Whenever we tell the kids it’s time to leave for an adventure, there are three enduring questions that follow: Will I need a sweatshirt? Will I need a swimsuit? What shoes should I bring?
That’s it. We’ve wiped clean the “Where are we going?” question, because we told them to stop asking, and by now, they trust it’s somewhere cool. Those first two questions are always easy. There’s never really a wishy-washy answer. Shoes, though, are different.
What we know for sure, is we wish their feet would stop growing long enough to make it worthwhile to buy them something other than Vans. Nothing against Vans, they’re just not great for exploring where the cement ends and the wilderness begins.
It turns out, we’re always looking for recommendations. So we figured other adventurous families might be, too. Shoes make all the difference, for anyone, but especially for adventurers. Here are some of our favorite kicks — the ones that haven’t let us down.
Footwear for trails
Before COVID-19 came along, our whole family muscled through countless obstacle course races. We needed shoes that gave us support and traction, kept us light on our toes and drained quickly after getting wet. Salomon Speedcross sneakers have become a go-to for Ron. I recently discovered Merrell Skyfires, and I’m wondering where they’ve been all my life. They’re grippy, light, colorful and they have extra cushion right where you need it while hiking. The shoelaces are stretchy, too, which sounds like a minor detail, but it makes me happy.
We’ve tried SO many different ones. Too many. But, we’ve finally found some we love, and as soon we see a clearance table with all the kids’ sizes, we’ll upgrade every kid who still needs something better than the classic water sock — the kind that slides over your foot like a glove but offers little traction. Because they’ve performed for us, we have a pretty dedicated affection for Teva sandals and the Keen water shoes that come with an enclosed toe box. They’re both versatile, grippy and can be worn with (cringe!) socks. The socks part is actually pretty key, especially when camping.
Shoes for hitting the road
The first time Ron and I slid our feet into a pair of Brooks running shoes, the night before the Rock & Roll half marathon in Phoenix a couple years ago, we were instantly sold. It was like tying marshmallows on our feet — tie-dye marshmallows, to be exact. They were so comfortable and light and supportive, all at the same time. I’m hooked now. And I’m so smitten with them, I keep them only for running, which happens almost every day. But, they don’t run errands or do yard work. The Brooks only run for exercise.
Overall adventure shoe tips
For kids, insist on something other than Vans or Converse. If only for the grip. They need some traction. For adults whose feet aren’t constantly growing, invest. Do some research, read some outdoor magazines, ask around and get the shoes that will help you and keep you comfortable. It’ll be worth it.
Make sure hiking shoes drain easy. Heavy sneakers won’t. And you don’t want to slop your way through the rest of a hike all soggy after trekking through water. Find the right socks, too. Runners may need arch support and compression, while hikers may want merino wool. And give yourself some space. You’ll want a little toe room, especially when running or hiking. And keep some room in those water shoes for the day you’ll need to warm up with a layer of socks.
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