Hiking is one of the most accessible and fun outdoor adventures for kids and families. You usually don’t need to go far to go for a hike, making it a great quick and easy activity for most families to do with little prep work or planning. But, gear-wise, what do you need to go hiking? Does your child need special hiking shoes or hiking boots? And if so, what are the best hiking shoes for kids? Today, Sara Lesire, Midwest adventure mom of two, is here to help you navigate the options of the best kids hiking shoes. With some help from Run Wild My Child team members and other outdoor adventure families, we also have first-hand reviews of many of the top brands and styles, plus our top picks.  

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the best hiking shoes for kids

Best hiking shoes for kids

Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities for families. There is little overhead cost or prep required, and it can be easily done close to home. When a family is just getting started hiking, a standard pair of children’s athletic shoes can do a decent job of keeping little toes safe and comfortable. However, if hiking becomes a common family activity, it can become well worth it to invest in a solid pair of hiking shoes or boots.

Hiking shoes can provide added comfort, stability, durability, and protection on the trail for both little kids and big kids. But there are so many options and brands to choose from. If you aren’t sure where to start or which brands are worth the price, this post is for you! 

Why hiking shoes are important

My kids have been hiking since they could walk. They have hiked in sandals, rain boots, tennis shoes, Crocs, jellies, and sparkly princess shoes (not recommended!). When they were young, they outgrew shoes quickly and spent very little time actually hiking on their own two legs (versus riding in a hiking backpack). However, as they grew and wanted to spend more time on the ground or splashing through creeks, it became more important to invest in a solid pair of hiking shoes for kids (or hiking boots) that would provide added safety and comfort. 

best kids hiking shoes

Types & styles of kids’ hiking shoes

There are several different styles of kids’ hiking shoes available, depending on what type of terrain your family will be hiking and which style feels most comfortable for your kids. In their most basic form, hiking shoes for kids can be categorized into three types: (1) hiking sandals, (2) trail runners, and (3) hiking boots. Let’s go over each style of hiking shoe and when/where it’s best to have each type. 

1. Kids’ hiking sandals

Are you planning short hikes, sandy trails, or trails with lots of water crossings? If so, you might consider hiking trail sandals.  Hiking sandals provide more durability and stability than normal sandals or water shoes. Most dedicated hiking sandals are designed to be well-ventilated and quick to dry. They can also keep feet cooler during hot weather. However, they do leave feet more exposed and may not be the best option for long, rugged, or overgrown terrain. 

best kids hiking sandals

Photo credit: @ExploreSTLparks

2. Kids’ trail runners

For many kids, trail runners may be a good all-around option for hiking shoes. Designed to fit more like traditional athletic shoes, these low-cut styles can fit more comfortably and are similar to shoes they are used to wearing. You can also save money by using this style of shoes for everyday play, as well as hitting the trails.

A downside of trail runners is that they offer less ankle support and may not have as much grip for rugged terrain. While some trail runners are waterproof, your child may step in water that is deep enough to go right over the top (speaking from experience!) and they take longer to dry out. 

best kids trail runners

3. Kids’ hiking boots

If your family is planning to hike long trails, climb mountains, or hike in the snow, then hiking boots may be a good investment. The higher cut of kids hiking boots offers better ankle support and more protection from rocks, brush, and snakes. Older kids who may carry a backpack with gear may benefit from hiking boots as they are putting more pressure on their feet. Many hiking boots are also waterproof.

The downsides to hiking boots are that they make take more time for kids to get accustomed to, can be too bulky and heavy for little feet, and can be hot when hiking during the summer months. 

best kids hiking boots

Features of kids’ hiking shoes

Kids’ hiking shoes or hiking boots offer several advantages over other styles of shoes for outdoor adventures. You may come across several different terms and wonder which features are the best options for your family based on the types of trails you will be tackling. Here’s a quick overview of the features you may want to look for in a kids’ hiking shoe, based on your location, terrain, and needs. 


Comfort is the most important feature of any type of boy or girl hiking shoe. Shoes that are not comfortable or don’t fit properly can lead to blisters, sore feet, and more whines per mile. While there can be some breaking in time for new shoes, hiking shoes or boots should still feel comfortable right out of the box. Adding a comfy pair of wool-blend hiking socks can provide added comfort and breathability while keeping children’s feet, heels and little toes blister-free. 

Style of lacing

Can your child tie their own laces easily and quickly? While laces offer more options for customizing the fit and can be replaced if they break, they can also be hard for little hands. Untied laces can be a safety hazard as well, causing kids to trip. Many styles of kids’ trail runners and hiking sandals use velcro or bungee laces that are much easier for kids to put on themselves. (And kids can take foreeeever to put on shoes!)


Another important thing you’ll want to consider is durability. You want your shoe investment to last. Cheaper options may not be as durable, but you can afford to replace them more often if your child’s feet are growing quickly. More expensive brands offer more durability, which is important if your family hikes often or for older kids whose foot growth has slowed down. Longer-lasting, more durable shoes will also be in better condition to pass down to another child, if you have more than one kid. 

Reinforced toes

Whichever style of hiking shoe you settle on, reinforced toes or bumpers are so important. Not only do they offer extra protection from stubbed toes, but think about how often your kids like to drag their toes along the ground or stick them into every rock or puddle. Reinforced toes will prolong the life of the shoe. 

Photo credit: @sara_mccarty


Traction is very important for hiking safely. especially if you hike in wet, snowy, or rugged conditions. Traction is also handy to avoid falls when kids find a fun pile of rocks to climb or are out on muddy hikes. Rubber soles are helpful when you’re traversing wet or rocky terrain. You can test the traction by having your kids try to slide or rub the sole of the shoes across the floor when trying them on. The flexibility of the sole of the shoe can make a big difference in how much traction you’ll get when hiking. Knobby soles also help with traction. 


Support is another important hiking shoe feature. Look for hiking shoes or boots that offer good support for the sole, arch, and toes. If you have a kid that rolls their ankle or is hiking long trails, the added ankle support of hiking boots versus trail runners may be a good option. Longer hikes may require additional support. 


There are pros and cons to waterproof shoes. If you are hiking in cooler or snowy conditions, waterproofing becomes important.  Or if you have a child that can’t stand wet feet. However, waterproof shoes do take longer to dry and water can still enter the shoe if is submerged long enough or deep enough. As waterproof shoes are more sealed, they can trap odors and make for warmer feet in summer. With how often my kids’ feet end up in the water, we tend to go with waterproof shoes!

best kids waterproof hiking shoes

How to shop for kids’ hiking shoes

There are several factors that can go into deciding which style or brand of hiking shoe will be the best fit for your child. Here are some important factors that you’ll need to consider when shopping for kids’ hiking shoes. 

Consider the seasons and weather

Will your hikes be more in the summer months when your child may wish for a lighter and more breathable pair of shoes? Or will your hikes be in a colder climate or in the snow where waterproofing, insulated linings, and a higher cut would be important? Does your climate have a lot of rain where a waterproof shoe is a necessity?

Consider the terrain you’ll be hiking

Are your hikes mostly on paved paths or well-groomed trails? A child’s regular athletic shoes may be sufficient, or a pair of trail runners could be a good option. If your hikes are longer, on rugged terrain, or involve water, then it may be time to look for a good pair of comfortable hiking shoes or boots for safer and happier hikes. Certain brands of hiking shoes also offer extra grip for slick and rough terrain to avoid slips or falls. 

Let kids try hiking shoes on in person

Always give kids hiking shoes or boots a thorough test for fit. Bring along the socks they will be wearing to the store as the thickness of the sock can make a big difference in fit. Have your child walk around the store and lean forward and back to check for enough room at the toe while making sure their heel doesn’t rub or pop out. Some outdoor stores even have mini rock walls kids could climb (or stairs) to check comfort and grip. 

Hiking shoe break-in period

While new hiking shoes and new hiking boots should feel pretty comfy out of the box, take the time to walk some easy and short trails to help break the shoes in better to avoid sore feet or blisters on a long hike. Some brands and outdoor stores even have generous return policies or guarantees if you decide the fit isn’t right after a short stroll on the trail and want to return items within a certain number of days of the original purchase. Comfortable shoes make for happy kids. 

best kids hiking shoes

How to save money on kids’ hiking shoes

Kids hiking shoes can be an investment and can cost more than other styles of shoes. However, there are some ways to help stretch your outdoor shopping dollars.

Select the size for longer wear

You always want to buy shoes that fit well, but are on the generous side to allow for some room for growth. If the weather permits, you can always start with thicker socks and transition down to slightly thinner socks as the child’s foot grows. Just make sure the shoe or boot is not too loose to avoid blisters. 

Plan for hand me downs

Kids will most likely outgrow a hiking shoe before they wear it out. If you have multiple kids, try to shop for a hiking shoe in a color and style that will work for multiple kids to help with the cost. 

Shop end of season

If you aren’t in a hurry or want to buy ahead, try waiting for end-of-season sales. I always buy winter boots in February when stores start to put them on clearance. Hiking sandals may be on sale towards the end of summer. The tricky part can be trying to decide which size growing feet will be in the following year. 

Shop used

Again, kids will usually outgrow a pair of good hiking shoes before they wear them out. So, shopping second-hand is a great option. I have been fortunate to find name-brand and barely used hiking shoes and sandals at consignment sales, yard sales, thrift shops, online marketplaces, and local yard sales in really good condition. You might be able to find local stores or swap sites that offer gently used kids’ shoes or boots. When buying used, check the shoes over carefully for signs of wear, broken laces, or other issues. 

best kids hiking shoes

Best brands of kids hiking sandals

Best all-around kids hiking sandals: Keen

Keen hiking sandals are a very popular hiking option with outdoor adventure families and get high marks from our team of moms. The company has its own line called Keen Kids, which offers numerous colors, patterns, and styles of hiking sandals for kids from toddler through big kids sizes.

Pros: Keen Newport and Seacamp sandals are easy even for little hands to get on and off. One great feature is that the sandals are machine washable for easy cleaning after a muddy trail. Keens have a reinforced toe for durability plus a closed toe to help keep out rocks. The Seacamp sandals offer more flexibility while the Newport line has a thicker sole for added protection. 

Jen from Wandering Vaethfully states that Keen sandals are top-notch for summer and her family has owned several styles over the years. Her family loves how they grip well and appreciate the freedom the kids’ sandals give for water crossings. No more worrying about sloshing in trapped water in a closed shoe. As a bonus, the shoes are very quick to dry when wet to provide an easy transition between water and dry land. 

Stephanie from Explore STL Parks also loves Keen Newport sandals for how durable, supportive, and versatile they are. Her family loves how sturdy the hiking sandals are with movement, especially side to side. Keens provide a good grip and traction for her kids when they climb boulders on hikes.

Cons: While the Keens are great for spring and summer hiking, they do lack ankle support for tougher terrain. The price can also be a barrier to some families. 

best kids hiking sandals

Photo credit: @wanderingvaethfully

Best value kids hiking sandals: HOBIBEAR

If you need a more budget-friendly option, HOBIBEAR costs about half that of bigger brands while still receiving over 7,000 high ratings on Amazon.

Pros: They offer sizes from toddler through big kid and a range of colors. HOBIBEARs offer a flexible and lightweight shoe with a cushioned footbed and adjustable velcro strap. Macquel from Colorado With Kiddos loves how quickly the HOBIBEAR hiking sandals are to dry when hiking to the many beautiful Colorado streams and lakes and finds them a good value for the price. 

Cons: Not as durable as Keens, toe reinforcement is not as strong.

best kids hiking sandals

Photo credit: @coloradowithkiddos

Best budget kids hiking sandals: Dream Pairs

Dream Pairs offers another affordable option. My kids enjoyed these when they were younger and hiked shorter distances or spent more time playing in creeks.

Pros: The Dream Pairs hiking sandals have breathable mesh, a flexible sole, and sturdy toe bumpers. We also appreciated that the webbing along the sides had smaller openings which helped prevent rocks from entering the sandal. While they are not as durable as more expensive brands, they can be a smart savings choice for fast-growing feet. 

Cons: Less durable than higher-priced brands. There are two straps required to put the shoe on, which can be tricky for little hands. 

Best kids’ hiking trail runners

Best all-around multipurpose kids trail runners: Merrell 

Merrell is one of the most popular brands of kids’ trail runners. Their hiking shoes can be a great option for kids to go straight from the school or the playground onto a hiking trail. The Merrell Kids Trail Chaser model is a great lightweight option available in a range of colors. 

Pros:  The Trail Chasers have an easy hook and loop closure, a comfy footbed, and a non-marking outsole with a flexible grip. The suede and mesh construction provides both durability and breathability. These shoes often are on sale or available at outdoor outlet locations, making them often a great buy.

Cons: Cost is a little high when full price. Not waterproof, although reviewers say they do offer some water resistance. 

Best lightweight kids trail runners: Salomon

Salomon is known for their high-quality outdoor gear for both kids and adults. 

Pros:  Adventure mom Nichole Holze loves Salomon Speedcross trail running shoes for her kids. They’re super lightweight and can handle getting wet. The rugged knobs on the bottom of the soles provide unbeatable traction in slick and tough terrain. 

Cons: The main con is that the Salomon brand tends to be pricey. 

Best kids trail runners

Photo credit: @coleyraeh

Best budget lightweight trail runners: Hawkwell

Hawkwell kids offers a great kids outdoor hiking shoe at a low price. My son actually wore these as everyday shoes to school and the playground as we managed to snag a pair during a sale. 

Pros: Great price. The Hawkwell hiking shoes are lightweight and breathable. The foam footbed provides comfort, and the traction is decent for the price. The hook and loop closure makes it easy for kids to get on and off themselves.

Cons: The toe protection is not the best and they are not as durable as more expensive brands. They also run more narrow compared to other brands. 

Best budget waterproof trail runners: Biacolum

Biacolum hiking shoes are a good waterproof kids hiking shoe option at a lower price. My daughter has worn these shoes in two different sizes over the past couple years and we’ve been happy with them for the price point.

Pros: We have been very impressed with the waterproofing on the Biacolum hiking shoes during rainy day hikes and creek crossings. These shoes also offer a good grip on the soles for good traction.

Cons: While they do have a velcro closure, the shoes have been a little trickier to get on compared to other velcro shoes as the tongue does not lift up quite as far. The price on these can vary widely online, so keep an eye out to snag these at a true budget price. 

best kids budget trail runners

Best trail runners for teens: Oboz

Oboz is a popular outdoor gear brand that is known for making high-quality and durable hiking shoes. 

Pros: Jen from Go Family Adventure has an older teen son who prefers Oboz brand low-cut style hiking shoes. Oboz offers many styles and colors in both waterproof and non-waterproof options. Her son likes how they are stylish and comfortable enough for everyday use in addition to hitting the trails. 

Cons: Oboz shoes start at $125 a pair, so the cost can be a splurge. They are only available in adult sizes, so they are not an option for younger hikers. 

Photo credit: @sara_mccarty

Best kids’ hiking boots

Best hiking boots for toddlers: L.L. Bean

There aren’t a lot of hiking boot options out there for the littlest of feet. L.L. Bean makes highly rated toddler trail model hikers so the youngest of your family can join in all the adventures in safety and comfort. 

Pros: The taller cut, durable heel, and toe bumpers provide extra protection toddlers need against rocks and debris. The boots feature a wide opening and hook-and-loop strap for easy on and off. The boots feature waterproofing to keep little feet safe and dry. The model is based on their adult train model hiking boots and then field-tested on kids. 

Cons: The shoes are only available in toddler sizes 5-9. The cost can be hard to justify for kids that may not hike long distances or who outgrow shoes quickly.  

Alternate option: The See Kai Run Sam Waterproof Boots come in both toddler (1-4 years) and little kid sizes (4-8 years). These lightweight shoes have classic waterproof hiking boot styling with easy elastic lace closure, flexible sole, and a durable rubber toe cap. 

Best all-around kid’s hiking boot brand: Merrell 

Merrell is one of the top hiking boot brands for all ages. They offer a wide variety of hiking boot styles for kids from sizes 4 toddler to big kids size 7. 

Pros: Jamie from Learning to Adventure loves the Merrell Kids Moab 2 hiking boot for her kids. She loves the durability, ankle support, toe protection, and waterproofing. Her family has hiked all over the Midwest in these through water, rain, and both flat and rocky terrain. The mix of leather and mesh materials keeps feet cooler in hotter temps. They also work great for kiddos with wider feet. 

Michelle from Wonder Club Explorers is a big fan of Merrell Moab Speed Waterproof Mid Boot. They’ve been great for her 8-year-old and should work well for ages 6-10. They are waterproof but not clunky and have worked well on hikes of several hours. They are designed with moisture-wicking technology to prevent sweaty feet, while the mesh uppers of the boot allow breathability. 

Cons: The big disadvantage of Merrell hiking boots can be the higher cost. Many Merrell boots run wide, so kids with more narrow feet may be prone to blisters if their feet slide around in the shoe. The laces are also not the sturdiest or longest compared to some other brands. They have also discontinued some of the styles that off-hook and loop closures instead of laces. 

best kids hiking shoes merrell

Photo credit: @wonderclubexplorers

best kids hiking boots

Photo credit @learningtoadventure

Best waterproof kids hiking boot: Columbia

Columbia’s Newton Ridge hiking boot is one of the top models in both adult and kids sizes. I actually wear this style in women’s for all my cooler weather, snowy, or longer terrain hikes. 

Pros: The Columbia hiking boots for kids feature a leather upper waterproof coating as well as a waterproof seam-sealed membrane, making them a good snow hiking boot. These boots are not as clunky or heavy as other waterproof boots. The soles have a good grip and non-marking rubber. These fit well on wider kid’s feet.

Cons: The leather construction is less breathable than boots that feature mesh uppers. These shoes also have laces instead of an easier hook-and-loop closure. 

Best hiking boots for older kids: Salomon

Pros: Jen from @gofamilyadventure‘s teenage son prefers Salomon hiking boots for their durability and ankle support. These sturdy boots are good for older children as they go all the way up to big kid size 7.5. 

Cons: Salomon boots run higher in cost than some other brands. 

Best budget water-resistant boots: Deer Stag

My son has owned a couple of pairs of Deer Stag Jr. Hikers over the years, and they have always provided comfort and support on miles of trails. While they don’t have quite the level of features as higher prices brands, they can provide a good mix of value and quality. 

Pros: While the price of these Deer Stags kids hikers can fluctuate online, we have always managed to find these boots at a great price. While they are only labeled water-resistant and not fully waterproof, they have done a good job of keeping my son’s feet dry during creek crossings and light rain. They have a thick and cushioned sole and some extra toe protection.

Cons: Most Deer Stag hiking boots have laces instead of easier hook-and-loop. The laces are not as long as I would prefer to allow double-tying. While the grip is pretty good, we have had other boots with better traction. 

deer stag kids hiking boots

Best snow hiking boot: Keen

Once again, Keen provides a great brand option when shopping for hiking boots for both small kids and big kids for winter adventures or hikes in the snow. The Keen Greta Waterproof Boot is a highly rated option for both building snowmen or hiking through the snowy woods. 

Pros: These kids’ snow boots are available in both little and big kid sizes and in a few different styles to best fit your child’s feet. These boots are both waterproof and breathable. Multi-direction lugs on the soles provide optimal grip for sure footing and great traction in the most rugged terrain. The insulation and fleece lining inside these boots are rated down to -25° F. The hook-and-loop strap makes the boots easy to get on and off.  

Cons: These are one of the higher-priced models of kids’ Keen hiking boots, but sales are frequent. The soles can be a little stiff as thicker boots are usually less flexible. 

Best budget cold weather boots: JMFCHI 

Pros: If you are planning on hiking in cold or slick conditions, these JMFCHI snow boots are a great option. They have a unique pop-out metal crampon that can provide extra grip in slick conditions. The boots have a plush and warm lining inside, while the higher cut helps keep snow out. While the boots are labeled water resistant and not waterproof, my son’s feet stayed dry during several hikes in the snow while wearing these boots all last winter. 

Cons: Not fully waterproof. The insulated lining can lead to sweaty feet. 

best kids winter hiking boots

Find the hiking shoes for the trails you hike most

While all the options and styles of hiking shoes can be overwhelming (both in features and price), we hope this post will help you focus on finding the pair for the style of trails your family likes to hike the most.

For younger kids, it may be better to start with trail runners that can serve as multi-purpose shoes for normal play and sports, as well as handling the trails. Older children who may hike more rugged and longer trails might benefit from the added features and support of hiking boots.

Finally, if you mostly venture outside only in summer or to play in creeks or beaches, then a pair of hiking sandals might be a smart choice. Hopefully, this guide gives you a place to start on your shopping journey!

best kids hiking shoes

More hiking with kids resources

If you’re interested in more great content about hiking with kids, be sure to check out the following posts:

Do you have a favorite style or brand of kids’ hiking shoes?

About the author

Sara has been married to her high school sweetheart for 17 years, and together they have two children. Sara spent many childhood hours outside on her grandparents’ farm and strives for her kids to have similar carefree kid adventures. Based in the St. Louis area, she loves to share on her blog and social media all the scenic and fun places to explore around the St. Louis area and beyond. Hiking is the most popular activity for her whole family, followed by hitting up the best local playgrounds. Photography is also a passion of Sara’s, and she continues to be amazed at the natural beauty and wonder of God’s creation. When she is not hitting the trail, Sara works as a civil engineer.

You can find more from Sara online in the following locations:
Instagram: @midwestnomadfamily
Facebook: Midwest Nomad Family
RWMC posts: Sara Lesire