Merrell Chameleon4 Mid WP

Kids Hiking Boot
Merrell Chameleon4 Mid Waterproof
$75, 1 lb. 11 oz. (youth size 4)
Sizes: youth 3.5-7
merrell.com

“These feel reeeally nice,” my 11-year-old son proclaimed the first day he hiked in these boots. “They snug up close so that your whole foot is touching boot and doesn’t slip around to give you blisters. And the padding is awesome.” As a kid who has used many models of hiking shoes and boots—and tells me when he doesn’t like something (maybe too often)—he still felt that way about these mid-cut boots after five days of dayhiking and backpacking in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park, including several miles of off-trail hiking and scrambling and a technical descent of a slot canyon.

The comfort comes, first of all, from a sock-like fit (as he describes so visually above), and generous padding around the collar, over the anklebones, and in the tongue. Like a better midweight adult boot, the Chameleon has good flex in the forefoot, yet adequate rigidity from the midfoot back to the heel; my son had no complaints at the end of days hiking six to seven miles with a 15- to 20-pound pack. The boot has one stretchy lace running through eyelets, not a traditional two-lace, tying setup, and a hook-and-loop strap for the top closure, which makes it easier for a kid to micro-adjust the fit. The suede and mesh uppers conform nicely to the foot and breathe fairly well—though the proprietary waterproof-breathable membrane made his feet sweaty on one fairly hot day. Moderately deep, multi-directional lugs on the outsole gave good traction whether in sandy trail or scrambling steep slickrock. My one concern would be the a hook-and-loop strap getting gunked-up on a really muddy trip. But these boots are supportive enough for backpacking, yet light enough for dayhiking. My son will get many miles of enjoyable use out of these boots for as long as they fit him.

—Michael Lanza