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December 2015 Issue
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Giving your kids the boot

Alice is all smiles after borrowing her mother’s leather boots on a climb of Mt Lodestone in Kahurangi National Park. Photo: David Norton
Buying expensive tramping boots for your children can be a big ask, but, as Jo Stilwell discovers, good boots can go a long way  

I remember the exact incident that prompted a discussion around buying expensive tramping boots for our kids.

We had been on the top of Mt Starveall in Mt Richmond Forest Park for a couple of hours, taking lunch and playing with the kids among the tussock in the hot sun. When it was time to put our boots back on and continue, my daughter Alice asked if she could give my boots a try. Despite being just 10 years old, her feet size had recently caught up with mine.

I was less than enthusiastic. I had just purchased a beautiful – and expensive – pair of Meindl boots that fitted and worked perfectly for my feet. I frequently got blisters while tramping and no matter how many different kinds of boots I tried, how well I attempted to wear them in or what combination of socks I wore, my bony heals always managed to rub themselves raw. I tried vaseline, wads of sheep’s wool and every type of tape and plaster on the market, but the only thing that worked was discovering these particular boots. I didn’t want to give them up, but, in the spirit of being a good mother, I reluctantly let her try them on.

She loved them and wanted to keep wearing them, but I wasn’t that good a mother. I promptly took them back but did experience a slight pang of guilt as the difference in comfort and support between her boots and mine were stark. It sparked a discussion between my husband David and I about the kind of tramping boots we would get our kids in the future.

From the get-go, we had placed an emphasis on putting our children in boots. They both had hypermobile joints and were prone to spraining ankles, so we bought them leather boots as soon as they could fit. We had tried them in sturdy walking shoes and less supportive boots, but multiple sprained ankles saw us move to more supportive and sturdy leather boots.

But it was obvious my boots were far superior to theirs and, though expensive, we decided to buy Alice the same make of boot as mine before her next tramp. We justified the extra expense by knowing that when she grew out of them, I could wear them. Our youngest daughter Mackenzie was also going through the same blister problem as me, having inherited my bony feet. So when she could fit the smallest size of our favourite and much-loved brand of boot, we didn’t hesitate to get her a pair as well.

Were they expensive? Yes. Did it seem ridiculous at the time, spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of boots when her feet were still growing? Yes. I’m sure Graeme, from our local outdoor store, rubbed his hands in glee when he saw me enter the shop, kids in tow. But any boots we purchased for the children have been on multiple sets of feet, as they have been shared between Alice, Mackenzie and me, and also lent to friends, so I believe we got our money’s worth. Graeme hasn’t seen the kids for a few years now as their feet have finally stopped growing. And their ankle joints stabilised as they got older, so they also had the option to wear a lighter boot if they wanted.

Not everyone likes to wear leather tramping boots or put their kids in them. A friend of mine tells me her children always wear sneakers while tramping and as a family they have covered some pretty rough terrain. So what worked for us certainly won’t work for everybody. However, I would still have bought expensive boots for our kids even if their ankles weren’t so shonky. Our priority was to provide them with footwear that gave them comfort and confidence so we could do the types of trips that appealed to David and I. We wanted to wander up untracked streams, spend time on the tops, walk in the snow and not always be constrained to tramping in good weather. And because we weren’t prepared to tramp in sneakers (or even lightweight boots) in winter, on slippery tussock or difficult scree slopes, we didn’t think we should expect the kids to either. This was even more important when they started carrying heavier packs.

Kids certainly don’t need expensive tramping boots to go tramping, but we’ve found every cent we’ve spent on boots well worth it.

It often amuses me when we’re packing the truck for a tramp and the value of all our boots combined exceeds the value of our vehicle. I suppose some people choose to drive fancy cars; we prefer to spend our money on quality, long-lasting tramping boots – even for the kids.