Which Hiking Shoe Is Right For You? For Kids and Adults

Me and my kiddos testing out the latest Hi-Tec hiking boots in Yosemite, California.

As an outdoorsy person I confess I now own a number of different types of shoes to hike in, just as you may ‘cause we’re all spilling our secrets here, and they’re sort of like my babies. I think about them when i’m not with them. I wonder if i’ve left them out on the back steps by mistake after that last hike. I carefully contemplate which pair to wear the next day. I chose from my hard-core, waterproof, dinosaur-kicker Keens to my agile, 4WD-teeth-for-treads Saucony trail runners, to my hybrid-type, mountain-shoe by Ahnu, etc.

Just like my kids, each of these precious hiking shoes has their own personality and some things I adore about them and some things I don’t really adore and blame on the other genetic swirl in my life. And, just like my kids, I go through phases of which is my favorite. Don’t tell my kids.

Sunset hike in the Saucony trail runners I travel with in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
Trail Runners:
For my California, coastal lifestyle, there’s no question that the trail runners are the way to go. It barely rains here. And the lightweight comfort and hard-core tread on these shoes win almost every day. Because the climate is so parched here, wet feet from precipitation is rarely an issue and if there’s a water crossing, the hot, California days will dry them out quickly. Sometimes when I wear these I feel like i can walk straight up walls or at least i know I can cling to rocks precariously when bouldering. They make me feel powerful and they don't take up tons of space so they're my go-to traveling hiker shoe.

My Merrell trail sandals have seen every side of a trail, river, boat and campsite.
Trail Sandals:
If I were living in the hot-zones of So Utah and Arizona and similar places, like the wise guides who run all the adventure trips I’d hike and adventure mostly in Trail Sandals and also get that funky, white-strapped, sun tan that is almost a badge of honor. They’re max in breathability and good for the well traveled trails and still provide good stability for the foot. You just need to watch the exposed toes. They're also a great extra pair of shoes to have at the campsite & can be strapped to the back of any backpack easily.

New lightweight technology makes hiking boots a great option like in these Hi-Tec boots.
Hiking Boots:
When I head back to the Northeast for some adventure, I note the value in the toe-protecting hiking boots with all of the roots and scrambling involved on those gnarly trails. I’m giddy that our family gets to test some Hi-Tec boots this season that are so surprisingly lightweight. Some peeps still love the old, leather hiking boots, but I’m happy to let the new technology wrap my hiking feet and provide excellent stability and protection with a nimble feel rather than the heavy clomp, clomp.

How to Chose the Right Pair for You?
When you go to places like REI or other outdoor or shoe specialty stores, talk to the experts there about your feet's quirks, your needs, and then try all the styles on. There seems to be a real mix on opinions of whether to buy a hiking boot - either high or low cut - versus trail runner even for backpacking these days. A veteran expert from a renown specialty store talked me into my first pair of trail runners years back as I was headed out on a backpacking trip and even despite the weight and mileage, he kept recommending the trail runner over all hiking boots. 

For Next Hiking Season
As we head into fall and winter it's fun to think about what's right for your feet for the next hiking season and boy do they make great holiday gifts instead of toasters and ties and vacuums. And I've found everything I've chatted about here works the same for my kids, too. 

See what works for you. Maybe a mix like me? And you’ll definitely start finding your favorites. Just don’t tell your kids…

For more live conversation find me on Twitter at @OutdoorsyMama

Disclaimer: Hi-Tec provided hiking boots for testing. All opinions are always and forever shall be my own. 

For more about gear read my Gear Reviews & Products I Love


  1. I have the same Ho-Tec hiking boots are really enjoy them.

    1. thanks nicky - i was really surprised how light they were!

  2. Find the right fit for your young athlete with the help of the kids shoe size conversion. Size guides and charts are available for all ages and genders.