Hiking Vs Running: What’s the Best for You?

My two favorite foot sports are hiking and running since they both offer enjoyable and healthy ways to explore the outdoors.

I examine the argument between running vs. hiking to determine which exercise is actually best for you and provide guidance on how to decide.

While some runners believe that hiking is uninteresting and doesn’t offer comparable physical benefits to running, some hikers believe that running is missing the point or increases their risk of injury.

Here, you will find out which one is genuinely healthier for you than the other and whether you actually need to pick one over the other.

However, there is a small gulf between some trail-blazing adventurers and those who take their time to enjoy the scenery.

Hiking Vs Running (Similarities & Dissimilarities)

Both hiking and running offer numerous advantages to the body and help improve overall mental health.

They are also more similar than you think, however, in nine different ways I have tried to compare the two and see if one is better than the other.

Calories burned

According to research, you’ll burn more calories in an hour of running than in an hour of hiking.

However, hiking is more likely to last longer than running, which may result in higher overall calorie burning, leveling the playing field somewhat.

Given that hiking typically lasts two hours or longer, the difference in calories might not be as clear-cut as you might believe.

Running wins within the same time range, but how long you intend to move for actually makes a difference in this contest.

The advantages for your heart

Any type of exercise that raises your heart rate is considered cardiovascular exercise.

While running, you’re more likely to get that heart-pounding sensation on the path than on a walk, where you’ll need to be going uphill to tax your cardiovascular system truly.

Walking and running had comparable effects on reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high “bad” cholesterol, all of which are advantages of cardiovascular activity.

How they affect your joints

Most people consider hiking to be a low-impact activity.

Unless you’re hopping across a creek, you pretty much always have one foot on the ground, and if your form is good, your footsteps don’t take you very far off the ground, so you don’t fall heavy.

It is believed to be less stressful on your joints as a result.

Contrarily, running is seen as a high-impact activity. You travel farther from the ground when you run than when you walk, which causes you to strike the ground harder. Running is criticized for wearing down the cartilage in your knee joints.

Muscle use

The muscles used are another factor in determining the benefits of running and hiking for physical fitness.

I’m going to call this one a tie because both running and hiking are excellent for building your leg muscles, including your glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, as well as your abdominal muscles, which help to stabilize you while you’re moving.

Injury risk

Running is a little riskier because higher-impact sports typically have a higher injury risk. But there are risks involved with hiking as well.

Good form and appropriate footwear will reduce the chance of injury in both situations.

I’m giving hiking the tiny advantage over running in this comparison because not all runners will sustain injuries.

Still, studies do seem to indicate that runners have a higher rate of injury than walkers and hikers.

Gear needed

Let’s move on from the hazards and physical advantages to the equipment needed for running and hiking. In all honesty, neither activity necessitates as much equipment as activities like rock climbing or skiing do.

It would be best if you had the correct footwear for both. However, the majority of the equipment required to begin either sport is likely already in your possession, and the amount of investment you make is entirely up to you, so this is another tie.

Time required

I’m going to give this one to running because it goes without saying that you’ll need more time to hike five miles than you need to run the same distance because you’ll be moving slower.

Terrain differences

Hiking is probably a better option than running, especially when steep ascents and descents are involved. You might also be more inclined to hike on slippery terrain.

In contrast to hiking, which can take you on more thrilling and steep paths that may even require scrambling or climbing, trail running should be done on flatter, less slick terrain, such as through forests or rolling hills.


Hiking triumphs in the accessibility category since even a brief, easy forest stroll may be done by anyone who can walk.

On the other hand, running may not be accessible to everyone if a person is pregnant, injured, overweight, or already has cardiac disease.

Some of these individuals, however, will be able to improve their fitness through hiking before moving on to running.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is better, hiking or running?

As a rule, hiking uses steeper terrain than walking, which results in more significant calorie expenditure.

However, hiking burns fewer calories every half-hour than running.

This type of outdoor exercise’s advantages is improved weight loss, mental wellness, and lower body strength.

Can hiking replace running?

Yes. The wonderful thing is that hiking and trail running may often be extremely comparable. Both of these promote balance and lower body strength. Additionally, they are linked to lessening anxiety and the likelihood of developing depression.

Why is hiking harder than running?

In contrast to running, hiking puts more strain on your glutes since they must support both your weight and the weight of your hiking pack.

On the other hand, the terrain has a big impact on how much your calves are exercised.

Does hiking build more muscle than running?

I’m going to call this one a tie because both running and hiking are excellent for building your leg muscles, including your glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, as well as your abdominal muscles, which help to stabilize you while you’re moving.

What happens to your body if you hike every day?

Your heart and legs will work throughout even a little hike. Hiking is a great cardiovascular exercise because of this.

Once you begin hiking frequently, you’ll notice an improvement in your stamina and endurance.

Is hiking better than running for weight loss?

In truth, persistent, consistent hiking improves body composition indicators such as abdominal mass, lean mass, waist-to-fat ratio, and fat-free ratio.

What are the pros and cons of hiking?

Hiking and running are two of the most popular exercises for people looking to lose weight. But which one is better?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each activity to see which one comes out on top.

You can go at your own pace – Hiking is a great exercise for people who want to lose weight because you can go at your own pace. If you want to take it easy, you can stroll along at a leisurely pace. But if you’re looking for a workout, you can hike up hills or pick up the pace to get your heart rate up.

It’s low-impact – Hiking is a low-impact exercise, which means it’s easier on your joints than something like running. This makes it a great option for people who are overweight or have joint problems that make high-impact activities difficult or painful.

There is no special equipment or clothes required – All you need for hiking is a good pair of shoes and some comfortable clothes. You don’t need any special equipment like a treadmill or gym membership, which makes it more accessible for people who don’t have the time or money for those things.

It takes longer – One downside of hiking is that it takes longer than other forms of exercise like running because you have to cover more ground at a slower pace. If you’re short on time, this might not be the best option for you.

Weather conditions can be an issue – If it’s raining or snowing outside, you probably won’t want to go for a hike since the weather can make the trails slippery and dangerous.

Can You Get in Shape from Hiking?

Yes, you can get in shape from hiking!

Hiking is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and tone your muscles.

When hiking, you are constantly moving your body and using your large muscle groups, which helps to burn calories and build strength.

Furthermore, because hiking often takes place in nature, it can also help to reduce stress levels and improve your mental well-being.

So, if you’re looking for a way to get fit and healthy, go for a hike!

Does Hiking Burn Belly Fat?

Hiking is a great way to get in shape and burn belly fat.

Yet, it’s a low-impact activity that can be done almost anywhere, and it’s an excellent way to get your heart rate up and improve your cardiovascular health.

When you go on a hike, you’re also using many different muscles in your legs, hips, and core, which helps to tone your entire body.

And, because hiking typically takes place in nature, it can also be a very calming and relaxing experience.

The Verdict

Overall, both running and hiking offer great physical advantages while requiring little in the way of specialized equipment.

You can do either of them at any time of the year. Although you will need to have more spare time if you wish to go on a hike.

Running has somewhat lower accessibility than hiking and a marginally higher risk of injury, giving hiking a minor advantage.

But eventually, why not do both if you don’t have to choose between the two?

Hiking is ultimately definitely preferable if you’re obese, expecting, have arthritis, or are recovering from an injury.

Still, otherwise, if you run in good form, there isn’t much evidence to imply that the increased impact is harmful in and of itself.


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