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Best Trail Runners For Thru Hiking 2022

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Best Trail Running Shoes for hiking

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This is a gear review about the best trail runners for thru-hiking in 2022 by BikeHikeSafari.

All the best ultralight trail running shoes are well suited to hiking trails. In fact, in the last couple of years, ultralight hikers have been using Trail Running Shoes for Thru-Hiking. With the perfect combination of comfort and lightweight, they could be a better alternative to Hiking Boots or Hiking Shoes.

Trail Running Shoes for backpacking are generally more robust and are stiffer than regular running shoes, offering more support and stability to better adapt to rugged and uneven surfaces. They also offer a more aggressive sole for better traction.

Some trail-running shoes are designed with rock plates between the midsoles and outsoles that add an extra layer of protection against sharp objects such as rocks and sticks, while still providing a lightweight feel. 

I started using trail running shoes for thru-hiking a couple of years ago and have clocked up hundreds of days of hiking, backpacking, and thru-hiking in trail running shoes. They now have a place on the hiking trails in my opinion, and often they are a much better choice than heavier shoes or boots.

Whether you’re hitting the trails to run, hike, camp, or go backpacking, in this article, I’ll be taking you through the best trail running shoes for hiking that are on the market in 2022.

The Best Ultralight Trail Runners for Hiking 2022

The Best Ultralight Trail Runners for Thru Hiking 2022 are:

Best Trail Running Shoes of 2022

Salomon Speedcross 5

Weight per pair: 23.2 oz / 658 grams
Pros:

> OrthoLite footbeds for support and shock protection 
> Contagrip rubber outsoles for maximum traction 
> EnergyCell + high-rebound midsoles for excellent energy return 
> Protective toe caps 
> Heel cradles and SensiFit arms for improved stability and fit 
Cons:
> For narrow feet only

The Salomon Speedcross 5 is a true trail running shoe that provides a balance of stability, traction, and responsiveness.

They’re designed with removable OrthoLite footbeds which provide shock absorption and are coated with antimicrobial treatment to deter odor.

The heel units cradle the heels, encouraging a clean foot strike and improved stability, while the SensiFit arms mold to the shape of the foot and provide a snug fit. 

The Salomon Speedcross 5 features Contagrip rubber outsoles that have deep, sharp lugs to provide both durability and adhesion on loose, soft, or rugged and uneven surfaces, while the EnergyCell+ high-rebound midsoles provide exceptional energy return along with a plush feel for maximum comfort.

These shoes also have protective toe caps to guard against bumps and abrasion.

Overall, these are the best trail runners for backpacking and hiking but only if you have narrow to medium width feet, wide feet would prefer another option.

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Best Trail Running Shoes for Thru Hiking

Altra Lone Peak 6

Ultra Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe

Weight per pair: 21 oz / 595 grams
Pros:

> Rock plate for underfoot protection 
> MaxTrac outsoles with multidirectional lug pattern 
> Super lightweight feel
> FootShape toe boxes for comfort and stability 
> Laser-cut holes for quick drainage
Cons:
> For wider feet

The Altra Lone Peak 6 is a trail running shoe that ticks many boxes. It features an updated StoneGuard which offers great underfoot protection from rocks without weighing the shoe down.

Thru-Hikers love these trail runners. The tread pattern and multidirectional lug pattern for superb traction on a range of terrains, while the Altra EGO midsoles provide a responsive yet soft ride.

The Altra Lone Peak 6 offers a Balanced Cushioning platform that places heels and forefeet the same distance from the ground to encourage low-impact landings and provide a responsive, yet soft, feel.

The Altra Lone Peak 6 has a wide toe box which allows the toes to relax and spread out naturally and for the big toes to remain in a straight position, which not only provides a better fit and feel but also improves stability.

The Altra Lone Peak 6 is a zero drop trail running shoe with no difference in the heel-to-toe drop.

Another great feature of this shoe is its laser-cut holes on the uppers which allow quick drainage when crossing creeks so the shoes dry quicker. 

I used the Altra Lone Peak trail runners while thru-hiking the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand. I found them to be awesome on formed trails but poor when used in muddy conditions or technical terrain.

Overall, the Altra Lone Peak is my personal choice for the best trail runner for thru-hiking. Long-distance hikers will love these zero-drop shoes.

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Best Lightweight Running Shoe for Hiking

Salomon Men’s X Ultra 4

Salomon X Ultra 4 Trail Running Shoe

Weight per pair: 25.6 oz / 726 grams
Pros:

> Injection-molded EVA midsoles and Ortholite sock liner for comfort 
> Breathable mesh panels wick moisture 
> Asymmetrical chassis for increased stability 
> Outsoles feature strategic lines for better flexibility
> Contragrip MA rubber outsole for good traction
Cons:
> For people with narrow feet only
> Quicklace system can take a bit to get used to

The Salomon X Ultra 4s are ideal if you’re looking for a trail shoe for hiking rather than a running shoe. These shoes have been designed to provide cushioning and support over long distances.

The injection-molded EVA midsoles provide excellent underfoot cushioning and support, while the outsoles have been specifically designed to increase the shoes’ flexibility and decrease foot fatigue. 

The Ortholite sock liner and contoured EVA heel cups provide enhanced heel support and cushioning, while the breathable mesh panels keep feet feeling cool and wick moisture away.

The Salomon X Ultra 4 has been designed to reduce the risk of slippage for more stable descents, and the asymmetrical chassis maximizes stability on rugged, uneven terrain, while the outsole features 2 types of rubber for maximum grip. 

The Salomon X Ultra is best suited to hikers wanting more of a lightweight hiking shoe than a trail running shoe. They are best suited to hikers with narrow feet only, people with wide feet should look elsewhere.

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Most Comfortable Trail Running Shoe

Hoka One One Speedgoat 5

Weight per pair: 20.6 oz / 584 grams
Pros:

> Lightweight Foam cushioning 
> Vibram Megagrip rubber outsoles with good traction
> Updated spacious toe boxes 
> Enhanced midfoot support and stability 
Cons:
> Lack the protection of hiking shoes – they’re also non-waterproof but HOKA does offer a waterproof alternative.

The HOKA One One Speedgoat 5 is one of the best trail running shoes for hiking on the market in 2022. They are great for both running and hiking thanks to its lightweight foam midsoles that provide ultimate responsiveness and all-day comfort. 

The updated model is lighter than the previous model by an ounce. The toe boxes and wider forefoot construction provide a more accommodating fit. for enhanced comfort and stability, while the 3D-printed overlays enhance midfoot support and lock the foot into place for a more secure feel.

The mesh uppers provide breathability, and the gusseted tongues feature strategic cutouts for improved airflow. 

Despite the lightweight feel of the Hoka Speedgoat 5, it has a surprisingly aggressive sole thanks to the Vibram Megagrip rubber on the soles has been upgraded and has a better grip than previous models in all weather conditions. They have a 4mm drop from heel to toe.

The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is an exciting trail running shoe for ultralight hikers. They lack the durability of a hiking shoe but have gained a following for those looking for an ultralight trail running shoe for thru-hiking.

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Best Trail Runner for Backpacking

La Sportiva Bushido II

Weight: 21 oz / 595 grams
Pros:

> Updated ergonomics in heel and tongue 
> Lightweight yet aggressive FriXion XT V-Groove2 outsole
> Impact Brake System for more traction, less impact. 
> Outside lugs wrap around the midsole for improved stability 
Cons:
> Best suited to narrow feet

The La Sportiva Bushido II provides a perfect combination of responsiveness, stability, and comfort, as well as great protection and traction. 

La Sportiva has made some small tweaks to the Bushido to take it to the next level, including an updated tongue and heel that provides ergonomic padding, as well as outsole lugs that wrap around the midsole to provide added traction and stability on off-camber terrain

The La Sportiva Bushido ii features a lightweight yet aggressive FriXion XT V-Groove2 outsole which incorporates dual-compound rubber to deliver superb grip on any type of terrain, while La Sportiva’s famous Impact Brake System gives you 20% more traction with 20% less impact.

Overall, the La Sportiva Bushido 2 is the most durable trail shoe and the best trail running shoe for backpacking trips.

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Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2

Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 Trail Running Shoe

Weight per pair: 20.8 oz / 590 grams
Pros:

> Super Comfortable
> Good at absorbing shock
> Good sole and good traction
> Popular for thru-hiking
Cons:
> Not as durable as some of the other shoes in this review

The Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 is a good blend of durability, comfort, and traction. Like many of the shoes in this review they are a good mix of everything without being perfect at everything.

The Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 have a nice wide tox box that has drawn hikers to the Altra brand in recent years but they have a 5mm toe-to-heel drop which many people prefer. The sole offers good traction with being as aggressive as some of the other trail shoes. They offer a soft EVA foam to absorb shock which is super comfortable.

Overall, the Top Athletic Ultraventure 2 will prove to be a very popular trail running shoe for thru-hiking and backpacking in the coming years.

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Saucony Peregrine 12

Saucony Peregrine 12 trail running shoe

Weight per pair: 19.4 oz / 550 grams
Pros:

> Ultralight – Lightest trail runners in this review
> Comfortable but not as much as the Peregrine 11
> Good cushioning
> Good grip
Cons:
> Not as durable as some of the other trail shoes in this review
> Peregrine 11 have a more comfortable feel

The Saucony Peregrine 12 is an upgrade from the Peregrine 11. They are now lighter and have a tighter fit at the rear of the feet. While the shaving weight is good the fit is not quite as comfortable as the previous model. Not to say it is uncomfortable, but it is still one of the most comfortable shoes in this review.

They have a 4mm heel-to-toe drop and plenty of foam to absorb the shock. the tread is very grippy without being too aggressive.

The ultralight weight of these trail shoes will not offer the same durability as some of the others in this review but if weight is important then there are no better.

Overall, the Saucony Peregrine 12 is the lightest trail running shoe for hiking. They are good in every area and will be popular for anyone wanting a super light shoe.

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Salomon Sense Ride 4

Solomon Sense Ride 4 Trail Runners for Thru Hiking

Weight per pair: 20.8 oz / 590 grams
Pros:

> Lightweight
> Comfortable
> The Contragrip rubber gives good traction
> Reasonably Priced
Cons:
> Speedlace system can take a while to get used to.
> While they are a good trail running shoe they are not as durable for hiking as some of the others in this review.

The Salomon Sense Ride 4 weigh only 20.8 oz / 590 grams putting them in the ultralight trail runner category for hiking and backpacking.

If you could mix all the shoes in this review together and spit a trail runner then it might look like the Salomon Sense Ride 4. They are comfortable but not the most comfortable and they are durable but not the most durable. They have a large 8mm heel-to-toe drop which is more than most, especially the zero drop of all the Altras. And they have a good grippy sole with good traction in most kinds of technical terrain.

The durability of the Salomon Sense Ride 4 is just not as good as some of the other trail shoes in this review and that is holding it back from a higher ranking as a trail running shoe for hiking.

Overall, the Salomon Sense Ride 4 is light and sure to be popular among ultralight thru-hikers this season.

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Brooks Cascadia 16

Brooks Cascadia 16 Trail Running Shoes

Weight per pair: 21 oz / 595 grams
Pros:

> Quick-drying and breathable mesh uppers 
> Built-in rock plate for protection 
> BioMoGo DNA cushioning for comfort and support 
> TrailTack sticky rubber outsoles for great traction 
Cons:
> Brookes tends to run a little small, but there are wide sizes available

Brooks are pioneers of some of the best running shoes on the market, and the Brooks Cascadia 16 is no exception.

The Brooks Cascadia 16 features engineered mesh and 3D Fit uppers to increase breathability and improve drainage to dry quickly when running through creeks or in wet weather. 

The built-in rock plate helps to protect the feet from loose rocks, roots, and random debris on the trail, while the plush yet lightweight BioMoGo DNA cushioning softens every step with a springy, energy-boosting return.

The 4-point Pivot Post System provides stability and enables your feet to adapt to any terrain, while the Trail Tack sticky rubber outsoles provide added grip on rugged or wet surfaces.

A few years ago these were the best trail running shoes for thru-hiking. Then a new model came along that was of poor quality and these shoes lacked durability with many hikers throwing their shoes away after 100 miles of hiking. In the last couple of years, things have changed and they are back to being one of the best trail running shoes for backpacking and hiking.

Overall, the Brooks Cascadia 16 is a popular trail shoe and this new upgraded model is a solid trail shoe for hiking.

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La Sportiva Wildcat

Weight: 25 oz / 709 grams
Pros:

> Durable nylon mesh uppers 
> External thermoplastic urethane stabilizers provide heel support 
> Dual-density midsoles and EVA cushioning 
> Sticky FriXion AT rubber outsoles for superb traction 
Cons:
> Sizes are a bit small and narrow 

The Wildcat is another of La Sportiva’s best-sellers, and it features rugged 1-piece nylon mesh uppers which minimize the weight of the shoe and provide superb breathability.

The external thermoplastic urethane stabilizers provide support for heels, while the dual-density midsoles and 2.4mm thick EVA lasting boards provide ample cushioning for comfort when covering distances. 

The Wildcat has been designed with a dynamic tongue that works with the lacing harnesses to provide a snug fit and maximum stability.

The nylon mesh linings on the tongue and back half of the shoe wick moisture to help keep feet dry, while the Sticky FriXion AT rubber outsoles deliver excellent traction.

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Altra Timp 4

Weight per pair: 21.7 oz / 616 grams
Pros:

> Lightweight, minimalist design and feel 
> Durable and breathable mesh uppers 
> FootShape toe boxes 
> Balanced Cushioning for superior comfort and minimal shock 
Cons:
> For wide feet

The Altra Timp 4 features a trimmed-down overall design for a lightweight feel and superior fit.

The Engineered mesh uppers are durable and breathable, while the high-cushion Quantic midsoles provide soft cushioning to deliver miles and miles of comfort. 

The Altra Timp 4 also features Altra’s wide toe box that allows the toes to relax and spread out naturally and for the big toes to remain in a straight position, as well as Balanced Cushioning which places heels and forefeet the same distance from the ground, to encourage low-impact landings when running.

The Altra Timp 4 is a zero drop trail running shoe with no difference in the heel-to-toe drop.

They also supply excellent traction thanks to the MaxTrac outsoles and multidirectional lug pattern. 

When I tested the Altra Timp on muddy trails the slipping and sliding put pressure on the side of the boots and I started to wear holes in them after only 2 days of use. While this is not great the Timps are not designed for hiking on super muddy trails in the mountains when carrying several days of food. Most of the trail running shoes in this review would have failed in the same way.

Overall, I found them comfortable and essentially very similar to the Lone Peaks but with an extra couple of millimeters of padding under the feet.

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Salomon Men’s Ultra Pro 

Weight: TBA
Pros:

> Energy Save midsole specially designed for long distances 
> Special zones on the rubber outsole for added grip 
> 3D stretch air mesh for breathability 
> Won’t collapse or compress even after miles of running 
Cons:
> Narrow fit
> Issues with the lacing system coming undone

The Salomon Ultra/Pro has the comfort and cushioning required to withstand walking or running for miles and won’t collapse or compress under pressure.

Designed for committed endurance runners, these trail running shoes feature an Energy Save midsole with a rolling profile to keep you flowing down the trail. 

The rubber soles provide durability and grip and feature special zones to provide added traction and confidence when you’re descending.

The SensiFit technology also provides the much-needed versatility required for covering distances, providing floating wings that make it easy to adjust the forefoot and midfoot support as your needs change.

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Altra Olympus 4

Weight per pair: 22 oz / 624 grams
Pros:

> Maximum cushioning for long distances 
> FootShape toe boxes and Altra Balanced Cushioning 
> InnerFlex midsole for improved flexibility and agility 
> Vibram Megagrip rubber outsoles

Cons:
> For wide feet
> Not very grippy sole

The Olympus 4 offers maximum cushioning and a stack height of 33mm, so they’re ideal if you have high arches or foot-related issues, and are one of the best trail running shoes for long-distance hiking trails. 

This shoe features signature Altra Balanced Cushioning and FootShape toe boxes which allow your toes to spread out and encourage proper, low-impact form throughout your run.

The heel of the shoe has been rounded to encourage a smoother step from heel to toe, while the InnerFlex midsole technology increases flexibility for agile movements. 

The tongues have also been redesigned for improved comfort and a more locked-in feel, while the Vibram Megagrip rubber outsoles provide secure traction on varied terrain.

The Altra Olympus is a zero drop trail running shoe with no difference in the heel-to-toe drop.

The Olympus 4 is also surprisingly lightweight considering the amount of cushioning and support it supplies. This trail runner is one of the most comfortable trail running shoes on the market due to the excess padding. There is no chance of feeling the rocky terrain with this shoe.

Overall, I love the comfort of these shoes and the soft padding of these shoes.

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Other Trail Runners to Consider

There are several other worthy trail runners for thru-hiking such as:

  • Nike Pegasus Trail 3: The Nike Pegasus Trail 3 is being evaluated at the moment and may be added to the list.

Lightweight Trail Running Shoes
The Best Lightweight Trail Running Shoes

Buyer’s Guide 

Sizing 

When it comes to any type of running shoe, comfort is always going to be top of your priority list.

This will largely depend on the fit of the shoe, and some trail shoes run small, so ensure you check the size guide and reviews before you purchase.

Also bear in mind that your feet are bigger in the afternoon, and they’re going to swell when you’re running or walking for long periods of time, therefore, it might be wise to size up a little. 


Comfort 

You’ll also want to pay attention to the cushioning in the shoe, and the level of support it provides.

Those with high arches require maximum cushioning, whereas those with lower arches may need a stability shoe to prevent the foot from rolling.

It’s also worth looking for a shoe with a roomy toe box so your toes can spread out, and a flexible upper that adapts to your movements. 

Best Trail Runners for thru hiking
Trail Running Shoes are comfortable for thru hiking

Weight 

Most trail running shoes are designed to be lightweight to lessen fatigue and reduce stumbling and injuries, however, if you’re running on particularly uneven terrain, you may wish to opt for a heavier shoe as these are likely to provide more protection and durability. 

Testing trail running shoes while thru hiking in new zealand
Can you wear trail runners for Backpacking? Testing the Altra Olympus in New Zealand

Materials 

Trail running shoes usually compromise on durability in order to reduce the overall weight of the shoe, however, it’s worth checking the uppers and the lugs of trail runners as these will indicate how durable they are. 

Reinforced mesh uppers and firm lugs will make for the most robust trail runners.

Most trail shoes aren’t waterproof, but they’ll usually feature breathable mesh panels for increased air flow or drainage holes which allow the shoes to dry quickly if they get wet.

Some styles may also come in a Gore-Tex variation, which is a breathable, waterproof material, and these are can be good if you’ll be running in wet, muddy conditions. But most people prefer the breathability benefits of non waterproof trail running shoes. When they are more breathable the feet are less sweaty and less prone to blisters.


Traction

It goes without saying that taking lightweight trail running shoes on hiking trails will require that they have good traction. Almost all the trail runners in this review have good lugs on the sole that gives good traction. Also, they have a good soft rubber that gives a good grip. But this grip and traction come at the cost of durability with most trail runners only lasting around 500 miles / 800 kilometers before the tread is worn out. This distance tends to correspond to about the same distance when the rest of the shoe is worn out too.

Trail running shoes offer better traction than running shoes
Trail running shoes tread is more aggressive than running shoes and usually less than hiking boots

Waterproofing

As a general rule using a waterproof trail running for hiking and backpacking is not the best choice. If you are planning a hiking or backpacking trip on muddy trails, snow or in very wet areas then trail runners are not the best choice. You would be better served by a more solid Hiking Shoe or Hiking Boot.

The best ultralight trail running shoes on muddy trails
Trail runners are not the best shoe for muddy terrain

Breathability

Having a breathable trail runner when hiking is super important, much more so than how waterproof it is. If your feet get wet a breathable trail running shoe will dry out much quicker than any hiking boot thus keeping your feet dry.

Breathable trail runners will remove the build-up of heat and sweat and prevent blisters. So keep this in mind, breathability rules when it comes to trail runners. And it is breathability that is super important. If you are considering a Gore-Tex Trail Runner then think again, don’t do it. Get a waterproof hiking shoe instead.


Heel to Toe Drop 

Traditionally, a noticeable heel-to-toe-drop was believed to increase your running and walking efficiency, however, today, some modern trail runner designs have zero drop and balance your foot off the ground at the same distance from heel to toe.

It’s thought that this puts less stress on your body and allows for a more natural gait while running. 

If you ever try zero drop shoes after being conditioned to us shoes with a heel to toe drop it will initially feel weird. I found that it felt like every step I was taking was uphill as my calves had to do more work, or so it appeared to me. They are not for everyone and a period of adjustment is usually needed for most people to get used to them. After more than 200 miles of hiking with zero drop shoes I have grown to love them but I still prefer a couple of millimeters in the heel to toe drop, it just feels better.


Socks

It is difficult to talk about the best trail running shoes for hiking without mentioning just how important it is to have the Best Hiking Socks. It is important that the socks are not only comfortable but durable enough to withstand multi-day hiking trips on muddy trails and many days without being washed.

Read the in-depth review of the Best Hiking Socks.


Trail Running Hiking Shoe Insoles

Most of the trail running shoes for hiking in this review are supplied with decent quality insoles. Some people will find that they are soft and comfortable but do not provide the support they need. If you have issues with your feet, knees, hips, or back then you might need orthotic inserts prescribed by a qualified podiatrist.

For many years I used orthotics due to long-term foot issues. But for many people, a good pair of Insoles might be a good investment.

Read the in-depth review of the Best Insoles for Hiking.


Gaiters

Many people will want to use gaiters when using trail runners. Not the heavy-duty ones that keep out mud but ultralight ones that keep out sand and small rocks. There are many ultralight gaiters for trail running shoes on the market. And many of the shoes in this review are specially designed to allow gaiters to be used with them.

Read the in-depth review of the Best Gaiters for Trail Runners.

Trail running shoes with zero drop and room for gaiters
Zero Drop trail running shoes with room for gaiters

Conclusion

Here are the best trail runners for backpacking:

Trail running shoes last about 500 miles
How long do trail running shoes last when hiking

Frequently Asked Questions 

How long do Trail running shoes last when hiking?

Trail running shoes should last around 500 miles when used on hiking trails. Long-distance thru-hikers love lightweight trail runners for their comfort when hiking long distances. They will last less than that when used on technical terrain or muddy terrain.

Can I use trail running shoes for hiking?

Trail runners are designed to provide traction and protection when tackling off-road trails, however, bear in mind that lighter styles won’t provide the same level of grip as hiking shoes, particularly because they’re designed to offer traction when moving at a faster pace than a slow hiking speed. 
For a casual hike, trail running shoes may be fine, but for a longer hike or regular hiking, you should buy a pair of hiking shoes or boots, and save trail runners for running alone. 

What is the difference between trail shoes and hiking shoes?

Usually, a hiking shoe is a low-cut version of the brand’s boot. These offer the protection of a boot but with the out-of-the-box comfort of a sneaker.
They offer a similar shape to trail runners, but the main difference between the two is that hiking shoes are sturdier and more robust, and are therefore heavier. 
They also often feature a waterproof membrane such as Gore-Tex and might feature suede or leather for extra durability.
Trail runners will often be made of mesh and other synthetic materials, as these provide less weight and are more appropriate for running. 

Are running shoes bad for hiking?

There’s no rule book insisting that you can’t wear running shoes for hiking, however, these shoes aren’t designed for uneven terrain and therefore you’re more at risk of slipping or sustaining an injury. 
Trail shoes will provide much more traction and support, but even these don’t provide the protection required for regular hikes.
If you regularly run on trails, go for trail runners, and if you go on regular hikes, invest in a pair of quality hiking shoes or boots.

Can you wear trail runners for backpacking?

The answer to this question depends on a few things; a) where you’re backpacking, b) how heavy your pack is, and c) how long you’ll be carrying it for.
The heavier you and your pack are, the more cushioning and support you will need in order to bear the load safely. If you’re in good shape and are used to carrying a lightweight pack (e.g. under 10 kg/22 lb), trail runners may be a viable option, but more often than not, you’ll require a sturdy pair of hiking boots or shoes.

Trail running shoes in the mud
Trail running shoes for hiking work great in all but the worst trails

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Hiking
Best Trail Runners for thru hiking pinterest pin

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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