What Is The Difference Between Walking And Hiking?

The Grom Life is an independent publisher. You will not find paid product promotions or sponsored content on this site. You will find affiliate links which means we may earn a commission if you purchase through these links.

Walking and hiking are great fun activities for everyone and are a form of exercise. Although hikers and walkers have much in common, they identify themselves as hikers or walkers. Arguably, when you are a hiker, you are also a walker. Whether you identify with either, comparing the two activities will assist in distinguishing the differences.

The difference between walking and hiking is moving on a relatively flat, obstacle-free surface and a more difficult, rough, elevated trail with rocky obstacles. To be more specific, the path taken and the length of the activity differentiate hikers from walkers.

As part of the activity, hiking contains walking as a movement, but it becomes specifically defined once you alter certain main differential similarities. For example, the route’s duration and terrain are some identifiers where the activity is determined.

Hiking And Walking Differences

The main differentiators between the two activities are landscape, length, and gear. For example, you are hiking if you switch between lower and higher elevations on a rough walking surface. Alternatively, you walk when you take a much shorter walk on a relatively easy path.

The Meaning Of Walking

The technical term “Walking” refers to the action taken compared to other moving actions such as cycling or climbing. The activity of walking is the activity performed over relatively short distances, on easy surfaces with no obstacles. Therefore, it can be enjoyed by the whole family irrespective of fitness levels. Walking is an outdoor or indoor suburban exercise.

The Meaning Of Hiking

Technically hiking is described as the action of moving between two points within a time frame. In addition, a hike is planned and requires much more effort. The route usually is much more complex, the terrain has more obstacles, and the duration is considerably longer than a walk. Usually, specific footwear and additional gear would be required.

Are You Hiking Or Trekking?

While on this topic, and for pure interest, let us throw the proverbial spanner in the works. Some other terms relate closely to hiking, depending on the specifics of the hike or the country.

Trekking is described as the activity of hiking but with duration and location as part of the definition. Technically a more rugged remote hike over days at altitude is called a trek. Hiking with a backpack in New Zealand is called tramping. Similarly, rambling is walking in the countryside in the UK. Pilgrimages are when you do long-distance hikes with a purpose in a foreign country, such as Camino’s.

Hiking And Walking Gear Differences

The primary and most crucial gear item is the shoes. Surfaces differ. Shoes protect your feet which are your most precious asset for walking or hiking. Similarly, the proper hiking boots provide stability and traction while protecting your feet. Although backpacking is part of your hiking plans, it will require additional specialized gear. Another hiking item is hiking sticks to provide assisted stability on rough trails.

Is Hiking Better Than Walking?

Very few benefit differences exist between hiking and walking. Is your purpose exercise, fitness, or to enjoy the outdoors and nature? Following are some activity notes related to benefits that are worth mentioning.

Both activities are excellent remedies to curb stress and anxiety levels. It is also known to promote alertness, concentration, lessen fatigue and boost your overall cognitive function. Exercising outdoors in nature produces extra calming benefits also assists in managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Walking as an activity is safer and more low-risk than hiking. Hiking comes with a bit more risk depending on the terrain and duration, with some risky factors including snakes, bears, tripping on rough terrain, or being far away from help. However, manage the risk by good planning and moderate hiking trails.

Which Is The Least Expensive Option?

The motion of walking does not cost anything; therefore, walking and hiking could be considered relatively cheap activities. However, expect that there will be a cost involved when you decide to replace your standard sporting attire with something activity-specific and scientifically designed.

Walkers mainly only need to ensure they have comfortable and enduring walking shoes. Lightweight walking attire is not that expensive. As you will be partaking in walks near your home, there is no need to make additional provisions for bad weather or challenging terrains.

The attire expense list of hikers will be a bit steeper as they need some specialized items to ensure they are fit for the activity, such as hiking boots to conquer the rough terrain and possible bad weather along the way.

Switching Between The Two Activities

Although many people will classify themselves as either a hiker or a walker, many walker-hikers are out there. This category uses walking to maintain their fitness and endurance levels between hikes. Sometimes walkers decide to be more adventurous and become hikers. Alternatively, hikers may choose to take it a bit easier but still enjoy the outdoors and the exercise.

Generally, regular hikers are more fit as hiking can be more strenuous and requires more stamina. Experts often advise walking first and naturally moving over to hiking when you feel comfortable fit and have acquired the correct gear. Do some hilly training first, then proceed with short easy trails and gradually step it up.

Most hikers will find it very easy to transform into a walker as walking is, in essence, the basic movement for both activities. Because walking and hiking surfaces differ, replace your rugged-ready hiker boots with more athletic walking shoes.


Both activities are very similar in all aspects. Both entail taking walks in the countryside or suburban areas on foot for long or short distances for exercise or pleasure. The main differences are terrain and distance. Coupled with that, different gear options and fitness levels, you have the complete picture.

Personal preference and physical abilities may influence your choice, but either way, both activities are winners in being active and maintaining a healthy mind and body. In addition, both provide full-body workouts to manage risk factors such as heart disease, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.