Thursday, February 21, 2013

Get children right kind of footwear for hikes

Courtesy of Michal Marcol /
If a child’s feet hurt, the hike is over, so getting the right footwear is worth the time.

Make sure the footwear you have fits before hitting the trail. If you’ve gone a few weeks without hiking, that’s plenty of time for your children to grow, and they may have just outgrown their hiking boots. Check out their footwear a few days before heading out on the hike. If it doesn’t fit, replace it.

Avoid injuries
For flat, smooth, dry trails, sneakers and cross-trainers are just fine; but if you really want to head onto less traveled roads or tackle areas that aren’t typically dry (like Southern California is), you’ll need hiking boots.

Once you start doing any rocky or steep trails – and remember that a trail you consider moderately steep needs to be only half that angle for a child to consider it extremely steep – you’ll want hiking boots, which offer rugged tread perfect for handling rough trails.

Also, in some parts of the nation, such as the Pacific Northwest, parts of the trails will be muddy even after a few days of dry weather have passed. Sneakers quickly will become soaked and unable to traverse mud.

Hiking boots don’t just give you traction. If your children don’t have good shoes, they run the risk of blisters or even punctures from sharp rocks.

Afternoon shopping trip
Adults also should wear hiking boots, as they have either a baby carrier or a backpack strapped over their shoulders. If lugging about nothing more than a small daypack, you probably can get away with wearing crosstrainers, trekking shoes or trail-running shoes so long as you stick to fairly level, short footpaths.

Shop for hiking boots in the afternoon when feet are slightly swollen from having been walked on earlier that day. Also wear the socks you plan to don when hiking. If you wear insoles or orthotics, make sure they go into the boot as well.

The smaller the child, aim for lightweight shoes. Five-pound shoes would be cumbersome for most adults, so imagine what they would be for a child with smaller, less muscular legs. Indeed, an old hikers’ axiom is that a pound of shoe weight equals five pounds in the backpack.

Don’t allow children to wear open-toed shoes on a hike. Sandals are fine for the beach and walks on paved surfaces but not for the woods where rocks, roots and bugs all can get at exposed toes. Infants and toddlers confined to the baby carrier don’t need hiking boots. Besides being heavy, their rigidness actually can harm developing feet. Sneakers are sufficient for the few minutes they come out of the carrier and get to run about the trail.

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