Kids Hiking Shoes
Salomon Synapse J
$75, 1 lb. 2 oz. (youth size 4.5)
Sizes: unisex kids 13 to youth 6
If there’s a dayhike that will beat up a flimsy pair of kids hiking shoes, it’s going up and down Mount St. Helens, a 10-mile, 4,500-vertical-foot slog over sharp-edged, volcanic rocks and highly abrasive, fine-grained pumice. But my 13-year-old son wore the Synapse J on that big day, and on dayhikes at Mount Rainier National Park, Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, and elsewhere. He’s also worn them to school and playing outside for most of the past year, and these low-cut hiking shoes not only have the support and protection for a hike as hard as St. Helens, but they’re still going strong.
Many low-cut shoes for kids are designed primarily to sell at a low price, which rarely results in the shoe delivering the level of performance you want for full dayhikes in rugged mountain terrain. The Synapse J measured up thanks to abrasion-resistant, synthetic uppers and a rubber toe cap that protect feet. The molded EVA midsole provides enough cushion that his feet never got sore on St. Helens or other hikes—though he never carried more than a sub-10-pound daypack; these shoes don’t have the rigidity or support for backpacking. The outsole sports a perimeter of smoother rubber for gripping on steep rock, and interior lugs that shed dirt and stones, giving the shoes good traction in a typical variety of hiking conditions.
My son’s strongest impressions of the shoes were that they’re very lightweight, flexible, and comfortable, and breathe well enough that his feet never got sweaty. He also likes the cordlock lace that tightens with a pull of one hand and requires no tying, just stuffing the lace into a tiny pocket. In fact, he told me that when he outgrows this pair, “You can just get me another pair of these.” After at least a couple hundred days of use, not surprisingly, the laces are showing wear.
If you’re looking for kids’ hiking shoes that can manage rugged terrain and hold up to a child’s regular, daily abuse, the Synapse J is a good find.
See all of my reviews of kids outdoor gear.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.