hikes

The softer design allows for a short break-in period (or none at all!) meaning that you can start your journeys as soon as you have your new shoes

A pair of trail runners are better for a lighter, shorter hike due to the lightweight design and breathable material

Many different traction options are available depending on your need, allowing for greater specialization and even different shoes for different treks

The grip comes from pressure applied by the wearer, so they are versatile in giving you the grip you need when you need it

Can easily last for up to 500 miles of hiking meaning that you can stroll easily knowing that your runners will support you in the long run

These shoes are designed for a trail runner who needs light shoes for a gentle hike, so expect all the features that you would need to be reliably built into these lightweight options

Do Trail Runners have any weaknesses?

Although they might sound perfect for short hikes and gentle walking, trail runners do have some weaknesses that buyers should keep in mind.

Key weaknesses of trail running shoes

They offer less protection against the elements than hiking shoes

They offer less ankle protection, even compared to short low top hiking boots

Runners can be worn out and need to be replaced more often

Although they have a versatile grip, they will never be as strong as the lugs on a good pair of boots

The materials do not offer protection against the elements and shouldn’t be used for winter excursions


Answering the question of hiking boots vs trail running shoes isn’t easy as they both have so many strengths depending on your needs. A hiking boot will always be stronger and a runner will always be lighter on your feet, however.

If you need ankle support and heavy-duty protection, take a look at a hiking boot that can offer it. You don’t need to buy leather boots either – a wide range of synthetic and vegan boots are available at affordable prices now.

If there are runners who are thinking about the needs of trail running and making sure they are cool, versatile, and excellent for a long hike, keep in mind that trail runners offer a lesser weight and will still protect your feet.

Hi, I’m Andrew Mullen, and my love of the great outdoors began when my grandfather and father used to take me with them on camping trips when I was young. We used to venture into the woods and after a long day of hiking, set up camp, and late at night around the fire.

I hope that you enjoy this site and find it inspiring and who knows, maybe we’ll bump into each other on a campsite somewhere in the wilderness and share a story or two.




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