Hiking and getting out in nature is something that the whole family can enjoy, and kids are actually some of the best hiking companions. However, trying to find the best hiking shoes for kids can be challenging.
Just like with your own hihiking shoes, kids need to also take care of their feet while out on the trails. Luckily, many well-known hiking boot brands also make youth hiking shoes that have the same features and quality as the ones made for adults.
Here are the best hiking shoes for kids, based on a 4-week period of testing with my two nephews in the Rustic Canyon and Escondido Falls Trail, so you can also outfit your children with the proper gear for outdoor life.
Our Top Recommended Hiking Shoes For Kids
1) Merrell Unisex-Child Trail Chaser
This versatile kid’s hiking shoe works for both boys and girls and comes in several colors that match your child’s preference.
Some of the best kids’ hiking shoes on the market, these Merrells look more like regular sneakers than hiking boots, which makes them a good option for everyday use and hitting the trail.
Merrell makes some of my favorite hiking shoes for adults, so I was excited to see they had an option for children as well. They provide great traction, and I also really liked that they have an easy hook and loop closure so that younger hikers can fasten the shoes themselves.
The upper of the shoe is made of suede and breathable mesh, so you won’t hear complaining about sweaty feet. The traction on the bottom is excellent, and the outsoles are also non-marking, which is great when the kids wear them for other purposes.
The Merrell Child Trail Chaser is also coming in smaller sizes, for toddlers. It is called Merrell Unisex-Child Trail Chaser Jr Hiking Sneaker and is considered one of the best hiking shoes for toddlers.
2) Merrell Unisex-Child Core Moab 2 Mid WTRPF Hiking Boot
This hiking boot is best if you need more ankle support or will complete more technical hikes with your children.
The Merrel Moab 2 is one of the best hiking boots for adults, and the children’s version goes directly on the best hiking shoes for kids list.
It’s definitely a hiking boot and not a hiking shoe, so it’s not going to be the best for everyday wear, but it will protect your child’s feet well in the outdoors.
These hiking boots are waterproof, which makes them a good fit for trails where you’ll need to cross streams or trek through other wet areas.
My nephews did wish that there was a bit more color selection. There’s really only one color option for the boy’s hiking shoes, but it’s a neutral brown, so most boys will find that it suits their style.
3) KEEN Unisex-Child Chandler CNX Comfortable Hiking Shoe
The low-profile outsole provides great traction without feeling extra bulky, something that younger hikers will appreciate.
These kids hiking shoes come in both toddler and bigger kid options. The toddler hiking shoes have a Velcro closure while the bigger kid option uses an easy, secure-fit lacing system that locks into place.
This shoe offers a great choice of color options —one of the best that you will find for kids hiking shoes, which makes your kid excited to wear them and helps personalize the style a bit. If you’re looking for girls hiking shoes, this shoe has many suitable options.
My nephews both said that they felt breathable, even in hot weather. This feature was a requirement for me because they tend to complain when their little feet get too hot.
There’s also added toe protection to prevent toe injuries in rocky terrain and to help protect the kids hiking shoes from wear and tear.
4) Timberland Little Kid/Big Kid 6″ Premium Waterproof Boot
If you live in an area where it gets very cold, you and your kid will appreciate that these rain boots are insulated with fleece to keep them warm. They’re also waterproof, so they won’t get wet feet either.
Consider Timberland’s best hiking boots for kids (1-12 years old) if you’re looking for a stylish option that will also hold up well in the outdoors. The Timberland toddler hiking boots have the same classic style as the adult version.
My nephew was excited about finding a hiking boot pair that almost exactly matched his dad’s. When they arrived, they seemed to have the same high-quality craftsmanship as the adult version as well. They also fit true to size and are very comfy.
5) Columbia Unisex-Child Trailstorm Hiking Shoe
These light hiking shoes for kids make a great choice for school, the playground, and weekend treks. They are a great investment because they’re so versatile. One pair is all you need for various hiking kids’ activities.
If you’re looking for a pair of trail runners, these kids hiking shoes by Columbia make a great option. They come in little kids through big kids sizing options and various colors suitable for both boys and girls.
One of my nephews really liked that he was able to get an all-black option, as he’s found it difficult to even find regular sneakers in that color.
6) Salomon Unisex-Child Kids Outward Climasalomon
I like that this is a waterproof hiking boot because it’s often difficult to find that feature in kids hiking boots. The material also cleans easily, which is helpful for muddy hikes or camping.
Another brand that excels in the adult footwear market is Salomon, so I was excited to see this pair of kids hiking boots from the brand. These are pricier, but investing in them is a good choice if you take long hikes or go through rugged terrain.
They are suitable for both boys and girls, although the color combinations tend to lean more toward boys hiking boots. My nephew chose the burnt orange color for his hiking boot and loved the bright orange accent on the soles, which stood out as unique.
It’s not easy to find a good pair of kids hiking boots, and these definitely check nearly all of the boxes for what your child will need to stay happy and to protect their little feet.
7) Merrell Kid’s Altalight Low Hiking Sneaker
These kids hiking shoes look like traditional sneakers but provide features that make them suitable for more challenging types of terrain as well.
If you’re looking for a minimal, comfortable, lightweight design, these breathable hiking shoes are a good choice.
We have found from using these minimalist hiking shoes for kids that the QuantumGrip sole provides good traction but doesn’t make the shoe bulky or awkward to wear.
I liked that it has a removable footbed because one of my nephews requires special insoles, and this footwear could accommodate them well.
Kids also like the color options of this hiking shoe, which are fun and work well with different outfits.
8) Columbia unisex-child YOUTH NEWTON RIDGE
They are waterproof hiking boots made of PU-coated suede and have added features for comfort and protection, such as a padded mesh tongue and tech lite outsole that is thoroughly cushioned.
If you’re looking for kids hiking boots that will absolutely hold up to all of the elements and keep your kids from complaining about their feet on a long hike, these Columbia boots make a good option.
The non-marking tread means that they can also be worn indoors without any issues. However, they still provide the grip needed to safely navigate the outdoors.
I walked about 6 miles on rocky terrain with my nephew in these waterproof hiking shoes, and he said they did not give him any blisters, aches, or pains. His heel did not slip at all inside of the boot.
9) Hawkwell Kids Outdoor Hiking Shoe (Toddler/Little Kids/Big Kids)
The hook and loop closure makes it easier for little kids to put on and take off on their own, and it comes in several fun color combinations.
If you’re looking for a pair of hiking shoes for your hiking kid without spending a lot of money, this Hawkwell pair looks great and is affordable as well.
Our analysis of this product revealed that one drawback to this kids’ hiking shoe is that although it is unisex, the colors are mostly geared toward boys.
My nephew often likes to run on the trail, and I personally consider these shoes suitable for kids trail runners. They held up well to his running, and he found them very comfortable.
10) Deer Stags Unisex-Child Drew-K
These hiking boots by Deer Stag look bulky but are actually lightweight and perfect for winter or wet weather. They are fully waterproof hiking shoes and provide additional ankle support.
The padded collar makes the ankles a bit more comfortable, and the traditional lacing system allows you to fully customize the fit, like for adult hiking boots.
My nephew didn’t complain once while wearing these on the hiking trail and has worn them for other activities that require a bit of walking outside of hiking, such as to festivals or day trips around town.
Although they are sturdy and feel more like snow boots, they are also flexible enough to allow the wearer to comfortably climb rocks and move naturally throughout their environment.
Hiking Shoe Alternatives for Younger Kids & Toddlers
If you’re hiking with toddlers, you likely aren’t doing strenuous or technical trails. Since you likely won’t put your toddler in traditional hiking boots, here are some of the best hiking shoes for toddlers that you’ll want to check out.
1. Kids Hiking Sandals
Kids’ hiking sandals make a perfect option for summer hiking. Not only will you get more use out of them than a traditional hiking boot, but your toddler or younger kid will find them comfortable to wear all day.
Hiking sandals are also suitable for other adventures besides hiking and hold up well to everyday use.
KEEN Unisex-Child Seacamp 2 CNX Closed Toe Sandals
This Keen kids hiking sandal is water resistant, has good traction, and the closed toe protects against injury.
If you’re looking for a great option for kids’ good hiking sandals, consider the Keen Seacamp CNX Sandal. It also comes up mid-height on the ankle to provide a bit of support.
2. Kids Trail Runners
If you’re interested in something that covers the foot a bit more than a hiking sandal, consider trail running shoes. These light-construction hiking shoes for kids provide great traction and good support.
Trail runners also can easily be worn as regular kids’ shoes and make the perfect shoe option for families that just started hiking or want a pair of children’s hiking shoes that is not a full hiking boot.
Salomon Kids Speedcross CLIMASALOMON
Salomon Kids Speedcross are waterproof shoes, that have extra grip, and are perfect for play or exploration because they are flexible and comfortable.
Kids Hiking Boots Buyer’s Guide
When buying the best hiking shoes for kids, we considered some of the same factors as adult hiking shoes, but applied them to the way kids run, walk, and play. Here are the specific key features that we looked at as we came up with our recommendations.
When looking for a kids hiking shoe, comfort is one of the main considerations. A toddler or child will complain if their feet start to hurt partway through a hike. You will not get very far on your adventure with an unhappy son or daughter, so making sure the kid’s shoes fit comfortably is very important.
Along the same lines of comfort, the fit of hiking shoes for kids should be secure, but not too tight or too loose .
You don’t want your kids feet to rub against the inside of the shoe and possibly cause blisters or other painful areas.
When purchasing hiking shoes, make sure that you consider that kids’ sizes often run differently than adult sizes for the best fit.
When it comes to kids, lightweight hiking shoes are always the best choice.
A lightweight shoe will help them move better and not grow tired as quickly. For this reason, hiking sneakers or a trail runner pair often make the best choice for hiking shoes for kids.
The best pair of hiking shoes for kids will have a rugged rubber tread on the sole that provides great traction and prevents them from taking a slip or a fall on areas with rocks or other types of obstacles .
Proper traction is also essential when crossing streams or climbing or playing in light rain where tennis shoes or other footwear will prove useless and even dangerous.
The best hiking shoes for kids will perform well in various environments and will provide the right amount of support and durability.
They should also make it easy for the foot to breathe and be suitable for all different types of adventures.
Should I Size Up Kids Hiking Boots?
When buying new hiking boots or shoes for kids, you may want to consider sizing up. Many kids grow out of shoes quickly and you don’t want to have to buy new shoes all the time. As long as they are wearing thick socks, you should be ok going up a size.
What Else Do We Consider When Choosing the Best Hiking Boots for Kids?
As with any products that we recommend, when deciding on which hiking shoes for kids to add to our list, we considered a few external factors as well outside of the quality of the shoes.
Parents are the best source to recommend key features for and will evaluate whether a new pair of kids’ shoes worked well for their own kid.
So, when evaluating hiking shoes for kids, we considered all of the product reviews, especially parents that hiked with their kids in the shoes and how well they worked for young feet.
If you purchase hiking shoes for kids online, you want to make sure that they ship to you at a reasonable cost, arrived quickly and in good condition, and could easily be shipped back to the company if they didn’t fit.
A company that stands by its product provides an additional level of confidence when buying a new pair of shoes. Even if the pair of shoes proved themselves with their durability, we still looked to see if the company offered a warranty as a backup.
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Our Number 1 Pick
Although all of the kids hiking shoes on our list worked well for my nephews, the best pair was the Merrell Unisex-Child Trail Chaser Hiking Sneaker. This sneaker works perfectly for all of the different activities that kids do and easily transitions between them.
My nephews are very hard on their shoes, and these great hiking shoes held up well during all their adventures.
They rank high for durability, let the foot breathe well, and are easy for kids to put on and take off on their own.
Kids need hiking boots or kids hiking shoes if they will be climbing in the mountains or scrambling over rocks. If you primarily do short hikes or easy terrain, you can likely get by with other shoes for kids like a pair of great sneakers, tennis shoes, or snow boots.
However, make sure your kids wear hiking shoes that are appropriate if you are venturing on rough terrain.
Hiking shoes should last until your kid outgrows them and if you have multiple kids, you should be able to pass them from your older kids to your youngest having to buy trail shoes again.
Kids can hike well in trail running shoes or even tennis shoes. Trail runners provide enough traction and are also flexible. In fact, some of the best kids hiking shoes are trail runners and they work perfectly for most hikes that you’ll complete with your kiddo.
A hiking sandal makes a great option for kids, especially during the summer months. They are breathable and work well as water shoes, protecting your little ones small feet from sharp rocks. In fact, hiking sandals are some of the best toddler hiking shoes.