When you become a parent, it’s easy to put your passion for hiking on hold. Perhaps you feel like your kids are too young or fear that they won’t enjoy the activity as much as you do. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
There are plenty of kid-friendly hiking trails you can explore with your family. Chances are your mini-adventurer will enjoy the outdoors more than you will. Just be sure to bring essential hiking gear your kids will need.
One thing you should remember to do is invest in proper hiking footwear for kids. A well-fitting, comfortable pair of hiking boots can make a world of difference to your child’s experience. So, here are a few things you should take into account to find the best hiking boots for kids.
Types of hiking boots
Before you start shopping blindly, get acquainted with the different types of hiking footwear.
1. Hiking shoes
These are a contemporary style of footwear resembling hiking boots.
What distinguishes hiking shoes from boots is the fact that the former have a much lower cut. Other than that, they offer the same level of stiffness and underfoot support but with a less bulky feel.
Most hiking shoes also feature a waterproof membrane. Ultimately, though, they’re more prone to letting water in because of the low-top design at the ankle.
2. Hiking boots
Some parents are more inclined to buy their kids good old traditional hiking boots, and for good reason.
These have a high ankle collar, which reduces the chances of water penetration. They’re also made of tough and durable materials that can weather any storm. It means that if you’re looking for hiking footwear that will last your child for some time, a hiking boot is your best bet.
On the downside, boots tend to be heavier than hiking shoes. As such, they can weigh your child down and tire them more quickly.
3. Trail runners
The name says it all: they are a type of footwear mostly worn by runners who frequent trails. For this reason, they’re designed to be as light as possible. That said, trail runners aren’t limited to athletic kids.
In recent years, manufacturers have focused on creating versatile trail runners equally suitable for the rugged conditions on hiking trails. These shoes have added protection, good support, and unparalleled traction to provide your child with maximum grip.
4. Waterproof hybrids
If you’re planning to buy hiking footwear for your little one, another option you have is a waterproof hybrid. This is a style of footwear that combines the best aspects of a trail runner, a hiking shoe, and a hiking boot.
For instance, hybrids strike a nice balance between weight and portability. They aren’t as light as trail runners, but they’re also not as bulky as toddler hiking boots.
Another perk is they’re waterproof, which makes them the perfect choice for families that love hiking in rainy or snowy weather.
What to look for in hiking boots for kids
There are a couple of factors you should consider before buying your toddler a new pair of hiking boots.
1. High-top vs. low-top
The first thing we recommend is choosing between high-top and low-top. To make this decision, ask yourself what activities your kid will use them for.
If you’ll be taking them hiking in mountainous or rugged terrains, then your little one will need ample stability and support. Stability comes from the rigidity of the outsole, so ensure the boot’s sole is moderately stiff.
In terms of support, a high-top is the most favored design because it provides coverage on the ankle. High-top boots are also the most suitable for hiking in areas with a bit of elevation gain.
On the other hand, if the hiking trails you’ll be exploring are mostly flat, easy terrains, a simple low-top hiking boot will do. The sole should also be soft, not rigid, to provide greater freedom of movement.
2. Waterproof capability
As a parent, one hard truth you’ve had to come to terms with is the fact that kids don’t always look where they’re going.
They are more likely to step into puddles of water, muddy areas, or fecal matter left behind by animals. Now that you’ll be taking your toddler on a hike, you can count on them wading into a muddy puddle.
For these reasons, it’s crucial that you invest in hiking boots that are waterproof. Usually, such boots have their uppers made of waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex or eVent to keep the wearer’s feet completely dry in wet conditions.
Another factor you should take into account is the size of the hiking boot. You’ll want to buy your toddler a pair that fits well so that they feel comfortable while hiking.
But how should hiking boots fit? Well, they should feel snug but not so tight that it causes any discomfort. If you’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, have your child try on a few pairs and assess how well they fit.
How can you tell if the hiking boots are too big? When your child slides their feet forward, the space between their heel and the rear of the shoes should be able to accommodate an index finger. If this space is larger, the boots are probably too big for your child.
You can also ask your kid to take a few steps in the hiking boots. Check whether their heels rise or slip as they walk around. If either of these happens, the boots are probably a loose fit, so look for a smaller size.
Conversely, you don’t want to get hiking boots that feel too snug because they can pinch the heels or cause the ankle bones to feel sore. To ensure that they’re not too small, check if there’s some wiggle room in the toe box.
The best kids’ hiking boots should also have good traction and grip. This minimizes the chances of slipping and sliding on the hiking trails.
In that regard, check the material and pattern used on the boot outsole. Ideally, the sole should be constructed with rubber to improve grip, especially on slippery surfaces. It should also have multi-directional lugs to prevent feet from sliding sideways or backwards.
Top hiking boots for kids
1. Merrell Ontario 85 WTRPF hiking boots
Incredibly light, Merrell kids’ hiking boots are the perfect stepping stone if your child wants to start hiking with you.
The lightweight design is down to the materials used, namely, EVA for the midsole and suede for the upper. The upper is also reinforced with a mesh layer to improve breathability.
Merrell kids’ hiking boots are available in different color schemes to suit either boys or girls. As for fit, the size range starts from 1 and goes all the way up to 13.5.
2. Salomon Xa Pro 3D Winter hiking boots
If you’re looking for the best hiking boots for elementary school aged kids, this pair is a great choice. As well as being comfortable, the Salomon kids’ hiking boots are completely waterproof thanks to the brand’s full ClimaSalomon waterproof membrane.
Xa Pro 3D tackles rugged terrains surprisingly well. The pair is equipped with Contagrip, which guarantees maximum traction on any surface.
If you’re taking your toddler on a hike in winter, you don’t have to worry about their feet getting cold as the boots have Thinsulate insulation.
This hiking footwear is available in two different size groups. One is customized for 4-8 year-olds, and the other fits 8-12 year-olds.
3.Timberland Whiteledge Kids’ WaterPROof hiking boots
For the toddler who is serious about adventure, Timberland kids’ hiking boots are the best choice.
Made using leather and textile, these shoes are built exceptionally well. Unless your child outgrows them, they are designed for the long haul.
They’re available in two versions. The first one is tailored for kids aged 1-4 and the second for 4-8-year-olds.
The upper sports a waterproof membrane, making the pair among the best winter hiking boots for kids. The interior features a moisture-wicking textile lining, keeping the wearer’s feet dry and comfortable.
4. Keen Targhee mid-height hiking boots
The biggest selling point of Keen kids’ hiking boots is their comfort. They have a cushy feel and a mesh lining to keep your toddler’s feet cool when hiking in hot weather.
Moreover, the boots have a mid-top design and lightweight profile. It means they provide the wearer with maximum ankle support without feeling too clunky or bulky.
The boots also tout a durable and waterproof membrane, which keeps the upper dry. Plus, the sole is fitted with a multi-directional grip system to improve traction, keeping your child’s feet grounded.
5. Littleplum sneaker hiking boots
Are you planning to take your toddler hiking in winter? In such case, you’ll want to look for footwear that not only keeps their feet warm but also has good traction.
For cold weather, this pair of winter hiking boots by Littleplum is the perfect investment.
Their interior is lined with high-quality faux fur to keep your child’s feet warm. The outsoles boast a unique anti-skid steel buckle design to improve grip, making them capable of handling icy and snowy terrains well.
How to break in hiking boots
If you want your child to be comfortable in their new boots on the hiking day, don’t skip this step.
When the boots are brand new, they will feel tighter around the toes, rub at the heel, and perhaps even pinch the skin as the child walk.
To avoid these issues on the big day, have your kid wear the boots around the house or neighborhood to break them in.
Once your mini-adventurer has worn them a few times, the boots will conform nicely to their feet when hiking day comes around.
How to clean hiking boots
Hiking boots are designed to brave muddy and gritty terrains. However, this doesn’t mean they should be tossed under the bed and forgotten after use. Train your toddler to clean their footwear as soon as they get back home. Here’s a quick guide.
Cleaning the uppers
- Start by removing the laces.
- Look for a brush—preferably one designed for cleaning boots—and use it to scrape off any dust or mud.
- Fill a basin with water and wash the uppers more thoroughly with your boot cleaner.
- Place the boots in an open space to dry.
Cleaning the outsole
It’s easy to clean the uppers and forget the outsoles. However, removing that caked mud from the sole is crucial for restoring full traction.
Brush the soles vigorously to remove any stuck pebbles. If any dirt still clings to them, a good soak or a power wash with a hose should do the trick.
Looking for the best hiking boots for your kids? Let’s recap what you should take into account.
One thing is the type of terrain you’ll be traversing. If, for instance, you’ll be trekking rugged areas, a high-top boot provides better protection. For flat terrains, however, a low-top hiking boot works just as well.
Other aspects you should consider when choosing the best hiking boots are whether they are waterproof, size, traction, and comfort.
Find footwear that checks these boxes, and you can bet that your child will have one of the best hiking experiences.