I’m particular about my shoes.

And not the shoes-must-be-trendy kind of particular. Nope. I don’t care how awesome they look; if they aren’t comfortable, I won’t buy them.

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So I guess it stands to reason that my kids are also incredibly picky about what goes on their feet. 😜

And we’ve learned that buying the best hiking shoes for kids is totally worth it. Comfortable feet means fewer complaints, longer hikes, and more fun. 

Over the years, we’ve tried lots of different brands and styles. In the next few minutes, I’ll share our top picks for the best hiking shoes for kids. Whether you’re looking for a hiking boot, trail runner, or waterproof shoe, we have options for you!

kid wears keen hiking sandals at rivers edge

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What to look for when buying hiking shoes for kids

Before I jump into our favorites, there are a few things you should look for when buying hiking shoes and boots for kids.

Comfort

First and foremost is comfort. If you’ve ever tried to walk a mile in a pair of shoes that rubs your heel the wrong way or doesn’t fit quite right, you know. A comfortable shoe is key. 

And we all know that if your kids don’t think a shoe is comfortable, they won’t wear it. Or, you’ll hear about it the entire time. 😅

Hands down, comfort is the most important thing when shopping for the best kids’ hiking shoes.

Aside from general fit, we’ve also found that a lighter-weight shoe plays a significant role in comfort and the longevity of hikes for kids. While heavier-duty boots last longer and can work great for older teens and adults, added weight for younger kids can make a big difference in the distance they’re willing to hike. In addition, lightweight hiking shoes and trail runners often bypass the uncomfortable break-in period. Another factor that can play a role in comfort is the flexibility of the sole. 

Favorite brand for comfort straight out of the box: Altra

Support

Choosing a hiking shoe with a sturdy, supportive sole will help protect little feet and aid in balance on rocky, uneven trails. Depending on the terrain you’re most likely to trek, you may also want to consider a mid or ankle-high boot for additional support. 

Favorite brands for support: KEEN and Merrell

Traction

You’ll want to look for a hiking shoe with good traction. A grippy sole will help keep little legs from slipping along the trail on leaves, mud, and rocks.

Favorite brands for traction: Altra and KEEN

Durability

When you’re spending money on shoes for kids that grow quickly, one of the key factors is durability. We’ve found quality hiking shoes can often last us through both kids, OR we can choose to resell them and use those funds towards the next size of shoes. 

Favorite brand for durability: KEEN

kid wears keen newport sandals in forest on a hike

Breathability and Waterproofing

Depending on where you live, and the time of year you’re hiking, a couple additional factors to consider are breathability and waterproofing. 

Waterproof hiking shoes are a must when it comes to fall and winter in the Pacific Northwest. However, we tend to look for a more breathable option in the summer.

Our Top Picks for the Best Hiking Shoes (and boots) for Kids

I’ve narrowed down the following categories to our top two or three choices to help you sort through them faster.

You can read through them all to discover what makes them each unique. Or, if you’re looking for something specific, feel free to just scroll directly to the category that best fits your needs. 

Best Overall Hiking Shoe for Kids

KEEN Targhee Low Waterproof Hiking Shoe – Little Kid or Big Kid

The KEEN Targhee Waterproof Shoe has been a favorite with my boys. It is sturdy enough for hikes yet comfortable enough for playgrounds. More importantly, it keeps their feet dry in wet grass or during the rainy PNW fall and winter. In addition, the quick bungee cinch makes getting them on and off, well…a cinch. 😉

Our Top Pick
KEEN Targhee Low Height Waterproof Hiking Shoe
$75.00 $44.95

The KEEN Targhee Low Waterproof Hiking Shoe is our top pick for durability, versatility, and comfort. Our kids have worn these for hiking, playground days, and more. We've come back to this model over and over.

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01/28/2023 02:06 pm GMT

Best Hiking Boots for Kids

When it comes to hiking boots, we like to choose options that have excellent traction, ankle support for rocky trails, and are durable enough to last until our kids outgrow them. Here are some of our top picks that fit our criteria.

KEEN Targhee Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

Similar to the KEEN Targhee Waterproof Shoe, the KEEN Targhee Waterproof Boot gives comfortable stability for hikes. With the boot, you’ll get additional ankle support which is excellent for rocky trails.

Ankle Support
KEEN Targhee Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
$80.00 $49.95

A slightly higher version of the low Targhee, the mid-height boot gives additional ankle stability and support.

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01/28/2023 02:11 pm GMT

Merrell Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot

Both breathable and waterproof, the Merrell Moab 2 is another boot my kids have loved. It has great traction and is waterproof, making it an excellent choice for fall and winter hikes. 

Great Traction
Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
$69.95

The Moab from Merrell is another boot that our boys have worn. It is durable, has great traction, and I heard zero complaints about its comfort.

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01/28/2023 07:25 am GMT

Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes for Kids

Living in Oregon means we need hiking shoes that can withstand any weather, especially through the fall and winter months. Here are some of our favorite options that stand up to wet, muddy hikes in the PNW.

KEEN Targhee Low Waterproof Hiking Shoes

Our top pick for the Best Overall Hiking Shoe for kids, the KEEN Targhee Low Waterproof also excels in the waterproof category. Our kids have worn these for hours in the rainy season here in the Pacific Northwest, and they’ve always kept their feet dry…unless they completely submerged them in a river, that is. 😜

Our Top Pick
KEEN Targhee Low Height Waterproof Hiking Shoe
$75.00 $44.95

The KEEN Targhee Low Waterproof Hiking Shoe is our top pick for durability, versatility, and comfort. Our kids have worn these for hiking, playground days, and more. We've come back to this model over and over.

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01/28/2023 02:06 pm GMT

Merrell Moab Low-Lace Waterproof Sneaker

Our youngest has had a couple pairs of the Merrell Moab over the years, and it’s always been one of our top picks for several reasons:

  1. With some shoes, he’ll complain for the first few hikes. With the Moab, they seem to be comfortable for him straight out of the box.
  2. They are durable. He’s never worn a pair out before outgrowing them, meaning we can resell or gift to someone else when we’re done with them.
  3. They keep his feet dry and warm.
Waterproof Comfort
Merrell Moab Low Lace Waterproof Hiking Sneaker
$60.00 $31.35

Our youngest is a huge fan of this style and has had a couple of pairs over the years. They keep his feet dry in wet PNW weather and take him easily from the trail to the playground.

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01/28/2023 09:34 am GMT

Best Hiking Sandal for Kids

When it comes to summer, our kids often like to walk right through shallow rivers and streams…can you really blame them, though?! Needless to say, for summer, we prefer something sturdy enough for a few miles on the trail that can also double as a water shoe for rivers or paddleboarding. This is why we often choose hiking sandals as our main summer hiker.

KEEN Newport H2

The KEEN Newport H2 was one of our oldest’s first “real” shoes. It was the perfect sturdy shoe for little feet to get comfortable on the trail and to protect little toes from getting stubbed. 

Believe it or not, we were able to save them for our youngest and still resell them – they practically looked new! To this day, they’ve been a regular rotation in our summer hiking gear. My favorite part? You can wash them!!

Best Hybrid Water Shoe & Hiker
KEEN Big Kid's Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandals
$65.00 $29.95

The Newport H2 is a staple in the KEEN lineup for both adults and kids. Sturdy soles and toe caps protect the feet, but even better - they're washable!! Head directly to KEEN to see all the amazing patterns and colors available. Cheetah rainbow, anyone?!

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01/28/2023 02:16 pm GMT

KEEN Seacamp II CNX

My youngest recently tried out the KEEN Seacamp II CNX as well. They are another excellent option for water shoes that can double as a hiker. The Seacamp has a softer, thinner, more flexible sole compared to the Newport. 

boy jumps out of water in river wearing keen sandals

This means my son loved the comfort even more (he said they felt like house shoes), but in terms of durability, they did seem to show wear quicker than we’ve experienced with the Newports. That said, he still managed to make it through the majority of two summers with them – we got them a little on the big side, and I swear he wore them until I had to hide them. 😆

Lightweight Flexibility
KEEN Big Kid's Seacamp 2 CNX Closed Toe Sandal
$17.46

Lighter and more flexible than the H2, the Seacamp 2 is a massive hit around here. Our youngest is in love with this model from KEEN. They were comfortable for him straight out of the box and have taken him everywhere from the trail to the lake to the playground.

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01/28/2023 02:26 am GMT

Best Winter Hiking Shoes

A true winter hiking shoe may not be necessary, depending on where you live. For instance, most of the time, we’re good with a mid-high waterproof hiking boot for the kids on day hikes. 

But, if we know that we’re going to spend lots of time snowshoeing, playing in the snow, or going on longer adventures in the cold weather, we’ll end up with an insulated boot for the season. Here are a couple of our top picks.

KEEN Kootenay IV Waterproof Snow Boots

We prefer a true hiking boot for snowshoeing or longer hikes during the winter. The KEEN Kootenay Waterproof Snow Boots are a great option. Easy on and easy off with hook and loop closure, they provide warm, cozy insulation (rated to -4°F) with a waterproof, breathable membrane. 

Warm & Waterproof
KEEN Kootenay 4 Mid Height Insulated Waterproof Snow Boot
$56.04

Need a boot that can handle cold, snowy (or rainy) days? The KEEN Kootenay is designed to do exactly that. For wet winter days or light snow, this boot provides little feet with warmth, comfort, and stability.

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01/28/2023 03:12 am GMT

Bogs Classic Insulated Boots

In terms of ease, the Bogs Classic Insulated Boots are great. These rain boots are warm, insulated, and easy to pull on; our kids have found them extremely comfortable. They’ve been our boot of choice for outdoor school or situations when the boys needed to be able to pull them on and off quickly themselves. In terms of hiking, they work great for short distances or flat trails but aren’t really designed for long distances or technical terrain.

Pull-on Warmth
Bogs Kids Neo Classic Boot
$149.16

These pull-on boots from Bogs are warm and waterproof. For long hikes, we prefer an option with a lace or a cinch, but for quick hikes or other activities, we love the Bog Neo Classic. We've used them on very wet days, long days at outdoor forest school, and traipsing through the parking lot on snowboarding days.

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01/28/2023 08:44 am GMT

Best Summer Hiking Shoes for Kids

Looking for a hiking shoe that is cool enough for summer hikes but don’t need a water shoe? Here are a couple of great options.

KEEN Targhee Sport Vent Hiking Shoes

Another of our favorites in the KEEN Targhee line is the Sport Vent Hiking Shoes. This breathable hiking sneaker is perfect for any terrain and utilizes the easy bungee lace cinch we love. 

Easy-On and Breathable
KEEN Targhee Sport Vented Hiking Shoe
$65.00 $44.95

We love the bungee-style closure on these breathable hiking shoes from KEEN. They're durable, easy to get on and off, and perfect for hiking in warm weather.

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01/28/2023 02:04 pm GMT

Merrell Moab Speed Low Waterproof

These hybrid sneakers from Merrell are breathable and waterproof making them an excellent choice for summer hikes. The toe cap is reinforced for durability and it has a grippy rubber outsole for various conditions on the trail.

Waterproof Breathability
Merrell Moab Speed Low Waterproof Hiking Sneaker
$58.00 $36.00

Another great choice for a hybrid hiking shoe in summer, the Merrell Moab Speed Low Hiking Shoe is designed to breath well while keeping feet dry.

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01/28/2023 08:02 am GMT

Best Trail Runner / Lightweight Hiking Shoe for Kids

Trail runners or lightweight hiking shoes are awesome for kids. Let’s be honest. They grow so fast that buying multiple pairs of shoes every season can get rather pricey. Thankfully, trail runners are fantastic because they perform great on hikes and can also serve double duty at the playground or field.

Of course, each type of hiking shoe has pros and cons, and lightweight hikers like trail runners are no different.

Our favorite thing about trail runners is that they tend to be comfortable straight out of the box. There is little to no break-in time, they are lightweight and have fantastic traction for running on various trail conditions. Our least favorite thing about trail runners is that they don’t tend to last as long. In addition, they aren’t as sturdy on rough terrain.

Altra Youth Lone Peak

A few years ago, my husband and I came across the Altra line of trail runners and fell in love, specifically with the Lone Peak. Turns out they have a youth version! Our boys have both had a pair and still ask for them when it’s time to size up. 

Unfortunately, we had a hard time finding the right size for our youngest this year, and the offerings online seem sparse. I’m crossing my fingers that they’re getting ready to restock and that they aren’t discontinued. 😅

Lightweight Comfort & Grip
Altra Youth Lone Peak Trail Running Shoe
$69.95

The Altra Youth Lone Peak is one of our kids' all-time favorite shoes to wear hiking. They are truly comfortable straight out of the box and the TrailClaw outsole provides phenomenal grip on the trail.

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01/28/2023 04:36 am GMT

Merrell Trail Chaser Hiking Sneaker

The Trail Chaser from Merrell is another excellent choice for a lightweight hiking shoe for kids. It’s perfect for playgrounds and trails and is easy to put on and take off with hook and loop closure.

Easy-on, Easy-off
Merrell Trail Chaser Hiking Sneaker
$48.00

The Trail Chaser from Merrell is designed to go from trail to playground and everywhere in between. Bonus: It features an anti-stink lining. 🙌

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01/28/2023 06:34 am GMT

Final Thoughts on the Best Hiking Shoes for Kids

Choosing the right hiking shoe for your kids will depend on a few key factors, such as the type of terrain and weather you’ll encounter, your budget, and what color shoe your 5-year-old is currently obsessed with. 😉 

But, ultimately, we’ve found that putting in the effort to find the best fit and quality pair of shoes possible pays off in dividends when we avoid uncomfortable feet for our kids. 

Do little kids need hiking boots?

While hiking boots can provide extra protection for feet, little kids, especially toddlers, can usually get away with regular tennis shoes for hiking. When you’re still carrying them half the time or you’re not covering much ground, tennis shoes will be sufficient. We do recommend bringing an extra pair of socks and choosing waterproof sneakers if possible – cold, wet feet aren’t fun!

Can kids hike in tennis shoes?

In many instances, yes. Tennis shoes can be a good choice for kids on hikes. If you’re heading to a paved nature trail or a flat, dry trail, regular tennis shoes will work just fine. If you choose to go this route, we recommend using a spare pair so your kid’s everyday shoes stay in good condition. 😉

However, if you’re going to be hiking longer distances, on wet, slippery trails, or over lots of rocks and roots, you’ll definitely want something with additional grip and stability.

Should kids wear hiking shoes?

Hiking shoes for kids provide additional stability and grip over standard tennis shoes. Having a specific hiking shoe for adventures also keeps their everyday shoes in better condition as hiking can be rough on standard tennis shoes.

Should I size up kids hiking boots?

Sizing up slightly is often a good idea for kids as their feet grow so rapidly. Most of the time, we size up approximately 1/2-1 size when purchasing hiking shoes (or other adventure shoes).

However, it’s important to ensure that the shoes aren’t excessively large and that the extra room won’t cause rubbing, blisters, or discomfort. It’s a good idea to test them out at home prior to heading out on your first hike. Some brands are now even creating an insert that can be removed to give extra space for growing feet. 🙌

How much do hiking shoes for kids cost?

Hiking shoes for kids can vary widely in cost, ranging from around $30 up to $100. Cost changes based on the type of shoe (boot, trail runner, sandal, etc.), durability, and other factors.

You can shop sales, buy used, or borrow if you’re looking to save on shoes for your kids.

Are sneakers OK for hiking?

It depends. Heading out on a paved nature trail or a short trail during summer? Sneakers will likely be just fine – though they may get a bit dirty. But if you’re planning to hike in cold or wet weather, you’ll be happier with a waterproof shoe or boot. And if you expect to hike on rocky terrain or over long distances, a more sturdy shoe or boot will protect feet and provide more support than sneakers.

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