One of the joys of parenthood is letting your pack loose outside to run off some steam and build an appreciation for the great outdoors. But—as with any aspect of parenting—you need to be prepared, and that means properly outfitting your little ones in the gear they need to be safe and comfortable throughout their adventures.
Hiking shoes and boots are fantastic allies to keep little feet dry, cozy, and supported all day long, but how do you find the best hiking shoes for kids? Well, you’ve come to the right place! We’re going to take a comprehensive look at what makes an excellent child’s hiking boot, an examine a handful of offerings from top brands to see how they might best fit your needs… and the needs of whatever little feet will be following you on your outdoor escapades.
Our Top Picks
|Hi-Tec Renegade Trail WP||Synthetic, leather, mesh||1.5 pounds||12 x 9 x 6 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|KEEN Alamosa Mid WP||Synthetic, leather, mesh||1.6 pounds||11.7 x 7.2 x 4.6 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Nevados Cire||Leather, nylon||2 pounds||11.2 x 8.8 x 4.6 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Timberland Pawtuckaway||Full-grain leather, synthetic||1 pound||11 x 10 x 10 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|Hi-Tec Kids’ Nepal Junior||Suede, synthetic||2 pounds||12 x 8 x 4 inches||Check price on Amazon|
|KEEN Clayton WP||Leather, synthetic||1.8 pounds||10.2 x 7.7 x 4.2 inches||Check price on Amazon|
But before we go deeply, let’s think about what you actually need to check before buying a great pair of boots.
Things to Consider Before Buying
As even newbie parents know, there are always factors to consider and research to do before buying anything for your little guy or gal. These days, the market is flooded with multiple options for just about every single kid-related item you can think of, so it pays to know exactly what to look for (and what to ignore) before you buy.
While we may not be able to help you select the perfect high chair out of a list of 30+ options (…good luck with that), we can help you pick the perfect hiking shoe for your kids by giving you a checklist of essential features for your reference.
Fit can be tricky when it comes to kids, and that goes double for hiking boots. You want to give your child’s foot a little room to grow so that you’re not investing in a new pair every couple of months, but a boot that fits too loosely makes your little hiker more prone to injury.
When trying on boots, make sure there is enough room for socks of all thickness, as well as any inserts your child might need, while ensuring that the boot fits snugly (but not too snugly!) around the footbed and ankle.
Hiking boots should ideally reach up around the ankle in terms of height, but they should never stretch higher than the calf. Too-tall boots will infringe on your child’s freedom of movement and, again, increase the risk of injury.
Kids are famous for taking off full-tilt no matter how slippery or dangerous the terrain, so you’ll want a boot with outstanding traction to keep them safe and upright on the trail. A flexible sole is also key; tread that can bend along with the foot will provide optimal traction on all surfaces.
Kids can sometimes be unfamiliar with the feeling of heavy tread, however, so it’s a good idea to let them wear the boots in “normal” conditions (around the house, at your usual neighborhood playground) to get a sense of how the tread will feel with each step. This will cut down on the chances of injury when they take to the trail in earnest.
Let’s be honest: kids have no real concept of “roughing it,” let alone “no pain, no gain.” If you put your kids in uncomfortable shoes, you’re going to hear about it…constantly. Why not do all you can to ensure both your child’s comfort and the peaceful vibe of your outdoor adventures?
A few key points to keep in mind in the comfort department are ample padding of the collar, smooth, breathable lining, and substantial padding and arch support. If you choose a leather boot, it might be a good idea to add an extra coat of water-repellent wax to soften the leather and maximize flexibility, thereby speeding the “breaking in” process.
If you know kids, you know that they will inevitably end up wet somehow…even on the driest of days. It may be the result of puddle-splashing or a spilled juice box or, yes, precipitation from the heavens, but you can bet the mortgage that your kid’s shoes will end up coated in some sort of liquid. Might as well ensure that the boot can withstand the punishment.
If you find a pair of absolutely perfect boots that aren’t waterproof, don’t despair: they might not be constructed to be entirely water-resistant (meaning they might let in moisture if totally submerged), but at the very least you can buy a waterproofing spray to treat the leather/fabric against getting wet.
Kids are notoriously hard on footwear. Those young, supple joints mean that every step is usually more of a stomp, and this can be hard on poorly constructed boots. Do your research when it comes to the company from whom you’re buying; their reputation usually speaks quite accurately to how their product holds up.
A great resource when it comes to durability is the customer reviews. No one is more honest (or, in some cases, quicker to complain) than a disgruntled parent when a product doesn’t hold up as promised, so skimming the user reviews of a potential boot will give you a good idea of its real-life performance.
Top Product Reviews
Now that you know just what to look for when it comes to selecting a kid’s hiking boot, let’s take a closer look at the options we mentioned earlier. You might recognize some of these brands from your own footwear purchases, or you might be discovering a new favorite!
Hi-Tec Renegade Trail WP Hiking Boot
Weight: 1.5 pounds
Dimensions: 12 x 9 x 6 inches
Specific features: Synthetic sole, waterproof seam-sealed suede leather and nylon upper, compression molded EVA midsole, board lasted with steel shank, multi-directional treaded outsole, breathable mesh panels
Best use: These extremely durable and well-designed hiking boots are designed to keep your kids’ feet comfortable and dry during an entire day of hiking and outdoor fun
The Hi-Tec Renegade Trail WP Hiking Boot is a solid choice for your child’s first pair of “real” outdoor footwear. With all the bells and whistles of adult-sized hiking footwear, these boots will keep up with your kid in even the wettest, most rugged conditions.
Comfort is top priority with these boots: an EVA sock liner and compression-molded WV midsole are specially designed to absorb and distribute shock—even after your daughter’s thirtieth time jumping from a rocky ledge to the trail below.
The thickly padded interior and collar offer optimal ankle support, along with abrasion-resistant toe bumpers and the added support of board lasted steel shanks. The breathable mesh side panels will keep little feet well-ventilated throughout the day.
In terms of performance, not much can beat this boot: they are entirely waterproof and seam-sealed and sport a carbon rubber outsole for superior traction. The rust-proof brass hardware will keep these boots looking sharp long after they get passed down to little brothers and sisters.
- Reasonably priced
- Offer all-day support
- Reliable traction
- Run small
- Need breaking in
- Not animal-friendly
Related: The Hi-Tec Kids Unisex Hillside Jr Hiking Boot is a sturdy, lightweight, waterproof hiker with a removable, contoured EVA sock liner. Users report that this boot performs just as well as the Renegade, with easy clean-up and a cozy fit for all those chilly winter activities.
Though they are waterproof and retain warmth, the breathable bootie membrane ensures that the necessary air flow will not be impeded. These boots feature an attractive unisex design and durable leather and synthetic construction.
Like the Renegade, the Hi-Tec Hillside Boot tends to run a bit small, so your best bet—especially considering how quickly kids’ feet grow—is to order a size up.
KEEN Alamosa Mid WP Hiking Boot
Weight: 1.6 pounds
Dimensions: 11.7 x 7.2 x 4.6 inches
Specific features: Waterproof, breathable membranes, leather and nylon mesh uppers, secure-fit lacing system with cord locks, padded collars and tongues, heel and tongue loops, EVA midsoles, non-marking rubber outsoles
Best use: These versatile boots are suitable for hiking in all types of conditions and terrain
No matter what kind of adventures you have planned for the family, you really can’t go wrong with the KEEN Alamosa Mid WP Hiking Boot. They’re lightweight, breathable, and flexible, offering prime support without weighing little feet down.
The performance of this boot is superb, but the comfort they offer is also off the charts. Padded, mid-height collars and padded tongues give cushioned support to key areas, and the nylon mesh linings in each footbed wick moisture away to keep things dry all day long. The lightweight EVA midsoles are also suited to absorb and distribute shock no matter how hard your crew hits the trail.
These leather and nylon mesh boots are fully waterproof, and are durable enough to last through multiple seasons of wear. KEEN’s secure-fit lacing system enables older kids to tighten their boots up with a single pull, and the cord locks are designed to keep the laces right where you want them until the trail’s end.
- Breathable lining
- Padded ankle support
- Easy bungee lace closure
- Don’t need breaking in
- Can be difficult for child to put on himself
- Non-tying laces can trail too long after being pulled secure to a smaller foot
- Not animal-friendly
Related: The KEEN Pagosa Mid WP Hiking Boot is a trendy choice for the more fashion-forward kid; the attractive design has made this a popular boot among girls, but the KEEN design and durability still shines through. These boots are waterproof, breathable, and offer superior traction for all sorts of conditions.
Some users report that these boots tend to run big, especially if you are planning a warm-weather hike with thinner socks, but the signature secure-fit lace capture system ensures that your little hiker will always have a snug yet comfortable fit. These boots sell for at around the same price point as the KEEN Alamos.
Nevados Cire Hiking Boot
Weight: 2 pounds
Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.8 x 4.6 inches
Specific features: Waterproof leather and nylon mesh construction, cushioned EVA insole, padded tongue and collar, rubber sole
Best use: These rugged boots are suitable for any high-impact outdoor activity
We’ve all been guilty of brand bias, but sometimes taking a risk and choosing a lesser-known brand can pay off. That’s what many users are saying about the durable-yet-affordable Nevados Cire Hiking Boot.
While Nevados might not be a name you recognize in outdoor footwear, this well-constructed boot has all the necessary bells and whistles to ensure comfort and stability on the trail for your junior hikers. The waterproof leather and mesh upper rivals boots that retail for 25 percent more, and—placed side by side—it would be nearly impossible to tell the Nevados from its more expensive counterparts.
The padded collar and tongue of these boots will have your kiddo stepping in comfort no matter how long the trail, and the cushioned EV insole provides ideal shock absorption and distribution. The traction of this boot is just as impressive; it can handle rough terrain just as handily as rainy or slushy days.
- Water resistant
- Breathable mesh
- Padded tongue and collar
- Tend to run small
- Tie laces require adult assistance for younger hikers
Related: The Northside Caldera Junior Hiking Boot is another heavy duty, well-constructed option when it comes to purchasing hikers for the youngsters in your crew. Featuring the same dream-team combination of leather and breathable nylon as other pairs on our list, these boots boast a PVC mudguard as well as a heel stabilizer for optimal comfort and support.
The sole is crafted from durable thermoplastic rubber (TPR) and provides outstanding grip in all conditions. The lacing system is built to last, including hardware that won’t snap or break under the strain of regular use. These boots are more affordable than your typical pair, retailing under $40.00 on most sites.
Timberland Pawtuckaway Hiking Boot
Weight: 1 pound
Dimensions: 11 x 10 x 10 inches
Specific features: Waterproof full-grain leather upper, rubber outsole, climate control mesh lining and footbed, protective toe overlay, rustproof hardware, EV foam footbed, removable sock liner.
Best use: This tried-and-true boot is made for heavy duty hikes and demanding outdoor activity.
Timberland is a name many outdoor aficionados will recognize; reputable, dependable, and well-designed footwear is what many have come to expect from the brand, and the Timberland Pawtuckaway Hiking Boot is no exception. Timberland is one of the few brands you could buy blind and be almost entirely guaranteed your satisfaction…but why not take a closer look while you have the chance?
Among the special features of these well-crafted boots are the EV footbed to provide comfort inside and the tough rubber outsole to provide excellent terrain on the outside. A mesh lining in the boot wicks away moisture to keep little feet cool and dry throughout the duration of activity.
This boot also takes the guesswork out of sizing with its removable sock liner. The liner can be added or taken away depending on the fit of the boot to your child’s growing foot. This durable boot will last for multiple hand-me-down cycles among siblings or neighbors, and the sock liner can provide a customized fit no matter who is sporting these sturdy boots.
- Full-grain leather construction
- Rust proof hardware
- Removable sock liner
- Brand reliability
- Can be difficult for child to put on himself
- Relatively high cost
- Not animal-friendly
Related: The Timberland Back Road Hiker Boot carries the same excellent reputation as the Pawtuckaway Waterproof Hiking Boot, and indeed sports the same well-made leather construction with a rugged rubber outsole. A protective toe overlay in front and superb ankle support in the rear provides optimal support, and a pull-on loop enables little hands to pull on the boots unassisted.
The heavy duty traction on the rubber outsole guarantees sure footing on the trail, no matter the conditions. Just like all offerings from Timberland, these boots are built to last, and will often survive through several generations of little feet, no matter how many adventures they weather.
Hi-Tec Kids’ Nepal Junior Hiking Boot
Weight: 2 pounds
Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 4 inches
Specific features: Suede and synthetic upper, molded rubber outsole, waterproof, breathable footbed, steel shank support, compression molded midsole, big fit system to adjust to growing feet
Best use: If your family is serious about hiking but not keen on spending serious cash, these reliable boots are just what you need to provide proper support and protection on the trail
The Hi-Tec Kids’ Nepal Junior Hiking Boot is a popular choice for kids who need footwear that transitions easily from the trail to the playground and back again. While it’s not the most heavy-duty boot on the market, it covers all the essential bases to make it suitable for outdoor activity.
This hiking boot combines suede and performance fabric for a durable upper that is entirely waterproof and features a breathable mesh lining. The rust proof hardware ensures that the boot will still look good even after a good soaking, and the abrasion-resistant toe bumper keeps little piggies fully protected. The multi-directional traction (MDT) carbon rubber outsole allows your little one to navigate uneven surfaces with ease.
Perhaps most impressive about theese hiking boots is its Big-Fit insole system. The system consists of two insoles; the lower insole can be removed to extend the boot by half a size — great news for parents whose kids seem to grow an inch every time they turn around.
- Flexible footbed
- Some users report that the sole detaches from the boot after a bit of wear
- The ankle fit of this boot was uncomfortable for some wearers
Related: The Hi-Tec Kid’s Tucano Junior Light Hiking Boot is a perfect choice for those kids who might only be hitting the trail for a few light summer hikes, but who would still benefit from a sturdy piece of versatile footwear. The suede and synthetic construction makes for an attractive boot that also delivers when it comes to support: the molded ethylene vinyl acetate midsole provides optimal comfort and shock absorption.
These affordable boots usually retail at prices starting at around $30.00, meaning that parents will get their money’s worth even if these hikers only last through one season of wear.
KEEN Clayton WP Hiking Boot
Weight: 1.8 pounds
Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.7 x 4.2 inches
Specific features: Waterproof leather and synthetic upper, patented toe protection, Vibram sole, metal speed hook lacing system, breathable membrane, dual-climate non-marking rubber outsole
Best use: If you’re taking your little one far from the playground for some serious off-roading, these rugged, high-performance boots are for you
KEEN boots have an impeccable reputation when it comes to outdoor footwear, and the KEEN Clayton WP Hiking Boot brings this quality to the up-and-coming generation of hiking aficionados. You can always rest assured that the money you invest in a pair of KEENs will be well spent when it comes to what you get in return.
The boots has comfort in the bag: the waterproof, breathable interior membrane keeps feet dry and comfortable no matter what the conditions might be on the trail, and the cushioned ankle provides support and keeps the cold breezes at bay. Users say the tongue of this boot always stays in place during wear, and never moves around or bunches up, causing blisters or discomfort.
The most impressive feature of these boots might be its dual-climate rubber outsole, which hardens as the weather gets colder so that it can be better equipped to get a solid grip on frozen or snowy terrain. But even in mild weather, the Clayton’s deep lugs provide ultimate traction for little hikers on the go.
- Dual-climate rubber outsole
- Ready to wear without breaking in
- Can be pricey
- Not animal-friendly
Related: Just like their adult-sized counterparts, the KEEN Pyrenees WP Hiking Boot marries high-end materials and top-notch construction with optimal comfort to create a boot that can take on the toughest trail while cradling little feet. These fully waterproof nubuck leather boots are experts at absorbing and dissipating shock, and the patented toe guards prevents any painful stubbing.
These boots will stay comfortable and dry even on full-day hikes, guaranteeing that your little one will likely give out before they do. You’ll pay a bit more for these high-performance boots, but if you have more than one little hiker in your family, these will definitely make the hand-me-down cut.
The last thing you want to be thinking about on the trail is your footwear, that’s why it pays to think about it plenty before you make a purchase. That goes double for kids, who are always rougher on shoes and boots—even if they grow out of them in a single season.
That being said, it might seem to make fiscal sense to settle for cheaper hiking boots when getting your kids trail-ready, but it only takes one cold, wet, messy hike (or one badly sprained ankle) to remind you why you should always do your homework and invest a bit of cash in your kids’ outdoor footwear.
Are you a hiking parent who’s purchased hiking boots for your little ones? Have you had a good (or less-than-good) experience with any of the brands mentioned here? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!