Are Converse Good For Running and Hiking? A Detailed Explanation

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Converse shoes have long been popular for basketball players and casual wear, and an increasing number of people are now wearing Converse at the gym for weightlifting and other workouts.

But, are Converse good for running? Or are Converse shoes good for hiking?

In this article, we will discuss whether or not Converse shoes make appropriate footwear for running and hiking while pointing out the important characteristics to look for in running shoes and hiking shoes.

More specifically, we will cover the following: 

  • What Are Converse Shoes?
  • Are Converse Good for Running?
  • Are Converse Good for Hiking?
  • Should You Wear Converse Shoes Hiking?

Let’s get started! 

Converse shoes.

What Are Converse Shoes?

The first Converse shoes debuted in 1908 in the United States (Massachusetts).

In 1921, Charles “Chuck” Taylor, the semi-professional basketball player, joined Converse and helped make numerous improvements to the original Converse shoe, such as enhancing the flexibility of the shoe and improving its ankle support. 

Converse “Chuck Taylors,” also called Converse All Stars shoes, have since been one of the brand’s most popular and universally-recognized models.

Like all of the Converse shoes, Converse All Stars feature the iconic All-Star logo on the ankle patch, a logo that the brand has affixed to their products or instant recognition since the early 1920s.

Since the inception of the first Converse shoes, the company has vastly expanded beyond just serving as a popular shoe for basketball players, and now Converse sells millions of shoes worldwide, though the Converse Chuck Taylors are still among the most popular and recognizable.

White Converse All Stars.

Are Converse Good for Running?

If you are a new runner, you might have a pair of Converse All Stars (Converse Chuck Taylors) hanging around your closet or as part of your regular rotation of casual walking shoes.

Before you head to the running store to buy running shoes, you might ask, “Can I wear Converse shoes running?”

The short answer is yes, you can wear Converse shoes running. There are no rules or laws governing the type of footwear you have to wear running or footwear that you are not allowed to wear running.

With that said, there is an important distinction between the questions “Can you wear Converse shoes running?” and “Are Converse shoes good for running?”

Although there are benefits to wearing Converse shoes for various activities, in general, Converse shoes are not good for running.

Two people wearing Chuck Taylors.

Therefore, while you can wear Converse running, you should not wear Converse shoes running, if possible.

Converse shoes do not provide enough cushioning for the high-impact forces of running. They also do not offer arch support, and the very flat sole is not generally flexible enough for running.

Moreover, the uppers are not as breathable as running shoes, and if you get the high-tops version of Converse All-Stars, the canvas material around the ankle can impede motion and inhibit your natural stride.

The traction is also poor on slick surfaces, and the canvas, although breathable, is much less breathable than the mesh uppers of running shoes, which can lead to hot, sweaty feet.

A pair of red Converse.

Are Converse Good for Hiking?

Much in the way that we made the important distinction between whether you can wear Converse shoes running and if Converse are good for running, the same applies to hiking.

Thus, the answer to the common question, “Can you wear Converse shoes hiking?” is yes, but the answer to “Are Converse shoes good for hiking?” is no.

With that said, if you had to compare whether Converse shoes are better for running or hiking, hiking edges out running, meaning that Converse shoes are more suitable for hiking than they are for running.

This is primarily due to the fact that running is a high-impact activity, and hiking is a low-impact activity. 

Therefore, proper support and cushioning are even more crucial when running than hiking, which is essentially a form of walking

Here are some of the top reasons why Converse shoes are not good for hiking:

A pair of blue Converse.

#1: Converse Shoes Do Not Provide Adequate Traction

Additionally, Converse shoes lack the traction in the form of treads or lugs that conventional hiking boots have. This type of traction improves stability and helps prevent slipping on wet trails, muddy surfaces, rocks, roots, and other obstacles you encounter on a hiking trail.

Additionally, you need your hiking footwear to have good traction so that you can safely ascend steep inclines and hike down descents that have loose dirt, gravel, or slick mud.

#2: Converse Shoes Do Not Provide Ankle Support

One of the key features that are provided by wearing hiking boots vs Converse shoes for hiking is superior ankle support.

Much of the way that support provided by Converse shoes is inadequate for distance running, the ankle support and foot support provided by Converse shoes also make this footwear relatively unsuitable for hiking. 

Although Converse Chuck Taylors or All Stars are high-top shoes that come up and over your ankles, a canvas material does not provide support for your ankles because it is too soft, thin, and flexible.

Hiking boots have a stiff ankle to help protect against rolling or twisting your ankle when landing on a root or uneven surface.

Accordingly, one of the risks of hiking in Converse shoes is spraining your ankle or falling down when you inadvertently step on an unstable surface, and your ankle gives out.

A pair of old Converse.

#3: Converse Shoes Are Not Waterproof

One of the main differences between Converse shoes vs hiking boots is in the materials and construction of the uppers.

Converse shoes are made with a soft, flexible, lightweight canvas, whereas hiking boots generally have a leather or other type of synthetic upper.

Canvas will soak up and absorb water, meaning that hiking in Converse shoes is a recipe for soaked, soggy feet if it starts to rain, if the trails are damp, or if you have to cross a stream.

Hiking in Converse shoes that have become saturated with water will not only be uncomfortable but can also increase the risk of blisters and chafing

If you are hiking in cold weather, hiking in Converse shoes that are wet will increase the likelihood of hypothermia.

Most high-quality hiking boots are waterproof, and they even have a Gore-Tex coating to ensure that your feet stay dry on wet trails and in rainy conditions.

Hiking boots.

#4: Converse Shoes Do Not Protect Your Feet

Another major difference between hiking boots vs Converse shoes for hiking is the lack of foot protection provided by hiking in Converse shoes.

As mentioned, Converse shoes have a soft, flexible canvas upper with no reinforced toe area for protection along the top of your foot.

The canvas is not much more robust than a very thick sock.

When you are hiking, you may accidentally ram your toes into roots, rocks, sticks, pebbles, and other debris from the wooded area that can fall on top of your foot, or your foot may bump into these various obstacles.

Thus, Converse shoes will not provide the protection you need.

In contrast, hiking boots usually have a reinforced toe, such as a steel toe, and the upper of the boot is usually made from a thick, robust material that acts somewhat like a cage around the top, front, and sides of your foot to protect your bones and soft tissues from any hazards you might encounter on the trail.

A person wearing hiking boots.

Should You Wear Converse Shoes Hiking?

It’s important to note that even though Converse shoes pale in comparison to the support and features provided by proper hiking boots, some people do wear Converse shoes hiking, particularly for flat, easy trails.

The notorious Emma “Grandma” Gatewood actually hiked the entire Appalachian Trail all by herself in a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors.

Emma “Grandma” Gatewood was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail solo, though she is often erroneously credited for being the first woman to hike the trail end to end.

While she did manage to cover over 2,000 miles of technical trails hiking in Converse shoes, her footwear choice was not necessarily ideal. 

Moreover, as her thru-hike took place over 60 years ago, the options for women’s hiking boots were likely quite minimal.

Nowadays, hikers have many options for specially-designed hiking boots that can provide superior traction, ankle support, toe protection, and arch support.

In this way, if you have the financial means and access, it is much better to wear hiking boots vs Converse shoes for hiking.

For more information about shoe comparisons, check out our guide to running shoes vs walking shoes here.

A person walking up steps on a trail.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

1 thought on “Are Converse Good For Running and Hiking? A Detailed Explanation”

  1. A lot of the reason why people need all that padding and support is a) their foot is in a position where they can not balance themselves normally and are in fact far more injury prone in the weird position most athletic shoes of all kinds put your foot and body in and b) because people either have serious injury or damage to their feet and ankles from using these kind of raised unnaturally positioned shoes for so long.

    For instance running shoes are made for running in a straight line but what if you have to run in places where there are obstacles that you have to avoid and you have to change directions. And what if you are heavier and have a wider foot than the average runner. You will undoubtedly injure something because the shoe is only made for forward momentum not quick changes of direction and the grip would not work for sports like tennis or basketball. A shoe should be able to do all of these things well by actually being based on a real foot and just being a support for it that protects it from cuts, scratches, debris and such. High top converse do this better than most other shoes ever invented because they are so simple and work for most people unless your feet are extremely wide. They work for me and I have well above average width

    Reply

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