How Should Hiking Boots Fit: 6 Easy Rules to Follow
Ideally, you should have enough room to wiggle your toes without letting your heel fall out of place while you walk.
Usually, we think about our lives being in our hands, or in the hands of someone else. However, when it comes to hiking, your livelihood is largely determined by your boots. If your hiking boots are not properly fitted to your feet, you majorly compromise your stability and comfort.
Learning how to fit hiking boots is step one to adventuring.
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How should hiking boots fit?
When on the hunt for a new pair of boots, a perfect fit is everything. The key to finding the perfect pair is that they are snug, but not tight. It is a fine line between the two, but in this article, you will learn exactly how hiking boots are supposed to fit.
Continue reading as we explore width, socks, materials, lacing, and more.
How much room should you have in hiking boots?
Ideally, you should have enough room to wiggle your toes in the front of the boot without letting your heel fall out of place while you walk.
To determine how much room you have, try them on without tying the laces. Stand up and see how they feel in general. Then push your foot forward until your toes are just hitting the front of the shoe. Enlist the help of a friend and have them check the space between your heel and the back of the shoe. There should only be enough room for about one finger there. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can measure alone.
If the shoe seems okay so far, it’s time to lace it up. This will give you an idea of the width of the shoe. If they hurt – they’re too narrow. If you have too much wiggle room, they’re too wide and this will affect your stability and will also cause blisters. Like I said before, in all aspects, the boot should be snug, but not tight.
One other consideration is the insole or insert. Almost all boot insoles are removable. If you have a favorite insole, remember to try it on with the boot.
Is it better to have hiking boots too big or too small?
If you feel like there are two sizes that both fit you well, it’s best to go for the larger size. In fact, you might even want to try a half size or a full size bigger than usual.
One very important thing to remember when learning how to fit hiking boots is that you should always try the boots on with the socks you usually wear hiking. Depending on the thickness of the hiking sock, the shoe will hug your foot differently in different areas.
Another important consideration is that most people’s feet tend to swell as they hike. While there isn’t exactly an easy way to try the boots on at the top of the mountain, it is best to try them on towards the end of the day or after you have been active.
Finally, knowing how the specific brand of boots typically fits will save you time and headaches. Research the brand ahead of time and see what the general size consensus is.
A hiking boot is meant to fit differently than a regular shoe. Keep in mind that your typical shoe size may not be your boot size.
Should your toes touch the end of your hiking boots?
No, they should not. When standing or walking on flat ground, your toes should not touch the end of your boot. Additionally, when going downhill, your toes still should not touch the end of your boot. If it does, you will likely end up with black, bruised toenails.
While it is difficult to test the decline when trying on hikers at home, the method I discussed earlier about pushing your toes to the front and fitting one finger at the heel should leave you with enough toe room to avoid this pain.
Do hiking boots stretch out?
Typically, yes. Knowing the materials that the boots are made from is important.
If the boot is made from synthetic materials, it is not likely to stretch and it’s harder to break in. If it is made from leather, it will slightly stretch and form to your foot within a few hikes. Leather reacts to the exterior and interior conditions, creating a tight fit where necessary, and more wiggle room in high-movement areas, like the toe box.
However, remember, when learning how to fit hiking boots, if the boot is uncomfortably tight when you initially try it on, this small amount of stretch will not be enough to justify keeping this size.
6 questions to find the proper boot fit
So now, if you find yourself wondering again, “How are hiking boots supposed to fit?,” remember, they should be SNUG but not TIGHT. Having a hiking shoe that fits correctly will keep you happy, safe, and comfortable on the trails.
Use these 6 questions as a guide when trying boots on:
- Can you wiggle your toes?
- Push your foot forward. Is there one finger width of space at the back of the boot?
- Lace-up the shoes. Check the width.
- Is this the insole you plan to use?
- Are these the socks you plan to wear?
- What are the boots made from? Will they stretch?
Last but not least, do not break your boots in on a long hike. Wear them for walks around the neighborhood or a short day hike first.