Sunday, November 11, 2012

How to select the best hiking boot for kids

Our feet mark the most important “piece of gear” any hiker can have. If children have poor footwear that cause their feet to ache, you can bet that the hike will soon be over. Given this, selecting a good hiking boot for a child is vital.

Look for the following qualities in a hiking boot:
g Fit – Ill-fitting boots means blisters and foot pain. A boot should feel snug, yet you should be able to wriggle toes and have no pressure points. Some parents purchase a boot one shoe size too big for the child so that it can accommodate the thicker socks that hiking requires.
g Support – A good boot for day hiking will have a soft collar to support the ankle and to keep pebbles or other debris from getting into the shoe. Ankle-high boots will give good support without restricting movement. Velcro straps are fine for toddlers, but older children will benefit from laces as they help reduce slippage. If the boot allows your foot to flatten out, then it’s not providing enough arch support.
g Sturdy – The sole and the boot’s upper part should be firmly attached. It ought to be flexible enough that you have a full range of motion but not at the price of the boot stressing so it can’t provide support.
g Water-resistant – A boot needs to keep moisture from getting to the foot, but it also needs to breathe so the foot doesn’t get swampy, as this can lead to discomfort and blisters. Waterproof boots won’t breathe. For winter hikes and trails in wetlands, waterproof boots are a must, however.
g Traction – You want thick, nonskid rubber soles, which are good for keeping your footing on a variety of terrain, such as slippery wet rocks, mud and sand. The outsole, or the bottom front of the shoe that hits the terrain, should have deep indentations or grooves to improve your grip on slippery surfaces.
g Durable – The boot should last a few years. Children always should be able to outgrow a boot.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.