Choosing the right boot to keep your kiddos' feet warm and toasty on hikes or while playing in the winter has been a hot topic lately. It can be a maddening process to find the right boot in the right size. We have two major requirements we look for in boots -- well, actually three.
  1. Buy Used & Local - Like most winter gear, boots can be expensive and will only last a single season, if that. We buy our boots second-hand. Even if you have more then one kid. they will surely last. Since this is an important piece of gear we also want to make sure that they've been tried on. If you don't feel comfortable buying boots used, try buying them locally. We've attempted ordering online for footwear in the past, only to have to make more then one return to get the right fit. Stores here, especially locally owned ones ought to carry the tried and true gear that has proven to work for local families and weather conditions before.
  2. Light Weight - Brand doesn't matter to us, what does is the weight of the boot. While it seems a heavy boot would provide more insulation this isn't entirely the case. Heavy boots are tiring to wear. They drag the feet down and make life very frustrating, especially for the early walker who's already wearing a lot of restricting gear. Light weight boots can be deceiving. Looking at my own Mukluks made of moose hide, canvas and wool I would never have suspected them to keep my feet warmer then a pair of bulky Sorels, but they do and down to temperatures well below what most other boots are rated to.
  3. Extra Room - A boot that is too tight will restrict circulation and increase the chances for frostbite. Buying a boot a little larger accommodates many needs: allows for growth over our long winter season, allows for some air which actually helps insulate, provides room for extra socks and foot warmers.
How will the boots be used outside? 
There are also a couple of other things you need to take into account when dressing your child's tootsies for the cold. What will they be doing outside? If they are playing then they will be generating heat that will help to keep their feet warm. If they are being pulled in a sled, pushed in a stroller or worn in a back pack they won't be generating as much heat. Foot warmers are a good idea when they aren't doing the work, especially when worn in a back pack. Dangling feet tend to loose circulation more quickly.

Moisture Wicking Socks!
As mentioned in many of our gear posts before - all the outdoor experts say "Cotton kills." Cotton takes a long time to dry out making the fabric stick to the skin, which in the cold freezes directly to the skin. Socks are your foot's baselayer and like a good baselayer you want a moisture wicking fabric like wool. There are also many synthetic fibers out there if you find yourself sensitive to wool. These materials not only dry faster but they also pull the moisture away from the skin to the outside so that should the sweat start to freeze it isn't directly on the skin.

Toasty Tootsies

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Replies to This Discussion

Good stuff. Nothing in the wild is as ornery as a kid with cold feet. Yet even here in the land of cold, I see parents who cut corners on their kids' winter boots--and everyone pays the price. One thing I look for is as high a boot as possible, at least up to mid-calf. The higher the boot, the deeper the snow the kids can tromp through without risk of it falling over the top, into the boot and soaking their feet. And they have to be waterproof. Although you'd think winter boots would be waterproof by definition, I've come across many that soak through surprisingly quickly.

In Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op has a no-questions-asked return policy. Whether the boot doesn't fit, isn't warm enough, doesn't look "cool" enough or anything else, they'll take back even well-worn boots.

Great article

I've just replaced my 16-yr old Sorel boots. Sigh!

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