Tennis Shoes vs Hiking Shoes for Hiking: 3 Reasons You Should Buy the Right Shoe

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The more time I spend outside enjoying the outdoors, the more I have realized how truly important having the right gear can change how much you enjoy doing that activity.

You wouldn’t go fly fishing with an ice fishing pole right? You wouldn’t go overnight backpacking with a canvas tent right? Then why would you go hiking in tennis shoes.

Up until this year, I had been hiking solely with tennis shoes. I then upgraded to real hiking shoes, and found that I enjoyed hiking so much more, and found I could hike longer.

So are is hiking with tennis shoes a good idea? Hiking with tennis shoes just isn’t a great idea, instead you should look at buying a set of hiking boots or shoes. Hiking shoes give you more grip, better comfort, and you use less energy than when you hike with tennis shoes. This makes it just not a great idea to hike with tennis shoes.

1. Traction

Much like everything that is made, tennis shoes are built for a very specific task, Tennis… and they are also great for other things like walking, running, and other flat ground activities. However what they aren’t great for, is gripping dirt, and uphill off the beaten path activities.

On the other hand, hiking shoes are built specifically for this task. You may not want to wear them while doing tasks that tennis shoes are great for, however when it comes to hiking, they are perfect.

They have tons of grip on the bottom of the shoe, that makes it a breeze to be able to gain the traction on uphill climbs that tennis shoes just can’t achieve.

This gives you more confidence in every step you take, and means you slide around less.

2. Support

Another great reason why hiking shoes are so important for hiking is support! Hiking is a very different activity than what tennis shoes are built for.

There is a lot more uphill climbing, walking in dirt, on roots, over rocks and more. Hiking shoes have built in support in all of the needed areas to be able to account for all of those different things that you will be doing.


3. Comfort

Finally, comfort is a huge part of why I would prefer dedicated hiking shoes over tennis shoes for hiking.

Because you have the support and traction that hiking shoes have over tennis shoes, they are just so much more comfortable for that activity.

Also, something to keep in mind for comfort… tennis shoes have a tendency to allow dirt and rocks inside of the shoes, while hiking shoes don’t have that issue.

You will find you spend a lot less time thinking about every step you take, and making sure you don’t hurt yourself, and more time enjoying the hike through the forest, mountains, or by the stream.

Most hiking shoes (like mine) are built to be able to be walked in for long periods of time over harsh terrain.

Which hiking shoes do I use?

Now you may be asking! What hiking shoes do I personally use, and what shoes switched me over from wearing tennis shoes hiking?

I stumbled upon these Columbia hiking shoes at a store I dropped by for a really great price. Unfortunately it appears they have since been discontinued, however I’m sure you should be able to find something that will work for you by shopping around here.

Side note: You should also check out my review about the socks you see in the below picture as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

For the most part, trail shoes and hiking shoes are the identical products! That said, when there is a difference, hiking shoes tend to be the heavier, more sturdy choice. While trail shoes give less support, but are considerably lighter weight than the hiking shoe alternative.

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Trail-Running shoes make a great all-around shoe and can actually be used for your normal day-to-day walking purposes. These trail running shoes are a subsidiary to hiking shoes.

Ankle support is by no means necessary for hiking, however if you are new to hiking, I would highly recommend it! Rolling your ankle due to inexperience can be a bad deal, especially if you are alone on the trails and need to get back to your vehicle.


Tennis shoes just aren’t meant for hiking, like hiking shoes are. Upgrading to have a dedicated set of shoes for hiking, instead of trying to find a one-shoe-fits-all shoe, will help you enjoy hiking so much more.

Having these dedicated shoes will help you hike faster, with a lot more enjoyment, and you will use considerably less energy than you would by using tennis shoes. Using the right tool for the job makes things better, and this is no different when it comes to hiking!

Should You Buy a Size Bigger in Hiking Shoes (Explained)

When choosing the right hiking footwear fit, remember to consider the type of activity you plan to do on your hikes, like the terrain and weather conditions. Hiking footwear sizes vary by manufacturer, so it is important to choose a size that corresponds with your foot.

The proper hiking footwear fit is important for any hike because it protects your feet from rubbing against rocky terrain or an abrasive surface. With the proper fit, you will feel more comfortable and be able to enjoy your hike.

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Should You Buy a Size Bigger in Hiking Shoes

Should you buy a size larger in hiking shoes? Yes. These were the first words out of my mouth before I started writing this article. I’ve been struggling with this question for years and was finally able to get some insight from an expert on this topic and found that yes, you should buy a pair of boots that are one or two sizes bigger than what you normally wear.

The experts agreed that it’s best to go up one or two shoe sizes than down, but the decision is ultimately up to each individual. Some went one step further and said it’s best to go up three full shoe sizes when buying your next pair of hiking boots! That seems extreme though and I wouldn’t recommend that

How Much Room Should You Have in Your Hiking Boots

One of the most important things to consider when hiking is the size of your hiking boots. The width of your feet affects how much room you’ll have in your boots. If you’re in between two sizes and you don’t want to chance it, try the larger size. If you need more room than that, then definitely go for the larger one.

If your feet are wide, then try getting wider shoes.

Hiking boots are a very personal item. They need to fit your feet perfectly and only you know what kind of space you’ll need in them. However, there’s a good chance that you might have to buy new boots at some point because they’ve become too worn out or the extra space is too much for comfort.

Hiking boots are one of the most-used hiking gear items, but they can also be a pain when they don’t fit properly. There is no standard sizing for hiking boots so it can be difficult to find the right size without trying on several pairs at different stores or from online retailers.

If buying new ones doesn’t seem like an option, then there are usually ways to fix those bad-fitting boots by adding in more foam or padding inside your current pair of shoes.

How Do You Know if Your Hiking Boots Are Too Big?

Hiking boots need to be big so that you can get maximum protection from the terrain. However, if you’re not careful, then your boot size could overwhelm your feet and cause harm in the long run.

Hiking boots are usually a size that is too big or too small because of the thick soles and high ankle support. These factors make them difficult to measure and fit properly.

Many people have to make do with the wrong size hiking boots, which can lead to discomfort and pain. To avoid this, identify certain signs that your boots are too large. For example, if your knee falls over the top of the boot, or if your foot doesn’t stay in the heel.

What to Do if Your Hiking Boots Are Too Big

A pair of hiking boots that is too big can cause serious injuries and other problems, as well as make it difficult to hike properly.

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If you have hiking boots that are too big, they may be irritating the inside of your ankle bone or the back of your heel. This can lead to blisters and infection if not dealt with properly.

Most people agree that wearing socks with your hiking boots provides great support, but some people find that thick wool socks can sometimes cause blisters. Some find the shoe inserts uncomfortable to wear in their boots. The solution to this problem is by choosing a boot insert that provides the same cushioning benefits without being too bulky.

How To Avoid Buying Hiking Boots That Don’t Fit Properly

Buying boots is not always easy. While it is true that some boots are designed with comfort and fit in mind, other shoes might not be made for the shape of your feet. Most people have to try on a lot of different sizes before finding a pair that fits perfectly.

There are many ways to avoid buying hiking boots that don’t fit properly and make sure you choose the best pair for you. Some people like to buy online since they can compare prices from different retailers like Amazon or REI with ease. Others prefer the convenience of shopping in-store since they can try on several pairs of shoes before making a purchase decision.

  • First, you need to find the right size.
  • Second, you have to make sure the boots have a good fit and will stay on your feet.
  • Third, the material of the shoe should be durable and also not too hard or too soft.
  • Fourth, it should also be lightweight and easy to carry while hiking.
  • Lastly, you must choose a pair of boots that will not only provide you with proper support but also look good when worn out on hikes.

When you buy a new pair of shoes, they must fit properly. The most common cause of buying shoes that are too small is when you buy them without knowing your foot measurements in inches and centimeters.

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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?

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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.

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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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