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Best Hiking Shoes for Toddlers

Hiking is a way of life, and over time, these kinds of activities gain more and more attention. The combination of fresh air, marvelous landscapes, and keeping yourself in good condition is one of the many advantages that hiking offers. A question that circulates the internet is what to do when you have a toddler? The answer is simple – take it for hiking.

Family hiking is fun, but the biggest mistake that most people make is when it comes to the toddler’s footwear. Regardless of age, proper hiking shoes are essential, even if your hiking adventures don’t seem too extreme.

If you are in a situation where you have a toddler that you want to take on hiking, today’s article is perfect for you. I’ll be outlining the best hiking shoes for toddlers. I won’t be focusing too much on a specific age, as most of these models have a wider range of age applications, so choose accordingly. Also, I will include a buying guide to help you make the best choice possible.

Best Hiking Shoes for Toddlers

Editor's Review SummaryBrandsAvailable 4-8 Year Old SizesAvailable 8-12 Year Old SizesRating
Our Top PickMerrell Kids Trail QuestUp to size 10Up to size 13.59.4
Runner UpMerrell Big Kid’s Chameleon 7 Access Mid A/C WaterproofUp to size 13.5Up to size 4.59.4
Best Trail Runner for KidsAdidas Outdoor Kids Terrex Tracerocker CFUp to size 2Up to size 39.0
Most StylishNew Balance Kids Fuel Core RevealUp to size 13.5Up to size 79.6
Best SupportL.L.Bean Toddlers’ Waterproof Trail Model HikersUp to size 9Not Available at this time9.2

Keep in mind that toddlers are not professional hikers, so you shouldn’t expect any high-performing shoes for toddlers. Another thing to point out is that, unlike my previous lists, this one won’t include pros and cons. These are not the kind of products that can be compared in such a way.

Finally, in this list, I won’t mention any sandals. While you can use them for some light hiking or walking, I wouldn’t recommend them as much as a decent pair of hiking shoes.

1. Merrell Kids Trail Quest

Our Top Pick
9.4/10 Our Score

Merrell Kids’ Trail Quest model is one of the most popular ones due to its flexibility. You get 4 color combinations that come in decent size offerings. The best part of this model is that there is also a width option. As our feet are not all identically wide, the ability to choose between tighter and wider footwear is an excellent feature. It means that you can fine-tune the size of your toddler’s feet.

The synthetic mesh design of the fabric allows the feet to breathe, aiming to eliminate as much of the moisture as possible. There are no laces in a classical sense; instead, they are bungee laces that can be tightened on the back. This works in combination with the hook and loop strap, ensuring that even little kids can tighten them without an adult’s help.

On the bottom, the Trail Quest is designed with a rubber outsole for additional protection on the front. For comfort, the Trail Quest has a removable footbed, giving you extra flexibility. In case your toddler has thicker socks, you can remove them to avoid excessive pressure on the feet.

2. Merrell Big Kid’s Chameleon 7 Access Mid A/C Waterproof

Our Top Pick
9.4/10 Our Score

The Chameleon 7 hiking boot from Merrell are the tougher variant of the Trial Quest, meaning that your toddler can tackle more challenging terrain. There are 4 color variations of this model, but it seems that the stocks are low at the time of writing, as there is only one available. There is no option to choose the width, with the wide size options, meaning that these can be purchased even for bigger kids.

Unlike its counterpart, the Trail Quest, the Chameleon 7 has a slightly higher profile for better ankle support, something you’d want for toddlers especially. Due to the higher profile, there is one strap on the top that provides the additional tightening point. As for the rest of the shoe, it’s standard – a bungee lace with a hook and loop that can be tightened by pulling the lace on the back.

The dual-layer design consists of a membrane that absorbs moisture and mesh material. Both work in combination to allow the toddler’s feet to breathe but keep them dry from outside moisture. As a result, in rain or puddles, the socks will remain bone-dry. The outsole is designed to provide excellent grip in tougher situations, while the toe bumper will help keep the shoes last longer.

3. Adidas Outdoor Kids Terrex Tracerocker CF

Our Top Pick
9.0/10 Our Score

Adidas is known for making excellent sports footwear, and the Terrex Tracerocker CF is no exception. Considering that this is a kid’s model, the two available color options are too dull for kids. In terms of sizes, the Terrex AX2R CF covers most of the range, making them suitable for toddlers and bigger kids.

To keep your toddler’s feet in place, the Terrex Tracerocker CF is designed with the similar bungee lace as most of the others. It helps enable your toddler to tighten them with ease, thanks to the pull-on tab on the back.

A nice feature these shoes have is the reflective details. These are excellent in a situation where you want to let your toddler roam around but still be able to see it. As for the rest, you get a pretty standard mesh design that enables the feet to breathe. Adidas’ Traxion rubber outsole helps with traction on looser surfaces and provides some durability.

4. New Balance Kids Fuel Core Reveal

Our Top Pick
9.6/10 Our Score

New Balance managed to combine a fancy and sleek design and decent hiking properties in the Fuel Core Reveal. Despite the cool design, I think that they could’ve gone with a few more color options. The good news is that there is a decent choice of sizes, and you can also choose between two width sizes.

In terms of fit, there are two straps, one on the middle and one on the back, that additionally help achieve the snuggest fit possible. Unlike some of the other models, these are not as high, meaning that you sacrifice the ankle support for lightness.

The sole has a great flex, but unfortunately, due to the design, these are not intended for some extremer hiking. It has a slightly flatter rubber compared with some of the other options on my list. On the other hand, like all the other shoes I mentioned, these have a toe protector. It will prove helpful in keeping your toddler’s toes unharmed and help with longevity.

5. L.L.Bean Toddlers’ Waterproof Trail Model Hikers

Our Top Pick
9.2/10 Our Score

One of the most hardcore hiking shoes for toddlers you’ll find on today’s market is L.L.Bean’s Toddlers’ Waterproof Trail. You get two color options, blue and red, so either for boys or girls. Size-wise, there is a good variety of options meaning that you can fine-tune the fit to your toddler’s feet.

In terms of fitment, unlike most bungee lace models, L.L.Bean’s model has two velcro straps. This does help with keeping the shoes tight, but velcro straps tend to lose their abilities over time. Considering that this is a serious hiking shoe, it will be slightly heavier. For that, it offers much better ankle support and cushioning for the midsole.

The sole is the real star of the show with these shoes. The bottom is designed to provide the best possible grip in all conditions, and the rounded toe will help protect your toddler’s fingers. Thanks to the materials and design, these are one of the best at waterproofing. As a result, there is hardly any situation where water will penetrate the inside.

Things to look out for

As I cannot include every possible toddler hiking shoe in a single article, I can help you by pointing out a few considerations. In general, the type of hiking shoe you’ll be getting will depend mainly on the use cases.

Keep in mind that toddlers are no professional hikers, so don’t expect to find some extreme hiking shoes.

Shoes vs. sandals

The difference between these two is the design. Sandals are with an open design and should be used in hotter climates where moisture is not an issue. The flatter design on the sole means that these are not ideal for some serious hiking scenarios. Depending on the model, you may even find some that don’t have rounded toe protection. In other words, buy the sandals if you plan to take your toddler somewhere flatter.

For a more secure experience in a bit more extreme situations, the shoes are a better option. With those, you get a better outsole for improved traction but also increased protection for durability. There are also some higher models, which provide support for the ankle. Considering that shoes are closed, most of them will have decent waterproofing capabilities.

Size

Many will find that mention shoe size as a consideration is unnecessary. While it may be true, shoes that are not a perfect fit will result in a poor hiking experience.

During any strenuous tasks, the toddler’s feet should be held tight by the shoe. Any slight wiggle or extra space means that there will be a slight movement of the feet within the shoes. You may think it’s not a problem, but the discomfort will start to appear after a while. In some severe cases, it may even result in blisters.

Toddlers can be problematic for size, so choose carefully before purchasing.

Features

Toddler shoes are not the type with some fancy features, like most of what we adults would have. Despite that, there are some essential features to look out for when buying them.

No one wants to spend an entire day in a shoe that’s not comfortable, especially not a toddler. To achieve this, shoes need to have good padding, which will provide the ultimate comfort with a decent pair of socks.

Water resistance is the first one on my list. Walks on sand or slight inclines are not a problem even for sandals if the weather conditions are right. For something a bit more challenging in less ideal situations requires shoes with a decent water-resistive capability. In most cases, you should be looking at shoes with a double-layered design with a mesh on the top and some kind of fabric below it.

Speaking of mesh, I reach the second important feature, breathability. Even though you won’t take your toddler on mount Everest, you should still pay attention to how well the shoe can breathe. During these kinds of activities, the feet can sweat, and if the moisture isn’t vented correctly, it can soak the feet.

The grip is another aspect you shouldn’t avoid. Some parents don’t pay too much attention to this and find that some ordinary shoes are prone to slip on none-pavement surfaces.  Going for shoes with a good grip will prove to be very helpful, especially in gravel, as your toddler will not struggle as much.

An essential aspect of toddlers is developing the muscles on their feet and shoes can play a crucial role. While you may think that a rigid sole is better for longevity, I wouldn’t recommend it. Toddlers outgrow their shoes much faster than they can tear them apart, so you should go with a more flexible sole. That way, as your toddler is going over uneven surfaces, it can strengthen the muscles. In addition to this, ankle support is also vital to prevent the joints’ excessive flexing, which can lead to injury.

Last but not least is protection and for toddlers. We adults can pay more attention to the path and plan ahead, but toddlers won’t be able to do that. As a result, it is common for them to stub the front of the shoe on a rock which can be unpleasant. To avoid this, aim for shoes with good toe protection. This comes in the form of a rubber that is part of the sole and is curved upright. It helps by eliminating damage to the toes but also helps with longevity.

Final Thoughts

With all that I’ve said in this article, I believe you get the idea of the type of shoes you need for your toddler if you plan on going for a hike.

My list covers the models that I think are an excellent choice, but there are tons of other options out there. If none of them work for you, then you can follow my guide on things to look for. That way, you ensure that your toddler’s feet will be as protected and as comfortable as possible.

Andov Slavcho

Slavcho Andov is a part-time freelancer and full-time geek. He's a board game enthusiast, tech junkie, amateur photographer and Sith lord. Ohh...and he loves to travel.