Home » Barefoot or Shod: What’s Better for Toddlers Hiking?

Barefoot or Shod: What’s Better for Toddlers Hiking?

by Mark
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Getting outdoors with your toddler is a fun way to explore nature and spend quality time together.

If your adventures include hiking, you may wonder whether your little one should be tackling the trail in shoes or barefoot.

There are good arguments on both sides of this debate, so what’s the right call for toddler feet?

This guide examines the pros and cons of hiking barefoot versus wearing kids’ hiking shoes

 to help you make the best choice for your active tot.

The Case for Barefoot Hiking

Allowing toddlers to move barefoot offers some potential benefits:

  • Strengthens feet – Going barefoot encourages little ones to grip and use their foot muscles more. This can aid development.
  • Enhances balance – Without the support of shoes, toddlers need to engage cores and focus on balance. Another great skill builder.
  • Allows natural stride – Shoes can restrict foot motion and gait. Bare feet permit a natural stride.
  • Connects with nature – Going barefoot helps toddlers feel more in tune with their surroundings.
  • Avoids tight shoes – No need to worry about getting the perfect shoe fit when barefoot.
best kids hiking shoes
kids best hiking shoes

However, there are also some considerable downsides:

  • Lacks foot protection – Delicate toddler feet are prone to cuts, scrapes, and bruises from debris.
  • Poor traction – Bare feet easily slip on loose rocks, logs, and other uneven trail surfaces.
  • No arch support – Toddler arches need support as they develop. Bare feet provide none.
  • Risk of injury – Sharp sticks, thorns, hot sand, bee stings, and other hazards can injure bare feet.

Toddler Shoes Offer Advantages for Hiking

Putting toddlers in proper hiking shoes has lots of benefits:

  • Protects feet – Shoes shield little feet from impact, abrasions and trail gunk.
  • Better traction – Trekking shoes grip terrain to prevent slips and falls.
  • Supports feet – Light arch support promotes healthy development.
  • Prevents injury – Shoes guard against punctures, sprains and bruises from debris.
  • Promotes confidence – Proper footwear gives toddlers confidence tackling trails.
  • Enables longer hikes – Shoes allow little ones to hike further by preventing tired, sore feet.
  • Keeps feet clean – No washing dirt off bare feet after hiking.

Best Practices for Toddler Hiking Footwear

If choosing shoes for the trail, follow these tips:

  • Look for light, flexible hiking shoes with grippy rubber soles. Avoid big, clunky boots.
  • Ensure a roomy toe box to accommodate toddler feet as they grow.
  • Make sure ankles are supported but not restricted.
  • Find easy closures like Velcro that allow quick on and off.
  • Go for breathable materials to keep your feet comfy on warm hikes.
  • Try sizing up a half or full size to allow room for thick socks.

The Final Verdict

While barefoot hiking has some developmental perks, the safety and comfort of proper footwear make kids’ hiking shoes the best choice for little ones starting on the trail.

Look for shoes specifically designed for growing feet that protect while enabling natural motion.

Bring along toddler-sized hiking boots and socks so they can gear up just like mom and dad!

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