When kids grow as quickly as they do, you could be forgiven for thinking that a hiking shoe would be a foolish investment. On the contrary, it is perhaps more important to get your kids’ shoes right than your own. With growing feet and legs, as well as developing joints, finding the best hiking shoe for kids with the correct support is absolutely essential when tackling the trails with the little ones.
The right hiking shoe should offer substantial cushioning and durability so your kids can run wild for hours without getting tired, achy feet. Combining this with excellent traction on the sole will mean they can tackle rough and slippery terrain and improve their balance as they grow. But where on earth do you start? Well, fortunately for you, we’ve compiled all the basic essentials and scouted out the top 5 hiking shoes for kids, so you can find the right ones hassle-free!
For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out the Best Hiking Shoes.
Quick Answer - The Best Hiking Shoes for Kids
- KEEN Chandler CNX Shoe
- Teva Kids’ Arrowood 2 Mid
- Columbia Redmond
- Chaco Outcross 2
- Merrell Chameleon 7 A/C Mid
Comparison Table - Best Hiking Shoes for Kids
|-||KEEN Chandler CNX Shoe||Elastic Laces and Toggle||Yes||3 - 14||$$$||4.3|
|Teva Kids’ Arrowood 2 Mid||Elastic Laces and Toggle||Yes||7 - 15||$$||4.8|
|-||Columbia Redmond||Toggle or Lace||Yes||4 - 12||$$$||4.1|
|Chaco Outcross 2||Toggle||No - Water Resistant||4 - 14||$$||4.0|
|Merrell Chameleon 7 A/C Mid||Laces||Yes||5 - 15||$$$||4.3|
MULTI-DAY HIKING PACKING LIST
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Reviews - The Best Shoes for Kids for Hiking
KEEN Chandler CNX Shoe
- Closure: Elastic Laces and Toggle
- Waterproof?: Yes
- Age: 3 - 14
- Contoured Arch for Foot Support
- Multi-directional Traction (for increased grip)
- Available in Lots of Colors
BEST FOR: SUMMER HIKING HOLIDAYS
This ultra lightweight shoe will be the perfect accompaniment to any summer holiday that has some walking involved (and limited baggage weight!). Easy-to-use elastic toggle laces make getting this shoe on and off a breeze. Combine the super convenient quick-lace system with superb traction and comfortable breathability and your little one will be jumping in and out of adventure as much as they like! What’s more, the contoured arch will support their feet and prevent them from getting too tired.
Teva Kids’ Arrowood 2 Mid
- Closure: Elastic Laces and Toggle
- Waterproof?: Yes
- Age: 7 - 15
- Thick Sole (for cushioning and support)
- Urban “Go-anywhere” Style
- Ultra Lightweight
BEST FOR: OCCASIONAL HIKES
This stylish and incredibly versatile shoe is ideal for city-dwellers who love the occasional big adventure and regular weekend park romps. The waterproof membrane and waterproof coated leather will keep little feet warm and dry. Plus, it’s urban style means it transitions easily from an effective hiking boot with great grip to a stylish sneaker for exploring the city or hanging out with friends.
- Closure: Toggle or Lace
- Waterproof?: Yes
- Age: 4 - 12
- Columbia’s Techlite Midsole (offers long-lasting comfort and prevents foot fatigue)
- Columbia’s Omni-Grip Outsole (boasts excellent non-marking traction)
- Waterproof Membrane
BEST FOR: THE FULL-TIME ADVENTURE SEEKER
“Designed with play in mind,” as Columbia put it, this shoe is perfect for kids who are constantly scrambling to get outdoors. It will be their best friend while exploring the woods, climbing trees, jumping in puddles and building forest dens. Columbia’s Techlite and OmniGrip technology in these shoes is designed to offer superior cushioning and great grip, meaning they’ll take all that exuberant energy your child throws at them.
Chaco Outcross 2
- Closure: Toggle
- Waterproof?: No - Water Resistant
- Age: 4 - 14
- Protective Synthetic Toe Cap (for increased durability)
- Ventilated Upper for Increased Breathability
- Versatile Use
BEST FOR: AMPHIBIOUS KIDS
These shoes are for the kids (or families) who love to get out on the mountains as much as in the sea or river for surfing, swimming and paddling adventures. Chaco’s EcoTread rubber outsole will provide excellent traction on any terrain and will protect little feet from sharp rocks and unknown river or seabed terrain. What’s more, the hydrophobic material on the upper part of the shoe is quick-drying, so you can move from water to earth in no time!
Merrell Chameleon 7 A/C Mid
- Closure: Laces
- Waterproof?: Yes
- Age: 5 - 15
- High Rise for Ankle Support
- Traditional Laces (for a snug, close fit)
- M-Select DRY Waterproof Membrane (to keep feet super dry)
BEST FOR: LONG HIKES
Durable, lightweight and waterproof, this boot is the most important thing you could buy for a multi-day hiking trip or long day-hike. The ankle support it offers is crucial, as it will prevent your little one from twisting their ankle on uneven terrain or even accidentally getting a sprain. Traditional laces allow for a close fit that will protect growing joints even more and the waterproof membrane will keep little feet dry all day long.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING HIKING SHOES FOR KIDS
While kids themselves might be happy exploring and romping through woods in their sandals or even barefoot, their feet might not be happy at the end of it. And no family holiday has ever been improved by blisters or aching feet, has it? Young, growing feet and joints should be looked after, and as we’re all different, it’s important to know what to look for when outfitting your kids’ feet.
Some of the following factors may be more important than others depending on what you’re likely to be doing. For example, if you’re planning a long multi-day hiking trip, or simply do a lot of hiking in your free time, comfort and support might be your biggest priorities. If you’re after more of a regular use shoe for Saturday mornings exploring the local forest followed by brunch in town, durability and style might be things to consider.
The material you look for in a hiking shoe is important for a variety of reasons. Different materials offer different properties, so we’ve broken it down into what to look for in terms of durability, traction, comfort and it’s ability to keep water out!
If you’re hoping to take the kids on a long multi-day hike, or are simply hoping their shoes will last for the next few years, durability is key. Hiking shoes are exposed to a lot more gripping, stamping, climbing, and scrambling than regular sneakers and are therefore designed to last. It’s definitely worth giving REI’s How To Choose Hiking Shoes a read to give you a really in-depth overview of different materials and how their durability varies.
Rubber will likely be the material used for the outsole of a hiking shoe, given its ability to provide friction on slippery or tough ground. Look for deep “lug patterns” on the sole, which are ridged bumps that offer traction. Lots of shoes boast “multi-directional” lug patterns to enhance traction even further.
Some kids’ hiking shoes and boots also offer rubber toe caps. Children often like to kick things, scramble up trees and generally jump around a little more than us adults, so a rubber toe cap is essential to ensuring shoes last and won’t wear out.
COMFORT AND EASE OF USE
Comfort is key. Happy feet mean happy kids that can explore and roam to their heart’s content. There’s nothing worse than having to bandage your child’s feet up from blisters, except for when you have to give them a piggy-back ride the whole way home when their feet become too achey!
One of the key materials to look for in terms of comfort will lie in the midsole of the shoe (this is the section between the outsole and inner sole of the shoe that provides cushioning and shock absorption). Look for PU (Polyurethane) or EVA (Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate) material in the midsole. The former is slightly firmer and therefore more durable (good for longer hikes) while the latter is softer and lighter (great for comfort on regular short hikes).
It also matters that your kids’ shoes are easy to slip on and off. Lots of hiking shoes these days offer elastic “bungee” laces with a pull toggle system, and some accompany traditional laces with a hook and loop closure strap. You can read more about toggle laces and their benefits here. For younger kids, you might want to consider some of these easy-closure mechanisms, as it’ll stop you having to tie laces every 15 minutes. Older ones are usually fine with normal laces and it’ll be good knot-tying practice for them!
Lastly, make sure your little one is really happy with the comfort and fit of the shoe before going out in them. Encourage them to wear them around the house to break them in first.
Unless you’re after an amphibious water shoe that’s designed to work both on the mountain trails and on a river bed, making sure your kid’s hiking shoes are waterproof is vital. Not only does morale drop when we’re cold and wet, but it won’t do your kid’s shoes or feet any favors either. Most shoes will specify if they’re waterproof or not, just make sure they’re waterproof and not water resistant, as the latter won’t keep the water out for long at all.
How the shoe is made waterproof will vary. If the upper is made from full-grain leather it will be 100% waterproof on the outside. If you see boots as having “full bootie construction,” a “waterproof membrane,” or “Gore-Tex lining,” this means the boot has been lined with a sock-shaped waterproof lining. So while the outer material might look like mesh that will let water in, it won’t actually get through to the foot. It’s useful to bear in mind however, that waterproof membranes don’t offer great breathability and may cause feet to sweat on hotter days.
FULL BOOTIE CONSTRUCTION/WATERPROOF MEMBRANE
A waterproof layer that is formed in a “bootie” shape and inserted in the lining of the shoe, to prevent water from reaching the foot.
The inside part of the shoe that makes contact with and offers support to the bottom of your foot.
The outer layer on the bottom of the sandal, which touches the ground.
The layer between the sandal’s insole and outsole that absorbs shock and adds cushioning.
Stands for Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate, a material that offers light cushioning and absorbs shock.
Stands for Polyurethane, a material that offers firm cushioning and durability.
Hydrophobic material repels water and often has quick-drying properties.