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The Best Hiking Boots for Kids

If you want your kids to have a good time hiking, they’ll need good hiking boots or you’ll have frustrated hikers who want to turn back.

Hiking with kids is a fun way to get outside and enjoy nature as a family. Before we took our little guy hiking, I began searching for kids hiking boots.

Wearing appropriate footwear in the wilderness is important. Rugged terrain and wet feet can quickly cause blisters and ruin a fun family hike.

The last thing you want while on the hiking trail is less durable shoes coming apart (yes, this has happened to us) or shoes without good traction causing slips and falls.

Here I’ll talk about hiking boot features and styles, and show you my top choices for kids and toddlers. 

Our Favorite
Merrell Trail Quest Hiking Sneaker
$45.00
Buy Now
01/31/2023 10:29 am GMT

Features to Look For

Before buying a pair of hiking boots for little feet, there are some features to consider. Everything from material and insulation to fasteners and traction changes the feel and function of a hiking boot.

Here are some of the things I look at while shopping for great hiking shoes.

Durability

A kids hiking shoe doesn’t need to last years because their feet are constantly growing. The durability of a hiking boot is less about the longevity of wear and more about the level of protection.

If the sole wears down, or the toes wear thin, your kiddo’s toes aren’t protected from the elements. 

Some factors that make hiking boots more durable include:

  • Waterproof coating – If water gets into your boots, it breaks down materials quicker.
  • Leather or synthetic leather material – Even just patches of leather add structure to the boot.
  • Carbon rubber outsole – Blown rubber is another common outsole material, but it doesn’t last as long.
  • Polyurethane, or partial polyurethane midsole – Some boots use ethylene-vinyl-acetate foam. It’s lightweight but less durable.

The best kids hiking shoes are the boots that keep your little hiker safe and comfortable on the trail. 

Comfort

Comfort is the key to a happy hike. If boots pinch toes or let water in, your little hiker will be ready to kick them off on the trail. I know from experience this is zero fun!

One of the biggest tips I got looking for my son’s hiking boots was to try boots on after a walk. Between the heat and the exercise, feet expand. You may need to go up half a size or buy a wider boot to accommodate the swelling.

As kids get older and are able to carry their own pack of essentials, comfortable shoes become even more important.

Support

Support is important in any footwear, even more so in shoes for little feet on rough terrain. Our son loves exploring the trails. A good pair of hiking boots protect ankles and arches whether walking or climbing. 

Hiking boots come in low, medium, and high styles. Some kiddos are less comfortable in the high designs, but they’re good for protecting ankles from sprains and strains. 

Traction

Traction is what keeps us from slipping over wet rocks or leaves. Hiking boot traction is dictated by sole material and tread type. It creates friction between feet and ground, helping land each step safely. 

Closure Style

Laces can be tricky. It’s a great self-esteem and independence builder to choose a closure style your little one can master. Hiking boots for kids come in several closures, including:

  • Velcro
  • Laces
  • Elastic toggle system
  • Combination

For a structured closure, velcro and an elastic toggle system are a personal favorite. Plus, they’re extra cute and easy to use. I like the way the elastic lets you release easily on the trail if your child’s feet swell slightly during a hike. 

Waterproof

Even hiking on a dry day may lead to puddles, and children love puddles. Waterproof hiking boots are useful for damp days, dewy grass, and of course, the occasional puddle. They won’t protect like rain boots, but they’ll keep small feet dryer than the average sneaker will. 

Watch for vented hiking shoes and mesh tops when checking for waterproof status. Sometimes, the mesh makes the shoe water-resistant, rather than waterproof. 

Styles of Hiking Shoes 

People hike in all types of weather and terrain. This calls for a variety of styles to retain comfort and steadfastness. Choosing a style depends on the season and activity. Here are some of the hiking shoes you can choose from:

Hiking Sandals

Some people like hiking sandals for summer rambles with the family. I usually recommend a closed-toe shoe for children. It’s no fun when your kiddo stubs a toe on a hike. There are different sandals for hiking. 

The best pair of kids hiking sandals has a protective toe cap. As a bonus, the toe cap helps keep water out of sandals while hiking. 

Hiking Boots (high-top)

High-top hiking boots offer maximum support for ankles. They protect against sprains and twists. They’re also excellent for keeping mosquitos and ticks away from ankles and feet. 

Some children find high-top boots less comfortable. Look for a pair with a flexible neck to retain comfort. Padded tongues and ankles also take some of the pressure off during wear, creating a more natural feel.

In my experience, high top hiking boots are going to be the most durable hiking shoes with great traction.

Trail Shoes (low-top)

Trail shoes or hiking shoes resemble sneakers but are made for hiking in the great outdoors. They’re lighter weight than hiking boots and have a lower neck. This makes them more comfortable walking long distances. 

Trail shoes are made from the same durable materials as other hiking footwear. I find trail shoes a nice choice for kids who are self-conscious about footwear. Many kids hiking shoes look like standard runners, making them ideal for a variety of activities. 

Minimalist Hiking Shoes

Minimalist hiking boots are made to fit the natural curve of the foot. They have a wider toe box than most hiking boots and are made from flexible material for maximum comfort. They’re often made in a low-top design for versatility in other outdoor activities.

Hiking Shoes for Toddlers

Our young hikers may not be heading out for a long day on the trails, but their tiny toes still need protecting. Hiking shoes for toddlers are designed to cushion toes and ankles, support arches, and retain structure.

Choosing toddler shoes is always a tricky task. Every foot is made differently. As you choose a hiking shoe, consider whether your little one has narrow or wide feet and high or low arches. Here are some of my favorite choices for inspiration.

Best Hiking Sandal for Toddlers

Hiking sandals aren’t my first choice for the trails, but some summers they’re a necessity. When the temperatures rise, sandals let your child’s feet breathe.

I’m a big fan of hiking sandals that still offer maximum support and toe protection. Here’s my top choice for sandals.

KEEN Kids Newport H2 

These are literally the first shoe we bought for out son, as we got them before he was born. Both adults in the family have a pair and we used these shoes as part of our pregnancy announcement.

The KEEN Kids Newport H2 hiking sandals come in three sizes for toddlers, kids, and older children. They also come in two colors. These are great sandals for young hikers because of the protected toe.

I’m a personal fan of the Newport H2 sandals because of the simple elastic toggle closure. My son likes doing things himself, and these shoes give him that freedom. The sandals are water-resistant for damp treks and have a compression molded midsole to keep things comfy.

Critter Owned
KEEN Newport H2 Hiking Sandal
$21.15
Buy Now
01/31/2023 12:25 pm GMT

Pros: Water resistant. Water channeling multi-directional lugs on the sole for increased traction. Adjustable hook and loop closure. 

Cons: Some reviewers suggest the soles wear down quickly with use. 

Material: Polyester exterior and rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: Low

Sizes: 1 to 4, 4 to 8, and 8 to 12

Best Trail Shoe for Toddlers

Trail shoes are a good option for young hikers staying on mostly flat terrain. These increase comfort and range of motion but offer a little less protection around the ankle.

My top pick for kids trail runners is the Merrell Trail Quest. 

Merrell Trail Quest

The Merrell Trail Quest trail shoes are made with leather, a breathable mesh, and a rubber sole. I like that these shoes come in wide sizes for children with wider feet. It comes in a variety of colors too!

A sturdy and supportive ethylene-vinyl-acetate foam foot bed offers support without weight. While I’d recommend a sturdier foot bed for avid hikers, these are a nice choice for a curious toddler who may just want to dig in the dirt instead of hike.

Our Favorite
Merrell Trail Quest Hiking Sneaker
$45.00
Buy Now
01/31/2023 10:29 am GMT

These hiking shoes can be worn all the time as regular tennis shoes. Great for hiking on the trails, or for climbing at the local playground. 

Pros: Machine washable. Wide sizes are available. Non-marking soles for indoor use. 

Cons: Some reviewers felt the velcro strap wasn’t durable enough for regular wear. 

Material: Leather with rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: Low

Sizes: 4 to 8 and 8 to12

Bargain Hiking Boot For Toddlers

Sometimes it feels like toddlers go through shoes faster than we can buy them. Finding a bargain pair of hiking boots is beneficial for fast-growing feet.

I remember learning this lesson when my son hit a growth spurt right after buying an expensive pair. Here’s my recommendation for affordable hiking boots.

Mishansha Kids Hiking Boot

This is the pair of hiking boots our son currently owns. When we got them, he literally wouldn’t take them off and was bargaining with us to wear them to bed that night.

Mishansha Kids Hiking Boots are great for that real outdoorsy look. They’re a full hiking boot with the high-top style, and an elastic toggle, velcro combination closure.

The large toe cap is a selling feature for me. It protects small toes and keeps the boots waterproof around the base. 

Critter Owned
Mishansha Kids Hiking Boot
$49.99 $32.99
Buy Now
01/31/2023 12:30 pm GMT

The Mishansa boots come in 14 different colors!

The soles offer decent traction while maintaining flexibility for comfort. They also have all the makings of a supportive boot in terms of arches and ankles. I like these boots for hiking and camping. 

Pros: Full rubber toe cap for waterproof base and toe protection. Multiple colors to choose from. Breathable mesh interior. Affordable. 

Cons: Some kids find these boots a bit heavy and clunky to run in.

Material: Synthetic leather, mesh lining, and rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: High

Sizes: 7.5 to 10, 1 to 13, and 4 to 6

Best Hiking Shoe for Early Walkers

Buying the right hiking shoe is especially important for young toddlers just starting the walking phase. Anything too clunky might trip them up, while anything too light won’t protect their feet properly. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but there are some winners out there. 

We honestly didn’t buy our son specific toddler hiking shoes, because that felt like a waste of money for how often he’d be walking.

At the toddler stage, he was much more excited about riding in the Osprey Poco than wearing any kind of toddler hiking boots.

One of my favorites is the Stride Rite Soft Motion Kylin Sneaker. 

Stride Rite Soft Motion Kylin Sneaker 

This sneaker is excellent for tiny hikers new to walking. It has a low ankle for maximum range of motion, and a high toe cap to protect little toes and keep feet dry. This pair has a velcro enclosure and comes in 3 color options. 

Stride Rite makes great shoes, and any of their sneakers are great toddler hiking shoes. Our son had stride rite shoes exclusively until he was 2 or 3. He walked everywhere in them.

Critter Owned
Stride Rite Soft Motion Kylin Sneaker
$48.00 $31.66
Buy Now
01/31/2023 12:35 pm GMT

I like how casual these are. Toddlers don’t keep shoes long, so buying a multipurpose sneaker ensures you get your money’s worth. The memory foam foot bed keeps kids comfy on long walks and supports the natural shape of their feet.

Pros: This style of shoe is APMA-approved for young walkers. Features easy-use enclosure. Comes in three colors. Includes protective toe cap. 

Cons: Some reviewers recommend sizing up, as they run smaller than average footwear. 

Material: Leather exterior, memory foam footbed, and rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: Low

Sizes: 0 to 12 months and 1 to 4 years

Hiking Shoes for Kids

Older kids require more durability in their hiking boots than younger children do. They may be excited to hike longer distances or venture out for a climb up some rocks at the edge of the trail.

Whatever they get up to, finding the best hiking shoes for kids will keep them safe and comfy.

Here are some of my top picks for tweens or kids hiking shoes.

Best Hiking Sandal for Kids

Like toddlers, kids get sweaty feet in the summer. Hiking sandals offer the protection of a hiking shoe with the breathing space of a sandal. 

I like how versatile these products are. I actually put them on my son for a variety of outdoor summer activities. They’re great for keeping toes protected, no matter the terrain.

Keen Newport sandals are a family favorite hiking sandal because we all have a pair. They’re perfect for keeping feet cool in the summer.

KEEN Kids Newport H2

This is the same sandal we reviewed above. For big kids, this is a great option because of the wide-toe bed. It offers comfort and wiggle room without letting them slip around on the foot. 

I like these shoes for older kids as water shoes. Sure, we use these for light hiking, but they’re also great on a boat, at the beach, splash pad, or even in the campsite showers to protect feet from bacteria. 

Critter Owned
KEEN Newport H2
$20.35
Buy Now
01/31/2023 12:40 pm GMT

We all use these shoes to slip on quick for middle of the night bathroom runs as well.

Pros: Wide toe bed. Rubber toe cap. Easy-on adjustable elastic toggle and velcro closure. Machine washable. 

Cons: Some reviewers found the sandals ran a little small. Size up for best results. 

Material: Polyester exterior and rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: Low

Sizes: 1 to 4, 4 to 8, and 8 to 12

Best Hiking Shoe for Kids

Salomon Speedcross Trail Running Shoes

The Salomon Speedcross Trail Running Shoes are such fun-looking shoes. These are a good buy for anyone with picky kids not looking to stand out.

Salomon trail running shoes are the first pair I bought for myself when I ran my first trail 5k. They’re a brand I trust for my children’s feet as well.

The shoes look like average sneakers in most respects and come in 4 funky color options.

Trail runners are a good play shoe. They have extra grip for hiking and running in all weather conditions. 

Pros: Extra grip for traction in wet weather. Quicklace toggles for easy-on access. Snug “Sensifit” technology for comfort and support.

Cons: Not waterproof. 

Material: Mesh with rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: Low

Sizes: 4 to 8

Best Breathable Hiking Shoe for Kids

As our kids get bigger, they play harder. This leads to smelly shoes. One way to combat odor, especially during high-impact outdoor activities like hiking, is to seek shoes with breathability. I prefer hiking boots with venting to keep my little guy’s feet cool on the trail. Here’s my top choice:

Keen Targhee Sport Vented Hiking Shoe

I know, Keen again? The Keen Targhee Sport Vented Hiking Shoe is different from the sandals I suggested above.

They offer the full support of a hiking shoe, including a polyurethane midsole for durability. They also have a padded collar and tongue for maximum comfort and include a vented membrane for breathability.

KEEN Targhee Sport Vented Hiking Shoe
$64.95 $24.75
Buy Now
01/31/2023 10:10 am GMT

I’ve owned and loved Keen hiking boots for myself, and they make amazing light hiking shoes for kids too.

The Targhee shoes come in five great color options.

These are another great choice for a multi-purpose shoe. Because they have non-marking soles, they’re fine indoors. The multi-directional grip enhances traction on slippery terrain. It has the same hook and loop elastic toggle closure as the Keen sandals for easy-on access.

Pros: Breathable vented membrane. Perfluorinated chemical-free. Eco-friendly anti-odor protection. High durability factor.

Cons: Not machine washable. Need to be cleaned with mild soap and cold water and dried without heat. 

Material: Synthetic exterior with rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: Low

Sizes: 4 to 8 and 8 to 12

Best Waterproof Hiking Boot for Kids

Waterproof hikers are great for kids of all ages. I know from experience that if there’s a way to get his feet wet, my son will find it.

Waterproof hiking boots offer a little extra protection against dewy grass and damp days. My top choice for this category is by Merrell.

Merrell is a brand that our family trusts because we’ve all owned several pairs of them from slip-on mocs to hiking boots.

Merrell Kid’s Oakcreek Waterproof Boot

Merrel Kid’s Oakcreek Boots are a great buy. I like that they include mesh tops for breathability, but the rest of the boot is suede. This keeps them waterproof during hiking or pay. Suede is also a sturdy material, increasing the durability factor. 

Oak creek boots have rubber soles with recycled PET linings. They come in four fun colors.

Another awesome feature of Merrell’s waterproof boots is the “anti-stink lining” for odor reduction. Kids sweat, and I’m all for any hiking boot that reduces smells after use.

Pros: Waterproof. Anti-stink lining for odor-free use. High-top style for increased structure and ankle support during a hike. 

Cons: These have standard laces, requiring some knowledge of knots and bows. 

Material: Suede and mesh with rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: High

Sizes: 8 to 12

Best Minimalist Hiking Shoe for Kids

Kids need support and freedom so their still-growing feet form properly. Minimalist shoes are wider in the toe bed and form more naturally around the foot for comfort. When I think of minimalist hikers for kids, I instantly think of Merrell. 

Merrell Trail Glove 5 Hiking Sneaker

I love the look and feel of Merrell’s Trail Glove 5 Hiking Sneakers. They’re designed to be lightweight and breathable, with a close-to-the-ground sole. This lets kiddos really experience nature, feeling the ground beneath their feet. 

Daddy Critter LOVED his pair of Merrell barefoot running shoes, so it’s only natural that we’d get a pair for our son as well.

The Trail Glove hikers offer elastic and velcro closures, and come in six cool colors.

Merrell Trail Glove 5 Hiking Sneaker
$55.00 $32.99
Buy Now
01/31/2023 10:19 am GMT

This is another good style for kids who like to blend in where footwear is concerned. The shoes aren’t big and clunky like standard hiking boots, but still offer superior grip for outdoor activities. This model is made with a breathable synthetic shell and mesh with a rubber flexible sole. 

Pros: Low sole creates a down-to-earth natural feel. Breathable shell to keep feet cool. Wide-toe bed for increased comfort. Elastic closure for easy on.

Cons: Minimalist hiking shoes aren’t as supportive or durable as standard hiking boots. 

Material: Synthetic shell and mesh with rubber sole

Closed toe: Yes

Ankle height: Low

Sizes: 8 to 12

Frequently Asked Questions:

Hopefully, this blog has been helpful in finding the best hiking boot for your kids. In my experience, sporting store clerks can be helpful in the sizing and special features department. If you’re not sure what size shoe your little one wears, have their feet measured before buying. 

Happy Camping!

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