Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Walking a mile in kids' hiking boots: Tips for footwear

Family boots around the marker in the Adirondacks
Foot wear is probably the most important piece of equipment for hiking with children. Their feet endure the most trauma when hiking. Having the proper foot wear can make or break an adventure.

Type of foot wear

There are so many choices when it comes to footwear for hiking, including, hiking boots, hiking shoes, cross trainers, mountaineering boots and runners.

When purchasing footwear for hiking with children, it is important to bring them to an outdoor store that specializes in outdoor gear. The staff at these outdoor stores are usually very knowledgeable about the different types of footwear and children can try different kinds of hiking footwear to determine the best footwear for them, depending on the type of hiking planned.

If you are planning to do mostly day hikes or shorter overnight hikes, a stable waterproof hiking boot will suit your children's needs while on the trail. Although many thru-hikers are turning to hiking shoes as the lighter option for the trail, hiking boots are preferred for children because they provide the extra ankle support so to prevent rollovers while on the trail. 

Most good quality boots also have toe protectors, which can prevent stubbing toes on the rocks, especially on longer hikes when your children's get tired and not lifting their feet over the rocks and tree roots on the trail.

Although your child’s feet are rapidly growing, spending the extra money on a good pair of hiking boots will alleviate a lot of pain and discomfort and it will be well worth the investment.


Never purchase boots that children will "grow into". The extra space in a boot can create too much movement, this creating hotspots and eventual blisters which will impede your adventure. Sore feet will slow a hiker down or halt the trip altogether. But boots that don't have sufficient room can also hurt the toes, especially when descending mountains. Children should be able to walk on their toes with their boots on without their toes touching the toe of the boot.

Waterproof hiking boots is a must

Waterproof boots is a must for children so they don't get their feet wet in the mud (but still bring extra socks on hot days in case they start developing hotspots). Hiking in wet boots will cause hotspots and blisters, as well soften the material in the boot which will make it less sturdy over time. 

You can purchase additional sprays to enhance waterproofing of the boots that you can apply both when you first purchase them and again at the start of a new hiking season. But despite all of the work put into keeping boots dry, there will be some hikes when it just rains the whole time and the boots will eventually get damp. It's important to make sure the boots are dry the next time you go on your hike, which may not always be easy to do, especially when in the back country or camping. Sometimes using the camp fire is the only way to dry them, but just make sure you don't put them too close to the fire!

Drying boots around the campfire after a rainy hike


Along with being waterproof, a boot needs to allow your foot to breath. This allows your foot to stay dry from perspiration and allows your foot to remain cool. On longer hikes, it is always good to bring another pair of socks so children can change their socks half way through the trip to make sure their feet remain dry. We usually encourage taking off the boots and socks during longer breaks to give the boots and the feet the opportunity to dry before getting back on the trail.


Ensure the boot has adequate grips. Rubber with a heavy thread reduces the chance of slipping and allows for a good grip when concurring a slide or a scramble. You will also want to pay attention to the traction of the boot (Some outdoor stores have traction testing in their stores so children can test the traction of various boots).

Children should be in sturdy hiking boots and you want to also consider the stiffness of the sole. We bought boots that were very flexible (you could actually bend the boot) and the children complained that they could feel the rocks as they stepped over them because the boot did not provide protection from the pointing rocks on the trail.


Frayed laces should be replaced. A frayed lace is susceptible to breakage. A tight boot is necessary to keep stability and comfort. Although most higher end boots will come with sturdy laces, its always a good idea to pack a few more laces in your packs, just in case a lace breaks by getting cut on sharp rocks.

Replacing boots

When is it time to replace your boots? When you consider that the boots will take the most beating on the trail, replacing the boots may be needed, even if the children have not yet grown out of them. 

Here are some common signs that it is time to replace your children's boots:

The tread is worn down: There are typical spots where the tread tends to wear first. The toe area is usually the first place on the boot that begins to be compromised by repeated contact with rocks and tree roots. Also, as the grip begins to wear down, the boot becomes less slip resistant and can become unsafe when navigating on slippery rocks.

Waterproofing or resistance is wearing off: You can use a spray to help restore some of the water resistance, however, once you have to start to spray the boot it is usually a sign that the boots should be replaced. The more water resistant spray you put on the boots, the less breathable the boots become, which can create other issues of discomfort.

The boots are now too small: Children's feet grow quickly and when a boot is too small, the decent from a mountain can become extremely painful on the toes. This can create blisters and the possibility of loosing a toe nail.

The lining inside the boots has become compromised: After repeated use, the lining of the boots may begin to wear down and buckle. Creases in the lining can cause a lot of pain and create hotspots and blisters. In additional, if the lining or padding in the boots wear down, the stability and support is also compromised.

Tears along the boot and the sole: If there is a separation in the boot in the sole of the boots, water can easily find its way into the boots. Wet feet can create a multitude of feet issues you want to avoid.


We can't talk about boots without mentioning the importance of socks! Always have at least two pairs of socks. Hiking socks should include wick moisture that helps to control the moisture of feet sweating while on the trail. Many good hiking socks are on the market that are made of quick dry materials. These also can be purchased at many outdoor stores. Ensure the correct size of the socks is also important. A sock that is too big or too small can bunch up in the boot creating pain. This usually happens around the heal area or the toes.


Footwear is the most essential part of your adventure equipment. Having a professional help you select the best boot and size for your foot is something we highly recommend. Have your children walk around the store to get a feel for the boot to make sure its a proper fit and to consider any potential issues like hotspots that may arise. 

Don't worry so much about the brand name but instead focus on fit, comfort, waterproofing, durability and support. Children may prefer the shining colours more than the specs, but that is why you are there to make sure the boots fit properly and will serve its purpose on the trail. Spend the money now and reap the rewards on the trail.


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