Several decades ago, if you hiked down a trail, almost everyone you passed would be sporting a pair of above-ankle hiking boots. Today, the footwear scene looks a little bit different. For many hikers, trail runners have replaced hiking boots as the footwear of choice. These shoes are like road running shoes but they are made to withstand the rigors of hiking or running down a trail.
Though there are still situations in which hiking boots are the better choice, trail runners offer a lot of advantages to the average hiker. Here’s a closer look at why trail runners have become so popular, along with the times when you still want to reach for traditional hiking boots.
Why Have Trail Runners Become So Popular?
It’s not just day hikers who have come to prefer trail runners over boots. In one survey, almost 70 percent of thru-hikers hikers on the Appalachian trail wore shoes, not boots, for the majority of their hike. Many who started in boots switched to shoes later in their hike. Trail runners offer the same advantages to serious hikers as they do to the average day hiker.
Trail Runners Are Lightweight
When you’re walking upwards of 20 miles a day, every extra pound slows you down and increases your level of fatigue. Trail runners are a lot lighter than hiking boots, so they keep you feeling fresh for a few more miles. Moreover, if you are a thru-hiker or section hiker and you want to carry an extra set of footwear, trail runners take up less space and add less weight to your pack.
Modern Trail Runners Offer Great Traction and Dexterity
Hiking boots offer great traction, but they’re not very flexible, so they can make it tough to navigate over rougher terrain. As long as you are agile, the smaller size and increased flexibility of trail runners make it easier to dodge around rocks. The soles of trail shoes offer awesome traction similar to that found on boots.
Trail Runners Are Breathable
Hiking boots are usually made from tough, rugged material like canvas and leather. Though trail runners are made to be tough, they are usually made from more breathable materials. You won’t have as many problems with foot sweat, and your feet will dry a lot faster after you splash through a puddle or wade through a creek.
Why Should You Still Choose Boots?
Trail runners are an excellent choice for most hikers over most terrain, but there are still a few instances where traditional hiking boots are the better choice.
You’re Prone to Rolling Your Ankles
The excellent traction on trail running shoes keeps most hikers from spraining their ankles, even though these shoes don’t come up over the ankle. However, if you have weak ankles and are prone to sprains, you may prefer hiking boots that offer specific ankle support.
You Carry a Heavy Pack
One reason boots used to be so necessary on the trail is that camping and hiking gear used to be heavier. A heavier pack puts more stress on the feet, so more support is needed. With the trend towards lightweight gear, most hikers don’t need this extra support anymore. However, if you carry a heavier pack, you may want to opt for sturdy hiking boots for the increased support they provide.
You Encounter a Lot of Sharp Rocks
Trail runners have much thinner soles than boots do. A sharp rock can bruise your foot when you wear trail runners. If you are hiking trails where sharp rocks are common and if you don’t want to have to rely on dodging around them, then hiking boots with a thicker sole are a good choice.
Whether you choose trail runners or boots, make sure you find a model that fits your foot snugly and offers excellent traction. Visit Peace Surplus in Flagstaff, AZ, for outdoor footwear from your favorite brands.