How Should Hiking Boots Fit? 7 Tips For The Perfect Fit

shoe in the water

We’ve all been there. You’re trying on hiking boots and stumbling around the store, but you have no real idea how should hiking boots fit. And you know you’re clueless. So you grab something that looks nice, and after your first hour of hiking your feet are falling apart in painful blisters.

That can be avoided, and it’s really easy. Check it out our tips and tricks for finding the perfect pair.

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

So, how should hiking boots fit? They should be snug and minimize the travel of your heel inside the shoe. Also, a good pair of hiking boots should leave enough room inside for your foot to swell, even with thick socks. That’s because your feet are going to swell. It’s unavoidable.

But the most important thing is that there should be a little room between your heel and the boot, but not enough that it causes friction with every step.

Another key aspect of a well-fitting hiking boot is how sturdy the sole is on your foot. You want your boots to act as a platform. That means you want a stiff, sturdy sole, not one that flexes or bends too much.

Most importantly, the sole should cover your entire foot. If your toes are cramped up inside the boot, then they’re too small.

Different Types Of Hiking Boots


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As you’ve probably noticed, there are many kinds of hiking boots out there. We’re going to ignore the ultra-lights because they are not true hiking boots despite the marketing. They can’t stand up to the type of punishment that a true hike offers, and they don’t have a stable sole.

Instead, we’ll look at three actual hiking boots.

Hiking Shoes

someone tying shoes

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Okay, so this isn’t an actual boot. But it has all the key elements of a hiking boot.

It has tough, waterproof material, it has laces, and it has a solid, stable sole. In addition, the hiking shoe has excellent treads for gripping wet rocks and mossy paths. There are excellent choices available for women and men, such as the Merrell Moab waterproof hiking shoes.

If you’re just hitting a local hiking trail with a somewhat manicured path, and you’re not packing much weight, then these are perfect for you. Think of a family outing for an afternoon, or perhaps even trail running. These are the shoes for you.

Day Hiking Boots


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Next, we have what you are most likely thinking of when you hear “How should hiking boots fit?”

The standard day hiking boot is mid-cut, just up to your ankles. They have excellent treads and sturdy materials that can stand up to punishment. Men and women will love something like the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus hiking boot.

But because they are lighter and a little more flexible, they’re not great for backpacking. If you’re hiking through the woods with camping gear, you’ll want to get something more robust.

Backpacking Boots

hiking shoes

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Finally, we have the toughest of the hiking boots. Backpacking boots come up above your ankles, have extremely sturdy soles, and tough high-grade materials.

Thanks to the high cut, they wrap around the ankles and give fantastic support. They also tend to have a higher heel, which provides more stability when you’re carrying 30 or more pounds of gear on your back. Most people won’t need backpacking boots, but if you’re a real survival junkie, then these are the boots for you.

Check out the Salomon Quest backpacking boots, for men and women.

Tips From The Experts

Now you know what kind of hiking boot to buy, you need to know how should hiking boots fit. Well, according to the experts over at REI and Pure Adventures, you need to look at four key things when trying on hiking boots.

Keep in mind that overall comfort should factor prominently in your choice. Also, the boot should match your style. After all, you don’t want a pair of hiking boots that you hate!

A Good Fit

First off, the boots should be a good fit. How should hiking boots fit? Start by wearing the same socks you would wear on a hike. That will help you determine whether the boots are too big or too small.

Also, measure your foot’s length and width. Once you find your size, try it on. Put both boots on at once. Your boot should feel snug everywhere, without feeling tight.

Another good way to measure the size is to remove the insole and stand on it. Your insole should extend past your longest toe by an inch or so.

Lace Up

Next, lace up the boots while you’re wearing them. You want more pressure around the bottom than the top. Tighter laces near the toes will hold your foot in place better.

Once you’ve laced up your boot, walk around. Do the laces feel like they’re cutting into your foot? If so, then the quality of the material may not be that great.

Check The Heel

Third, you want to check the heel. This is the No. 1 trouble spot for hiking boots that aren’t properly fitted. Blisters are most likely to form here and can ruin a perfectly nice hike.

The main culprit in blisters is too much empty space inside the boot. No matter how tight you tie the laces, there’s nothing that can hold your heel in place inside the boot. To remedy this, find a boot that doesn’t offer much space for your heel to travel.

You should be able to stick one finger down the back between your heel and boot, and no more. If you have wide feet, then you may need to add a larger insole just to reduce the boot’s volume.

Stiff Soles

Finally, make sure that the soles are stiff. Remember, you want a strong, sturdy platform to support your feet on your hike. Runners, sneakers, and city shoes are flexible because they serve an entirely different purpose. When you’re hiking, you don’t want your feet to become fatigued, because that’s the end of your hike.

Strong, sturdy soles are the name of the game. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, check out an insole that offers plenty of arch support, such as EasyFeet.

Tips And Tricks

Congratulations! Now you know some of the secrets of finding the right hiking boot. No longer will you ask “How should hiking boots fit?”

If you want to really get the most out of your boots, and come across as the most informed boot-finder your significant other has ever seen, then check out some of these tips and tricks.

Tap Dance

When you’re trying on a new pair of boots, don’t bother with the “wiggle your toes” routine you normally use with sneakers. Instead, do this:

  • Stand up with the laces untied.
  • Tap your big toe on the bottom of the boot a few times.
  • Do the same with your other foot

If your toe touches both the top and the bottom of the boot with each tap, yet still has enough travel to actually tap, then it’s a good size. However, if you can’t lift your toe up, or touch the top easily, then it’s the wrong size.

Tickle Your Heels

Next, with the boots still untied, you’re going to stick two fingers down the back of the boot and tickle your heel with your fingertips. Your fingers should be able to fit comfortably back there and have room to move a little (hence the tickling).

If, however, you can fit three fingers, the boot is too big. If you can’t get both fingers in there, it’s too small.

Lace Down

Finally, here’s a pro tip you can use with every hike.

But you can also use this when trying boots on. You’re going to “lace down” instead of lacing up. Here’s how it works:

First, you lace your boots using a weave starting at the top, working your way down. The end result is that you’re going to tie your boots up at the bottom of the tongue, near your toes. Also, if you have boots rather than shoes, leave the top two rows empty.

The reasoning behind this is that you want more pressure around your foot than your ankles. This will provide a sturdier platform and reduce blisters on your ankles and heels. Also, it will allow greater blood flow to your feet, which will reduce swelling and fatigue on long hikes.

Have Fun Out There!

Now you know how should hiking boots fit, you can hit the trails. Following these simple tips and tricks will land you the best pair of hiking boots you’ve ever owned, so the last thing you need to do is worry about your feet.

Of course, you still need to take regular precautions, no matter which boots you choose. For starters, keep your feet dry. If your boots get soaked somehow, stop and dry them out before hiking any further. Wet boots constrict and cause blisters.

Also, keep your boots tied more loosely than you would shoes. Your feet are going to swell, and you want to give them room.

So get out there and have some fun!

Do you have a favorite pair of boots? Hints? Tips? Tricks? Please share them in the comments below.


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