Travel Gear We Use: best hiking boots for the family

We’re continuing our Travel Gear We Use series with a category I’m asked about a lot: hiking boots. Need guidance on buying the best hiking boots for the family? The following picks for kids hiking boots (as well as adults) come from brands we use and trust to be sturdy, highly-functional, and affordable. All have been worn by us on our own backpacking and hiking trips.

Best hiking boots for kids:

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Merrell Chameleon 4 Mid Ventilator Hiking Boot :

The Merrell Chameleon comes in a range of styles, from low-top hikers to high top boots with full ankle support. You can also opt for mesh ventilation or more water resistant models. Find the style that your child likes best. What we love about the Chameleon is how comfortable this shoe is on, and how easy it is to get on and off. I know it sounds simple, but these features can make or break a hiking shoe for our kids. The Merrells are well-constructed but still lightweight and flexible, and the low-top version can certainly pull double-duty as a school shoe. The mid-height Ventilator linked here is only $55, which means that if you kid wears them out in a season, you won’t cry.

KEEN Gypsum Hiking Shoe:

Like the Merrells, the Keen Gypsum retails for under $60, but it offers a lace capture system for even easier on-and-off (and a better fit while on the trail). They’re not too heavy (we really don’t recommend stiff, heavy boots for kids), and will flex with the soles of kids’ feet. They’re breathable, and they have the toe-protection that Keen does so well: no stubbed toes here! pick up a pair for $60

Vasque Breeze WP 2.0 Hiking Boot:

If you need something a little more technical for multi-night backpacking trips, we like the Breeze from Vasque. Kids get full ankle protection and a very rugged sole with strong grip, but also a nice ventilation system so they don’t feel like their feet are in an oven. They weigh in at 2 pounds, and feature a very ‘grown up’ lacing system and toe guards. They’ll set you back more than the other shoes, but might even survive to be handed down! Buy the Breeze for $79.

Hi-Tec Altitude Lite Jr:

We love Hi-Tec hiking boots for adults, so it stands to reason that the kids’ versions would be a great ‘fit’ too. Always affordable without sacrificing quality, Hi-Tec boots are our first pick for down-to-earth outdoorsy families who don’t care about having the absolute trendiest brands on their feet. Give Hi-Tec a try! The Altitude Lite Jr. is rugged, with full ankle support. Opt for the waterproof version to save your kid from wet feet after creek crossings and muddy trails. Pick them up for under $70 on the Hi-Tec site or Amazon.

Oboz Sundog:

For teens who say they don’t like hiking boots (and think they can hike in flip-flops) the Sundog is the next best thing, that will still make mom and dad happy. Extremely lightweight and in a fun citrusy color, the Sundog wears like a tennis shoe. It has a rugged outsole and laces tightly, so there’s some control amid the feeling of ‘I just have my sneakers on’. Win-win.

Best hiking boots for parents:

I’m going to say something radical here: 90% of the time, you don’t need a full-fledged hiking boot, even for multi-day backpacking trips. I LOVE to wear my LOWA Innox Evo shoes, both when I’m traveling and when I’m hiking, camping, and backpacking. For me, and I know it varies by person, this is the most comfortable trekking shoe out there. Check out a full review here. Buy the LOWAs, be happy, don’t worry about hiking shoes ever again.

BUT, if you need fuller protection for a seriously epic trip, read on:

GoLite Women’s XT89:

I love GoLite shoes, and their XT89 for women are lightweight while still offering full support and great traction. Plus, they’re comfortable enough to want to wear around camp, too. I found I needed to order a half-size up (as they run small), so definitely try these on before ordering online. For men, GoLite’s GoLite Men’s Quest Lite Hiking Boot is a great pick.

KEEN Terradora:

For women, it’s hard to beat the KEEN Terradora if you need the protection of a full-fledged hiking boot. (It does, however, come in a lightweight hiking shoe, to). The Terradora is made of knitted fabric that’s completely waterproof but still soft and flexible, and has a padded ankle support section to help with the discomfort of the usual stiff ankle coverage. Pick it up for $130 on Amazon.

Oboz Mystic Low BDry:

I love a lightweight, low-cut hiking shoe. (If you don’t, try the Oboz Bridger instead.) The Mystic is fully waterproof, yet light enough to be considered a sneaker, should you slide them on for a mid-week soccer practice, as I have. They’re substantial without being stiff, and responsive yet firm on the outsole. They’re my go-to backpacking shoe when I won’t need full-scale ankle support, and they’re competitively priced, too.

Need more shoe ideas? Check out more gear at gearweare.

More Travel Gear We Use:
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Best overnight backpacks for kids and youth
Best packing cubes and TSA bags for the family

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