Getting good hiking boots for kids is a bit of a painful process. Really, you should be purchasing them boots of a similar quality to what you wear. So if you only purchase Gore-Tex lined boots, that’s what you should be getting for your kids as well. You choose them because they make your trip easier/better/dryer so why wouldn’t you make the same choice for your kids.
The problem is that…kids grow out of shoes so fast. Where you may get 5 years or more out of a good pair of expensive hiking boots, kids may fit them for 1 season. Last year we ended up purchasing shoes for your 5 year old 3 times over the course of the school year as she grew and her toes kept hitting the end of the shoes.
If you’re willing to skimp on quality and get something from a local department store, you’ve got lots more options. You’re also in for some whining from your kid as they walk around with wet and cold feet. We didn't like either of those options and we hike lots so we decided to spend some money on proper hiking boots for our oldest daughter.
After a long try on session we ended up with a pair of Timberland Pawtuckaway WP (yes that is a mouthful). The biggest draw back according to our kid is that they are brown. Evidently this is a foreshadowing of my future with 3 girls and shopping, but she agreed they fit the best by far in the store and decided that fit was more important than colour.
While these are not GoreTex lined boots (which is the only thing I’ll purchase) they do claim waterproofness and that the upper is a combination of full grain leather and ‘synthetic materials’. I’d guess that this means we have some membrane in there similar to how GoreTex functions, holes to small for liquid water to pass through and big enough for water vapour to pass out.
The question is, are they waterproof and the answer with a caveat is…yes. The problem with these boots being waterproof is that the tongue does not have full gussets up to the ankle. That means that if she steps in a puddle deep enough to come up just past the laces water runs inside the boot.
The second question is, do her feet get cold when they’re wet. In the case of our oldest E, no her feet do not get cold though we make sure she’s wearing warm socks that stay warm when wet. When we took them on a hike last winter to Lindeman Lake in the pouring rain, she never did complain about wet feet or discomfort or cold feet.
Another concern with little hikers is that the footwear is to heavy. I know that boots are heavier than shoes because there is simply more structure to them, but if they’re too heavy kids get tired and then they get whiny and then no one is having any fun. Having her wear these up many hikes that are at her limits like Mt Cheam or Elk Mountain (both 10km with lots of elevation) she complains no more than any other time she’s worn shoes on these hikes. In fact, on a recent short hike she complained about her running shoes because they were making her feet sore and her hiking boots have never done that on any hike at all.
Finally we come down to grip. As I watch her with these boots on she seems to have better grip than with other footwear options she has. At least she doesn’t fall down all the time like she does pretty much every other time we hike. Sure she still falls over, but that’s just kids.
Overall, these were a great purchase for our hiking family. Our daughter hasn’t had any blisters in them nor have we found hot spots at our regular foot checks on hikes. The only thing I’d improve is the tongue. I’d like to see the membrane and tongue fully wrap the foot up to the ankle, like an adult boot would. That would mean her feet would stay dry even walking through puddles and we’d be in less danger of blisters on hikes. Not that we’ve had blisters in a year on many hikes, but I’d still like to see feet stay dry despite the conditions encountered.