How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

Making sure your hiking boots fit correctly is absolutely essential to being able to use them properly, and avoiding blisters or ruining your hiking trip entirely.

While it’s well known that a good fit is key with hiking boots, not many people are aware of what a good fit actually looks or feels like, leading to a lot of confusion and misconceptions about what size hiking boots you should get and how it should fit.

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

Hiking boots can be quite expensive and should last you a fairly long time even with heavy use, and it can be a real shame to get a pair of boots that you like but which don’t fit or aren’t very comfortable, as this will likely ruin your enjoyment of your boots and force you to get a replacement or deal with constant blistering and other issues that a poor fit can cause.

In relation to this, many people underestimate the issues that a poor fit can cause. Hiking puts a lot of stress on the ankle and the foot, and hiking boots are supposed to help mitigate a lot of this stress and make hiking as comfortable and safe as possible. 

However, a poor fit can lead to more than just a discomforting blister, with the potential for lasting damage to your ankle and foot as well as your strike, gait, and how you walk, which can lead to even more serious consequences, as injuries to the feet and ankle often lead to knock on injuries to the knee, hips and even back as the issue influences other important parts of the body.

As you can see, finding a proper fit is absolutely essential to avoiding these issues, so in this guide, we’re going to highlight exactly how a boot should fit, as well as other important tips and considerations to take into account when looking for a new pair of hiking boots to ensure your fit is as good as it can be.

Type Of Hiking Boot

There are several types of hiking boots, and they offer a range of different benefits and drawbacks.

For day hikes and lightweight hiking, a hiking shoe or low cut trail shoe can offer a great mix of support and flexibility and are a great choice for summer hiking and shorter hikes where comfort can be traded for support.

For longer or more challenging hikes, a day hiking boot is a great and versatile choice that can tackle almost any form of hiking and offers excellent support while still being quite comfortable and lightweight.

Finally, there are backpacking or mountaineering boots, which are heavy-duty boots designed to tackle the harshest terrain and most challenging conditions, offering the absolute best support and grip, but are slightly heavier and more cumbersome than other hiking boots, as well as a little less comfortable.

Knowing the type of terrain, route, and distance you’re walking are key to making the right choice here and will have an influence on the fit of the boot itself.

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

This is quite a contentious point, and there are differing schools of thought on this.

The main and simplest view is that no matter which hiking boot you choose, a boot that fits snugly around your whole foot and ankle is important to maximize the support the boots offer.

This means that the toebox, midsole, heel, and ankle supports should be able to close around the foot nicely when the boot is tied up, leaving little space for the foot to move inside the boot and firmly holding the foot in place.

This does offer stellar support and makes the boot very sure in difficult conditions, and is a common choice for most hikers.

However, there is an alternative approach to consider, in specific circumstances.

Should You Size Up?

This approach is sizing up. Essentially, some hikers like to buy a hiking boot slightly bigger than their actual size, to allow space inside the boot to wear multiple layers of socks or to incorporate things like toe warmers and other solutions.

This is valid, particularly in winter conditions where layering is critical to keeping feet warm and dry. 

Sizing up in this instance is a great way to make sure you have the space to use this technique, however, it can make the boots a little less comfortable, particularly if you don’t layer up. It can also make the boot feel a little more cumbersome and clumsy even when you are layered up. This can be deadly in hiking, so making an informed decision about this is key to ensuring you’re able to hike safely and comfortably.

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

Do You Need Insoles?

Another thing to consider is insoles, as a lot of hikers use these to add additional support to their midsole and arches of the feet.

Not everyone needs insoles, but those who do use them are aware that they can take up some considerable space inside the boot, and may make a true-to-size boot feel too tight and uncomfortable, which again may make it necessary to choose a slightly bigger boot size than normal.

Common Hiking Boot Issues

If your boots don’t fit properly you will run into all sorts of issues such as;

  • Blisters
  • Ankle pain
  • Knee pain
  • Heel pain
  • Metatarsal pain and damage
  • Swollen feet
  • Swollen toes
  • Pinched nerves
  • Pinches toes
  • Loss of circulation
  • Flattened or aching arches
  • Soreness of the legs, tendons, calves, knees, hips, and soreness of the back and neck after particularly arduous hikes.
How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

Try Before You Buy

The best way to avoid these issues is to try before you buy and be ready to return or replace boots that don’t offer the right fit for you and your feet.

As the saying goes, if you look after your feet, your feet will look after you. 

We often take our health for granted, and if you mess up your feet with ill-fitting boots you may never be able to enjoy hiking as much ever again, so make the right choice and don’t be afraid to admit if a boot isn’t quite right for you!

Eric Willis
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