Choosing the Right Hiking Boots for Your Kids
Selecting kids’ hiking gear is as much about fit and performance as it is matching their personality. We hit the trail with three little ones to hand-pick a selection of kids’ hiking boots: the Salomon XA Pro 2 K trail runners, Lowa Kody GTX Mid Kids and the Vasque Breeze 2.0 WP boots.
by John Soltys
Since each of my kids turned four we’ve gone on at least one overnight backpacking trip every year. Over the years, I have found that selecting my kids’ gear is as much about fit and performance as it is matching their personality. And while no two families, much less kids, are alike, we’ve hand-picked a selection of kids’ hiking boots that are sure to help your kids enjoy their trail time even more.
Choosing the right trail trompers
Finding the right fit for kids. Boots are the hardest piece of gear to fit to a kid. As they grow, kids’ feet are not just getting bigger, they’re still developing. Babies are often born with flat feet, and sometimes they pronate, or turn outward. By age six, most have developed arches and their feet become less flexible, and they continue to develop until 13 to 15 years old.
Working new boots into your hand-me-down system. Be prepared to have a constantly changing collection of footwear. I’ve used the same brand and style of boot for the last 12 years, but with my kids I’ve developed a system of hand-me-downs and hand-me-arounds that has minimized cost, while still ensuring a comfortable and secure fit for each.
But as kids grow, new boots are still a necessity. Recently, my kids—ages 10, 8 and 6—put a selection of new hikers to the test. Here are their picks.
Salomon XA Pro 2 K
My oldest daughter loves trail runners and fell in love with Salomon’s XA Pro 2 K ($55).
After wearing them around the house for a day, she and I climbed up to Rattlesnake Ledge in North Bend. She was sure-footed on the well-maintained trail and scrambling on the ledge.
Our next outing was a more ambitious run up Iron Bear in the Teanaway. The trail was rougher with loose rocks and snow near the summit. The Salomons performed well, though after playing in the snow she admitted that her feet were a little cold.
Her favorite feature: “They have a little pocket on the tongue for the laces to go into so they don’t flop around.”
Lowa Kody GTX Mid Kids
My son, the youngest of the three, is amazingly similar to his oldest sister, but he prefers boots. He also climbed Iron Bear with us, and his Lowa Kody GTX Mid Kids ($150) were strong enough for him to kick rocks, but flexible enough for running uphill.
Additionally, he and I toured the muddy trails of the Three Forks Natural Area in Snoqualmie for a quick afternoon adventure. The Gore-Tex boots kept his feet dry, and the heavy lugs prevented him from slipping on the thick layer of slimy leaves.
His favorite feature was clearly the Gore-Tex liner: “I like to walk in the mud and not get wet.” I must admit, so do I. “And they’re blue.”
Vasque Breeze 2.0 WP
The UltraDry lining kept her feet bone-dry right up to the point she waded too deep and water sloshed over the top. I wrung out her socks, and the boots were comfortable enough for us to continue hiking along a rainy Twin Falls Trail.
On the snow between Summerland and Panhandle Gap in Mount Rainier National Park, she kicked steps up the steep slopes and her feet never got cold.
Her favorite feature: “I like that they look like your boots, Daddy.” The Breeze do look the most like my boots, and sometimes that’s a really important consideration.