Speed Hiking vs. Trail Running: Are They The Same Or Different?

Both speed hiking vs. trail running is great outdoor activities. They are both great sports that allow you to burn calories effectively. But how are they different?

Speed Hiking vs. Trail Running: Comparison Table

Speed hiking and trail running are two distinct outdoor activities that both deliver a great experience and allow you to burn calories. 

There are most similarities between the two activities, and you may do both sports and not be entirely clear on how they vary! 

But how are they the same, and where do their differences lie? We will answer you through the following summary table:

Trail Running

Speed Hiking

Cardiovascular benefits
  • Lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high “bad” cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Calories burned
  • Higher
  • Lower
Muscles used
  • Glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, abdominals, and calves
  • Higher
  • Lower
Injury risk
  • Higher
  • Lower
Time required
  • Shorter
  • Longer
  • Lower
  • Higher

Speed Hiking and Trail Running: The Main Differences

Now, let’s dig into details of the differences between Speed Hiking and Trail Running. Each factor is important as it affects your final decision

1. Accessibility 

Speed hiking wins in this category as it suits more people than trail running. It tends to suit anyone, regardless of gender and age.

Meanwhile, trail running may not be suitable for overweight people, those with injuries, or those struggling with heart conditions. So it will be less accessible to everyone.

The winner is speed hiking.

2. Terrain Types 

We recommend avoiding slicker trails if you just start trail running. 

Instead, you should aim for flatter terrains, such as rolling hills or forests. But running does not necessarily prohibit you from trying more challenging trails. 

Meanwhile, hiking allows you to explore exciting, steep trails that might involve climbing or scrambling.

Running does not definitely prohibit you from trying more challenging trails. 

But in the beginning, you may cover more significant kinds of terrain hiking than trail running.

The winner is speed hiking.

3. Time Required 

Of course, speed hiking will require more time to complete than trail running, provided we’re considering them at the same distance. 

So running is ideal for those who have already packed schedules or prefer to go outside more regularly.

Meanwhile, speed hiking takes place only on weekends or during vacations.

The winner is trail running.

4. Gear Required 

The good news is that neither of these activities requires a lot of equipment like skiing or climbing. Instead, all you need to do is prepare proper footwear.

You can choose trail running shoes or hiking boots, as long as you feel comfortable wearing them.

Besides, you should also invest in breathable clothing that is waterproof to withstand wet conditions.

You can also prevent the blisters effectively while speed hiking or trail running with wool socks.

Using hiking poles or staff is okay if you want to hike longer distances and carry more gear. Meanwhile, trail running requires you to keep your gear to a minimum.

Most of the items you need to prepare for these activities are things that you probably already own, and how much you spend on them is up to you.

The winner: Draw

5. Injury Risk 

Trail running has a slightly higher risk of injury than speed hiking.

The most common injuries you may experience while trail running are Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

But it does not mean that Hiking can’t cause injury. One of the most common hiking injuries is the blister or more unwelcome sprains and strains. 

Not all runners will experience an injury, but they have a higher incidence of injury than hikers and walkers.

The winner is speed hiking.

6. Muscles Used 

Both these activities are great for strengthening leg muscles, such as hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quads.

They also have a strengthening impact on your abdominal muscles that stabilize you in motion.

The winner: Draw

7. Impact on Your Joints 

Hiking is typically a low-impact activity that is easier on your joints. Meanwhile, running is considered a high-impact activity.

Many people think that running will wear away at the cartilage of knee joints, leaving us with arthritis later in life.

However, others believe running takes the strain off joints, helping lubricate the synovial joints, including the knees, ankles, and hips.

Lastly, speed hiking is the best pick if you are pregnant, overweight, or struggling with injury or arthritis.

The winner is speed hiking.

8. Cardiovascular Benefits 

Cardio is any activity that increases your heart rate, including trail running and speed hiking.

The two activities seem to provide equal cardiovascular benefits, provided you are doing things in moderation.

9. Calories Burned 

Trail running will usually allow you to burn more calories than speed hiking if we consider the same distance. 

But speed hiking is typically more extended, so the difference in calories burned might not be as different đáng kể as you might think.

Speed Hiking and Trail Running: Which Is More Suitable?

Both these activities will allow you to burn more calories than regular walking since they require more endurance. Also, you usually use more energy on inclines and for balance.

Besides the legs, these sports allow you to work out the core and other muscle groups.

In general, trail running will burn more calories as it gets your heart rate higher for a period than speed hiking.

Trail running is a high-impact hoạt động on the body and will be tougher on joints. But It is an excellent full-body workout, especially for the core muscles.

Speed hiking is usually over an extended period. A hiking trip lasts longer than a trail one in most cases, so it is better for your body with a lower risk of injury. However, both operations are considered relatively safe.

Finally, these sports take place outdoors in nature, which allows you to release endorphins. So they have a calming effect and positively contribute to your mental health.


The answers and information below will help you gain more insights into the traits of Speed Hiking and Trail Running.

Is Hiking More Effective Than Running?

Running is a more vigorous cardiovascular activity and allows you to burn a lot more calories than hiking.

What Is Speed Hiking?

Speed Hiking, or Fast Hiking, is an outdoor activity between hiking and trail running. The pace is slower than running but faster than walking.

For most fast hikers, taking in the scenery is their primary goal instead of just pursuing speed.

Can Trail Runners Be Used for Hiking?

The difference between trail running and speed hiking is your moving speed.

Trail runners will work well for hiking as their lightweight design will allow your foot to breathe more easily while hiking.

Is Trail Running the Same as Hiking?

The main difference between trail running and speed hiking is your pace.

Why Is Hiking Harder Than Running?

Hikers are more likely to rely on their hamstrings than runners, as running is less strenuous to the hamstrings.

How Fast Should I Hike a Mile?

Various variables are involved, but it takes the average person nửa tiếng to hike a mile on gentle terrain. 

What Are the Most Common Mistakes First-Time Hikers Make?

Here are the most common mistakes that many first-time hikers have.

  • Not thinking through what you wear
  • Packing the wrong gear
  • Forgetting your priority is first aid
  • Not paying attention to the weather
  • sunning out of the right food and water
  • Getting lost and not considering alternatives
  • Doing too much, too soon
  • Leaving it too late to set out

Can I Run On Pavement With Trail Running Shoes?

Though running shoes are designed for off-road runs, they are generally safe to wear when running on pavement or road.

Is It Bad to Run In Hiking Boots?

Yes, running in a pair of hiking boots over a short distance is possible, but they aren’t ideal for regular running.

If you need to run in a pair of boots, ensure they are flexible and fit well.

We recommend choosing quality trail running shoes for extended running on rugged terrains.

Is Trail Running Good for Marathon Training?

Yes. If appropriately applied, trail running will be a productive component of marathon training plans, significantly contributing to competitive success and goal attainment.

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