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How Should Hiking Boots Fit – Preparing for a Long Trek

by | Boots, Hiking | 0 comments

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

As a hiking enthusiast, you have probably experienced the pain and discomfort of wearing hiking boots that don’t fit properly. From excruciating blisters to missing toenails and tender heels, how well your hiking boots fit plays a huge role in the quality of your hiking experience. How should hiking boots fit? Is there such a thing as the perfect hiking shoe fit?

Let’s look at some practical tips on how to fit hiking boots and find the best hiking footwear.

Hiking Boots Sizing Tips

There are a number of factors you should consider when shopping for new hiking boots. Many of these factors are both universally practical as well as subjective depending on the kind of hiking you intend to do.

However, knowing how to choose the best hiking boots doesn’t necessarily translate to being capable of fitting them correctly. It can be argued that how your hiking boots fit is the most important factor since your feet will be doing most of the work supporting your entire body and everything else you have on you.

As such, how well these boots fit matters more than how much they cost or what brand they belong to. Although, in many cases, the best brands put a lot of money into research and development to come up with exactly what their customers need.

Here are some tips you can follow when shopping for new hiking shoes.

Try the New Hiking Boots Out First

Nothing will give you a sense of how well your new boots fit as well as trying them on physically. The trick is to put your entire foot into the boot. Once your feet are firmly in the shoes, try shifting your weight to the front of your feet. Using your hand, reach to the back of the shoes and see how many fingers you can fit in between your heel and the back of the shoes.

You should be able to fit your index finger in there. If this isn’t possible, you risk bruising your toes during any descent while on the trail. If you can fit more than your index finger, then the shoes are too big, and you might be uncomfortable in them. The length should be long enough to cover your heel and the width should be wide enough to accommodate your foot’s natural shape

Consider the Width

The next factor you should consider is the width of the shoe. How snug does it feel at the widest part of your feet? Even though the shoes should be ideally snug, they shouldn’t be so snug as to pinch your forefeet, the heel, or the ankle bones.

Choose Fit Over Features

Whether you are shopping for mountaineering boots, walking boots, trail runners or a pair of simple day hiking shoes, you will be spoilt for choice. Today, the best brands compete against one another by offering shoes with bells and whistles to attract more customers.

While features such as breathability, heel support, and traction are all important, they should come second to the fit. It’s natural to want to sacrifice some fit for any one of the many additional features on offer. Don’t fall into that trap. The lacing system is also important, as it helps keep the boot firmly in place and prevent slippage.

You will be much better off choosing fit over eccentricities in the long run. Make sure that the hiking shoes you choose have the right fit. This means you aren’t experiencing any “hot spots” just because the brand you want offers better cushioning but less toe room. 

Go Shopping Later in the Day

As long as you are on your feet, they will swell later in the day. This happens whether you are hiking or simply pacing in the office. If you buy shoes that fit too snugly, you will experience discomfort once your feet swell.

It’s, therefore, advisable to go shopping for hiking footwear later in the day. This is particularly true if you tend to get wide feet in the late afternoons. This is when your feet will be at their widest.

Even though that expansion won’t be too significant, at least not significant enough to change boot sizes, it will be wide enough to determine how comfortable you will be once your feet get wide when you are out day hiking into the late afternoon.

hiking boots on rocks

Stand on the Insoles

A practical way to ensure you get a feel for how well the hiking boots will fit is to stand on the insoles.

  • Remove the insoles from the shoes you are considering buying and place them on the floor
  • Place your foot in the insoles as though you were wearing the shoes
  • Ensure that your feet are squarely in the arch and heel cup

Once your feet are in the insoles, you need to check for length. Make sure you have at least a finger’s width between your longest toe and the edge of the insole. This trick makes it easy for you to check the length and removes the uncertainty of trying to “feel the edge of your toe” while it’s in the boot.

You can also use this trick to check the width specifically for people with wide feet. If you can’t see any of the insole from the edge of the insole, then the shoe will be too tight. You need to see at least some of the insole but not too much of it. Too much would mean that you need a pair of narrower hiking boots.

This trick works with any shoe, including leather boots, running shoes, trail running shoes, or backpacking boots. Once the chosen shoes have passed this test, you need to actually wear them, lace them up, and walk around in them a little bit to see how the heel lift or toe box feels. This will matter when hiking on uneven or rough terrain.

Try Hiking Boots on With Socks

You will definitely wear your boots with hiking socks for better foot care. There’s a very good chance these socks are going to be rather thick to protect your feet even more.

Thick socks occupy a lot of space within the shoes and should be accounted for before buying a pair. On the day you intend to buy your hiking boots in person, bring a pair of your thickest hiking socks to try on as well.

There’s no question about it; every hiker needs at least one excellent pair of the best hiking boots. Whether you are summer or winter hiking, the hiking trail can be brutal on your entire body, and there are very few things quite as uncomfortable as foot pain when you are out there on the trail. The best hiking shoes paired with thick socks make a world of difference. 

Finding the right hiking boot, however, isn’t very easy. These tips and tricks on fitting hiking shoes will help you pick and choose the best ones. How should hiking boots fit? They should be as comfortable as they are practical.

Break-In Hiking Boots

Once you have the right size, it’s time to break them in. The best way to do this is by wearing them every day for at least a few hours at a time, around the house or running errands.

By doing this, you will be able to mold the leather to your feet and reduce the risk of blisters and sore spots.

It’s also important to make sure that your boots are broken in properly before you put them to any serious use. A lot of hiking boots are made from synthetic materials that can feel quite stiff when you first purchase them. As a result, it may take some time for them to feel more comfortable as you continue to wear them throughout the day.

Final Thoughts

Hiking boots are designed to provide the most support and protection possible while you hike. The best ones also come in a range of sizes to ensure they fit snugly and comfortably while still giving you maximum support. There are lots of factors that can contribute to how well your hiking boots fit, including your foot and ankle size, your leg length, and even how well you hike.

The best way to ensure that your boots fit well is to try them on with your socks and see how the fit feels. If buying new boots, then make sure to always remember that their purpose is to support the weight of your foot.

If the heels are too large, then your foot will slump into the boot and you won’t have any support. If the toes are too snug then the shoes will feel uncomfortable and you won’t be able to wear them for long periods of time. Lastly, make sure that the boots match your hiking style. Reverse-cuffed hiking boots tend to be more winter appropriate, while go-to hiking boots tend to be better suited for summer hikes in the mountains.

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