Hiking vs Running: Ultimate Comparison Guide (2023)

hiking vs running

The great debate: hiking vs running. Which one is better for you? Truthfully, both are fantastic when it comes to exercise and cardiovascular health. But there are some key differences between hiking and running that you should take into account when deciding which one is better for you.

Let’s look at hiking vs running, the differences, similarities, caloric burn, and more.

Can Hiking Replace Running? (Comparison)

The simple answer is yes, hiking can definitely replace running as a form of exercise. In fact, hiking is often recommended for runners who are looking to cross-train or take a break from the high-impact nature of running.

Hiking and running are both great forms of cardio exercise, which means they will help to strengthen your heart and lungs. They are also both great ways to get out in nature and enjoy the fresh air. However, there are some key differences between hiking and running that you should take into account when deciding which one is better for you.

For example, hiking is a low-impact exercise, meaning it is easier on your joints than running. This is because when you are running, your feet hit the ground with a force of up to three times your body weight. When you are hiking, your feet only hit the ground with about half of your body weight. This makes hiking a great option for people who have joint issues, are overweight, or are recovering from an injury.

Hiking is also a great way to burn calories. In fact, you can burn just as many calories hiking as you can run, if not more. This is because when you are hiking, you’re typically climbing steep elevations with extra weight (i.e. your backpack). This extra effort means that you are burning more calories than you would if you were just running on flat ground.

The final key difference between hiking and running is the terrain. When you are running, you are usually on a flat surface such as a sidewalk or a trail. However, when you are hiking, you can encounter a variety of different terrain, from dirt trails to rocky paths to steep inclines. This variety makes hiking a more challenging workout than running, which can help you to see results more quickly.

How Much Hiking Is Equivalent to Running?

Now that we’ve looked at the key differences between hiking and running, let’s compare them in terms of caloric burn and distance.

Calories Burned

Regarding caloric burn, both hiking and running can help you burn a significant number of calories. In fact, you can expect to burn about 100 calories per mile for both hiking AND running. So, hiking and running are great options if you want to burn calories.

If you were going on a more rigorous hike with plenty of elevation gain and rocky terrain, you can expect to burn even more calories. For example, a 155-pound person can burn approximately 200 calories in 30 minutes by hiking at a moderate pace on a trail with an incline.


When it comes to distance, there is no clear winner between hiking and running. This is because the amount of ground you can cover in a certain amount of time will vary depending on the terrain. For example, you can cover more ground quickly by running on a flat surface than you can by hiking on a rocky trail.

That being said, there are some general guidelines you can follow. For example, the average person can run a mile in about 8 minutes. This means that, on average, you can cover about 6 miles in an hour of running.

On the other hand, the average person can hike about 2 miles in an hour on a relatively flat surface. However, if you are hiking on a trail with an incline or rough terrain, you may only be able to cover 1 mile in that same amount of time.

So, as you can see, it is possible to cover more ground by running than by hiking. However, this will vary depending on the terrain. If you are looking to cover a specific distance, it is best to map out your route beforehand so that you can gauge how long it will take you.

Can You Get in Shape from Hiking?

Yes, you can absolutely get in shape from hiking! In fact, hiking is a great way to improve your overall fitness level. Not only will hiking help you to tone your leg muscles, but it will also give you a great cardio workout. Plus, as we mentioned before, hiking can help you to burn a significant number of calories.

Personally, I hate running. But I love hiking. So, hiking is a great way to get in shape without doing something I hate.

Personal story time: A few years ago, I went on a cross-state California trip, finding the best hiking trails all the way from the north side of the state to the south. After ten days, I had gone about 100 miles, summiting plenty of peaks along the way. I didn’t train for the trip specifically, other than going on hikes regularly, to begin with.

But by the end, I was in amazing shape from all the hiking I did. When I showed pictures to my friends, they laughed at how much weight I lost and much better I had looked. I felt great, and I had accomplished something pretty incredible.

So yes, hiking is a great option if you’re looking for a way to get in shape.

Hiking vs Running: Cardiovascular Benefits

Both hiking and running offer great cardiovascular benefits. In fact, according to one study, running just five to ten minutes a day can help to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease significantly.

Similarly, those who hike regularly have a lower risk of high blood pressure, respiratory issues, and stronger heart health. So, both hiking and running can help to improve your cardiovascular health.

Additionally, both hiking and running can help to increase your lung capacity. This is because both aerobic activities require you to breathe deeply and steadily. As your lung capacity increases, so does your overall fitness level.

So, Does Hiking Improve Endurance?

The one thing I have to give running is that it can help to improve your endurance more quickly than hiking. This is because running is a higher-intensity activity than hiking, and thus it puts more stress on your body.

When your body adapts to this stress by becoming stronger and more efficient, your endurance will improve as well.

That being said, hiking can also help to improve your endurance. It just may take a bit longer to see results.

If you are looking to improve your endurance quickly, running is the way to go. But if you want a low-impact activity that you can do for long periods of time, hiking is a great option.

Is Hiking or Running Better for Your Knees?

If you have knee pain, running is likely to aggravate it. This is because running is a high-impact activity that puts a lot of stress on your knees.

Hiking, on the other hand, is a low-impact activity. This means that it is much easier on your joints, including your knees. So, hiking is a better option if you have knee pain than running.

Additionally, when you’re hiking, you have the option of using trekking poles. These can help to take some of the stress off of your knees by providing additional support.

Hiking vs Running: Required Gear

Lastly, let’s talk about the required gear for hiking and running.

For running, you really only need a good pair of shoes. You can get by without any other gear, although you may want to invest in some breathable clothing and maybe some shades to keep the sun out of your eyes if you’re going to be running in the open sun.

Hiking, on the other hand, requires a bit more gear. In addition to a good pair of hiking shoes, you’ll need a backpack, water, snacks, and potentially some other items like a first-aid kit or navigation system.

So, hiking requires more gear than running. And that means it’ll cost you a bit more. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it’s nice to have all of the gear you need to make your hike as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Hiking vs Running: Which Is Better? (Final Verdict)

So, which is better for you? Hiking or running? Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference. If you are looking for a low-impact, challenging workout, then hiking may be the better option. Plus, you can stop and take in some breathtaking views when you go hiking.

However, running may be the better option if you are looking for a workout that you can do quickly and that will help you improve your endurance. No matter your choice, you’re sure to get great benefits. So, get out there and start moving! Your body will thank you for it.

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