Hi-Tec Perpetua Jr.

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As exact miniatures of the Perpetua for adults, these cute things garnered "oooo" and "how cute" every time an adult saw them.

But they weren't just cute. They were functional and supportive. And they pleased even the most finicky little tester we could find -- a 5-year-old girl who although strong and active is also into all things frilly, pink, and glittery. They pleased her so much that she basically has refused to take them off from the moment she got them -- even wearing them to school with her dresses!

Of course, it helped that, one, Hi-Tec makes the same shoe for adults and since our tester's mommy got a pair of those, the little one's shoes became extra cool. And, two, when her family went on a ski weekend and the little son of their friends showed up with very similar outdoorsy shoes, our tester thought she'd died and gone to heaven she was so cool.

OK, coolness aside, her other more technical (for a 5-year-old) comments were that they were "pretty," "squishy" (that means cushioning and that's a good thing, we were told) and "tappy" (that means the toes make a fun tapping noise on tile, which was appealing we were told). Also noted: "The tall heels are cool," "they are good for rock climbing," ""I like the circle with the zigzag" (that's the logo), and "People say, I like those shoes!"

What else could a parent ask for? The price, at $35 retail, will make parents decide the shoes are dang cool too. This mom said she felt they seemed very sturdy, despite being so light, and would survive lots of running and playing.

The Perpetua Jr. is described by Hi-Tec as a "lightweight, all-purpose outdoor shoe designed with abrasion-resistant materials for durability on the playground and trails." It has a durabuck/nylon mesh upper, an abrasion-resistant toe box, a moisture-wicking lining, reflectivity, and a carbon rubber cupsole.

One negative were the extra thick laces: They were hard for a young beginning shoe-lacer to tie on her own, and then they didn't seem to want to stay tied, so mom had to double-knot them, which meant the knot became a rather displeasing (per our young tester) "bulgy." Children's sizes: 10, 11, 12, 13, 1 to 6.

SNEWS Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection.

Suggested Retail: $35

For information: www.hi-tec.com; 800-521-1698

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