School may be back in session, but some parents may still be pondering the best shoes to buy for their kids that will make tracks from the schoolyard to outdoor getaway, and later, the winter holidays. Although high-quality sneakers are always a good bet for kids and teens if they have the structure and support they need and the colors they love, something sturdier may be on order when snow and ice are on the horizon. Furthermore, if the family is active, hiking shoes and boots (figuratively and literally) will be able to go places regular sneakers can’t.
While different brands have compelling selling points, Melanie Musson and Sara Routhier, moms and contributors for Exercise.com, are uniquely qualified to advise other parents on the fine points of buying boots that go the distance even as kids’ feet grow and change. While they are fans of Keen because of the brand’s extensive year-round offerings for children, their common-sense guidance is applicable for finding shoes that function accordingly and don’t just look the part.
“When the weather gets colder, I look for a shoe that is waterproof because little toes get cold quickly, and there’s nothing worse than hiking with a cold and complaining child,” says Musson, who acknowledges that color of her daughters’ footwear is even more important to them than the style. “Keeping feet dry will help keep them warm. My children have worn Keen boots since they were old enough to get out and play in the snow. I ask myself if I would wear their shoes, and if they are not warm or waterproof enough for me, then they’re not good enough for them. I will not put my child out in the cold without technical footwear.”
While better hiking boots will cost a bit more, Musson believes she will get her money’s worth every fall and winter, especially as good shoes will get and keep her kids outdoors for longer and more time outside will make them healthier. She adds that for households with multiple children or related families with similar-aged kids, there is the hidden savings of being able to invest in better shoes for growing kids and then pass them to the next child. If they hold up well, they’ll be worn for years.
“Shoes that a child has worn hiking won’t give them a blister at school if they’re a good fit and they’re well-constructed,” she continued. “Sportier shoes also tend to have a better and more fun color selection.”
“Since we are so active in the outdoors and since I have four kids, I’ve seen firsthand how a variety of shoes hold up,” says Routhier. “And they’re not all equal. My oldest daughter has cerebral palsy and wears an ankle-foot orthotic (AFO), so in addition to trying to find shoes that are durable, comfortable, and cute, I also have to find shoes that work with an AFO. My oldest daughter is also less steady on her feet, so finding a shoe that offers support and proper fit is imperative to giving her the best chance at stability.”
While San Antonio Shoemakers (or SAS) and Red Wing Heritage only manufacture shoes in adult sizes, they present some solid options for teens and their parents, and neatly fall into the category of “investment shoes,” with a price range of $130–500. A fun selling point of both these brands is that they are among the only ones still made in the United States. SAS’ line is crafted in Texas with highly skilled (some up to third generation) shoemakers. The shoes’ support attributes include S-Motion Technology models with water-resistant leather, TRIPAD technology, a removable CoolSTEP footbed, and SAS X-Tra Grip sole for safely navigating slippery surfaces.
“Look for a comfortable, flexible boot if you spend all day at work, or for your teens who spend the day in school walking between classes,” advises SAS CEO Nancy Richardson. “If you want them to be as functional for family hiking trips, you need to make sure they provide ample support for long periods of walking over uneven terrain. And of course, you want to make sure they have proper traction to avoid slipping. Fit is very important, to opt for a producer like ours, which manufactures a large range of sizes and widths to ensure the best fit for the wearer’s individual feet.”
Construction of the shoe is critical, according to Richardson, who warns against boots with soles that are flat and thin. “Look for shoes that offer support all along your foot focusing on the mid sole for the support of the arch of your foot,” she continues. “These days, many teens have their growth spurt early and we see teens who have completed their foot growth! There isn’t an exact age when teens stop growing, but it is always good to invest in quality footwear, which support and nurture your feet. We tend to forget the role your feet play in overall health and fitness. Shoes that are well made, have a classic, timeless style will last longer, look great and provide the quality and comfort that every person deserves regardless of age.”
Red Wing, founded in 1905 in Red Wing, Minnesota, was one of the first companies to produce stylish, but functional boots for women starting in 1926. The Red Wing Heritage collection brings back the most timeless styles, which feel, look and wear as good as they did when they were first introduced.
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