1. Keen Newport H2 Sandal in Moonlight Mauve
The budding naturalist and the blossoming fashionista need not part ways when it comes to these hiking sandals, available in a rich bouquet of spring hues. Or maybe she's a tomboy and would rather be skipping rocks than selecting shoes. In any case, parents are sure to like the Newport H2's padded toe bed, quick-drying straps and intrepid durability.
At REI (31 Schenk Pkwy., in Biltmore Park, Skyland; (828) 687-0918). Infants', Toddlers' and Kids' sizes. Also available in Heliotrope, Opaline Green and Angel Falls Floral.
2. Keen Newport H2 Sandal in Camo
You brought him to his first music festival and found out he'd rather be leaping off fallen logs than getting into the preordained groove. The super-strong, water-resilient, well-padded Newport H2 hiking sandal will help him blaze his own trail all summer long.
At REI (31 Schenk Pkwy., in Biltmore Park, Skyland; (828) 687-0918). Infants', Toddlers' and Kids' sizes. Also available in Pinecone and Navy.
3. Merrell Kids' Intercept Hiking Shoe in Gunsmoke
This sensible shoe is ready to go before you can shout: "Don't slam the screen door!" Fully loaded with techie features (EVA Air Cushion midsole, one-tug-and-you're-free enclosure), the lightweight Intercept is made to blaze new trails – albeit with an earth-friendly impact.
At Take A Hike Mountain Outfitters (100 Sutton Ave., Black Mountain; (828) 669-0811). Sizes 9-5.
4. Splashers Rain Boot in Gumdrop
Wellies are everywhere now, especially in WNC where a surfeit of precipitation has more than compensated for the previous years' droughts. The forecast calls for a wetter-than-usual spring, so consider the Splashers rain boot. Made in Canada, it's infinitely sturdier than the big-box-store knockoffs and could weather short hikes as well as in-town puddle stomping.
At Take A Hike Mountain Outfitters (100 Sutton Ave., Black Mountain; (828) 669-0811). Sizes 11-3.
5. Geox Respira Kids' Sneaker in Multi
This great all-around fitness shoe will definitely get noticed on track and field for its swank rather than its stink: Geox made its name with a patented porous material and touts its footwear as "the shoe that breathes." An Italian import, this spring's zesty-hued standout suggests a round of cycling or game of soccer under the Tuscan sun – followed, naturally, by a gelato. Andiamo!
At Tops For Shoes (27 N. Lexington Ave., Asheville; (828) 254-6721). Sizes 9.5-3.
6. Tsukihoshi Euro Child Sneaker in Red
Anti-phew technology is all the rage in athletic footwear, and that includes the littlest stinkers. This Japanese sneaker actually boasts an antifungal green-tea extract embedded in the insole. Now that's fashion-forward. Made to tromp all morning through the Botanical Gardens and still be style-y enough to hit the sushi shop for lunch.
At Tops For Shoes (27 N. Lexington Ave., Asheville; (828) 254-6721). Sizes 6.5-3.
7. Vans Authentic in Tea Party
Calico skateboard shoes are not a crime. The original Vans skate sneaker, now a mind-boggling 44 years old, simply refuses to go out of style – and with a surprise girly twist like this, there's no good reason why it should. Now that high-profile pros like Marisa Dal Santo and Elissa Steamer have raised the bar for women skateboarders, no kid should be denied the right to shred on street or vert. Ollies are for everyone.
At Tops For Shoes (27 N. Lexington Ave., Asheville; (828) 254-6721). Sizes 10.5-4.
8. Merrell Kids' Chameleon Strap Mid Hiking Boot in Pink/Kangaroo
Douglas Falls. Laurel River. Bent Creek. Black Balsam. You'll want your beginning hiker to explore the Southern Appalachian wilderness in only the trustiest and techiest footwear, the better to make it back to camp blister-free. Merrell's signature kids' hiking boot is loaded with features, including the trademarked "Happy Landings" Air Cushion EVA Midsole. To paraphrase Muir: The mountains are calling, and they must go.
At Tops For Shoes (27 N. Lexington Ave., Asheville; (828) 254-6721). Sizes 10-3.