Best Hiking Shoes for Kids 2023

Best Hiking Shoes for Kids

Spending the money on pint-sized hiking shoes for kids can feel like a a waste, especially when your child is going to grow out of them so quickly.

Can your child just get away with wearing their basic kids running shoes or sandals on a hike? Well, yes, but mostly no. If your hikes are mainly easy, flat trails under a mile without a lot of rocks and roots, your child will be fine in most footwear.

However, if you want to take your child on longer adventures, and you want them to enjoy those adventures, a good pair of hiking shoes is a critical piece of gear.

Their shoe is the connection between them and the ground, and if they are uncomfortable, then YOU will be uncomfortable. If your children are like mine, they are certain to make you know when something doesn’t feel right.

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Minimalist hiking shoes for kids

Many Mamas prefer more minimalist-style shoes for themselves and their children. This means they look for shoes with flexible soles and a foot bed that is more neutral than a typical sneaker.

There are many companies that make minimalist shoes for younger children, but these are harder to find as kids get older and harder on footwear. If you can, try to find shoes that are still flexible for young feet, while offering the protection and traction necessary for technical terrain.

>>>Looking for more hiking gear recommendations? Check out this post!<<<

What to look for in hiking shoes for kids:

1. Comfort

There is nothing worse than uncomfortable shoes when you’re out hiking. Besides dealing with a whole pile of kids who are really uncomfortable, of course! As mentioned above, we prefer hiking shoes for kids that are flexible for comfort while still giving them adequate support. Letting kids try shoes on beforehand is always best.

2. Durability

As a mom, I always hope that my kids’ shoes will last for as long as they fit into them…and bonus points if we can pass them down to other kids afterwards. As you will see below, we have noticed that more budget options usually aren’t AS durable, but that also means you can replace them more often for the same price.

As our kids get older, we find that paying a little more for support and comfort pays off in the long run since they last longer too.

3. Traction

When kids are scrambling on rocks or running down loose dirt trails, it’s imperative that they have good traction. This also is different for scrambling shoes vs. water shoes. The shoes in this post all have great traction.

4. Support

Kids need both arch support and ankle support. While our kids prefer lower shoes versus higher hiking boots, we still look for shoes that will protect their arches and ankles as they climb, run, hike and play.

Best Hiking Shoe Accessory for Keeping Warm

If your children have poor circulation and often complain of cold feet, it can be hard to find a good pair of hiking shoes to keep them warm enough.  Alternatively, it can be hard to justify spending the money on an expensive pair of shoes just for the warmth, when they’ll outgrow them so quickly.

If you’re looking to keep your children’s feet warmer while hiking, consider Aurora Heat’s reusable foot warmers.  Made of sheared beaver fur, they act as natural insulators, helping to retain body heat. The fur compacts down quite nicely, easily fitting into your children’s socks before they put on their shoes.

They’re super practical too – my family wears them when skiing as well. They’re longlasting, making them an excellent addition for years of outdoor activities to come. Use my code MTNMAMA for 10% off your order.

Favorite Light Hiking Shoes for Kids or Trail Running Shoes for Kids

If your kids don’t find heavier hiking boots comfortable, a good option is to buy light hiking shoes or trail running shoes. They are not as durable as tradition hiking boots, but they get way more use out of them since they wear them all the time.

adidas TERREX Trailmaker RAIN.RDY Hiking Shoes: Waterproof with Excellent Traction

The adidas Terrex are a favorite since they not only have really great traction, but they’re waterproof too. This means they work on dry trails AND muddy trails.

We like that they are tie laces which, for these kinds of shoes, tend to hold up better.

Adidas shoes run slightly narrow and are best for kids with higher arches.

Salomon Speedcross Trail-Running Shoes – Kids’: Fantastic traction and durability

TMM Team Member Rita says, “My daughters wore a previous generation model of these shoes several years ago, and my sons now have the same shoe. I am impressed by the flexibility of the sole and the easy lacing system. I love that Salomon’s lacing system is made of a dense, high tensile material instead of elastic. My children have overstretched elastic lacing systems several times–so I avoid them now. It’s also possible to replace the elastic with regular laces.

The lug pattern and grip on these shoes is fantastic. I am often frustrated by children’s “hiking” shoes that don’t have good traction. The last I want when hiking up a granite ledge is to have my son or daughter start sliding off just because their shoes aren’t well built. These Salomon Trail Runners definitely have the right grip for most trail conditions.

Additionally, these shoes are made tough, and will last through multiple seasons. Win for this mom!

Child in a slot canyon wearing Salomon hiking sneakers
TMM Team Member Mary’s son in Salomon trail runners sticking well to canyon walls.

Merrell Big Kids Nova 3: Fantastic Traction and Durability

Many families love these shoes for summer hiking because they have great traction, breathe very well and come in wide widths too. Kids say they are great for “running up rocks”. One team member’s daughter calls them her spikes!

Downside? They are have elastic laces, which can easily break, and are not waterproof. However, they’re fantastic for dry conditions.

Child playing t-ball and wearing Merrell Nova sneakers
TMM Team Member Anna’s daughter wearing her “spikes” (aka Merrell Nova 3s) for t-ball.

Merrell Big Kids Trail Glove: Best minimalist hiking shoe for kids

If you want a zero heel-toe drop shoe, these are a great option. I used them as running shoes for years and the kids’ version is one of the few truly minimalist shoes out there for bigger kid sizes. They aren’t waterproof but dry quickly. The combination of elastic laces and a Velcro strap should help with longevity of the laces.

Best Hiking Shoes for Kids

The best hiking shoes for kids are ones that are comfortable, of course, have great traction and let feet breathe and move. These hiking shoes are more stable than the trail runners in the category above and are best for trail hiking.

We believe that investing in a good trail shoe is worth it (see Sezzle option above to help!), but we did include a budget option below also.

KEEN Targhee Waterproof Shoe: favorite hiking shoe for kids

Year after year, the waterproof Targhee shoe remains our favorite hiking shoe for big kids AND little kids. It comes in a shoe, a boot, and a sport vent model. They are fairly easy to get on and off, really protect kids’ feet and I can depend on them lasting through multiple kids.

Two girls with hiking backpacks wearing Keen hiking sneakers
TMM Team Member Laura’s daughters in Keen Targhee (left) and Keen Ridge Flex (right) shoes.

Merrell Moab Kid’s Hiking Shoes: Best multi-purpose shoe for kids hiking

These hiking shoes were a staple of my kids’ wardrobe for several years. They have flexible soles, sturdy laces, and enough traction for most trails. They don’t have quite enough rebound for distance running, though my sons have definitely run and played soccer in them comfortably.

I liked that the laces were real shoelaces—elastic ones always seemed to wear out or break, even though they are easier to put on. I also liked that the uppers were durable–a few pairs of these shoes were used by multiple children.

The Merrell Kids Moab hiking shoes for kids are a great, sturdy all around hiking shoe that you can use for short hikes or an overnight backpack trip. They are also available in a higher rise for when more ankle support is needed.

Two children on a ridge wearing hiking backpacks and Merrell Moab hiking sneakers
Merrell Moab low-top hiking shoes in action on the Old Bridle Path, New Hampshire.

Northside Gamma Hiking Shoes for Kids- Best budget pick

Northside is one of TMM Team Member Amelia’s top picks for budget-friendly hiking footwear. She finds them to be durable, and her children find them to be comfortable.

The Northside Gamma Hiking Shoe hits all the right targets for a kid’s hiking shoe. Respectable traction, durable nylon laces, and enough padding for comfortable day hikes. They make several models, but I like the low hiker model myself. They also maker higher-top models that are more rugged.

The cons with these shoes would be traction and long-term durability. They don’t have the same aggressive traction and anti-slip rubber that other shoes do–but for many kids, they are a fantastic option for getting out on the trail.

Another option for a budget buy is to check out your local (or online) REI garage sale for lightly loved gear. Once kids are in youth size 4 or so they will fit into smaller women’s sizes and there can be great deals on these.


Best Hiking Shoes for Toddlers

Toddlers tend to do well hiking in shoes for most situations since they move more freely in them. However, if they are rock climbing or bouldering or just hiking on more uneven ground, ankle support is a good idea.

Low Rise Hiking Shoes for Toddlers

Keen Chandler CNX Shoe

This hiking shoe is a favorite of many active families who have younger children. The elastic and velcro lacing system makes putting them on a breeze.

The traction on the bottom is adequate for most dirt packed, moderate trails. The grip is less rugged than the other shoes I have checked out, but for most adventures the traction is perfect.

The soles of these KEEN hiking shoes are thin and flexible, which is great for younger hikers who need a comfortable shoe to wear. They have a wide toe-box, and great ventilation. Plus, they come in so many fun colors.

Merrell Little Kid’s Trail Quest Jr.

The Merrell Trail Quest Jr. shoes have great traction (honestly better than the Keen Chandler), are easy on and off, and are machine-washable. They are a bit bulkier than the Chandler, but the rugged sole allows for safe adventuring on virtually any surface.

LL Bean Trail Model Hikers, Low

This is a low-top version of one of our top picks for high top hiking shoes for toddlers. It is a great option for a more durable boot-style shoe without the high ankle.

Hiking shoes for toddlers with ankle support

L.L. Bean Toddlers’ Waterproof Trail Model Hikers

These toddler hiking boots from L.L. Bean are definitely more boots than shoes, but are also the most “serious hiker” option for little ones. They are a bit stiff and run slightly small, but otherwise we love that they are easy to put on, truly are waterproof and really protect little feet.

Hiking in the LL Bean Trail Hikers

Reima Passo Shoes

Many TMM kids wear Reima Passos year-round for hiking, playing, and adventuring. They love that they are super light, are easy to put on (which is a big deal in the hiking-boot world!) and very durable. Of all the Reima shoes that have come through our home, these are our favorites.

They are also waterproof and flexible for easy moving. AND they are machine-washable, which is perfect for the muddy season. You can read more about why we love the Passo in our Reima shoe review here.

Wildings

From TMM Team Member, Kristin: “Our favorite shoes for summer are Wildlings. They take “minimal and zero drop” shoes to a new level, and are exceptionally flexible. They make for great hiking shoes. They fit more like a perfect sock than a shoe, and have wide toe boxes and split soles.

Downside is they aren’t waterproof, though wool models are very water resistant, and my feet have remained dry and warm even when caught in surprise rainstorms.”

Wearing Wildings shoes for hiking

Best Hiking Shoes for Kids for Trails Near Water

If you’ve ever hiked near a stream or lake, you already know what will happen when you combine a hike with water. That’s right–wet feet. My kids just love water, and no matter the season, they usually end up with wet toes or more.

Conveniently, there are myriads of choices for hiking shoes for kids for exactly these types of hikes. My children pretty much live in their hiking sandals all summer long, unless we are going for a longer, strenuous hike.

Keen Newport H2 Sandal

These have been our go-to hiking sandals for kids for years. I like the flexible sole on the Keen CNX line, versus Keen’s other styles. I also love the rugged toe bumper, which keeps their toes protected from inevitable sticks and rocks.

The velcro and elastic toggle system on these hiking shoes are easy for my kids to adjust. They are easy to rinse out and dry in the sun when adventures turn muddy. My kids do everything in these sandals–shorter hikes, runs, mountain biking, playing in the yard, and errands in town.

These Keens hold up really well, with several pairs getting passed down to multiple children. Younger kids might have trouble with getting them on, and Keen does make similar shoes for small feet that are easier for little ones.

Another popular model, for those who prefer thinner soles, is the Chandler CNX.

Best Hiking Shoes for Kids
TMM Team Member Rita’s daughter rocking her Keen Seacamp CNX’s on a hike

Merrell Bare Steps H2O

The Merrell Bare Steps H20 shoes are, by far, my favorite hiking water shoes for little kids. They have very few entry points for rocks, are really comfortable for little feet, and have proven to be durable for years now. What they lack in traction on dirt, they make up for in bouldering and rock play adventures since the flexible sole allows kids to move uninhibited.

Chaco Odyssey

There is a comprehensive review of these on our best water shoes for kids post. Here’s an excerpt: “A secure-fitting, stable, comfortable summer adventure shoe, the Chaco Odyssey is an incredibly versatile choice for kids who play hard. The Odyssey is an all-terrain closed-toed shoe that performs just as well on the hiking trail as it does on the playground or the beach.”

Hiking Shoes for Kids

Related posts:

Find ALL our hiking-related posts here!

Best Hiking Shoes for Kids

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  • Amanda, her husband, Josh, and their children, Colby and Lua, live in Oberlin, OH where Amanda is a Geosciences professor at Oberlin College. Amanda's parents live in New Hampshire and so they spend a lot of time there as well. They take advantage of homeschooling to maximize outdoors time for everyone. Amanda grew up in Hong Kong and spent summers in New Hampshire, where she found her love for nature. Pursuing a PhD in geosciences to study why Earth looks the way it does and how people change those processes was a natural outgrowth of her love for being outside. Their outdoor sports sort of follow seasons: the winter they love to ski, in the fall they race cyclocross, in the spring they ride bikes on day trips, and in the summer they rock climb, bike tour, take overnight canoe trips, and backpack.

7 thoughts on “Best Hiking Shoes for Kids 2023”

  1. Thanks for the reviews – I’ve been looking for my 6year old and our trip to Arizona where I think she needs more than tennis shoes. There are some brands I hadn’t considered and plenty to choose between.

    Reply
  2. I’m so happy to have found your site! This article, in particular, has been so helpful. We live on the southeast coast of NC, and we will start trail hiking again when the humidity starts to drop (it’s not fun hiking when it’s 95 degrees with 100% humidity…plus, I don’t handle snakes well, lol) and I’ve been looking for some decent hiking shoes for my daughter. I’m always on a budget, but I agree with you about spending more on a great pair of sneakers and/or hiking shoes. Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge!

    Reply
  3. The Merrell Moab Kid’s Hiking Shoes we bought for our daughter where not waterproof, at all! The where soaking wet within 15 minutes from walking through dewy grass and shallow puddles. And Merrell is very reluctant in their communication. So not a great recommendation.

    Reply
    • Oh bummer!! We didn’t have the same experience, but were also not walking in puddles in them. I’m sorry Merrell isn’t responding though!

      Reply

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