Kids go hiking with parents on a beautiful sunset

What to Look for in Hiking Shoes for Kids

If you plan to spend a lot of time on the trails with your family, you will need some essential equipment. One of those crucial things is proper footwear and thus proper hiking shoes for kids.

There has been a lot of discussion on this topic, so we wanted to provide a thorough guide on what are actually hiking shoes, what types are available, and what each one is suitable for.

We have an aim to help simplify the options and identify the best hiking shoes for kids according to your little one’s needs. 


What are Hiking Shoes for Kids?

Kids’ hiking shoes are the type of footwear specifically made to protect feet and ankles from injury during outdoor activities such as hiking. Hiking shoes, both hiking boots and sandals are one of the most important items of hiking gear. This is because they determine a kid’s ability to walk for long distances without injury.


The hiking shoes are designed to last longer (about 800 miles or 9 to 18 months for most people) but are heavier due to the added protection. This footwear is also stiffer than other footwear, such as trail runners. In general, the durability, the lighter weight, and the security are ideal for hikers.


Hiking Shoes VS Sneakers

Hiking shoes feature a much more aggressive tread on the shoe’s sole. This feature is great for gaining traction and balance on natural surfaces. A deeper tread depth of the sole allows it to dig into natural terrain much better. 

The deep grooves will grip the different terrain your kid will face on a hike, resulting in significantly improved overall performance.


The sneakers feature smooth soles for a greater grip on hard, flat surfaces, e.g., the gym floors, but their traction is greatly diminished on surfaces like wet grass. Besides this, sneakers do not offer the same level of support

Most hiking shoes include stronger materials under a kid’s foot to assist in keeping better balance on the route and prevent rolling. Even low-top hiking shoes provide far more support under the foot than sneakers. Of course, we all know that a mid-height hiking boot increases ankle support, but how the shoe’s sole is built is equally important.

And last but not least, kids’ hiking shoes are crafted from much more durable materials. A hiking boot’s components are generally more abrasion resistant and provide superior protection for the foot. 

The kid may encounter rocks, stumps, thorns, and other impediments while hiking. Because of this, hiking shoes will last much longer and protect your kid’s feet at the same time. When it comes to sneakers, especially sneakers for soccer, they are just not built to provide this kind of protection.


Ankle boots VS low-top hiking shoes

Hiking shoes for kids come in two styles: ankle-protecting boots and low-top shoes that resemble a more durable version of sneakers.


As a rule of thumb, ankle boots are better for steep terrain and full-on mountain treks since they give more stability and protection from bumps. 

On the other hand, low-top shoes are typically sufficient for flat terrain and rural walks.

Consider These Things When Searching for Hiking Shoes

Remember that your kids do not need to run a marathon or climb an Everest in order to have proper hiking footwear. Ankle support, weight, foot length, difficulty areas, and other factors are equally important for everyone.

Therefore, here are three main questions that you should ask yourself before purchasing a kid’s hiking shoes.

When will your kid hike?

Is your kid going on a hike in winter or summertime? Consider the season kid spends the most time outdoor so you can determine whether they will need hiking boots or hiking sandals.  

  • The heavier and higher-cut hiking shoes are recommended for winter and mid-season
  • Warmer weather calls for lighter-lower hiking shoes
  • As for hot summer days, look out for breathable, sandal-type hiking shoes 

Where will the hike take place?

Depending on where you and your kids live and what type of hike you plan, you may need different shoes. For example, if you reside on a rocky side, it is recommended to get versatile shoes that are flexible, lightweight, and waterproof.

How far will the hike be?

A mile-long walk in the woods with a four-year-old is not the same as a 5-mile hike with an eight-year-old. Thus consider proper shoes for little ones’ needs, and determine a decent time the hike will last.


What to Look for in Hiking Shoes for Kids?


Having uncomfortable shoes when hiking can be a pain point, especially for the parents. Thus, it is important to look out for flexible hiking shoes for kids while also providing appropriate support. 

It’s usually wise to let youngsters try on shoes first. If you are shopping online, you can easily determine the kid’s foot size via the Footmeter. Get your kid’s feet size easily, check the brand’s size chart and other features such as comfortability in the description and find the one suitable for your kid.


2. Traction

Youngsters must have sufficient traction when scaling on rocks or sprinting along rough dirt paths.

Slipping and falling on hard, slippery terrain can be dangerous if there is not enough traction. At this point, traction is essential for trekking safely during the colder months, as well as late winter and early spring.


3. Support

Ankle and arch support are important because they prevent kids’ ankles from twisting on uneven surfaces. Besides that, this feature is good for keeping away the twigs from slipping into the kid’s hiking shoes.


4. Durability

Durable shoes are equally important. However, parents are aware that a kid’s foot size at this point is constantly changing. Thus, depending on your kid’s age, you will need to change hiking boots from time to time. 

However, the more budget options are usually not durable, meaning you will have to replace them more frequently for the same price.

Decide your budget before seeking out for these shoes. In general, paying a little more for extra support and comfort, and for more durable and sustainable shoes, pays off in the long run since they last longer too.


Things to Consider Before Shopping for Hiking Shoes

We talked about how it isn’t such a good idea to use regular sneakers when kids are hiking. Thus, when shopping for hiking shoes, there are certain things we have to think about.

There is a significant difference between an adult and a kid. Firstly, the kid’s weight is much less. Thus there is less pressure on the foot itself. Luckily, they haven’t developed concerns like knee pain and haven’t had the chance to suffer from a lasting sports injury. These are some crucial things for adults, but not for kids, though.

Thus, there are a few key factors to consider when it comes to hiking shoes.


The stiffness of the hiking shoes

Kids’ hiking boots do not to be as stiff as hiking boots for adults because they do not have that extra weight shifting them around.

Besides weighing much less, kids usually do not carry much weight in their backpacks. Moreover, it is recommended that kids under the age of 4 do not carry much, if anything, on their backs. 


Waterproof hiking shoes

Looking out for waterproof hiking footwear is important since many kids are not looking where they are going. They are more likely to step into the puddle of mud. And sometimes, kids will jump in that muddy puddle on purpose because it is that fun. 

Most of the time, when your family takes a hike, at least one of the kid’s feet will be soaked in water. Besides that, children love playing around rivers, rock jumping across streams, and digging in the mud. This is why it is important to look out for waterproof footwear and even bring an extra pair of socks.



Because younger children are still learning their bodies, it is critical that they have a healthy center of gravity and a strong sense of the ground.


Outgrowing shoes

Younger kids usually outgrow their shoes, whether in length or in the width of the shoes, before they wear them out.  

If you have two or more kids, you can get the ones with better quality and then pass them down to a younger child. However, this is totally up to you since all feet are different, and it may not be as suitable for the other child as it was for the first one. If the kid has different gender preferences, consider buying a new pair of hiking shoes.


Try to avoid complicated hiking shoes

Sandals or boots with laces, extra buttons, narrow ankle glide, and similar things are not so great for little ones. This simply means that the kid will take forever to put their shoes on.

Many kids want comfortable and appealing shoes, and learning how to tie laces gets more difficult with complicated lacing on certain hiking shoes.


Can You Wear Hiking Shoes as Regular Shoes?

Although hiking boots and shoes are designed for walking on rugged terrain, they can also be worn on a daily basis or in more informal situations. Even so, hiking shoes can give even more assistance when walking. 

On the other hand, they are larger and heavier than conventional shoes, and they might wear out faster with casual use.


Shoelaces VS Velcro Closure for Hiking Shoes

You usually choose between shoelaces and velcro closures when buying new shoes for your kids. The same principles apply to hiking shoes.

Shoelaces provide the foot with more support and stability. Hence, they’re preferable if your kid goes on a long trek since they’ll hold the shoe and foot in place.

However, they can come undone and cause your kid to constantly halt on the way, whereas velcro is easy to manage and tends to stay in place as well.

A great compromise is a closed lace system/no tie laces shoes. These hiking shoes provide the stability of laces with the convenience of velcro closures.



  • Petra Moskatelo

    Petra is the main editor and writer here at Footmeter. She is passionate about helping people find the right solution. She holds a university Master's degree in pedagogy, and she knows a lot about children and learning.