How should hiking boots fit? Your hiking boots should feel snug and comfortable. You should be able to wiggle your toes and have some breathing room without the boots feeling tight or having your feet move around. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to go up half a size.
A good pair of hiking boots is crucial for a wide range of outdoor activities. Whether you’re into hiking, trekking, or mountaineering, you need reliable and comfortable footwear.
How should hiking boots fit? If you’re shopping for a new pair of hiking boots, the fit is an important consideration. Ill-fitting boots can ruin a hike. The right pair of boots will reduce fatigue, prevent injuries, and provide you with the bounce you need to keep going. Here’s what you need to know about fitting hiking boots.
How Should Hiking Boots Fit?
Finding the perfect fit can be hard, especially if it’s your first time shopping for hiking boots and you’re unsure what they should feel like.
When shopping for footwear, you can usually get away with picking the size that feels comfortable and matches your personal preference. Some people like shoes with a snug fit, while others enjoy having some extra breathing room. With hiking boots, you need to find a snug fit or risk developing painful blisters.
We recommend trying on a pair of hiking boots before buying them. If you want to shop online, head to a nearby store to try on different boots and get a better idea of your ideal size. Always lace the boots on to assess their fit.
The main thing to remember is that hiking boots should feel snug. Snug isn’t the same thing as tight. A snug fit means the footwear embraces the shape of your feet without leaving a lot of extra room for your feet to move inside of the boots.
Pay attention to the width of your new hiking boots. If it feels like the boots are crushing the sides of your feet, you need to size up. Take a few steps when trying on mountaineering boots. There is more contact between the sides of your feet and your boots when you put your feet down, and boots that felt comfortable when sitting down might feel too narrow once you walk.
The ideal hiking boot fit should be snug, but you have enough room in the toe box to wiggle your toes. Being able to move your toes is important for circulation, and you need to be able to move your toes to support your weight when climbing rocks or walking in a slippery riverbed.
Don’t forget to check the back of the boots. Backpacking boots support your ankles. Typical hiking boots rise up to your ankle or mid-calf, and it’s important to have some breathing room, so they don’t restrict your movements. You should be able to insert a finger between your heel and the boot shaft. You don’t want more room since it would cause friction and result in painful blisters.
We encourage you to watch this video to learn more about how to find comfortable hiking boots.
How Much Arch Support Should Hiking Boots Provide?
Arch support is another important consideration when shopping for backpacking boots. The arch is the part of the foot that supports your body weight when you stand. When you walk, the arch propels you forward. You’ll get tired faster if you walk with boots that don’t properly support your arches.
The trick is to look for boots with limited contact between your arches and the footbed when they’re new. It’s fine if there is a small gap. It might seem counterintuitive to limit contact with your arches, but as you break the boots in, the ball and heel of your feet will create two depressions in the insole. Your foot will sit lower, and your arch will get more contact and support.
If you pick a pair of boots with plenty of arch contact, you will use up the footbed with the ball and heel of your feet, and your feet will eventually sit flat in the boots, which can be uncomfortable.
It’s important to remember that everyone has different foot shapes:
- If you have narrow feet, your arches might be high. You’ll need a more significant depression between the front, middle, and back of the footbed. We recommend shopping for high-cut boots.
- If you have wide feet, your arches will probably be lower. Look for boots with a slight raise to support your arches.
Men’s and women’s hiking boots look very similar, but the fit is usually different because women tend to have narrow feet. If you’re a man with narrow feet, it might be easier to find comfortable hiking boots in the women’s section. Inversely, if you’re a woman with wide feet, you’ll find footwear with a wider toe box if you shop for men’s hiking boots.
Do You Need Hiking Boot Insoles?
If you can’t find boots with the right amount of support, think about using insoles. You might want to opt for boots that are slightly wider than you need so you can fit the insoles comfortably.
If you need to wear orthopedic insoles for medical reasons, bring them with you when you try on hiking boots. High-cut boots might be a good option if you need more room for your insoles. If you have a hard time finding footwear that can accommodate your orthopedic insoles, we recommend getting help from a professional boot fitter.
When Should You Buy Hiking Boots?
Warm temperatures and activity cause blood vessels to dilate. As blood flow increases, your feet will swell a little.
You’ve probably noticed that your feet looked swollen after walking on a hot afternoon. The same thing happens after a few hours of hiking, which is why it’s best to try on backpacking boots later in the day. If possible, walk for a few blocks first or go for a jog.
If you’re trying on boots early in the day, it might be a good idea to go up half a size.
Should You Wear Two Pairs of Socks When Trying on Hiking Boots?
Wearing two pairs of socks has some benefits. It can protect you from cold temperatures since your feet are close to the ground and might be in contact with frozen soil.
Your extra pair of socks can protect you from bugs, dust, and twigs getting in your boots. It can reduce moisture and prevent friction. The extra padding is a great way to avoid blisters.
However, wearing two pairs of socks can make you too hot. Depending on the fabric of the socks, you might create friction between the two pairs of socks and end up with blisters.
If you want to wear two pairs of socks, we recommend choosing a pair of comfortable wool hiking socks and wearing them over a thin synthetic liner that uses a moisture-wicking material.
However, it’s best to wear a thin pair of synthetic socks when hiking in hot weather. Wearing more than one layer can make it difficult to regulate your body temperature.
If you plan on hiking in cold weather, we recommend using two pairs of socks. You should wear them when trying your new boots on, or measure the length and width of your feet when wearing both pairs of socks to find the right size if you want to order hiking boots online.
If you need boots for hiking in hot weather, look for a snug fit when you’re only wearing one pair of thin socks.
You can learn more about wearing extra socks and avoiding blisters in this video.
How to Break in New Hiking Boots
The fit of your new boots might feel a little uncomfortable at first. Leather boots can feel stiff at first, and some synthetic materials can take a while to break in. The good news is that your new boots will become more comfortable and embrace the shape of your feet over time.
Here are a few things you can do to break your new boots in:
You can get your hands to bend the soles of your new boots to accelerate this process.
- Wear your boots as much as possible before you go hiking.
- Start with a short hike if possible.
- Wearing thick socks can help if the boots feel a little stiff.
- If possible, bring a backup pair of boots so you can switch to more comfortable footwear if your new boots feel uncomfortable after a while.
Don’t Forget to Check the Return Policy
It’s always a good idea to check a merchant’s return policy, especially when ordering boots online. Vendors will usually accept returns for unworn boots. You should be able to try the boots at home and return them if the fit is wrong. However, if you walk outside with the boots on, the vendor might not accept the return.
You should also find out if the vendor will issue a refund or exchange the boots for a different size.
Do you still have questions about how hiking boots should fit? Here are some common questions and answers.
Should I Get a Half Size Bigger for Hiking Boots?
Going up half a size is a good rule of thumb. Your feet will swell during a hike, and most people will gain half a size compared to their usual shoe size. However, keep in mind that everyone is different and that it’s possible to experience more swelling than average.
What Are the Best Materials for Hiking Boots?
The best materials depend on the environment where you’ll hike. If you expect hot weather, it’s best to go with lightweight and breathable materials. Boots that use synthetic materials like nylon are a good option.
For cold weather or humid environment, we recommend durable boots with a full-grain leather upper. Split-grain leather is a good compromise. It’s a mix of leather and nylon that is lightweight and breathable.
Look for materials like foam and EVA for a comfortable midsole, and choose boots with a durable rubber outsole.
Will Hiking Boots Stretch?
Yes, your boots will stretch as you break them in. The materials and construction of the boot will determine how much they will stretch. However, you should expect minimal stretching if you invest in quality boots. They will develop a soft and worn-in feel and become a little less snug, but they shouldn’t stretch significantly.
How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be?
Hiking boots shouldn’t be tight. They should feel snug. If your boots are crushing the sides of your feet and feel uncomfortable, they’re too tight. Snug boots will naturally support your feet without restricting your movements or leaving enough room for friction.