National parks, nature preserves, conservation areas and other protected wilderness areas may have footpaths (trails) that are restricted to pedestrians. The term footpath can also describe a pavement/sidewalk in some English-speaking countries (such as Australia and the Republic of Ireland).
Public footpaths are rights of way originally created by people walking across the land to work, market, the next village, church, and school, this includes Mass paths and Corpse roads. Some footpaths were also created by those undertaking a pilgrimage. Examples of the latter are The Pilgrim's Way in England and Pilgrim's Route (St. Olav's Way or the Old Kings' Road) in Norway. Some landowners allow access over their land without dedicating a right of way. These permissive paths are often indistinguishable from normal paths, but they are usually subject to restrictions. Such paths are often closed at least once a year, so that a permanent right of way cannot be established in law.
A mass path is a pedestrian track or road connecting destinations frequently used by rural communities, most usually the destination of Sunday Mass. They were most common during the centuries that preceded motorised transportation in Western Europe, and in particular the British Isles and the Netherlands (where such a path is called "kerkenpad" (lit. Church path). Mass paths typically included stretches crossing fields of neighboring farmers and were likely to contain stiles, when crossing fences or other boundaries, or plank bridges to cross ditches. Some mass paths are still used today in the Republic of Ireland, but are usually subject to Ireland's complicated rights of way law.
Corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses, often from remote communities, to cemeteries that had burial rights, such as parish churches and chapels of ease. In Great Britain, such routes can also be known by a number of other names: bier road, burial road, coffin road, coffin line, lyke or lych way, funeral road, procession way, corpse way, etc.
Nowadays footpaths are mainly used for recreation and have been frequently linked together, along with bridle paths and newly created footpaths, to create long distance trails. Also organizations have been formed in various countries to protect the right to use public footpaths, including the Ramblers Association in England. Footpaths are now also found in botanic gardens, arboretums, regional parks, conservation areas, wildlife gardens, and open-air museums. There are also educational trails, themed walks, sculpture trails and historic interpretive trails.