Best kids’ hiking shoes: tested for waterproofness and weight!

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Our family loves to walk! I do find that a proper walking shoe really helps my children to enjoy our hikes. I am mostly looking for grippy soles to give kids good traction in the wet and muddy conditions we have in Scotland. I also want shoes that are robust and durable so that they will last. My children are still quite small, so we don’t need proper mountain boots yet, and being lightweight and flexible is more of a priority for me.

Over the past couple of years we’ve gradually kitted out our children with hiking shoes and tested them on lots of walks. For this review, I also weighed all the shoes, and tested their waterproofing by sitting them in an inch of water for an hour. The results were interesting!

Waterproofing test

The shoes in the review are:

  • Columbia Kids’ Redmond Waterproof Shoe
  • Keen Kids’ Targhee Waterproof Shoe
  • Merrell Altalight Low Waterproof Shoe

I actually really like all of these shoes, but they have quite different use cases, which will become apparent as we delve into the results.

Kids hiking shoes: Summary

Columbia Kids’ Redmond Waterproof Shoe
RRP: £65
(Although I was able to pick up a pair for well under half this price on Amazon)

Best for:
Hiking shoes for little kids (the sizing goes down to EU25!)

Downsides: Tricky for smaller kids to put on independently

View Columbia Redmond on Amazon
Keen Kids’ Targhee Waterproof Shoe
RRP: £49.99

Best for:
Robust materials, leather outer
Great durability
Offer excellent foot protection in mountainous terrain or on loose scree

Downsides: Quite heavy

View Keen Targhee on Amazon
Merrell Altalight Low Waterproof Shoe
RRP: £49.99

Best for:
Very lightweight shoe
Good hybrid option for everyday wear and hiking

Downsides: Water seeped through in our soak test

Kids’ hiking shoes: Weight

There is an old walkers’ saying that “a pound on your feet is like five pounds on your back “ and I think there is some truth in it! I don’t want my children to be clomping around dragging their feet in heavy boots, particularly as we aren’t climbing proper mountains at this stage. Obviously, there is a trade-off between being lightweight and being durable.

Here are the weights of our different shoes, given as an average of the two. The shoes are all different sizes, so a direct comparison isn’t possible, but I still think it is useful.

Columbia Redmond (UK7/EU25)163g
Keen Targhee (UK10/EU29)240g
Merrell Altalight (UK12/EU31)162g

As you can see, taking into account the sizing, the Merrell Altalights are the lightest shoe, followed by the Columbia Redmond, and then the Keen Targhee.

Kids’ hiking shoes: Are they waterproof?

All these shoes are marketed as being waterproof. Now there is some debate about whether waterproof shoes are a good thing or not, as they can end up trapping moisture inside and being quite sweaty. We live in a damp and cold climate (northern Scotland!) and wet feet tend to put my children in a bad mood, so I decided waterproofing was definitely a good choice for us.

To test out the manufacturers’ claims, I put all the shoes into a tub with about an inch of water in it, using some pebbles to stop them floating or tipping. I was careful to keep the waterline below the tongues of the shoe as I was trying to assess water seeping through the fabric rather than getting in over the top.

Waterproofing experiment in action

After an hour I took all the shoes out, gave them a good shake, and weighed them again. All the shoes had gained roughly 5 grams of weight so no difference there. I then carefully felt over the inside of each shoe.

  • The Merrell Altalights were both wet on the inside, and the wetness extended all around the sides and bottom of the shoe. I wasn’t surprised as the fabric immediately started to look ‘soaked’ when I put the shoes in. The dampness was evenly distributed all round the sides, so I don’t think this was a tongue-leak issue. Having used these shoes through a full winter season now, I can confirm that they are really not waterproof. On a wet day, the owner’s socks are absolutely sodden after a walk, even with waterproof trousers on.
  • The Keen Targhees were mostly dry with one small damp patch on a toe upper, where I think a small amount of water had got above the leather part of the shoe. So I don’t think the more breathable fabric of the tongue is waterproof, but the main shoe itself held up well. My real world experience of these shoes is that they do really well in wet conditions; there was only a slight dampness at the toe after a recent all-day mountain hike in the rain.
  • The Columbia Redmonds were completely dry inside. I was suspicious, so I rubbed a piece of paper all around the toes on the inside, and it came out dry! Interestingly, I could literally pour water out of the outside toes of the shoes when I lifted them out of the tub, so I think there is an inner membrane which is what is keeping these shoes watertight. Very impressive, anyway! Our experience is that these shoes do reasonably well in wet weather, coming back with slightly damp socks after long rainy walks.

Kids’ hiking shoes: grip

All of these shoes are significantly grippier than normal shoes, and have made a big difference to our children’s confidence on hikes. They reduce the number of falls, for which we are all grateful!

I thought some people might be interested to see the grip patterns, so here is a photograph of the soles.

From left to right: Merrell Altalight, Keen Targhee, Columbia Redmond

These shoes are all in regular use in our family and the soles are holding up well.

My thoughts on each shoe

The Columbia Redmonds were the answer to a long search for a waterproof hiking shoe for toddlers. My preschooler has pretty small feet, but wellies or normal trainers just weren’t cutting it on our walks, and she kept falling over in the mud. They go down to an EU25/UK7. I went up one size for a child with a high instep, and they fit well.

The Redmonds have dramatically reduced the number of falls so I am very impressed with their grip. There were also the most waterproof shoe in my home experiment. In our real world experience, I think the Targhees slightly outperform these for waterproofing, but the Redmonds do well. They feel sturdy but not too heavy for a small child.

The main downside that I can think of is that they are hard for little kids to put on independently. It is a tight squeeze to get these shoes on. This is quite common with kids’ walking shoes in my experience. My preschooler needs help holding the tongue forward to get the shoes on, and she also cannot manage the bungee cord fastener on her own. They have loosened a little with wear, but not much.

The front bumper also shows signs of wear quite quickly, I wish Columbia would use a more robust material for this section. It hasn’t impacted on functionality for us so far.

View Columbia Redmond on Amazon
The Keen Targhees are the most robust shoe in this review, and they also come in a mid-height boot style if you are looking for something with more ankle support. Of the three, these are the shoes I would most like to be wearing on a scree slope. The leather outer is robust and will stand up to a lot of knocks. We were recently doing a hill walk that involved quite a lot of scrambling and I thought these were a fantastic choice for those conditions.

However, this robustness comes at a cost, and these were the heaviest shoes in the test. Some reviews I read talked about these shoes being lightweight, and I don’t agree with that. They feel chunky and heavy.

The shoes are fastened with a bungee and velcro strap. When they were brand new, they were hard to put on independently, but that has got easier with time.

View Keen Targhee on Amazon
The Merrell Altalights are impressively lightweight, and taking size into account they are easily the lightest style of shoe in this review. They are actually lighter than most of my child’s everyday shoes, and have become their go-to pair. The trainer style is easy to wear for most occasions. I think the Altalights are a great hybrid shoe which work well for walking and for daily use.

The shoes are marketed as being waterproof, but in my home experiment they definitely were not waterproof, with dampness all around the interior of the shoe. On rainy walks, the child who owns these shoes is coming back with soaking wet feet.

The Altalights have a bungee fastener, and their owner has no problems managing this independently (owner is a school-age child).

View Merrell Altalights on Amazon

If you are looking for summer hiking sandals for your children, you may want to consider the Pediped Sahara.

Do you have a favourite hiking shoe for kids? Let us know in the comments section below!

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